FANDOM


Sysop Sign Overground





This is the glorious tale of a dude named Ryan, who is a new Pokémon Trainer. This story recounts his super crazy adventures leading up to the newest Indigo League, and his encounters with the legendary Pokémon, Mew. This story combines elements of comedy, drama, adventure, friendship, and mystery to tell a (hopefully) cohesive tale. It'll be a very good story, I promise! I hope you enjoy it!

Theme Songs

Characters

Click any of the pages below to view the Pokémon teams of each trainer:

  • Ryan - The main protagonist of this story.
  • Kelly - A greater Pokémon trainer than Ryan, she accompanies him on their quest for badges.
  • Rahul - A skilled trainer who accompanies Ryan and Kelly on their journeys. He is a friend (or not) of Alex.
  • Alex - A trainer who has amongst the greatest skill in all of Kanto, but is also sociopathic in his approach to battle.
  • Logan - An aspiring Pokémon Breeder who joins Ryan's group during their travels around the Kanto region.
  • Jessica - The second-in-command of Team Rocket, she is a skilled, if arrogant trainer and the main antagonist of this story.
  • Gillford - A member of Team Rocket whose arrogance has blinded him and made him into a parody of himself.
  • Charlie - A fellow trainer and self-proclaimed rival of Alex who later becomes a frequently and randomly encountered person by Ryan.
  • Quinny - A Pokémon gardener who is also Ryan's best friend.
  • Derceyes - The owner of the largest collection of Dragon Pokémon in Kanto and a respected Pokémon researcher as well.
  • Falco - The leader of the Bell-bottom Brigade, there is more to him than he lets on.
  • Michio Kaku - A professor of theoretical physics at Smogon University.
  • Jesse Ventura - A professional, deranged conspiracy theorist. Once, long ago, he had been a governor, a fighter, and a Navy SEAL.
  • Dean - A trainer who is also the younger brother of Alex.
  • Sophia - A vainglorious trainer whom Ryan meets in southern Kanto.
  • Indigo League - A list of Gym Leaders, Elite 4 members, and Champions in the Indigo League during this story.
    • Forrest - The new Gym Leader of Pewter City. He is the younger brother of Brock.
    • Olivia - The new Gym Leader of Cinnabar Island. She is the daughter of Blaine.
    • Dylan - The new Gym Leader of Viridian City.

Acknowledgements

My thanks to my good friend Alex for helping me so much with this story. Without him, A Just Edge would not be half as good, and each chapter would have taken twice as long to write, if not longer. I am eternally grateful for all of the hours he has spent assisting me, for all the patience he has had with me, and for all of the wise advice he has given me.

Additional thanks go to my friends Rahul, Chase, Quinn, and Anthony for their help developing their characters (and others!) in this story. And thanks to Jessica, though we did not end on good terms, for inspiring such an important character in A Just Edge.

My thanks extend to George, Larry and Jerry, Stephen, Olivia, and Dr. Kaku for inspiring various aspects of this story, though I'm sure none of them will ever hear of or read this story.

Thanks as well to Clarilune, Uni, and all the others who have read, reviewed, helped edit, and enjoyed this story. Your help and kind words have meant a lot to me.

I would also like to thank the writers of the Indigo League arc and the Adventures on the Orange Islands arc of the Pokémon anime for inspiring this story. I know Pokémon is often seen as a "kid's show" and not respected by much of the adult generations, but I couldn't disagree more. The writing for those two sagas in particular was very well done, thematically rich, and strikes the right balance between comedic and emotional moments. There is nothing worth writing about save for the human heart in conflict with itself, something the writers of those sagas understood well. I only hope that my story will end up succeeding to that end as well.

Kanto Arc

Ajekantoarc



NOTICE: I will try to follow the anime and games as best I can for fights, but I won't be limiting Pokémon to four moves (as that is unrealistic). I will also be using Pokémon Yellow stats for most Gym leaders and Pokédex entries, as that is my favorite Pokémon game. This arc follows Generation I Pokémon physics.


Episode 1: Adventure Times!

A long time ago, there lived a Pokémon trainer. He was, like many others, completely average; neither legendary nor extraordinary. But, like many others, he set out with the original goal of gathering badges to compete in the Indigo League. That was his only reason, really. There was no point or desire for him to try to catch them all. That would just be silly. He wanted only the glory of winning the tournament.

Nevertheless, he went out on his journey. It was a quaint little thing, his journey. The badges, of course, came naturally. First one, then two, then eight. And while the gym leaders each presented staunch opposition, none of them prepared him for the league. By the time he entered, the tournament had already done countless cycles. It was, quite frankly, a well-oiled machine which he had no business jumping aboard.

The first match went better than expected. He won in a rout, losing only a single Pokémon – his ivysaur. Verily, beginner’s luck took him only so far. His next match was a loss. It was neither a critical nor close defeat, as his opponent had lost three Pokémon to his six. But the boy was not devastated by this loss. Sporting a respectable .500 record in his first year, the boy was motivated to try again. And he did. The second year proved progressively regressive. He lost his first match. But he tried again. The boy, now becoming a man, tried this for two more years until finally stopping. Going, cumulatively, 1-4, he had not as much as come close to victory since his first one.

Upon his final defeat, the boy had not actually given up. He set out to acquire the badges again when he a met a girl. As soon as they started seeing one another, his interests in Pokémon faded. He did poorly against every leader, and had to face many of them several times. Finally, he ran out of time against Sabrina, losing a lopsided battle between her Kadabra and his Abra. His passion for Pokémon evaporated, the man settled down with his wife, had a child, and officially retired from the Pokémon scene.


Ryan was no Pokémon wizard like his father. No sir, he was a scholar. He went to the local middle school full time. It was heavy stuff. This explains, then, why he was ditching class. Noon it was, and there was not a person in sight. Ryan was walking down the road, tearing leaves apart with his little hands. It was so nice out.

Ahead of him, the path turned out from the road and onto a dirt path. He had time; he went with it. Walking down it, a queer sound came from ahead. It was like a screech, but more focused. More deliberate. Like a couple of cats fighting.

The lane curved outward into a clearing of grass, revealing several figures. Ryan squinted his eyes, blocking out the sun, as he approached them. There were two of them. Well, two humans. There was a multitude of other creatures. Ryan knew these to be Pokémon.

As previously mentioned, Ryan was no Pokémon master. He knew of some Pokémon, mostly the super common ones or the ones his parents owned. He was less attuned to the appearances of those which he had never seen before. He saw one, a Pidgey, which he could identify, but the other, a small blue creature was indiscernible from the legions of species he had only the most basic eye recognition toward.

The Pidgey took to the air. It spiraled upward before coming down again and shooting at the other one, like something that shoots fast. The other Pokémon recoiled from the blunt force, flying several feet away, before landing on its feet. It growled, baring its teeth and then lunged at the Pidgey. It showed everyone its little paws, deviously sharp, and thrust them into the Pidgey’s wing. The latter cried out in great pain, brushing the creature off of it. Creating a gust attack, it enveloped the little blue thing, and twirled it around. When the dust settled, when the Pokémon landed, it was asleep… or worse. No, not really.

Ryan continued watching as the trainer returned his Pidgey to the Poké Ball, and the other did the same. The two shook hands, before parting ways; one trudging off into the grass, another back to the cobbled brick of the city. And he never saw those trainers again.

That battle was completely awesome! Ryan shook with the feelings it gave him. He had always wanted to be a Pokémon trainer, but his mother had never allowed it. He had quietly accepted her reasonless answers to his pleas for following his father’s footsteps before. This was several years later, obviously. A Pokémon trainer sets out when they are ten. Ryan, being fourteen, was not in prime position to set out.

Why not? Why does the age matter so much? It shouldn’t. He’s smarter than any 10 year old. If anything, he would be the better choice. He had to say something. So, Ryan took speed back to his own home, a query on his mind.

His mother was home early; he heard her in her room (what she was doing was no matter to us readers, though we may guess about it). Ryan was supposed to be at school, so he made sure to tip toe quietly in. He didn’t want to be yelled at, after all. Making his way to his room, he passed by his mother’s Squirtle – her household helper Pokémon. Ryan liked him okay, but this Squirtle had one notoriously dubious feature to his notably intricate personality: he was an unrepentant tattletale. Ryan crossed past the dining table, finding the Squirtle bent over sweeping. The Squirtle looked up as he came in, and a small, deviously delightful smirk came to its face.

Ryan made a frantic throw across the table, trying to grab the Squirtle before he could go tell Mother about Ryan being home early. But this Squirtle was a pro compared to Ryan. He knew. Hooky was not to be tolerated by a weasel.

The Squirtle’s dexterity aside, Ryan fell over the table and crashed onto the hard floor. He let out a reflexive cry of pain which did more than enough to alert his mother that Ryan was now home. The door opened, on the far hall, revealing the face of a woman, tall and dark eyed, her long brown her sweeping around the corner of the wood by more than two feet’s length.

“Squirtle, is that you?” she called out.

“Squirtle squirtle! Squirtle!” he replied, earnestly.

“Huh, Ryan’s home?”

Oh my god. She speaks Squirtle. How the heck can she speak his language?! Ryan thought these thoughts to himself, rightly keeping them to himself. His mother, however, was quickly walking down the hall. He would be found out.

“Ryan, what are you doing back so early?” his mother said, coming around to face him.

“Oh, hi mom. I got off early today!” replied Ryan, beaming up at her.

“You got off school early? Why did you get off early?”

“No reason…”

His mother’s tone turned serious, “Are you lying to me, Ryan?”

“What, lying? No!”

“You’re lying, aren’t you?”

“No, we just-”

“Don’t lie to me, Ryan. I’m your mother. I can tell when you’re lying to me!”

“Bu-”

“ No buts. Tell me why you skipped school.”

“I – I don’t know,” He said, lowering his head, “It’s just so boring.”

“Now Ryan, you can’t just skip school because you’re bored. Everyone has to go to school.”

He looked up, wide-eyed, “Not everyone. Pokémon trainers don’t have to go to school.”

“Th-that’s what this is about? You suddenly want to be a Pokémon trainer now? I thought we went over this.”

“Yeah, so what?”

“You’re too old, Ryan. Besides, you don’t have any ge-”

“I’ll just use dad’s old stuff. And we’ve got a lot of Pokémon here, can’t I just use a couple of those?”

His mother didn’t respond. She flashed a distraught look, of which he did not pick up. Among his wrecked posture, Ryan darted his eyes about. Sure, they had Pokémon. Well, there was Squirtle. Out in the back, they had a few ponds of the fish types, but those never interested Ryan. There were a slew of Doduos and Dodrios, but those wouldn’t do. He’d have asked for his father’s Rapidash (as that appeared the most capable warrior) if not for, when he looked up, he saw the way his mother was.

He really shouldn’t have brought up Pokémon trainers and his father at the same time (let alone, alone!). But he couldn’t help it. That fight had gotten to him. It was what he could have been, what he should have been. He looked around furiously for something within his vicinity, something more suitable for the current situation. He spied, of course, a single Pokémon lying on an out-window, bathing in the sun, having a riot of a time. He couldn’t tell if it was Persian, but he hoped it was. Ryan flexed his arm up and pointed to the creature.

“What about that one? Couldn’t I just take that one for a while? He can’t be one of dad’s favorites. I know dad wouldn’t mind…”

“And do what?!” his mother asked, incredulously.

“Well, go around and do Pokémon trainer stuff.”

“Do you even know what that means, Ryan? You don’t just set out on a random journey with no idea of what you’re doing.”

“Really?”

His mother faltered. Her son was right. That was exactly what they did. There was no denying it. Before she could answer, though, the phone rang and she carried herself out, away from her son.

Ryan sat up and crawled over to the window to see his prized pick. Ah, it would be glorious to take on the world, starting with this Persian! This was surely his favorite Pokémon (with his father’s Rapidash rapidly fading out of his stinted memory). He grasped up on the padded bed lay that it had dominion over and spoke: “Heya Persian! How’ve you been?”

“Aaaaaaabra…” the Pokémon let out in a low wheeze.

That’s not the sound a Persian makes! Golly! It was his father’s old abra. Dang it, Ryan thought. This was that Pokémon that lost him his father’s final match. He didn’t want that! Useless sack of something useless. Ryan stood up, irritated. He looked around for that dastardly Persian.

Seriously, not in a forced manner, Ryan’s mother returned to the room.

“That was your school.”

“Oh… yeah,” responded Ryan.

“They’ve told me about your grades the past few weeks. They’re terrible.”

“Yeah…”

“And that is all because you have wanted to be a Pokémon trainer?”

“Uh, yeah that’s right!” said Ryan, ever quick on his toes.

“Then maybe it would be good to let you clear your head and go out for a little while.”

“Ah, you mean it? I can be a Pokémon trainer? Just like that?!”

“It will be better for you if you saw exactly what that means. Take your Pokémon and take your things, and go out,” she said in a defeated sigh, nodding up to the sleeping Abra.

“Bu-but… that’s not the one…”

He glanced back at Abra. It yawned long as it squinted back in his general vicinity. Aw shucks, Abra was his Pokémon now. Ryan swore he heard Squirtle cackling behind his mother.

Episode 2: Rick 'Em In The Rishpan

Splinters hurt. Ryan had one; he sure did. To explain to you accurately how bad his hurt would cause me to devolve into words and phrases too adult, too grotesque to be allowed. Let’s just say the sliver of wood he had jammed up his toenail hurt. Real bad.

This war scar had been added moments prior, when Ryan had stumbled over a bramble. He had never felt pain this horrible. He could barely breathe as he just sat there taking wave after wave of pain. He was only a mile into his Pokémon adventure. This was a great beginning. He attempted to sit up. Ryan quickly looked over his belongings – his Poké Balls, Pokédex, food, all that stuff. It was all intact. Just as he was about to go back to sulking in his ruin, Ryan caught a glimpse of a bugger.

Holy Professor Oak, it was a Pokémon! Ryan needed to catch all of them, or something like that. He reached down and grabbed onto Abra’s ball before throwing it at the bugger he saw. Abra came flying out of his ball upside down and screaming. He must’ve been asleep. Nevertheless, Abra got into a battle stance immediately, before giving Ryan a loyal “so how should I kill this guy, boss?” look.

Ryan shrugged before saying, “Um, Abra use your slashy-claw attack!”

Abra offered a quizzical, “Abra ah?”, quite unsure as to what to do.

“Uh… um… Abra? Isn’t that an attack?” Abra shook his head furiously, “What?! But you have claws! You’re saying you can’t use them?”

“Abra abra abra ra abra abra ah ah ra. Abra! Abra bra ra abra abra ah ah ah!

“Maybe I should try dad’s Pokédex.”

He fumbled in his pockets for it and whipped it out with a little grace. Pointing his Pokédex at Abra, Ryan said, “What’re his attacks?”

“Abra, the Psi Pokémon-“

“Yeah yeah. Just tell me his attacks. I know his name.”

“Abra’s attacks consist of teleport.”

“And…?!”

“Teleport is Abra’s only attack.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

The Pokédex did not respond. Ryan turned to his Abra, “Didn’t my dad teach you any other attacks, like a TM or HM or something?”

“Abra abra.

“SPEAK ENGLISH!!!”

“Bra? A’ra!”

Ryan had no clue what Abra just said, but what was he to do? They couldn’t communicate. He remained quiet and watched as Abra walked forward, his clawed (uselessly clawed!) hands outstretched in a sort of dazed feel through. But this was no feel through. He was attacking the bugger.

In Abra’s hands, blue energy began forming. Ryan smiled in delight. Yes, this was an attack! The Pokédex was wrong! Abra went right up to the bugger and released his blue attack; his psychic attack. It hit. The bugger made no sound as Abra applied his beatdown, but moments later, when the smoke began rising and Ryan saw no counterattack, he knew he’d won.

Ryan ran up to Abra. “Good boy, Abra! You got him!”

“Bra.”

Ryan, overly gleeful at his first Pokémon battle victory ran to the defeated Pokémon. It was all yellow, and it looked like a banana. Ryan liked bananas.

He picked the thing up, as it continuously smoked and did nothing else.

“What is it? I’ve never seen one of these before.”

“Abra.”

“No, it’s not an Abra, silly. Let’s ask the Pokédex.”

Ryan pointed his Pokédex at the creature with one hand, holding it with the other.

“Kakuna, the Cocoon Pokémon. Able to move only slightly. When endangered, it may stick out its stinger and poison its enemy.”

“Oh cool! It’s a poisonous one!”

Ryan laughed and swung the dazed Kakuna around.

“Abra. Ra ra!” Abra said in a cautioning tone.

“Shut up Abra, he’s mine now.”

Evidently, Kakunas do not like being swung around, because by doing this, Ryan got himself a stinger in his arm. His scream was shrill as it was loud, long as it was high. He dropped Kakuna and grabbed onto his arm. Shouting curses which cannot possibly be written out, Ryan kicked Kakuna. He began ranting about how it’s not fair that Pokémon fight humans and not other Pokémon. However, since he was now poisoned, Ryan was feeling ruddy terrible and needed to get to town fast. He paused his rant to quickly throw up. After that, he threw one of his spare Poké Balls at Kakuna, but it just bounced off.

“Aw come on… Abra, attack him again. Slice him!”

Per order, the ever faithful Abra attacked Kakuna again with his claws. Sharp claws though they were, Abra was not experienced with this type of attack. Not to mention, Kakuna had just silently used harden about fifty times.

Shockingly, the swipe attack did nothing. Abra let out a cry of pain, his tears falling hard and fast. He gingerly caressed his sore claws. He looked up to Ryan as if this was all his fault. Ryan was not watching, though. He was falling into delirium as the poison attacked his nervous system. His vision was going fuzzy. He had no choice. He picked up Kakuna again and began running. Vermillion City was closest. His grandmother lived there. He knew the way. They had a gym, so surely they’d have a Pokémon Center. Heck, he didn’t have much of a choice.

Ryan did not wait for Abra. Kakuna continuously stung him in the arm as he ran, but Ryan bit his lip and held back his cries. This was his Pokémon. He caught it fair and square. He couldn’t just leave it. He would suffer through the pain of holding it.

Ryan came into the city, flying at a speed faster than he’d ever gone. He whirled past the houses and buildings and skyscrapers. He ran as far as he could for as long as his legs could hold out against the poison. And then, his vision went black. He dropped Kakuna and fell on the sidewalk.


Morphine is the greatest creation of mankind. Ryan had an IV in his arm. It was on automatic. Apparently he had been hospitalized, though he remembered none of it, and since then, nurses and Chanseys had attended to him. He just lay in his bed through all hours and pressed his button to give him more and more morphine. It was all a blur; he couldn’t even remember why he was here or what injured him enough to get so much attention. The only thing Ryan could think of was how much he loved morphine.

Nurse Joy gave him the hardest bone wrapping on his un-IV’d hand. As she applied it, like she had already applied it to his IV’d hand, she started making small talk. Ryan just nodded and drooled and winced at the hardness being applied and pressed his morphine button until she mentioned his Pokémon.

“Your Abra and Kakuna are in their Poké Balls at your bedside. I was going to mention them earlier, but you were sleeping.”

Then the memories came back. The fight, the catch, the run, the poison… he was a Pokémon trainer! Yeah, Nurse Joy, you’re treating a Pokémon trainer today.

“I just c-caught Kakuna, you know,” Ryan sputtered as best he could.

“Oh really? You must be a Pokémon trainer then. Have you given it a name?”

“A name?”

“Usually you name your Pokémon…” Joy said with a smile and a chuckle. Her eyes sparkled so much. How could they do that? Ryan shifted his position as his arm wrapping became harder and harder.

“Oh… well Abra doesn’t have a name.”

“Can’t you give him one?”

“N-no… he’s my dad’s Pokémon. I can’t do that.”

“Oh, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give Kakuna a name. After all, you caught it all by yourself.”

“I guess…” said Ryan.

Joy continued fixing up Ryan, replacing his IV and cleaning up everything. She brought the two Poké Balls off of the table and placed them in his lap. She smiled at him.

“You can take them out and talk to them. I know it’s probably pretty lonely up here alone.”

“Wait,” said Ryan quickly, “Was Kakuna hard to get in the ball?”

“No,” replied Joy in a high voice, “She went in fine. She’s tame.”

“She?!” Ryan asked.

“Oh yes, your Kakuna is a female. I thought you would like to know that before giving her a name.”

“Oh, thanks,” said Ryan.

Joy gave him one more smile (!) before leaving, closing the door behind her.

Ryan let Abra out immediately. The small Pokémon yawned himself awake and stared up at Ryan with its Brock eyes.

“Abra! Abraaaaa.”

“Aw, did I wake you up, Abra?” said Ryan, grinning, “Sorry about that.”

“Abra.”

“Yeah, I know!” Ryan laughed, not knowing what Abra said. Sometimes it’s good to just go along with things.

Ryan was more hesitant to let Kakuna out. Last time he’d touched this Pokémon, she’d stung him so many times, he had to come here. He looked over at Abra.

“Did Nurse Joy really get her in there?”

“Ra.”

“So she’s nice now? Not gonna sting me again?”

“Ra.”

“You better be saying yes, Abra,” Ryan said.

He opened up her Poké Ball and let her out. He was both prepared to run out of the hospital and spam his morphine button dry if she attempted anything. But she did not. Instead, she just lay, occasionally moving her little face around, but never stinging him.

Ryan gave himself a shot of morphine just because he could.

“Abra, abra ah? Raa bra aaaaabra,” Abra said to the Kakuna.

“Eiieeiiinnggyyeie,” it replied.

“Abra! Bra.”

“Nnnnneeeennee?”

“Aaah.”

Well this was all very interesting, Ryan thought to himself. Well, except for the fact that he had no idea what they were saying. He couldn’t name her nnnnneieieinnei. That would be unsightly. But she needed some name. Ryan had never thought of naming any of his Pokémon. Verily, he knew not that Pokémon were given names. When he read the magazines or saw fights on the tele, they never referred to any Pokémon by name. Why was he supposed to just expect that to be part of the trade?

She was a Kakuna. She was yellow. She kind of looked like a banana. But he couldn’t call her that. That would be embarrassing when he went to the gyms and used her in fights. ‘Banana go!’ would just not work. Especially since he was a boy. They’d laugh. Yes they would.

Then, Ryan thought of the word Kakuna and he realized how similar it was to another word, to another pair of words. It was one of his most favorite songs he ever knew. It was one of his most favorite movies he ever saw. And surely no one would know of the reference to it unless he told them, or unless I tell you, the reader, here now. Which I cannot possibly do.

Ryan sat up as his Pokémon continued talking to one another. He couldn’t understand either of them. He didn’t understand how they, speaking different Pokémon languages, understood each other. But that is a debate for another time. Ryan had already thought up his name and he was ready to tell it.

“Hey Abra, I thought up a name,” said Ryan, leading to both Pokémon to stop talking and turn to face him, “From now on, let’s call her Matata.”

Episode 3: The One Where They Get A Badge

A few days and a few hundred milligrams of morphine later, Ryan was released from the hospital. He had been itching to get out for quite a while, as it was unbearable to be around Nurse Joy in the way he was. You know, without being able to move. Now he was fresh as he was sprung. It was time to go to Lt. Surge’s Gym and get his first badge. His mother had said that was the goal of all Pokémon trainers, and if he was to follow his father’s footsteps, there was no better place to start.

He knew the way, he’d been there before. As previously mentioned, Ryan’s grandmother lived in Vermillion City, which was the closest megapolis to his hometown of Acapulco. He would often sneak away from the drearily droll afternoon tea parties his grandmother held with his family to come down and watch Pokémon fights at Lt. Surge’s Gym.

He knew Surge almost always used a Raichu, but occasionally he’d use other Pokémon if there were a lot of challengers lined up. Ryan didn’t know many of them, just the Voltorb and Magnetron, but they were all equally fierce. He’d have to work some kind of plan up. As far as he knew, Surge only did single duels - 1v1 Pokémon battles. It was either Abra or Matata he would have to use. Thousands of trainers have beaten Surge, though, Ryan thought. He would too.

The walk was not long. Soon, Ryan had found his way, down by the water to the high-walled gym. There were no trainers milling about, but that was okay. He opened the large doors himself and walked in. Inside, he was quickly met with two people. One was Surge, a tall muscular, silver haired man, and a younger girl with pink hair.

“Yeah, that’s some Arcanine you’ve got. I’m impressed.”

“He’s been with me for a long time,” the girl responded with her shoulders shrugged.

“So, you’re training for the Indigo league? How many badges do ya have now?”

“This makes five,” she responded.

Surge laughed in his deep booming, “Well, with that Arcanine of yours, you’ll do great in the league,” Surge stopped laughing as soon as he came around the corner and saw Ryan, “Another one already. Ya wanna badge too?”

“Yeah,” responded Ryan, dropping his voice for the girl.

“Then, let’s go,” said Surge.

The girl smirked as Ryan walked passed her, his chest puffed out, his two Poké Balls presented proudly on his belt. Surge led him back into the gym, to the place where they fight.

“I’d normally use Raichu, but he just got done with a battle,” Surge’s voice rose to a dramatic scream, “So I’ll use Electrode!!”

He threw his ball in an impossibly curved trajectory, and the Pokémon came out. It looked like an upside down Poké Ball, which made Ryan laugh. He, himself, let out both of his Pokémon to weigh them up against the opponent. Abra was good, but Ryan didn’t know all of his attacks. Matata lacked any mobility, but if she got close, she’d be able to do some damage.

Surge interrupted his thoughts, “Those are yar Pokémon?”

“Yeah, they’re all I have!” Ryan yelled back.

“Ya don’t stand a chance with either one!”

Ryan’s confidence shattered immediately, his lip trembling, “Wha… what?”

“Ya kiddin me? My Electrode could shock both of your Pokémon outta here together!”

“Do you really think so?” asked Ryan, timidly.

“Heh, yeah, I’ll even let ya use both of them against me.”

“Whoa, really?!”

“Yeah, I’ll shock ya either way. It’ll make the fight more interesting.”

Ryan kneeled down to begin his attack strategy, “All right, Abra, Matata, this is what I want you to do…”

Behind, the pink-haired girl, who was slightly taller and older than Ryan came in to watch. She folded her arms and leaned up against the far wall.

Abra and Matata moved into the ring. Since Kakunas can’t really move themselves, Abra had to carry her in. Surge, satisfied with his guaranteed victory, began the match. Electrode rolled forward, increasing its speed in a headbutt attack.

“Abra, go!” Ryan yelled.

Abra threw Matata, after she hardened, at Electrode, in a counterattack of headbutts. The harden was enough to stop the enemy, but damaged Matata more than it did Electrode. Abra, meanwhile was instructed to jump aside and try a psywave.

Abra charged up his psywave quickly before sending it right to Electrode. Electrode, still dazed from the headbutt attack was not deft enough to dodge it. The energy sent Electrode flying back, smoking and bruised slightly. Surge yelled to his Pokémon to try another attack, just as Ryan did the same.

Electrode began a thunderbolt attack. Abra was going to do a slashy-claw attack, but Electrode’s attack charged faster. He shot it at Abra, and it connected. Abra let out a low pulsating yell, interrupting itself through the electric shock. He stumbled back, hurt, but not beaten. In this time, Matata had rolled over to behind Electrode.

“Sting 'em, Matata!” Ryan yelled earnestly.

Surge tried yelling to his Pokémon, but it was too late. The stinger plunged into Electrode and instantly poisoned it. Electrode howled in pain, just in time for Abra to lunge in a high jump and come down with a heavy swipe across its face. The Electrode, furiously tackled Abra away, but the poison prevented it from following up with an attack. Desperate, Surge let out one final order.

“Electrode, self destruct attack!”

Electrode nodded and stopped moving. A bright light engulfed it entirely. Ryan simply stood there.

“Hey, do something! That Electrode is going to take out both of your Pokémon if that attack goes through!”

“What?” Ryan said, spinning around. He saw it to be the girl.

“Have them use a defensive attack.”

“A… defensive attack? I don’t know if they have any,” Ryan pondered, “Hey, Abra, do you have a defensive move?”

“Abra, ra,” Abra responded, confidently.

“Then use it! Don’t let that Pokémon’s attack hit you!”

“Abra abra!”

Electrode’s bright white aura started taking over everything, to the point where Ryan couldn’t see anything. It was getting real bad. He just hoped Abra had a move that could hold off this self destruct. Then Electrode exploded. In any other instance, watching someone explode would cause Ryan to do the same, but this is Pokémon.

The dust flew everywhere, and it went into Ryan’s eyes. He coughed and covered his face as the wind picked up, blowing his blue hair all out of place. Still hacking up dust and pieces of the gym, he looked up. His watering eyes could barely give a clear picture, but he did see one thing – a dark, flying shape. Well, that couldn’t be right. Nobody was supposed to be flying.

He blinked about thirty-seven times to clear his eyes. And he saw what it was. Abra, his pointed body in a controlled free fall, breathing heavily, all scratched up, Matata in his hands, but nonetheless conscious. In the crater of the explosion lay Electrode, knocked out. Abra landed a second later, setting down the Kakuna. They were both still in the ring.

Ryan had won. Though he did not know it, and probably would never know it, Ryan had just witnessed the first time in Pokémon history that a teleport attack was used to win a match.

“Well, I gotta hand it to ya, kid. You know your stuff. Never seen an Abra who knew psyshock or barrier before…”

Ryan simply beamed.

The girl must have watched him pull off that spectacular victory. He turned and saw her up against the wall, her arms folded, her heel pulled up against the wall. He smiled at her, but she didn’t look at him. Surge came up behind Ryan, causing him to let out a high scream that echoed through the gym.

“Sheesh kid, I’m just givin’ ya your badge.”

“Oh right, sorry. Thanks,” said Ryan, going quite red.

He pocketed the badge, and left without much more incident. The girl followed him out, and by the time they were outside, back on the road by the water, they were walking side by side. Neither one spoke. The air was as thick as something which is thick and also unmentionable.

The girl stopped up against a fence. She rested her arms on it and looked out over the ocean. Ryan stopped too, awkwardly standing behind her. He knew not of how to approach this. She was a girl after all. She could easily take it the wrong way.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“Uh, I just wanted to say thanks for the help… you know with the badge and all.”

She continued in indignation, “Surge really gave it to you, didn’t he? Two on one against one of his weakest Pokémon. You’re lucky I was there to take out his Raichu.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

The two stood in silence for a few more minutes.

“Well? You’ve said what you wanted to say. Aren’t you going to go now?”

“Um, I don’t really know where the other gyms are, and you are obviously going to them, so I thought-“

She turned around at this, bold fire in her eyes, “You want to tag along?”

“No… not tag along, just come along.”

“That’s the same thing!”

“No, no it’s not. Besides, I can protect you with my Pokémon!” he said, dramatically, if lamely.

“Protection, huh. Yeah, it really looks like you got me there.”

“Great!” shouted Ryan, “Where are we going now?”

“I am going to get my next badge.”

“But what is it called?”

“If I tell you, you’ll follow me,” she said.

“I’m following you anyway,” Ryan replied.

The girl did not respond to that.

“Hey, I’m Ryan by the way.”

She looked over at him, rolling her eyes, “Kelly. Fine, I’m going to Fuchsia City. ”

And thus, a brilliant partnership was formed.

Episode 4: The One Where I Don't Spoil What Happens

Kelly had paid for a boat down the briny, and graciously was Ryan allowed with her. They did not talk all the way to Fuchsia. Ryan didn’t mind. He was too preoccupied with his Thunder Badge. Not many people could get a Thunder Badge like Ryan did. He totally won his first gym battle like it was nothing.

The two silently got off the boat, paid their fare, and began the short walk into the village. It was dusk, but not all that dark out. The moon was out in full, and the village had many lights about that lit the way. Ryan was humming some Lion King to himself when he noticed a dastardly shape moving parallel in the water next to him. Not even stopping, he whipped out his Pokédex, like a boss, and pointed it at this shape. Because, surely, this was a Pokémon as his experience had thus far taught him. And he was right.

“Golduck, the duck Pokémon. Its slim and long limbs end in broad flippers. They are used for swimming gracefully in lakes,” the Pokédex droned out.

“Ah, cool. It’s a water one. I’ve always wanted one of those!” exclaimed Ryan.

Kelly shook her head and continued walking. But Ryan was adamant. He needed a new fighter in his arsenal. He reached down, and threw his two occupied Poké Balls out over the grass. Out came loyal Abra, and his Kakuna, Matata.

Before ordering them to attack, however, Ryan wanted to test something.

“Abra, show me all of your attacks before we start,” he began earnestly, “I need to know what you can do.”

Mr. Loyalty, aka Abra, did so, charging up his blue energy. But then Ryan, all bug-eyed and brash, screamed out with hoarse command:

“I already know about the psychic attack, so don’t show me that, silly!”

“Bra!”

Pokémon have only four moves, they sure do. So Abra went on to show Ryan his three other moves as the Pokémon trainer held his Pokédex out and had it read to him which moves they were. First, Abra created an electrical barrier around him which caused Ryan to go numb; that was his second attack, a thunder wave. For the third, Abra started moving around quickly, creating illusions of himself; and that was double team. Great Poké Balls, that move was useless, Ryan thought. Why on Poké Earth would his father have given Abra that?

But the fourth move wasn’t any better. Just seeing it made Ryan feel like he had woken up sucking on lemon. Abra squatted on the ground, grunting for eons like a certain yellow-haired man of a completely different universe which I shan’t mention for fear of the fanboys coming for me. Needless to say, the Pokédex called this move reflect. Of course, Abra also had the psybeam and teleport (oh no, that’s more than four moves! But we will just forget about that), but we’ve already seen those so no need to rehash them yet. And now you know all of Abras moves. Yep, they’re practically are all TMs. Ryan thought that it must have cost his dad a small fortune to buy all those TMs… and for what? Just an Abra. His father wasn’t rich. It wasn’t even his father’s best Pokémon. He looked down at that little guy and couldn’t help but wonder what was so special about him.

Little did he know Abra was thinking the same thing about his master.

Then Ryan pointed a finger at the wild Golduck who was still swimming at a lackadaisical pace. It was time to own this nublet.

“Attack that Golduck!” Ryan shouted at them.

They nodded in understanding and turned to face the swimming monstrosity. Sure, this was no Kappa, but it looked as diabolical as any river monster could. Ryan was not very familiar with either of his Pokémon’s attacks yet, so he did not dare give them order again on what to do. Instead, he allowed Abra to use its own eclectic arsenal of TMs that his father had given it (and would be impossible to ever find out). Kakuna would help by being a distraction or something. Who knows? Ryan just wanted Mataka to evolve so it could actually fight. The purpose of Kakuna was almost none, and he couldn’t understand how a Pokémon trainer (like himself) was supposed to level up a Pokémon which couldn’t even move, and had like no attacks.

Nonetheless, Abra alone got the Golduck’s attention. A psybeam to it caused the Golduck to stop its swimming, and jump out of the water. It jumped up in a graceful arc before landing on the soft grass in front of the group. Dripping with water, its red eyes livid, it bellowed out its name for all to hear. Yes, it was a Golduck. The Pokédex had already told them that.

It rushed Abra with its claws out. Abra screamed in fear because of how sharp they were. Kakuna grunted itself into a harden so that Abra could block with it. And Abra, not one to be shredded into pieces willingly, did so. He picked up Kakuna, and using her as a shield, blocked all of Golducks’s scratch attacks. Golduck, unsatisfied, tried a tail whip, wagging it in front of the two adversaries, but even that couldn’t lower Kakuna’s harden defense enough.

Abra then attacked, himself, and the psychic attack hit Golduck with a critical hit. Golduck yelped, singed and hurting. It focused itself back on Abra, but it hadn’t noticed Matata latching herself onto its leg. Golduck tried to shake it off, but it was too late. A moment later, Golduck felt Matata sting it. It was poisoned. Screaming in rage, it kicked Matata off of it, and focused on Abra. Using its most powerful attack, blizzard, it covered Abra in a cold freeze. Abra was barely able to move, and subsequently fainted.

“No, Abra!” Ryan yelled, helpfully.

But in this time, something extra-ordinary occurred. Matata turned all white, and began pulsating. Her attacks on Ryan, the Electrode, and now Golduck had evidently put it over the threshold. She was transformed. Ryan quickly pointed his Pokédex at this new being to see what he should call it.

“Beedrill, the poison bee Pokémon. It has 3 poisonous stingers on its forelegs and its tail. They are used to jab its enemy repeatedly.”

“Awesome! I got a Beedrill!” Ryan was ecstatic, “Hey, Kelly, see? Look what Matata transformed into!”

Kelly, who had stopped walking, and stood behind Ryan watching this fight, rolled her eyes, “Yeah, yeah.”

“Although, her name doesn’t really make sense any more now that she’s a Beedrill,” Ryan said.

He had completely forgotten that a fight was still going on. Only when Golduck threw itself at Beedrill, and Beedrill dodged with an air ascension, did Ryan see what was going on.

“Oh, we still haven’t got him yet. Well Beedrill, use your fury attack!”

“Rill!” she responded and attacked.

Golduck, consumed by the poison, had not the dexterity to dodge the fury swipes. Matata rushed it, and jabbed its pointy hands into Golduck. Golduck was hit two times! It stumbled back, preparing its own retaliation, but it was no use. The poison was sapping what strength Abra and Beedrill hadn’t already taken away. It collapsed next to the fallen Abra, and fainted.

“Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” Ryan screamed!

If he had a hat, he would turn it around and get all serious before making the camera take a close up of his left eye, then throw his Poké Ball all majestically at the defeated enemy. But he didn’t have a hat, so he just threw the ball normally. He also returned Abra and Matata to their Poké Balls, praising their valor and staunch readiness to his cause.

Kelly did not congratulate him, however. She once again badgered him and nagged him to death on the fact that he didn’t fight fair. Using two Pokémon to catch one just wasn’t right.

“Well, says who?” said Ryan with a fierce scowl.

“That’s just how it’s done,” she replied, simply.

“Well, I can do it however I want. You can’t tell me how to do it!” Ryan said, in tantrum.

Kelly cared not to pursue this argument, letting Ryan feel as if he had won it.

The two walked into town, and looking at the time, saw it was not even eight o’clock. The gym was still open! Kelly mentioned something about fighting tonight, and then began running off down a street to her left. Well, Ryan was all alone. He had no idea where anything in this town was. So he ran after her. She was faster than she looked, and Ryan was embarrassed that he could barely keep up. Indeed, his stomach was cramping within two blocks.

When he finally caught up to her, she was standing inside a large, one story building, with the door open. It was wooden, and planked across its walls and floor. Ryan, wheezing and coughing, entered into the quiet room, and saw Kelly standing a dozen feet ahead of him. In front of her was a tall man wearing blue. Ryan saw them bow to each other, then draw their Pokémon.

The man sent out a small little thing that Ryan knew was a Venonat. Kelly threw her own ball, and out came her legendary Pokémon, Arcanine.

“Whoa, Arcanine…” Ryan breathed to himself.

“Venonat, tackle attack!” The gym leader commanded.

The Venonat did so, throwing itself at Arcanine. Arcanine took the attack, growling softly, but not being damaged badly.

“Arcanine, fire blast!” Kelly said in retaliation.

Arcanine did so, creating a small collection of three pointed flame balls in his mouth. Then, he threw it out at Venonat. Venonat just stood there, its big red eyes shining in fear and hopelessness. The attack hit right on, burning Venonat, throwing it back against the wall. It feebly stood up, but then fell over, completely spent.

“Excellent attack, but you won’t beat me again!” the man shouted.

He threw his second Poké Ball, and out came a Scyther. Kelly withdrew her Arcanine, and threw a second of her own. Out came a Raichu, but it didn’t look like a regular Raichu. It was darker. Ryan could tell by the tail, it was a female.

“‘Aichu, thundershock!”

The Raichu jumped forward, readying an aura of electric around it. It focused this into a bolt of lightning, which came down right on top of Scyther. Scyther was affected pretty badly, as it howled out in pain.

“Now… Scyther… razor wind!” said the gym leader dramatically.

A tornado of who-knows-what began forming, but the Scyther did not attack yet. This razor wind must need some charging up time.

"Growl attack!" Kelly yelled.

The Pokémon did so, but Ryan could not hear it, nor yet even guess as to what purpose such a move had - for not doing any damage puzzled him greatly.

Then Scyther stepped forward and shot the razor wind at ‘Aichu. And it hit the poor mouse squarely. The razors all cut into ‘Aichu, causing massive amounts of cuts to form across its body. It fell to the ground, gasping.

“‘Aichu?” Kelly said, with worry in her voice.

“’Ai, Raichu chu,” it replied, standing up.

“Okay, good. Quick attack, then!”

Raichu moved quickly back and forth, deftly bouncing off the walls and floor to confuse Scyther. But Scyther was not confused.

“Very well, Scyther use your slash!”

Countering the Raichu’s quick attack, Scyther ran forward and rammed its sword-hands down on the running rodent. ‘Aichu was caught off guard, and flew back, hurting badly. Scyther landed in front of it.

“Now, Scyther, finish it off with a hyper beam,” the gym leader said confidently.

Scyther moved forward, preparing the beam when Kelly tried something.

“‘Aichu, thunderbolt!”

“Ai… chu…” it replied.

‘Aichu’s damaged state lent itself to a lethargic setup, giving Scyther enough time to get its own attack ready. As Scyther charged the attack, ‘Aichu stood up and charged a second electric attack. Right before Scyther finished, and could aim at the Raichu, it released its thunderbolt. Multiple long blasts of electric energy rained down on Scyther, and sent it to the ground. It screamed out as the merciless blast hit it again and again. Quickly, its health drained, its stamina left, and it finally fainted. ‘Aichu had won. More importantly, Kelly had won.

Ryan didn’t bother listening to all the congratulations. He barged in and ran right up to the Gym Leader.

“I wanna fight too.”

The man nodded Kelly away, after giving her the badge, and took stance easily, “Very well, I still have two Pokémon left. You are okay with a two on two?”

“Yeah, sure,” Ryan replied quickly.

“Very well, let’s begin.”

“Venomoth, go!” shouted the man.

“Go Matata!” Ryan mimicked.

“Venomoth, use psybeam!”

“Matata, use twineedle!” Ryan mimicked again.

The two met, exchanging attack. They flew back and forth a few times, before Ryan switched his attack.

“Fury swipes, yeah!”

But fury swipes did little to Venomoth. The gym leader simply used sleep powder, and Matata fell. Following that up, Venomoth used a psychic attack, and because Matata was asleep, and defenseless, this thoroughly depleted the Beedrill. Matata fainted in its sleep. Ryan had lost round one.

“Well, do you have a second Pokémon?”

“Yeah, I do,” Ryan replied, “Go Abra!”

Abra came out of his ball, and immediately fell over. He was still damaged from his battle previously, and was in no shape to fight. Of course, Ryan had never learned about the stamina of a Pokémon. He had just thought all Pokémon are immediately healed once they go back in their ball. That’s how it was on TV! But this wasn’t TV, this was real life. And as Abra immediately had fainted, that meant Ryan had lost.

“Maybe you should go heal your Pokémon at the Pokémon Center before challenging me again,” the man said, coldly.

Ryan nodded, dejectedly, before leaving. Kelly had, surprisingly waited for him. She seemed chipper.

“See, when you fight fair, you don’t win,” Kelly said to him.

“Hey, shut up,” Ryan scoffed, “Nobody asked you anything. Just take me to the Pokémon Center so I can go beat him properly.”

Kelly laughed aloud as she led this novice boy out of the Gym, and back down the road to the Pokémon Center.

Episode 5: Melancholic Madness

There comes a time when every Pokémon Master, such as Ryan, must come to terms with their imperfections. Be them tactical errors, or the sheer lack of talent around them, masters inevitably lose battles. And for those who see failure as merely opportunity, such things are held with light heart. But for those, like Ryan, who see nothing but wasted time in such defeats, there will always, invariably, be another long drop in the crater that once housed his confidence.

Kelly had bought a hotel room, and had gingerly offered Ryan company for the night (on the couch, really). At first, he hadn’t known what to say – this girl had not hid her disdain for him prior, so he didn’t know why she would offer such a deliberately awkward invitation. Luckily (or not), Ryan had just lost a brutal defeat to master Koga, and his Pokémon were all injured and such, being taken care of in the nearby Pokémon Center. So, Ryan hastily declined Kelly’s offer, instead propping himself up between two waiting room chairs in the hospital. She had left without another word, which hadn’t caused him much concern at the time. He remained there, ever close to his three little Pokémon, and ever waiting for news of their condition.

Needless to say, he fell asleep about twenty seconds after he was left alone.

In the morning, to the good news that his Pokémon were healed, Ryan slugged awake. He had meant to get another look at this city’s Nurse Joy, but apparently she was off somewhere else. Darn. She must’ve been beautiful. And he had no idea what she looked like. Ah, well.

A Chansey with a trolley approached him, where he still lay in his makeshift bed, and handed him his Pokémon. When inquiring as to their exact conditions, well the only response was ‘Chansey, Chansey!’. One of these days, Ryan would have to learn some Pokémon languages. It would make this all so much easier. But maybe they didn’t have languages. Maybe they just babbled their names to humans and one another for no reason at all. They were Pokémon. Nobody could know. He would tell Professor Oak his theory if he ever met the guy.

He could barely gripe, though. The treatment was free, and Chansey had even brought him some nice fruit bars for breakfast. He sat up, thanking the pink Pokémon before going on his way. Sliding a fruit bar out of its wrapper and into his mouth, Ryan grimaced, realizing that these were apricot flavor. He took it all back. This wasn’t worth it at all.

Before leaving, Ryan made way to the free computer and rang for his mother, hoping to see how she was doing. Mother didn’t answer. He decided to leave a message.

“Hey mom, it’s me. Just, uh, just letting you know I’m still alive! I’ve been out here catching lots of Pokémon and stuff. I’ll have to show you them when I get back… I hope you like them, they have great personalities… Oh, and I got a ba-”

The call cut out, with the time full. He sighed. He hadn’t seen the ‘2 minutes for free calls’ sign posted above the computer until just now. That was just great. He grabbed his bag and left.

It was raining, and the road had already become full of mud pockets by the time Ryan set out for the Gym again. This time, he had his Pokédex out, and was punching in various search queries, searching for, well, a strategy to win. He needed the badge quick, for even though he knew Kelly was long gone, he knew where she was headed, and just maybe he could find her again at the next gym… if he was quick enough here. Hopefully she wasn’t mad at him for declining her previous invitation.

However, Dex was hardly useful; the only noteworthy thing it told Ryan was that he needed more Pokémon; that his Beedrill was absolutely useless. Well, thanks. He already guessed that with the Kakuna form being as horrible as it was. He turned to focus on the entry for Golduck, and looking over its known moves, he worked to memorize a logical pattern with which to use them for. His one knew blizzard and body slam, and that tail waggle attack. Golduck was easily his best Pokémon, as it had taken the collective efforts of both Abra and Matata to down him. There was no better time than a gym battle to test Golduck for the first time - if he won.

The doors were open, and Ryan was glad that no other trainers had arrived yet. He was slightly embarrassed to fight with other people watching. He stepped into the cold grove that was the battle area, squinting for a sign of Koga. There was nothing, not a single sound, aside from the rain patter coming from the door. Heck, the lights weren’t even on.

“Anyone here?!” Ryan yelled, his voice echoing several times.

No response came.

Slightly annoyed, Ryan ventured further inside. There was a sort of Japanese-style garden in the next room, with a great number of trees, and benches, and all that crap. As Ryan tiptoed through some tulips, he noticed a man sitting under a tree. There he was; Koga! Booyah, Ryan had passed the test and found him. Right? That’s what this was. Right?!

“Haha! I found you, Mr. gym leader guy!”

The scream that followed rivaled Ryan’s own at Lt. Surge’s gym a few days prior. Only it came from a man. A grown man. A gym leader. Koga had just screamed like a little girl. It sounded like a cat that had just discovered water. Ryan’s ears were hurting bad, gee golly! Evidently, Koga hadn’t expected anyone. Well, that’s what he gets for leaving the door open.

“I mean… who’s there?” the man stammered.

“C’mon, I’m going to get my badge now, okay?” Ryan said, grinning. “Look at how good I am now. I’ve really learned!”

The master saw it to be Ryan, whose defeat yesterday was fresh in his mind, “Ah… very well, let me just turn on the lights,” Koga scowled.

“Great!”

The two moved out to the secondary battle arena because they battled in the other one yesterday and it would be boring to fight there again. Don’t question me! Lining up, the two readied their Poké Balls. Koga yawned. Ryan smiled. He had just thought up a really cool thing to say.

“Don’t worry, I’ll wake you up!”

Ryan went scarlet faster than… well, I don’t have a proper comparison for that. Let’s just say that Ryan was mightily embarrassed upon hearing himself utter those words which had sounded so much better in his head. He was grateful that Koga either hadn’t heard him or hadn’t cared. He couldn’t tell which. Koga was pretty stoic, yeah. So, on with the fight. The man threw his ball, and in turn, Ryan threw his. It was time to see how good Golduck was.

Koga nodded to Ryan, “You remember Venomoth.”

“No, I don’t. They all look the same to me!”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll remember him after this! Venomoth, psychic attack now!”

The flying moth of veno-metric proportions flew toward Golduck. Ryan had only a few seconds. He thought back to five minutes ago when he’d looked up Golduck’s attacks. That was a long time ago. He barely remembered any of it. But… yes! The most powerfulest attack, he remembered.

“Golduck, blizzard, go! Yeah!”

The time discrepancy caught up to Golduck painfully, as Venomoth’s attack had already come flying forward. A flash of light, and Golduck was thrown backward like a turtle on its back. Struggling to get up, Golduck was taking his sweet time. Koga was already shouting out ‘Toxic attack!’

“Come on, Golduck…”

But this toxic attack was seen by Golduck at the last minute. The blue Pokémon dove aside, dodging it just in time, and landing right below Venomoth, who helpfully stayed still for Golduck. Then, Ryan’s Pokémon began twirling its arms, and like magic, a blizzard just came up out of nowhere. Ryan loved how Pokés could do that.

Soon shards of ice and a full on tornado engulfed the two Pokémon. The Venomoth let out a scream a second later as it was thrown from the Blizzard, and onto the ground. There it lay like a delicious sack of potatoes, all frozen and stuff.

“Venomoth, get up!” Koga demanded. “Sleep powder attack! Now!”

But Venomoth was sluggish, and as it tried to perform a sleep powder attack, it missed again, hitting nothing but the floorboards (who, I’m sure, appreciated the rest).

Ryan grinned. He had them now. Sticking a single finger out in a gesture to the fallen Pokémon, Ryan yelled, “Golduck, body slam ‘em. Kay?”

“Gol-duck!”

He sprinted over to Venomoth, and loyally jumped in the air, stretching out his arms and legs in a perfect effort to body slam the poor ugly beast. Well, it looked like more of a belly flop to Ryan. Still, the bone-crunching sound that followed the beat down was assuredly loud, and not even Koga could deny that Venomoth was done. Yes! Finally, a Pokémon that could use its claws. Ryan would have to remember that.

Shaking his head, Koga returned his first Pokémon, and readied his second ball.

But, no no no. It was all wrong. Golduck looked to be in one heck of a bad time. How? He’d just won. It couldn’t have been… oh, no, Ryan though. It was a belly flop, yep. Now Golduck was not even looking at whoever Koga had sent out, and was just rolling around on the floor grabbing his poor stomach and screaming out in pain. Shucks.

“Gotta return him, then…” Ryan muttered to the audience.

As he did so, he looked up and saw the new opponent was a Koffing. Aw, heck. Koffings were unbelievably powerful. In all the shows he’d watch as a kid, Koffings were always the bad guys, always the final bosses and stuff. And they wouldn’t be if they weren’t beasts! He thought to himself for who to use. Well, it was an easy decision. Matata was just a Beedrill. He had Abra!

“Go Abra go!” he spoke.

Abra had learned well from Ryan’s style of training. Thank Snorlax. This time he was awake when Ryan called him. To Ryan, that meant the world.

“Ra? Abra’a ra.”

“Oh, thanks for telling me, Abra. Now go use psychic on that deadly Koffing!”

“Abra?”

“Come on, just go!”

Abra did so, turning his head to find the Pokémon when Koffing hit him like a train out of Nantucket. It was a pretty brutal tackle. Abra went spiraling, doing several impressive cartwheels before sticking the landing with his face. Ryan was about to interject with his important words of encouragement, but Abra seemed on top of it. He was barely damaged. Abra had rolled over and thrown his clawed hands to the sky. Blue energy formed and shot out at Koffing, who stood there, not even looking at Abra. Couldn’t blame him, though. The walls were very interesting.

The blast hit Koffing, and he let out a wheezing cough of surprise. Oh, and then he fainted. Yep, from one attack. Ryan had won this 2v2 battle like it was nothing.

“I’m so good at this!”

Koga jumped forward, returning Koffing in one fell swoop, “Very good match. You have proved yourself to me, and learned well from your mistakes of yesterd-”

“What mistakes? Come on, I want my badge!”

Koga blinked furiously, as if not believing someone so stupid could have just beaten him, “Yes, here it is!” he threw the badge toward Ryan, who lunged wild and far and missed it quite acutely. “Your Pokémon are impressive. The Abra must at least be level 25.”

Ryan, picking the badge from the ground, looked up, “Huh, what do you mean level 25?”

“Your Abra is highly skilled. To KO my Koffing in one hit like that, he must be very advanced. Of course, using psychic already means he has a TM. You have invested well in him.”

“But humans don’t have levels… what does that even mean?” Ryan asked, squint-eyed.“It means he’s long overdue to evolve. Most Abras evolve at level 16, unless they refuse… Has he refused?”

“Ra! A’ra abra abra abra! Bra ah!” Abra interjected.

Koga nodded, “I see,” and that settled it, apparently. “Well, Ryan, good luck with your journey. If you are heading to Cinnabar Island, you may use the soul badge to give Golduck surf. And then ride him. That’s less expensive than buying a ticket on a boat…”

“I can surf on top of Clawey?!” Ryan said, barely concealing his pure, unbridled joy. “That’s awesome!”

“Clawey?” asked Koga with a raised brow.

“Yeah, that’s Golduck’s new name. Cool, huh?”

Koga was no master of lying, that was for sure. But Ryan was too happy to notice. He ran out of that gym in chipper spirits, not only for knowing that he’d just bested another leader with his grand ol’ skill, but that now he could ride on Golduck like a surfboard. That’s all he’d ever dreamt of doing.


No worries. That’s what it meant. He had just got his second badge, and now he was walking down an abandoned trail toward the water. Ryan had all three of his Pokés out, like one parades around in a showy tee shirt. There was just one problem. Nobody was around.

Humming to himself, and ignoring the deep philosophical conversations Clawey and Matata were having behind, he came to a break in the road, with a path pointing either way, and a huge tree in front of him. There wasn’t just a tree, either. He saw something. It was a Pokémon! All of the others stopped upon seeing it, and Ryan squatted down on the ground. You know, the better to hide from it.

The Pokémon was a long, slender thing. Blue and white, and it had – no joke – wings for ears, and a horn for a nose. Ryan thrust his Dex out to get a reading. But Dex was being difficult, by gum.

“There is no Pokémon in range.”

“Dex, I’m looking right at it. Are you blind or something?” Ryan asked.

“There is no Pokémon in range.”

“Ahh!” Ryan put the Pokédex away and turned to his spectators. “You guys see it, right? Right?”

“Ra.”

“Duck, golduck.”

“Eeieineneieine.”

Yeah, they saw it. That is exactly what they just said.

Ryan knew what that called for; a Poké Ball to the face. Pulling one from his belt, Ryan did a reverse ballerina spin, twirled his arms, and swung back his arm for a fierce overhand throw. He was so good at this. He should be a professional. The ball hit the dang animal directly in the face! But… wait. It didn’t capture it. The ball didn’t even open. And the Pokémon didn’t seem one bit phased by being hit in the face with a foreign object. There was one thing, however. It could just be a coincidence, but as the ball had hit this Pokémon’s face, an errant yell rang through the woods. Some little girl was pretty darn angry.

The bushes rustled, and up came the girl. She threw the Pokémon off of her shoulders and sprinted down to the onlookers with a look that could kill a mongoose.

“Hey, what’s the big deal? Can’t you see I’m tracking Traxus Rex!?”

Ryan did not, of course, “Who?”

“Traxus Rex! My Dragonite! I was so close to getting him. Can’t you just go away, creep?”

“Hey, I was just trying to catch the snake-with-wings-for-ears… I didn’t know you were tracking him.”

“That? Oh you mean Percival Scrawnius Tazomarius. He’s just a stuffed animal.”

“Then why were you going out in public with it?” asked Ryan, innocently enough.

“Hey! Don’t question me. I was tracking Traxus Rex!”

“You already said that,” Ryan rolled his eyes, rather annoyed. “Look, just move out of the way, little girl, so I can catch ol’ snakey.”

“He has a name, you know! It’s Trax-”

“Yeah, yeah,” Ryan waved her away and took up point. He had just seen some movement. The real stuffed animal was on the move. No wait, that wasn’t right. Stuffed animals weren’t real. He glanced back over to the girl. Well, maybe not for most people. But there was another creature moving and it wasn’t the stuffed animal. It had the same ears and nose. This was the real one.

“Hey, hello? Are you listening to me?”

Ryan whispered back at her trying to hide his annoyance, “No, I’m about to catch Thurnax.”

“WHAT?!?!” she screeched. “His name is Traxus Rex! You can’t change that. I already named him like a year ago. That’s not fair!”

“I don’t like that name, so it’s not gonna be his name,” Ryan explained, simply.

“Hey, he’s not yours!” she said, pushing out of her way, and running to grab her stuffed animal.

“He will be,” Ryan shook his head, and took Dex back out. Now that he saw the real animal slinking about in the brush, he pointed toward it.

“Dragonair. According to a witness, its body was surrounded by a strange aura that gave it a mystical look.”

“A dragon! Yeah! All right, let’s get it,” he said to his Pokémon congregation.

“Oh no you don’t,” came a voice high and shrill, “I’ll fight you to protect him!”

It was the girl.

“Seriously? I’ve beat two whole gyms. There’s no way you’re better than me,” Ryan countered, proudly.

“I don’t care about those. Gyms are for stupid people. Anyone can get all the badges. But my Grandmother says I’m an explorer,” she beamed, “so I’m doing things you couldn’t even think of! Oh, and I’m Sophia by the way!” she added in a breathless, irrelevant, rage-inducing quip.

She drew her Poké Balls. And while Ryan prepared himself, he could only think of how much he missed Kelly.

Episode 6: Yes, A Bubble

Here was a girl, a crazy girl, who wore a cornucopia of vibrant colors plastered around her body. She snatched her precious stuffed animal – who’s name Ryan could not possibly remember – into her hands, all while beaming furiously towards him. Clearly, she had been using it to lure out a real Pokémon of the same species; one that she wanted to catch. There it was now, slithering through the bushes much like a snake. But it was much more graceful than any one-eyed snake could be, Ryan knew that for sure. It was a Dragon. It was a Dragonair. And Ryan would catch it.

The small girl’s face contorted into an expression which complemented her attire of clown vomit quite nicely. Seeing the boy opposite her throw his attention toward the bush made her react in reflex to save what was rightfully hers. She snatched, quickly, three Poké Balls from her sparkling belt and threw them toward Ryan (though if one was a keen observer, one might reckon she had thrown them at him). Out popped three of the finest Pokémon this Pokéworld had to offer. Ryan quickly scanned them with his Pokédex, finding them to be a Vaporeon, a Drowzee, and a Spearow. Blimey, Ryan thought. These would be his greatest test yet.

Still, as he stepped forward to combat Sophia’s army, Ryan felt a sense of calm rush over his body; an air of confidence, if you will. He looked down to his three, equal, Pokémon standing on either side. He nodded to them, before throwing his voice back to the girl:

“Abra, abra bra ah abra!” Ryan shouted to, unsurprisingly, Abra. His Pokémon nodded back, and then jumped like twenty-seven feet toward the enemies.

“Golduuuuuck! Duck duck duck!” Ryan screamed again, this time causing Clawey to spring up in likewise action.

“Ieiieieeeeeeieheiiehsieh!” Ryan bellowed, shaking the very trees that stood around them. Since Matata was a flying Pokémon, she couldn’t really jump twenty-seven feet like the others, so she just flew there.

Ryan’s confidence in speaking in Poké Tongues had disallowed him knowledge of what his Pokémon were actually doing, or if their strategies were paying off, but that was unimportant. The real goal of any trainer was to just catch ‘em all. So he let his Pokémon do their thing, and turned his attention toward that slithering snake. He got down on all fours, and began stalking it like any good trainer would do. He found the Dragonair to be so slow, that even in his crouch-walking through the bushes, Ryan could easily gain on it. When he was within a few feet, he pounced, jumping on the creature, wrapping his two little arms around it, and swinging himself back and forth in a manner not unlike someone trying to extinguish themselves from being on fire.

He tackled that beast good. After a few rolls, Ryan heard the Dragonair cry out, and go limp. Puzzled by this, Ryan sat up, and peered forward. Then did he see a large bloody gash on the Pokémon’s otherwise light belly. It was a fresh, open wound, as it still bled. Ryan noticed he too had been doused in the creature’s blood. But that did not concern him. He had seen it wounded, and that was enough for the boy to lose his whimsical disposition. Ryan jumped up, and ran to the Dragonair’s head.

Kneeling down, he spoke softly, “Hey, you’re hurt… Oh, jeez. That’s pretty bad. We need to get you to a Pokémon Center!”

“Neeeee...” it groaned.

“Here,” Ryan said, taking out a spare Poké Ball, “Let me catch you, and I can take you to one.”

“Neeee! Eee!” it whined in distress, pulling away from Ryan as far as it could.

“It’s not a trick, I swear. Please… you’ll die if I don’t help.” Ryan said, exacerbated. The Pokémon didn’t seem to believe him, as it continued to slowly pull itself away from him. Ryan stood up and followed it, this time raising his voice, “Look, I just want to help! I won’t keep you if you don’t want. We’ll just take you to the Pokémon Center to get you fixed, and if you don’t want to stay with me, I won’t make you! You can go back into the wild once you’re better! I’m just trying to help.”

At this, the Dragonair stopped, and quipped softly before turning to Ryan. It raised its long head off the turf, to the trainer’s height, and stared into his eyes. He could see it fighting to even stand up, for its wound had made the creature exhausted. Though he didn’t fully know the meaning of this gesture, Ryan took it as what he had hoped. Raising trembling his hand with the Poké Ball in it, he opened it; in an instant, the dragon Pokémon closed its eyes, and let itself be sucked inside.

Pocketing the Poké Ball, Ryan ran back to the trail only to find his three Pokémon in the midst of a battle. He would be lying had he said he remembered what they were doing. So much had happened since he had sent them to battle Sophia and her minions. He noticed his Pokémon were completely dominating Sophia’s. Yet, he didn’t have time to gloat over the pompous girl.

“Guys, we have to go! Now!” Ryan shouted.

The three looked up with faces of ‘oh come on!’, but seeing the pressing concern of their master, stopped the slaughter. Abra and Co. jumped off of the beaten Drowzee, Vaporeon, and Spearow and loyally followed their master off.

Evidently insulted by the sudden lack of attention, Sophia pouted her lips and chased them down.

“Stop! You can’t just leave right when I was about to beat you!”

Ryan shrugged her off and continued jogging ahead.

“Hey, hello?! Are you listening to me?”

Ryan sighed and slowed to a walk, “Look, I have to go. It was great battling you, but we’ll have to finish that later.”

“Ha!” Sophia proclaimed proudly, victory flush in her face, “I knew it! You’re running away, coward! You couldn’t beat me. Yes! That means Traxus Rex is mine!”

“Who?” Ryan asked.

“The Dragonair, you dummy,” she responded with contempt.

“Cool. By the way, do you know where the nearest Pokémon Center is?”

Sophia stopped her jubilation for a second to process the question. “You can either go to Fuschia City or Cinnabar Island.”

Ryan shook his head. “Well, I just came from Fuschia City, and that’s pretty far back.”

“Then go to Cinnabar Island!” Sophia said, again using her contemptuous voice, “It’s just that way, south. You can’t miss it. All you need is a Pokémon with surf to get there.”

“Okay.”

Then, Sophia stepped forward, with her chin thrust up. Lo, the jubilation had returned “See, arentcha glad I was here? After I beat you so gracefully (because my grandmother told me that’s how a proper princess should act), I was so nice telling you how to get to Cinnabar Island!”

“That’s great,” Ryan said, barely paying attention to the babbling.

Sophia started twirling around, spinning her vibrant clothes in a whirlwind. She closed her eyes and raised her arms as she did so, because that’s what all self-proclaimed princesses do. “You’re lucky I’m so smart. My IQ says I’m a genius, really! I got it tested you know!” She said, humming between sentences.

But when Sophia opened her eyes, Ryan, and all his Pokémon were gone. She sighed something about him leaving out of shame, then went back to collect her stuffed animal, and go catch that Traxus Rex.


Ryan hadn’t felt obligated to tell Sophia that he had taken the Dragonair already, because she was as annoying as the trees were green. He stood on the edge of the water, looking out to the sea. It was a remarkably clear day, and had been since he had left Sophia. Heck, he could see Cinnabar Island from where he stood.

Returning Abra and Matata to their Poké Balls, Ryan instead focused on Clawey, his Golduck. Being that Clawey had the move surf, this was Ryan’s only option to get to the island other than paying for it; and he didn’t have much money to be spent frivolously. “All right, Clawey. We need to get to that island way out there. So you’ll use surf on the water, and I will ride on you, and it will all work out, ok?”

“Duck, gol,” Clawey whimpered.

“Great! Let’s go!”

Ryan climbed on top of Clawey, and pointed ahead, directing his steed into the sparkling water of this glorious summer day. Now, Golducks are small beasts, closer to the size of a lynx than a water-horse or luxurious yacht. So, the mounting and riding was more than a little awkward. The Golduck grumbled mightily as the unfathomable weight of his master pressed down upon his meager shoulders. Ryan assured him they would stop for nothing, which did partially alleviate Golduck’s hapless state. He just hoped they wouldn’t find any water Pokémon out there who would cause the them problems. Then, Clawey went off, surfing through the water with his master on top.

It was an hour later that the vastly oversized Ryan riding the vastly undersized Pokémon came surfing into Cinnabar Island at top speed being chased by numerous Tentacools and Tentacruels. Surely, their trip had not gone unnoticed, and had it not been for Clawey’s speed, they would have surely died. As the two barreled in, Clawey’s momentum was too much to cancel out. The result left Ryan flung from the back of his loyal steed, and into the sandy beach of Cinnabar. While the boy himself was sunburnt, hungry, and sporting many scrapes from the landing, he gave no pause – instead, returning Clawey to his ball, and running ahead, to the entrance of the only city he could see.

There was a Pokémon Center near the center of the island, where Ryan dropped the wounded Dragonair off. Nurse Joy gave him a precise time of ‘several hours’ for it to be healed, so Ryan went to the adjoining Poké Mart and bought several healing potions, some Pokémon food, and a few new Poké Balls with the money he had won from besting Koga. Then, settling down, he went to a restaurant to deal with his rumbling stomach. After ordering a sandwich, guilt overtook Ryan, and he let his three Pokémon out, and fed them too. As the four sat there, conversing (which was more like Ryan hoping his Pokémon could understand him), there came a person who sat down on the table next to him. And her face was known to Ryan, it sure was.

“Kelly!” Ryan beamed, smiling and waving to the older girl.

“Huh? Oh, it’s you. You finally got here. Took you long enough,” she said, quietly.

“Hey! You were the one who disappeared after we beat Koga,” he reminded her.

She shook her head, her long pink hair waving violently from side to side. “I never thought you would beat him. There was no point waiting. Besides, you didn’t even want to stay in the room with me. So I thought you were going off on your own adventure.”

“Naw,” said Ryan, laughing, “I was just worried about my Pokémon was all. I guess it doesn’t matter. We’re just here for another badge, right? You prolly have yours already. Maybe after I get this one, you won’t run off again. That would be awesome.”

Kelly slumped her shoulders, and looked down, shaking her head. “No, I didn’t beat Blaine yet. His fire Pokémon are strong, Ryan. My Wartortle was no match. I’m going to have to train for a few days here so I can go back to beat him.”

“Well then, can I train with you too? My Golduck probably could use some extra practice. And that’ll give the Dragonair plenty of time to heal!”

Kelly looked up, with her mouth agape, “Dragonair? You caught a Dragonair?”

“I didn’t really catch him. The deal was he’d get in the Poké Ball and I would take him to the nearest Pokémon Center to get healed.”

“You’re such an idiot,” Kelly breathed.

“What, why?” Ryan replied, genuinely confused.

“It’s not your Dragonair if you didn’t catch it.”

“I-”

Kelly leaned back in her chair. “Look kid, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you’ll keep it, maybe you won’t. But you didn’t catch a Dragonair. Let’s just finish eating so we can go train.”

Ryan obliged, and hastily consumed his food. Thereafter, he accompanied Kelly down to the beach, where they had a nice walk before finding a place to set up at. He let out his Pokémon again, to socialize with Kelly’s. While that went on, the two trainers agreed it would be a waste of their precious money to pay for another hotel, so they set up sleeping bags above the tide, and drew up plans for how to improve their Pokémon by flashlight, throughout the night.

Perhaps it was his mind playing tricks on him, but Ryan swore that, as the sun set, and everyone started drifting off to bed, he saw something in the sky. If he had to describe it, he would have said it was a pink bubble, and a large one at that. He noticed it fly about in the sky for a while, and it seemed to be playing – like a young bird plays with a walnut. And the thing started to drift closer and closer to the camp as time progressed. As Ryan fell to sleep though, he thought he saw two large eyes looking at him through the pink bubble. No, that couldn’t be right, he thought. He must be dreaming.

Episode 7: Decidedly Mild

The next day, the two trainers arose and began planning for Blaine, the fire gym leader. As he was one of the most experienced trainers – and the two had but a single water Pokémon apiece – they were forced into bettering those Pokémon through battling one another. After a few hours of Wartortle and Golduck’s workout, though, the two decided to take a break. Being so near the island’s volcano, they decided to go explore that, because the story’s plot demands it.

After an uneventful travel across the black beach, toward a muddy grotto at the base of the great volcano, the two noticed a crack in rock-face. Peering in, they noticed a large, hollowed out cave, with crags of magma flowing about. And in the center, huddled together in a collective ball, were a slew of red Pokémon. Ryan’s heart skipped a beat as he unconsciously grabbed his Pokédex and pointed it at the group of red animals.

“Charmeleon, the Flame Pokémon. Tough fights could excite this Pokémon. When excited, it may blow out bluish-white flames.”

“Yes!” Ryan yelled, pumping his fist into the air, “I’ve always wanted one of these! You know, Charmeleon evolves from Charmander, who’s my favorite starter, Kelly.”

The older girl ignored him.

“Fine then. I’m busy catching Pokémon, anyway. Matata, I choose you!” Ryan unhooked Matata’s Poké Ball, then did a masterful spin before chucking her through the small looking hole. Upon letting her out, he quickly ordered her to use focus energy on the nearest Charmeleon.

The move had little effect aside from waking one of the beasts and making it sleepily, lazy, quiet growl toward Matata’s general vicinity. This formidable attack left Matata shivering and quite scared. It was a fearsome growl!

“Now use fury attack, Matata!”

Matata obeyed, and roared toward the creature. Charmeleon was taken aback by the speed of the Beedrill; it was quickly overcome by several quick hits. Charmeleon stumbled back after the fourth hit and retaliated with a quick ember attack. Matata was hit head on, and after being engulfed by the flames, fainted.

And despite Ryan’s surprise, Kelly, who was watching the fight unfold, simply laughed. “You really don’t know anything about Pokémon, do you?”

“Why would you say that?” Ryan retorted with a look of sheer displeasure.

“If you did, you would know that bug types are weak against fire. We went over this this morning. Water beats fire. It’s how we’ll beat Blaine. You should have used Golduck against Charmeleon if you wanted one so bad.”

“Well, I’m not done anyway!” Ryan said, his face flushed. “Go old faithful!”

Like a magnificent geyser, Abra shot forth from his Poké Ball. He landed in the cave, scratching the back of his head and yawning. “Brah? Rah rah Abra!”

Ryan nodded. Yeah Abra, tell them who’s boss. Sing it sister.

Suddenly, like a fly hitting a windshield, Abra was engulfed by red hot flames. “Abraaaaa!” he screamed in pain and surprise. The villainous Charmeleon was standing fierce, opposite of the psychic Pokémon. He was not about to be caught without a fight.

“Oh jeez!” Ryan said in shock. “A-abra, are you okay?”

“Ra!” replied Abra, extra crispy. The smell of him made Ryan’s mouth water.

“Okay, then use Thunder Wave!” Ryan commanded, pointing to the Charmeleon.

His Abra obeyed and shot the electricity from him like he was a proper pikapi. Charmeleon just sat there and absorbed the shock and was also shocked. It was incredible. The yellow bolts jumped across his body like fleas and soon Charmeleon fell to his knees and howled out in pain.

Ryan whooped a good whoop. “Ha! Charmeleon is paralyzed! It may be unable to move,” he recited, his finger up.

“Great job. You’re the best trainer in the Pokéworld,” Kelly breathed out. She didn’t seem like she meant it.

He ignored her. Now was the time to fulfill Ryan’s destiny. Now was the time for Ryan to get the starter he had always wanted. “Now, Poké Ball, go and catch me my new ‘mon!”

The blue-haired trainer threw a ball towards the paralyzed Charmeleon as if he were an Olympic athlete. Yet the ball landed a good 15 feet in front of the fire lizard. Must’ve been the wind. Ryan scowled.

“Hey, you, get over here!” he hollered to the Charmeleon. The Pokémon just looked at him and let out a low growl, though his paralysis seemed to be holding him back. In but a moment, Ryan went from being a winner to a crestfallen little non-winner. How was he to get Charmeleon now? That cave was dark, hot, dangerous, scary. No way he could step in there. Then he spied Abra, his old friend; his true friend; his shield; his sword.

“Abra! Quickly, grab the Poké Ball and throw it at Charmeleon!”

“Ra? Abra abra!” his future sweeper replied.

Ryan couldn’t blame him. It was unexpected. It was unprecedented. Abra would be the Pokémon to catch a Pokémon. He would be a trailblazer, a Pokémon amongst men. It would be like a pig eating bacon if pigs existed in the Pokémon universe. He would be a legend, born today.

“Just do it, buddy-o!”

“Bra.”

Abra used his psychic abilities to grab the fallen Poké Ball and bring it over to his clawed hands. Then, he grasped the small ball and did a little ballerina twirl. “Abraaa ra!” he yelled, doing a double backflip as what seemed like fireworks were going off in the background. “Ra ra abra!” There was audible applause when he landed the difficult acrobatic maneuver, though from whom Ryan could not see.

He threw that ball, he did. He was Abra, king of the ‘mons. He slept all day. He could learn teleport. He was the greatest there ever was. The Poké Ball traveled faster than the winds over to the red lizard and as it opened, Ryan saw Charmeleon try to fight against it. But he was paralyzed, so he couldn’t do anything. What a shame. Soon, a red light covered the Pokémon’s visage, and after a flash, he was safely in the ball. Abra picked it up, showed a peace sign to the camera and then scampered back to Ryan.

“Aw, Abra, you did it!” Ryan was jubilant. He was ecstatic. “You’re number one, buddy!” he patted Abra on the head. “And you’re number forty-seven for doubting me,” he sneered at Kelly.

She rolled her eyes and bit her lip.


After a short trip to the Pokémon Center, Ryan and Kelly returned to the beach with the intent of training up their Pokémon for old Blaine the Bold. The sun was already beginning to set, but the air was still warm, smelling of salt and promise. Ryan was a bit anxious, for he only had one water Pokémon. Matata would be useless against Blaine’s fearsome guys. Abra and his Charmeleon wouldn’t be much better. So it was all up to Golduck. Ryan had briefly entertained the thought of purchasing a fishing rod, which looked like a rather old rod in truth, but he had not the Poké Dollars to buy it. He needed his money for more important things, like twix bars. After all, food tasted better than catching Tentacools. Contrary to popular belief, they were not all that cool.

When the two reached the sand, they spied a host of people ahead. There were tents and umbrellas and loud music and beach balls and girls playing beach volleyball with naught but bikinis on. This was Ryan’s type of party. He nodded their way to Kelly, who looked more annoyed than ever. But she couldn’t really train her Wartortle without Ryan’s help, so she bit her lip and followed him into the din of partygoers. There were dozens of them – men, women, boys, girls, and Pokémon too. Ryan got excited at that and instantly let loose all of his Pokémon with the flick of his wrist. Matata, Abra, Clawey, and Charmeleon came fluttering out. He watched them for a moment, and he realized he still needed to give Charmeleon a nickname. Maybe after the party.

Ryan gave his ‘mon a few Poké Dollars and told them not to waste them – for they would get no more from their fickle trainer – and then bade them off. He looked to his left and saw that Kelly was already sitting at a table and drinking from a pitcher of orange juice like a ravenous raver. So Ryan found himself alone and he started wandering through the beachgoers, searching for his own pitcher of orange juice. It was then that Ryan beheld a most glorious sight that made him stop in his tracks.

In the sand, there was a huge entity. Ryan knew what it was as soon as he saw its figure, even if he couldn’t see it properly because the sun was setting right behind it and silhouetting it. “A Snorlax…” he mumbled to himself excitedly. “Cool!” He reached for his Poké Balls when he realized all his trusty pals were out and roaming about. He had no one to catch snorrey with. “Curses!” he whispered just as a girl walked in front of him. She met his eyes and looked at him like he was a lunatic. He frowned and stared back at her. She didn’t know why he had yelled that. Stupid assumptive girl.

Without any Pokémon, Ryan was low on options. So he resolved to just throw a Poké Ball at the Snorlax. It was sleeping, so maybe it couldn’t say no to the ball. Ryan jumped in the air, putting on a dramatic performance of moves and twirls in the sand. He instantly regretted his moves, for sand got all in his shoes. He shivered. He hated that. Still, Ryan had to clear his head and focus, for he was about to catch a Pokémon he’d always wanted.

“Go get a Snorlax!”

The ball flew forward and hit the Snorlax in the side of the belly, getting stuck in one of the rolls of fat. Ryan was perplexed. He lurched forward, his mouth agape. What had just happened? Why hadn’t the Poké Ball opened?

“Are you serious?!” came a sudden booming, warm voice. Suddenly, the Snorlax stood up and Ryan saw that he was face-to-face with a human, not a Pokémon. “Really?” the former Snorlax said, his voice rich as honey with disbelief. He plucked the Poké Ball out of his rolls of fat and handed it back to Ryan. “What were you trying to do, man?”

Ryan scratched the back of his head. “Uh, well…” he blushed. “I-I thought you were a Pokémon. Honest mistake, dude.”

“Are you serious?!” the guy repeated, this time rolling his head around like a turtle and looking this way and that at everyone watching the spectacle. He had a glimmer in his eye and an incredulous smile on his bronze face. And he tugged at his sweet-as-tauros goatee with a few fingers. It clothed his chin like bikinis clothe hot girls. It really was a spectacular goatee. Ryan felt a pang of jealousy. He wanted to be able to grow a goatee like fake Snorlax.“Do I look like a Pokémon?”

“Not anymore,” Ryan admitted.

“Ugh!” the other replied, throwing his arms up into the air. “I wonder which Pokémon you thought I was. There’s only one it could be.”

“No, it’s not like that,” Ryan assured the big man. “You… uh… you reminded me of Mr. Mime!”

“Sure,” the once-a-Snorlax replied sarcastically.

Ryan sighed. “Look man, I’m real sorry I threw a Poké Ball at you. Can we just forget it?”

The other’s eyes suddenly shot up like a dog’s. “Deal.” He thrust out his dark hand to shake Ryan’s. With his other he produced a screwdriver-like device and raised it to the sky like it was a fine glass of wine. “I’m Doctor Rahul Kanojia!” he squealed out.

“Doctor… who?” Ryan asked, for he barely comprehended the outlandish name.

“Exactly!” Rahul replied. He patted Ryan on the back of his back. “Come on, let’s get you a drink.”

To say Ryan was confused would be like saying generation one was the best generation. He had barely heard this self-proclaimed doctor’s name; and the doctor hadn’t even asked for Ryan’s. Was he serious?

Rahul moved forward to a table, putting each arm around a girl in a bikini. He turned around and looked at Ryan, beaming. “Are you hungry?”

Before Ryan could respond, Rahul whistled. Within a moment, a breathless girl came flying onto the scene, a plate of hot wings held delicately in her hands.

“Here you go Rahul! Hope I was fast enough,” she said, handing him the plate.

Rahul laughed. It was not as hearty as Ryan had expected. He took a bite out of a hot wing, spilling its sauce all over his face. He didn’t even care, even though he wasn’t a honey badger. He gestured for Ryan to come forward and eat off his plate of hot wings. Ryan was just in awe of Rahul’s ability to whistle and summon hot wings out of nowhere. It was magic, truly. How could he learn to do that too?

Ryan sat with Rahul, learning about how great of a doctor he was and eating hot wings when suddenly, a flash of flames caught Ryan’s eyes. He turned his head just in time to see a roar of flames and sand go by him. It was so close that he felt the heat and said goodbye to his eyebrows. He blinked the sand out of his eyes just in time to see the flames go rushing by again. This time he saw what it was – a girl riding a Rapidash. Ryan audibly gulped. It was a beautiful, haunting sight. She was literally riding in her mount’s flames, but Ryan knew that was possible so long as the owner had the trust of the Rapidash. His father had a Rapidash too, and it was his prized Pokémon. Ryan had considered taking old Rappy instead of Abra when he set out on his journey, but he figured his father would miss his favorite Pokémon too much. He still sometimes thought about it, though he did not regret his choice in Abra, the truly loyal steed.

The girl riding the Rapidash was not much older than Ryan. She had blond hair and green eyes, and she was scantily clad. She looked like she was wet, as if she had just been spit out by the ocean. In each hand, she had a shot glass and she was doing shots of apple juice. Ryan admired her skill. Crowds of people had encircled her and now they were cheering as she rode the Rapidash around in skillful fashion. Ryan entertained the thought of running up to her and asking for a ride, but he quickly reminded himself that he was a part of society, and that was not something people in society do. So Ryan sat down, ate some more hot wings, and admired Rahul’s unrivaled goatee. He just wanted to tug on it like one tugs on grass.

As Ryan was sitting on a bench with Rahul and Rahul’s two token babes (whom Rahul, in all his physical Snorlax likeness had somehow managed to woo), he spotted his recently acquired Charmeleon. Pride swelled up in Ryan’s throat. He had caught that Pokémon all by himself. He was amazing; he was the best. He was a true Pokémon master.

“Hey Charmeleon, come here!” Ryan shouted. The Charmeleon looked at Ryan but did not move. Perhaps it didn’t hear him. So Ryan flailed his arms about as if he were having a seizure and flung himself into the sand like a fish out of water. Sure enough, the Pokémon understood that and trotted over.

“Charmeleon!” Ryan said, proudly. “I caught him today!”

Doctor Rahul took a bite out of a hot wing. He grunted in pleasure at its taste. Hot grease ran down his mouth into his goatee and he seemed like he loved it.

“Now let’s give you a nickname,” Ryan began, taking out his Pokédex. “All right, Dexy. I want to give Charmeleon a nickname.”

“This Charmeleon already has a nickname,” the Pokédex stated.

Rahul took another bite out of his hot wing. Grease and sauce splattered on his face. He smiled. He was happy. Perhaps eating hot wings was his natural state. And whenever anyone walked by, he would raise his left hand, which held the screwdriver-like device in it and wink at the passerby. It made him look homely and homeless at the same time.

“No way!” said Ryan. “He was a wild Pokémon. He couldn’t have a nickname. Lemme name him already!”

“This Charmeleon already has a nickname,” the Pokédex stated a second time.

“No! His name is supposed to be Aegon! Do you hear me, Dexy? Make his name Aegon! I command you!”

“This Charmeleon already has a nickname,” the Pokédex stated a third time.

Rahul sucked the succulent meat off of the bone of his little hot wing. He was surgical, precise, deliberate with every bite. This was not his first hot wing. He was a master in his own right, well learned and masterfully trained in the art of eating these little treats. Hot grease ran down his lips into his goatee. He smiled in pleasure. Hot wings did taste good.

Ryan was getting annoyed now. “How?! He’s wild!”

“This Charmeleon already has a nickname,” the Pokédex stated a fourth time.

“I know, I know!” Ryan shouted, banging his Pokédex on his thigh. “At least tell me what his nickname is!”

Rahul found another hot wing under the house of bones he had created with the ones he had already consumed. His little fingers started going real fast and his face lit up as if he had just won a million Poké Dollars. He quickly grabbed the hot wing and took a voracious bite out of the cooked flesh. Hot grease ran down Rahul’s face into his goatee and he moaned out in pleasure of eating his food. The two girls in their bikinis just sat next to Rahul like statues, as if they couldn’t – nay, wouldn’t – see what was going on between them. Playing beach volleyball wouldn’t be nearly as fun as watching a Snorlax wannabe tear into hot wings without respite.

“Charmeleon’s nickname is ‘Get Over Here’,” Ryan’s Pokédex spoke in monotone.

“What?!?!” Ryan screamed so loud that everyone around stopped what they were doing to stare at him for exactly four seconds before returning to their personal activities. “How is that his nickname?”

“Dontcha ‘member,” a slurred voice spoke up from just behind Ryan’s ear. “Thass what you called ‘im when ya caught him,” Kelly nodded in a lethargic way. Her eyes were glazed and she was covered in sweat.

“Kelly?!” Ryan squinted his eyes. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Oh, nothin’… juss had a little too much orange juice!” she stated proudly before hiccupping. “You… you came up with a really great name for Charmey. Really great. I love it. I love you.”

“Okay, okay. That’s enough!” Ryan raised his arms and stood up. He pocketed his Pokédex and grabbed the pink-haired girl by the shoulders. “Kelly, I need to get you back to our tent. You’re really in no condition to stay here.”

She laughed and drank some more orange juice.

Ryan thrust his face into his palm. “Come on, let’s go!” He turned to Rahul. “And it was nice meeting you, Doctor Rahalakanijiwali.”

Rahul raised his screwdriver to the sky, hot grease pouring down his face into his goatee.

Ryan then helped the stumbling Kelly away. “Come on Charmeleon, let’s go home!”

“Meleon,” it replied in deadpan, crossing its wee arms.

Ryan scowled. “Fine. Come on, Get Over Here!”

The fire lizard barked and then ran on all fours over to his new master with happy vigor. Ryan sighed. At least he had a Charmeleon now. That was better than nothing.

Episode 8: Sweet

Ryan awoke to the sounds of distant music and cheering. He got up, stumbled out of his tent, furiously blinking his blurry eyes into clarity. Peering out of his tent flap, Ryan noticed the beach partying was still going on into the early morning. The sun was barely rising across the cool water, and still there was party music blaring out across the otherwise serene beach. Squinting, Ryan could see the far-off shapes of people dancing about and a flaming Rapidash galloping through the sand.

Ryan stole a look over to the tent next to his. There was no movement coming from within it. Maybe Kelly was sleeping. That would be good. The last thing he wanted was to have to deal with her in all her orange-juice-deprived glory. So Ryan slipped on a pair of sandals, grabbed his Poké Balls, and decided to visit Cinnabar Island’s town just for the heck of it. He soon found the town deserted, save for a drowsy-looking Drowzee who was stumbling about with a tin can of long-expired beans in its hand. Ryan passed the Pokémon and made his way to the town’s Poké Mart. Once inside, he let out all four of his super cool ‘mon and let them run around to their hearts’ content. They went screaming around the aisles, grabbing for candy bars and shiny objects and other cool gadgets. Ryan left them and strode up to the counter, where a burly, somnolent man manned the register.

Reaching the counter, Ryan noticed a poster hanging on the nearest wall. It had a picture of a boy slightly younger than him riding a Porygon. Below it was a bounty for two million woolongs. Ryan walked over to the paper and eyed it carefully.

“Who’s this?” he asked the cashier.

“Some kid. He’s been terrorizing the mainland with his fearsome team of Pokémon. If ya ever find him during your travels, defeat him in battle and then hand him over to any Officer Jenny for a big reward.”

“I’ll remember to do that when I return to Kanto. I’m a great trainer, so it shouldn’t be a problem,” Ryan replied. A few extra Poké Dollars would be great for his pocket. He just wondered what the conversion rate from woolongs was.

“You wanna be the very best?” the cashier asked inquisitively.

The boy’s eyes sparkled like a shooting star. “Like no one ever was!”

The man’s own eyes narrowed, unconvinced. “To catch them is your real test, huh?”

“Well,” Ryan shrugged modestly,“to train them is my cause. Anyway, I need some new Pokémon food for my buddies,” Ryan continued. “I caught a Charmeleon yesterday, so I need whatever he eats.”

The man grunted and pulled up some bags of food from behind the counter. One for Abra, one for Matata, one for Charmeleon. Ryan never bought Clawey any food because he liked to catch Magikarp in the ocean. As Ryan went to pay for the food, his Pokémon came running up to him, each with several items in their hands.

“Brah… abra ra! Abra!” Abra squeaked, brandishing two candy bars like swords in front of his master. Ryan chuckled and plucked them from Abra’s claws and added them to his purchases. Abra was wearing a pair of black, pointed sunglasses that he evidently wanted as well, and after thirteen minutes of pleading, Ryan finally agreed to buy them.

“Shieieieieieilaahahahahaha!!!!” Matata had her mouth full of candy, and Ryan quickly ripped the precious sweets from her teeth before she could tear through the wrappers.

“Duck duck duuuuck!!” Clawey was dancing around with a pair of maracas, which made Ryan wonder if the blue animal had taken a sip from the orange juice as well. Still, he put them on the counter for Ryan did not want to upset his most valuable Golduck.

“Meleon, char!” Get Over Here barked as he came sidling up wearing a top hat and sporting a fine antique monocle. Ryan was left in awe by the fact that the Poké Mart even carried such arcane merchandise. Begrudgingly, he added them to the pile. The noble trainer also grabbed a small bottle of advil for Kelly when she woke up. She’d owe him big for that. Real big.

“That’ll be 1300 Poké Dollars,” the cashier said in his dreary voice after counting up all the things on the counter.

Ryan sighed and pulled out his wallet. Inside, he found exactly 1300 Poké Dollars. “Oh come on!” he yelled to no one in particular. The cashier thrust out his hand, his fingers working the open space like he was tickling a Tauros’ tummy. “Okay, okay. Chill out man,” Ryan growled in annoyance. He handed the crisp Poké Dollars to the cashier, gathered up his purchases, and then high-tailed it out of there. He was a penniless trainer. He was quite literally without pennies. Even one penny would be a great uptick in his wealth at this point.

Ryan returned to his camp and found Kelly sitting just outside her tent. He threw her the bottle of advil and a candy bar.

“Hey,” she said hoarsely. “Where were you?”

“At the Poké Mart.”

“Found anything good?” she asked, looking at Abra’s sunglasses, Get Over Here’s top hat, and Clawey’s maracas. She suddenly burst out laughing but then groaned and felt her head. She probably had a massive migraine after her escapades last night.

“Some stuff, I guess. And Kelly, you should take that advil right now. It’ll help with the hangover.”

Kelly went red. “I don’t have a hangover!”

Ryan shrugged. “Whatever. Advil and water’s what my dad used to take when he got hungover. Trust me, I know how to deal with this stuff.”

Kelly just gave him the stink eye. She was well-practiced in that maneuver.

“So I need to challenge Blaine now,” Ryan spoke. “After that last trip to the store, I’m dead broke.”

“But we aren’t done training Golduck and Wartortle!” Kelly objected.

“So? They’re water Pokémon. They should win. Besides, they’ve already been through a lot of training together. I’m sure they’re way stronger than before.”

“We only have one water Pokémon apiece, Ryan. Blaine uses three fire Pokémon in his Gym Battles.”

Ryan scratched the back of his head. “Well, how badly did you lose when you fought him last time?”

“I took out his Ninetails and Rapidash, but his Arcanine defeated me.”

“Well, then use your other Pokémon too.”

“He had already taken out ‘Aichu and Fluffy,” Kelly admitted. “Tortilla was the only one who managed to do some serious damage.”

“Who are those ones again?” Ryan asked, puzzled. How could he possibly be bothered to know what Kelly’s nicknames for her Pokémon were?

“Raichu and Arcanine, of course. My Wartortle is my only chance, Ryan. If he’s not strong enough…” Kelly trailed off, looking out over the cool ocean. “Maybe I could catch another one.”

“Yeah, you go do that. That’ll be great! I believe in you!” Ryan shouted, punching his fist into the air. Once he finished, he supposed that he had overreacted a bit. Who knows, though.

“You aren’t going to listen to me, are you? You’re going to challenge Blaine no matter what I say?”

Ryan screwed up his face. He had to look like a hero. He was born to be a hero, not to mention a winner. He had to act like it. “Yeah! Just after this candy bar!” His face softened. “Look, Kelly. I need the badge of course, but the money’s even more important right now. Unless you want to fish Tentacool out of the ocean, we’ll need money to buy more food. These candy bars won’t last forever. ”

Kelly couldn’t argue with Ryan’s statement because Ryan was a master debater and she was just Kelly. So Ryan, happy with his verbal victory, took a fierce victory bite out of the nearest candy bar (getting his daily dose of sweet, sweet chocolate) as he looked off into the distance. He saw the partyers still going at it, but he didn’t see the Rapidash anymore. Rapidash. He wondered if that beast belonged to Blaine. If that was the case, then who was that pretty girl riding it?


Ryan found a long list of trainers outside of the Cinnabar Island gym. Most of them were looking pretty depressed, as if they had just eaten a ghost pepper for the third time in their lives. A good deal of them were missing their eyebrows, and their faces were lined with light burn and soot marks. Ryan was sure that was from either the pepper or the gym, but he wasn’t sure which one.

Just outside the door was a familiar face - Doctor Rahul Kanalanapia. The bronze-skinned dude was basking in the sunlight and eating a plate of barbecue ribs. The sauce was all over his mouth and cheeks and neck and hot grease was running down his finely-combed beard. Even as his stomach growled in protest, Ryan smiled. Rahul was so cool. What a guy.

“Hey Rahul,” Ryan said, waving towards the behemoth of a trainer with one of Clawey’s maracas’ in each hand. Assuredly, Ryan was sporting the attire all of his Pokémon had picked out earlier, so the regal top hat, monocle, and sharp black sunglasses, supported by the maracas and his regular clothes was clearly a queer sight indeed. Ryan thought it looked great, though; just great. He hadn’t had a sip of the orange juice, no sir. He was going to impress Blaine with his swag. He would get that old man to holla holla.

“Oh hey… Ryan, right?” Rahul croaked, barely looking up at the boy or noticing his pristine appearance.

“You remembered! Great job!” Ryan said, giving Rahul two thumbs up. “Did you beat Blaine yet?”

“Blaine? No no no. I beat Olivia,” Rahul corrected Ryan with a barbecue-plagued finger. “She really wasn’t that hard, y’know?”

Ryan was as confused as a Ponyta on a treadmill. “Oh, I thought Blaine was the Fire Pokémon master…”

“Well, you thought wrong,” Rahul said before taking a deep bite out of one of his ribs. He grunted softly to himself in deep pleasure after tasting the sweet meat. Ryan couldn’t stop his mouth from watering. Curse living on candy bars!

“Okay, well I’ll be back out in a little bit. I need to defeat this Gym Leader first. I hafta get the Volcano Badge!” Ryan shook the maracas violently over his head to get his point across. He desperately needed the badge to get into the Indigo League Tournament like his father before him. He had to make his family proud. That way his mother wouldn’t see him as a disappointment, a high school dropout with no future, and his father wouldn’t see him as tarnishing his own legacy. Ryan would win the tournament for them. He had to.

“Sure,” Rahul said, waving a half-chewed rib in Ryan’s general vicinity. “I’ll be here when you get back.”

“Save me a rib!” Ryan pleaded earnestly.

“No promises,” replied Rahul.

Ryan nodded and then ran off to the gym entrance. He had to defeat this Olivia girl fast… if he wanted to get one of those ribs before Rahul devoured them all. Rahul smiled broadly, bobbing his head up and down like an apple in water and gestured for Ryan to enter the door to his right. Ryan saw that it was, unmistakably, the gym entrance. He nodded to Rahul, felt his heart pounding in his chest, took a deep breath, and then stepped inside.

Inside, Ryan found himself hit by a wall of heat. The lights were dimmed, and he had to move by feeling his way, rather than seeing properly. The room was cluttered with chairs and tables and what appeared to be statues of people. As he neared them, however, they moved slightly, but he never got in their lines of sight, so they just stood still. That was quite weird, but Ryan didn’t know what to do about it. His immediate thought was to throw a Poké Ball at one of them, but his encounter with Rahul the night before had already tackled that joke well enough.

As he walked past one of the statues, Ryan caught a glimpse of its face and saw it to be human. He let out an audible gasp and nearly fell over in surprise. The human - a boy slightly younger than Ryan himself - took this cue as his moment to jump forward and challenge Ryan to a duel.

“Pokémon battle, begin!” the boy screamed, waving a Poké Ball over his head like a madchild. “I’m Super Nerd!” he shouted proudly. “If you want to fight Gym Leader Olivia, then you’ll have to get past me first!”

Ryan frowned. “Uh, I’m not here to battle you. I just want a Volcano Badge.”

Super Nerd started foaming at the mouth and dancing to a song Ryan could not hear, frantically poking the air all around him as if he was in some kind of frenzy. “Fight me! Come on! Fiiiiiight meeee!!!”

“Um, no thanks,” replied Ryan, stepping forward and pushing Super Nerd out of the way with his hand. Maybe he has rabies, Ryan thought.

Super Nerd fell to the ground with the frailty of a piece of paper in the wind. “Bu-but…” he stammered. “No fair! You have to fight me.”

But Ryan was already gone. He wasn’t in the gym to fight some weird little nerd statue dude. He couldn’t afford to have even one of his Pokémon injured in battle before facing Olivia. He wasn’t even sure if his existing team was good enough as it was. He felt anxious at that, his heart beating so hard that he could hear it in his ears with every step. So Ryan started shaking the maracas as he walked to drown out the cursed noise.

After some time, Ryan slogged his way into a large cavern, where stalactites and stalagmites grew from the rocky surfaces like gnarled teeth. He supposed that he was in the heart of the town’s volcano now. His entire body was slicked with sweat. There ahead of him, situated over a pool of molten lava, was a medium-sized battle platform. It hung from the ceiling with rusty chains and swayed slightly with every earthly volcanic rumble. As he started moving forward, Ryan caught a glimpse of flame, instantly sending him into déjà vu. Blinking sweat out of his eyes, Ryan saw the Rapidash and the girl who rode it so well come flying into view.

“Whoa there!” the girl shouted. She was wearing blue short shorts, a small red crop top which revealed much of her flat stomach, flip-flops, and a light blue bandana around her forehead. She was very pretty, Ryan realized, and he barely heard what she said next because of that. “What do you want?!”

Ryan shook his head to clear his thoughts. “A-are you Olivia?”

She studied Ryan’s face and then dismounted. “Sure am. So are you here for a Volcano Badge?” She reached for something in her pocket, then produced a small red button that looked like a flame. She held it between two long fingers as she thrust it into Ryan’s face. It glimmered red in the flames of the Rapidash. “One of these?”

“Yes please!”

She let out a sly smile. “You’ll have to battle me for it. My father entrusted me to run this Gym properly, and I’ll do it! You’ll have to earn this badge!”

“Your father’s Blaine?”

“Yeah, he’s sick right now, so I took over gym battle duties. I’m not as experienced as him, but you shouldn’t underestimate me.”

“I won’t,” Ryan promised the girl a promise he knew he could keep.

“Good!” Olivia beamed, flicking her golden hair out of her eyes. “Three-on-three, okay? No gimmicks, no surprises. Whoever has the most Pokémon left standing at the end wins, got it?”

“Yeah.”

“Then, let’s party!” Olivia shouted. In one fluid motion, she jumped on her Rapidash with grace and then led him across the hanging platform to the other side. Once there, she stayed mounted on her Rapidash even as she readied a Poké Ball in her hand. Ryan did likewise. “Ready?!” she shouted his way.

“Ready!” he echoed back.

Ryan took a deep breath, swallowing his fear and anxiety. The time for all of that was done. Now, he just needed to fight, to prove himself. He needed to show everyone that he was a Pokémon master after all. He grabbed a Poké Ball off of his belt and held it in his hand. The volcano rumbled then, and splashes of lava flew into the air all around him. Yet Ryan was not scared by the lethal hot liquid shooting up in geysers around where he stood. He felt the anxiety roll off of him with the heat and the sweat. He was ready now. He was ready to win. So the boy took the Poké Ball and threw it directly at the hanging platform ahead of him, starting his most important match yet.

Episode 9: Cinnaburn

“Go Ninetales!”

“Go Clawey!”

Ninetales was a beautiful Pokémon, Ryan thought, and it towered over his poor Golduck like VY Canis Majoris compared to a lonely hydrogen atom. He had only ever seen Ninetales on television before, and now seeing one in person, in all its glory, Ryan was colored very impressed.

“Confuse Ray!” Olivia commanded.

Ryan tipped his top hat Olivia’s way before beginning, because he was a gentleman and a scholar. “Clawey, use surf!”

Before Clawey could ride that wave, however, the Ninetales shot forward and fired a Confuse Ray. Ryan desperately wanted Clawey to avoid it, but alas, his Pokémon had not the speed, and the attack hit him straight in the chest. Clawey fell over. Ryan took out his Pokédex and pointed it at Clawey. His Golduck had stood up by this point and was now looking this way and that, visible question marks popping up around its beak. Ryan had never seen such a thing happen before. Heck, he hadn’t even believed it was possible for question marks to materialize out of nowhere until just then.

“Clawey is confused!” Dex droned.

“Oh no! Oh jeez!” Ryan was horrified. He saw his chances slipping. “Come on Clawey, surf all over that Ninetales! Don’t hurt yourself in your confusion! Please!”

“Duck, gol? Gol, duck?” Clawey quacked. He then brought up his surf around him and rode an impressive wave right into Ninetales. It was a direct hit. Ninetales stumbled back, shrieking in pain. Its fur soaked and its body bruised, the fire Pokémon then collapsed onto the ground, defeated.

“Whooooo!” Ryan whooped, punching the air.

Olivia returned Ninetales, then dismounted from her Rapidash. “All right, Rapidash, it’s time we teach this kid a lesson! Go get ‘em!”

Rapidash lept through the air impressively and landed right in front of the question mark-plagued Golduck.

“Rapidash, Take Down!”

“Body Slam it, Clawey!” Ryan yelled.

The Rapidash glided forward as if it was flying and tackled the small Golduck easily, even as it was slightly damaged by the recoil of the attack. Ryan winced as he watched his Golduck hit the floor hard. Bruises and scratches were clearly evident on its body now. Clawey winced and cried out, but it stood up to retaliate with a Body Slam. However, as he tried to, the Golduck accidentally punched himself in the face with a hard fist and fell over again.

“Clawey has hurt itself in its confusion!” Dex assured its master.

Ryan shook his head and slumped his shoulders. “That’s exactly what I didn’t want to happen!”

“All right, another Take Down, Rapidash! Don’t let up!”

“Oh brother…” Ryan breathed out as he watched the entire scenario play itself out again. The fire stallion charged his Golduck, hit it to the floor and hurt itself slightly in the recoil. Once again, Golduck was hurt lots. This next time, Ryan told the blue Pokéduck to use his surf attack. The Golduck obliged and hit the Rapidash with a swift water attack. A flicker of hope caught Ryan then, for he saw how critically the attack had hurt Olivia’s Pokémon. The Rapidash shuddered and stumbled back.

“Don’t give up, Rapidash!” Olivia said, trying to console her fire ‘mon.

Ryan didn’t even hear the attack she told him to perform, though, for he was already yelling to Golduck again. “Rock it out with surf again! Make it rain, Clawey!” Ryan screamed, shaking his maracas as if to appease the rain gods. “Make it raiiiiiiiiin!!”

The Golduck took that command to heart and ran at the Rapidash. It started galloping right at Clawey, closing in on another fearsome attack. However, as the Rapidash got up to him, Clawey jumped out of the way, and his opponent went flying by, preparing a deadly Fire Spin for but an open space. Clawey flipped over in midair (because he was an acrobat with many years of training in the Pokémon gymnastics league), created a water wave and rode it upside down right into Rapidash’s left side. The Rapidash didn’t even know what hit it before it collapsed to the ground, defeated.

Olivia looked visibly frustrated with that defeat. Ryan laughed aloud. She seemed even more annoyed by his gloating than her own failure to outsmart him so he tipped his hat to her again. She must not have seen the gentleman’s gesture when she spoke, “You’re not half-bad, but this is the end of the road! You won’t win this time! I’ll show you who’s boss! Go Flareon!”

“Flareon?” Ryan repeated, puzzled. “I thought Blaine’s other Pokémon was an Arcanine.”

“That was my father’s Pokémon. Flareon’s mine. And you’ll see, he’s a lot more deadly, too.”

“We’ll see alright,” Ryan swore. “Clawey, use your Body Slam attack!”

“Flareon, Body Slam him right back!”

The two Pokémon flew into the air like a couple of drunk Pidgeys trying to mate and soon they collided with a sickening thud. Ryan winced as he saw a bright white light encapsulate the two Pokémon; then, their two bodies fell from the air like sacks of potatoes and crashed into the ground. The great metal chains holding up the platform shook violently for a few moments, and a few splashes of lava jumped onto the side nearest Ryan. He saw that Golduck was lying crumpled on the ground, not moving. He quickly pointed his Pokédex to Clawey and shouted:

“Hey, Clawey, get up! Come on, you can do it! You can beat Flareon!”

“Clawey has fainted,” Dex droned softly.

Ryan grasped onto his blue hair and briefly contemplated pulling it all out. “Gahhh! Come on, Clawey, don’t do this to me! Not now! We’re so close!” He knew how close he was. A single surf would cause Flareon to faint. He just needed Clawey to do one more attack.

“Looks like your Pokémon’s finished,” Olivia laughed. “Let’s go, bring out the next one. I don’t have all day, kid.”

“I’m not a kid… I’m fourteen! I’m a man grown.” Ryan mumbled to himself. After a brief stare-off with Olivia, he sighed and called his Golduck back into a Poké Ball. He considered who to bring out next. Abra would get KO’d with one Body Slam, he knew. There was no way his Charmeleon would be any good, either. And Matata… she was a bug Pokémon - not even worth considering. He fingered Abra’s Poké Ball and prepared to throw it onto the platform ahead of him when suddenly a commotion started up behind him. Ryan spun around to see Nurse Joy chasing after a Pokémon which was coming right at him like a train without brakes.

Dragonair. Ryan stepped back, his heart aflutter in his throat. The Dragonair slid right up to him and and nuzzled up against his neck. He just stood there, arms out to either side, unsure of what to do. Heck, he didn’t even know if what he was seeing was real. Could he be dreaming? Had the heat and hunger finally gotten to him?

“I’m sorry… so sorry!” Nurse Joy panted as she finally reached Ryan. Ryan could have sworn that she was even more beautiful than the last Nurse Joy he had seen. She had just the right shade of pink in her hair. “That Dragonair escaped from the Pokémon Center. I’ve been trying to chase he down all afternoon!” When she saw how affectionate the Dragonair was acting to Ryan, she narrowed her eyes. “Hey, I know you! You’re the one who brought that Dragonair in!”

“Y-yeah, that’s me…” Ryan said, trailing off as he turned around to glance over at Olivia standing on the far side of the volcano. “Uh, I’m in the middle of a Pokébattle right now…”

“Oh, I’m dreadfully sorry!” Nurse Joy said politely. “This wasn’t your Pokémon, right?”

“No,” Ryan spoke honestly. “I just found it hurt in the woods, so I brought it to you.”

“Well, I guess we can keep her at the Pokémon Center until her master comes to claim her. Here, let me put the Dragonair back in this Poké Ball…”

“Neeee!!” The Dragonair shrieked. She pushed her body against Ryan’s, trembling tremendously.

“What’s that?” Nurse Joy cocked her head to one side. “She’s scared? She must not want to go in the ball.”

Ryan shook his head. Why did this have to happen now of all times? He knelt down next to the Dragonair, who was bobbing up and down, her entire body shaking in fright. She had moved behind Ryan as far away from the good nurse as physically possible. He pet her on the head to calm her down and spoke, “Hey, don’t worry, Dragonair! It’s just a Poké Ball. Besides, once your master finds out you’re here, they’ll come and get you!”

“Nee eehh ne!” Dragonair growled. Ryan tried to move her around him for Nurse Joy to take, but the Dragonair would not budge. Her eyes were as wide as something that is wide and she seemed to be pleading with Ryan. He faltered, seeing her like that.

“I… I think she wants to stay with me…” He thought back to how standoffish the Dragonair had been back when he had found her and saved her from the clutches of that insane bratty girl, Sophia. And now it was as loyal to him as any of his stalwart companions. Ryan looked up at Nurse Joy, bewildered by his realization.

She nodded, knowingly. “It seems that Dragonair knows you saved her. And now she only feels safe around you.”

“But what about her original master? Won’t they be mad? I can’t just steal their Pokémon!”

“Her original master must have abandoned her. You said she was all alone and wounded in the forest. No good Pokémon Trainer would ever leave one of their Pokémon like that. That must’ve been when Dragonair broke out of the Pokémon Center! She wanted to make sure that you didn’t forget her too.”

Ryan looked down at the Dragonair, his mouth agape. He couldn’t believe it. “So… I can take her?”

Nurse Joy did that thing that they do in the Pokémon anime where they just grunt and nod and Ryan knew what it meant because he lived in the Pokémon world.

Ryan turned back to the Dragonair and patted it on the head. “Hey Dragonair! So you wanna stay with me, huh?” Dragonair barked and bobbed its head enthusiastically. Ryan beamed. “Alright! Welcome to Team Ryan, the best team in the Pokéworld! Whoo!” He looked back to Nurse Joy and gave her a thumbs up. “Thanks for helping me with this, but I’ve got a gym battle to win!”

Nurse Joy said her farewells and wished Ryan luck, but Ryan knew he had already gotten lucky. He’d gotten a Dragonair.

“Hey, what’s going on over there?!” Olivia shouted from the other side of the volcano.

“I’m just choosing my next Pokémon.”

“Well hurry up!”

Ryan ignored her and took out his Pokédex, thrusting it into his new Pokémon’s face impatiently. “Hey Dexy, does Dragonair know any water-type moves?”

“This Dragonair knows Surf. And please do not call me Dexy,” his Pokédex replied.

Ryan’s face lit up. “Awesome! I’m gonna wreck house with this Dragonair! We’re gonna party like it’s 1998! Thanks Dexy!” Ryan pocketed his irritable machine and then pointed to the stage. “Go Dragonair! Let’s bring the heat! Beat that Flareon!” He shook his maracas menacingly at Olivia, but she was probably too far away to hear them.

“Flareon, Body Slam it!” Olivia shouted as soon as the dragon-type Pokémon entered the stage. The Flareon howled and rushed forward, but as it reached Ryan’s Pokémon, it suddenly dropped to the ground, not moving. Flashes of electricity flew over its head, Ryan swore. “Oh no, she’s paralyzed!” Olivia moaned, disappointed.

“Paralyzed?” Ryan repeated, briefly confused. Then he remembered his Golduck’s last attack. “Oh! Clawey’s Body Slam must’ve done it! Holla at my boy!” Ryan took out Golduck’s Poké Ball and jiggled it up and down to holler at his so called boy. “All right, let’s finish this! Dragonair, Surf your way to victory!”

The Dragonair nodded and conjured up a wave of water. And she surfed that wave so beautifully, it would have brought a tear to Ryan’s eye had he been a sad sappy sucker. Within a few moments, the entire hanging platform was sopping wet and the paralyzed Flareon had fainted. Olivia frowned and returned the Pokémon into its Poké Ball; then, she jumped forward onto the precariously hanging battle platform and gestured for Ryan to join her. The boy scrambled forward to meet her.

Olivia was smirking when he reached her. When he came up to her, Ryan really saw how cute she was. Her wavy blond hair was hanging around her shoulders and skin color was the perfect island tan. As he stepped forward, the good trainer caught the scent of her perfume and briefly was he enthralled by her presence. When she used her hand to motion him forward, he lunged as if he was in a stupor and attempted to kiss her. The Gym Leader, however stepped back.

“Whoa, I’m just giving you your Volcano Badge, dude. No need to take it further than that…” she laughed nervously.

“Oh, right, thanks!” Ryan said, his face going scarlet as he plucked the shiny badge from the girl’s outstretched hand.

Ryan knew Olivia was trying to alleviate the embarrassment hanging in the air when she next spoke. “You fought well today, kid.”

I’m not a kid. I’m basically a grownup, Ryan thought. Can’t you see that?!

“You kind of lucked out with paralyzing my Flareon, but I guess everyone gets lucky sometimes, huh?”

And if I didn’t have Dragonair…

“Keep training your Pokémon, and learn more about Pokémon strategy. Who knows, maybe I’ll hear about you winning the Indigo League some day! Just keep fighting confident and stay humble. That’s a big part of winning a battle. Don’t let your opponents outsmart you.”

“Thanks,” Ryan replied meekly, his shoulders thrust forward and his head down. “You’re a good trainer too.”

He wanted to tell her she was pretty. He wanted to let out all of his feelings; but, like the volcano bubbling underneath their feet, he didn’t allow any outburst. He held his tongue. Ryan had made a fool of himself once already today, and he was not keen on making a second. So the boy said his goodbyes to Olivia, turned around, and walked out of the Gym. He would return to Kelly and show her what he had won while she slept off a mighty orange juice hangover. He would gloat and boast, but deep down inside, Ryan would not forget Olivia. He only wished that once he won the Indigo League, like he knew he would, he could return to her and things would be different.

Episode 10: The Christmas Special!

When dear Kelly fought Olivia, the eye-pleasing lady girl, Ryan watched with a bag of popcorn and a heart full of confetti. He busted out his prized ukulele and sat on a fold-up chair to watch the battle. ‘Take the shot!’ he would scream to Kelly’s Wartortle (the esteemed Tortilla) as it did the battling. It was a water Pokémon so it was pretty good against Olivia’s fire ‘mon. Ryan gave his pointy sunglasses to Kelly’s Wartortle because Ryan watched season 1 of Pokémon and he knew that was what Wartortles needed to be winners.

Suffice to say, with the strength of her Wartortle, Arcanine, and Raichu, Kelly was able to scrape by Olivia’s team with the skin of her teeth. When she won, Ryan stood up and clapped as loudly as he could with a tear in his eye. He was so proud of that girl. Funnily enough, she didn’t even realize he was there until she turned to walk out.

“Oh hey,” Kelly said. “Came to watch the battle?”

“You did great! Yeah, girl, whoo!!” Ryan strummed on his ukulele. “I guess we can go to the next gym now, right?”

Kelly nodded. “Yeah. My last badge is in Viridian City. It’s the toughest gym out there. I’ll need to train my Pokémon some more before attempting it.”

“Huh?!?!? One more badge?!” Ryan cocked his head in surprise, then threw Abra’s Poké Ball to the floor. The little Pokémon tumbled out, half-asleep, bless his heart. “Hey Abra, did you know about this one more badge thing?!”

“Bra bra bra abra!” Abra yawned.

“Dang, I can’t understand you at all.” Ryan returned his Pokémon to the Poké Ball. “This isn’t fair,” he whined to Kelly. “I still have five badges to get! You can’t finish before me! That’s not fair.”

“Why not?”

“Be-because…” Ryan searched for the words, but could not say them. He wanted Kelly to come with him on his entire journey. He knew that once she got all eight gym badges, she’d leave him in the dust. She would go off to prepare for the tournament. He didn’t want that. He wanted her company. He needed it. Ryan’s face went red with embarrassment. “It’s… it’s nothing, okay!”

Kelly smiled, deviously. “Sure, okay. Whatever you say. So we’ll take a boat to Pallet Town and then travel to Viridian City from there, okay?”

“Pallet Town?!” Ryan’s face suddenly lit up. “You mean where Professor Oak lives?”

“Yeah, why?”

Ryan punched the sky. “He can change Charmeleon’s name to something better!”

“Are you sure about that?” Kelly asked. Her face betrayed her doubt.

“No, not really. But let’s try it, okay?”

Kelly shrugged and then the two of them walked out of there, each with a new badge and a new goal.


Rahul was sunbathing on the beach when they found him. It had snowed the night before, and much of the beach was icy and slushy, but Rahul didn’t seem to mind. He was enjoying kabobs dripping with barbecue sauce that made Ryan as jealous as as a meerkat that wanted to merely be a cat. Around him, three bikini-clad girls were fanning Rahul and keeping him cool on that frosty day. By the time Ryan and Kelly reached Rahul, he had finished his meal and was licking his fingers ravenously.

“Aw no fair, Rahul!” Ryan shouted. He almost brought out the maracas again. “You were supposed to save me some.”

“Sorry,” Rahul smiled unapologetically. “You took too long.”

“Ugh! Well, do you want to come with us? Kelly and I are leaving the island to get more badges.”

“Come on, this place is awesome!” Rahul squealed like a pig in heat. “Do we have to leave?”

“Rahul…” Ryan said in a motherly tone. “You know you have to earn more badges to get into the Indigo Tournament. How many do you have so far?”

Rahul sighed. “Three.”

“Cool, me too! Let’s get some more, okay? All right, buddy?” Ryan patted the big man on the shoulder and was struck by how he had to treat Rahul like a Pokémon to make Rahul do anything.

Rahul looked at Ryan. “I want go south to catch Lugia first."

The blue-haired boy shook his head. "No, no, no! It’s too early in the story for legendaries, brah. Besides, I don’t know if you’re an important enough character to get one anyway."

Rahul sighed again and raised a hand. “Okay, okay. Fine.” He sat up and and looked at the girls fanning him. “Before I go, do any of you want to be my girlfriend?”

The three beauties looked at one another and then, in unison, ran for the sandy-and-snowy hills faster than Sonic on Adderall.


The boat was sparsely populated, as most people were coming to the Cinnabar Island to battle Olivia, and those who had already beaten her had already left and returned home for Christmas. Only Ryan, Kelly, Rahul, and a small boy who called himself Dean accompanied the ship’s captain on the trip back to the mainland. Dean said almost nothing to the other three, instead focusing on his phone and talking to someone over Skype in a hushed voice. They didn’t bother him. Ryan let all of his Pokémon stretch their legs on the deck, as did Kelly and Doctor Rahul. Ryan was shocked to see how many cool Pokémon Rahul had - a Dragonair, a Charizard, a Lapras, a Hypno, a Rhyhorn, and a Magneton. Ryan stroked his non-existent goatee and hoped that one day he could be as cool as Rahul.

“I’m on a boat! Everybody look at me!” Ryan said in jubilation because he thought that awesome people like Rahul would say something like that.

All of the Pokémon partied like it was 1998, playing pin the tail on the Tauros and sipping on fine bubbly juice. Ryan conversed with the others about what they expected to get from Poké Santa for Christmas. However, as Ryan glanced over at his Pokémon, he noticed that his Golduck was getting seasick. Clawey’s eyes got swirly like pastries and made Ryan hungry for said pastries. He was in awe of how a water Pokémon could get seasick in the first place. So Ryan brought Golduck over to him and comforted his poor Pokémon by telling him the story of the ugly barnacle.

As everyone was enjoying themselves, a second ship suddenly appeared on the horizon. It shot toward them with all its speed, and the captain could not avoid it. With a sudden “crash!” the two ships collided and water started flooding the deck.

“Avast ye mateys!” a voice from the other ship bellowed. Suddenly a dark shape sprung from other ship and jumped onto the deck of the sinking one. He was a pirate, attired in a proper pirate garb, and he had a flowing pink beard growing from his nose hairs. Both of his legs were peglegs and both of his hands were hooks. It made Ryan curious as to how Pinkbeard could even function in life. “The name’s Pinkbeard, yarrrgh! Pinkbeard the first!”

“Cool name bro,” Ryan said.

“Aye, it is, it is!” The pirate agreed. “Now give me all yer Pokémon yarrgh!”

“What?!” everyone shouted together. “Never!”

“Har har har, ya poor fools. No one gets away from Pinkbeard the first!” Pinkbeard raised his left hook, removed the hook with his other hand, and then began shooting nets out from the hole. They wrapped around each of the trio’s Pokémon and bound them tightly. “Made from special string! No Pokémon can escape from inside, yarrgh!” Pinkbeard proclaimed proudly.

“Oh no!” Kelly shouted. “What can we do?”

Rahul raised his screwdriver to the sky. “I’m the doctor. I can fix this!”

“Rahul, did you drink too much orange juice?! You can’t do anything with a plastic screwdriver!”

Ryan went to pat Rahul on the arm when Rahul jumped forward and charged Pinkbeard. “No! Don’t touch me, I’m sterile!”

Pinkbeard tripped Rahul with a well-placed pegleg, sending the human Snorlax flying into the side of the ship. He got the pastry eyes like Golduck had had a few minutes before and then fell over, unconscious.

“No more tricks, me mateys! Stand back and ya won’t get hurt!” The pirate scalawag moved forward to collect the Pokémon.

“Hey bozo, what do you think you’re doing?!” The small boy Dean said. He stood up and walked forward, unhooking a Poké Ball from his waist.

“Ahar har har! I didn’t see ya, boy! Good, more Pokémon for me!” Pinkbeard aimed his hook at Dean.

Dean threw his Poké Ball and out flopped a Magikarp. Ryan facepalmed. “That is literally the worst Pokémon you could have chosen to help us!” Ryan screamed in dismay.

Dean narrowed his eyes and smiled. “Just watch.” He pointed to Pinkbeard and then pressed a button on a bracelet on his left wrist. A bright light coated the Magikarp for a moment, and when it dissolved, it was not Magikarp who stood there any longer. “Use Mega Splash attack!” Dean roared.

Ryan took out his Pokédex and pointed it at the new Pokémon. It looked vaguely like a Magikarp, though it had wings and antennae and lightning coated its body like it was a Super Saiyan 2. Its body was muscled, longer, bigger, but it was not a Gyarados. It was a beast.

“Mega Magikarp,” Dex stated in monotone. “The Mega evolution of Magikarp. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I cry every time.”

“Huh? Mega? What’s a Mega?” Ryan pondered.

“It’s canon now,” Dean assured him.

Mega Magikarp glided through the air like an angel, gracefully maneuvering around the nets Pinkbeard was shooting at it. When it reached the old salty man, it opened its fishy mouth and sprayed Pinkbeard with a bunch of water. This got Pinkbeard pretty wet and pretty annoyed.

“So that’s how we’re gonna play, is it?! Okay, Tentacruel, Primeape, go!” He threw two Poké Balls. A Tentacruel and a Primeape came flying out of them.

They charged the Mega Magikarp, who flew past them like a dust cloud in a breeze. The Primeape spun around and flew at the Mega Magikarp with a flying kick, and the Tentacruel tried a water gun, but both were hopelessly hopeless attacks. The Primeape hit the Magikarp and banged his foot up real good, falling to the ground and screaming out in pain. The Tentacruel’s attack just bounced off the Magikarp’s hard shell.

“Tackle them!” Dean commanded. “Take them out!”

Mega Magikarp flopped forward and hit Pinkbeard across the face. This was quite the fish sneak attack and the pirate was unprepared for it. The tackle hit him square in the jaw, upending him, and sending him flying off into the distance. Everyone watched him go until he was nothing more than a twinkle in the sky. It was a beautiful sight.

“Yarrgh! Pinkbeard be blastin’ off again!” the pirate croaked as he flew away.

Mega Magikarp followed this up by tackling both of the pirate’s Pokémon. They went flying up the air after their master, soon disappearing from sight as they faded into the dark sky.

“See you later, bozo,” Dean screamed after Pinkbeard the First, who surely could not hear the boy. “You’ll never take me alive, coppers!”

Then, Dean commanded his Mega Magikarp to free the other Pokémon. Once they were free, the water Pokémon (Wartortle, Golduck, Mega Magikarp, Lapras, and the two Dragonairs) jumped in the water and used all of their strength to push their sinking boat to shore. Everyone worked together except for the Pokémon who didn’t, and eventually they towed the ship to shore. Great job, everyone!


It was evening by the time they reached the shore and it was just starting to snow again. Dean agreed to join the three in Pallet Town for the night, for it was too late for him to make his way home on his own. As they walked the beaches toward the city lights they could see in the distance, Ryan stumbled over something and fell to the sand. Rahul cackle and patted his belly seeing Ryan fall. Seeing Ryan fall gave him almost as much pleasure as a chicken wing would.

“What was that?” Ryan said, annoyed. He looked over to the thing he had tripped on and saw that it looked like a rock. But it was no rock, for the thing opened and Ryan could see something dark and slimy inside it. “Hey everyone! I found a rock with a snot in it! Whoa!”

“That’s not a rock, dummy,” Dean said, walking over to Ryan. “It’s a Cloyster.”

“How do you know? You’re not a Pokédex,” Ryan contended.

Dean shrugged. “I have a Shellder… I know what its evolution looks like.”

Ryan took out his Pokédex just to be sure. “Hey there, you Dexy thing you. What Pokémon is this?”

“Please do not call me a Dexy thing. It makes me feel weird,” Dex said in monotone. “Ahem… Cloyster, the Bivalve Pokémon. For protection, it uses its harder-than-diamonds shell. It also shoots spikes from the shell.”

Ryan’s eyes lit up. “Cool! I wanna catch it!” He took a Poké Ball out of his bag and threw it to the ground. “Abra, I choose you!”

“Ra bra!”

“Reflect, Abra!”

Abra conjured up some sparkly energy around him and raised his defense against all possible physical attacks. The Cloyster noticed the bright light, realized it was under attack, and threw itself at Abra. Its rocky jaws shut around Abra’s frail body and clamped down hard.

“Abra, psychic yeah!”

But the Cloyster was still clamping down on Abra. The poor psychic Pokémon was suffering quite a bit. “Bra…. Abra…!” it moaned in pain as the Cloyster toyed with it.

“Hold on Abra!” Ryan said, taking another Poké Ball out of his bag.

“Come on, Ryan, can’t you battle fair for once?!” Kelly complained. “Just once?”

“But Abra’s stuck!”

“If you’re a good enough trainer, you’ll think a way out of it.”

Ryan pocketed the ball begrudgingly. “Fine. If you say so. Abra, use psychic as soon as you get free, okay buddy?”

“Bra.”

Cloyster’s clamp lasted for two more turns (this is real life). Then, it released Abra. As soon as it did, the smaller Pokémon rolled back and created energy in his hands. The Cloyster charged Abra, but Abra held his ground and fired his psychic attack directly into the black slime in the middle of the Pokémon’s shell. An explosion sent Cloyster falling back into the sand, where it lay, unmoving, dazed and wounded. Ryan took out an empty ball, then aimed it at Cloyster.

“Gotta catch ‘em all!” Ryan bellowed before he threw the ball.

The red-and-white ball hit Cloyster on the side of its shell, then fell to the sand and cracked open. Pink light covered the wild Pokémon and then sucked it inside. For a few seconds, the ball wiggled on that quiet shore; Cloyster fought desperately for its freedom. But it was too weak and too damaged by Abra’s attack, and soon the ball stopped moving. Ryan had caught himself a new ‘mon. Whoop whoop!


By night, they reached Pallet Town. It was a small place with only a few houses and no Pokémon Center, so Ryan had to use potions to heal Abra and his new Cloyster. They saw Christmas lights shining from all the houses. Snow was falling softly. As they walked further, the four kids saw a tall, unadorned, silver pole erected in the center of the town. Snow had fallen around it, but still it stood noble and proud. Next to it, a man in a heavy Gore-Tex jacket sat on a chair, ringing a bell.

“A Festivus for the rest of us! It’s a Festivus for the rest of us!” he sang, pleasantly.

Kelly moved up to him, trudging through the snow. “Excuse me sir, is this Pallet Town?”

The man’s face glowed in the reflection of Christmas lights and smiled. “Why of course it is, miss!”

“Is there any place to stay, like a hotel or something?” she inquired.

“Sorry. Pallet’s a small town, even this time of year. We don’t have a hotel.”

Kelly breathed out, hard. “Are you serious? Then where are we supposed to stay for the night?”

“You can stay with me,” the man said, pocketing his bell and standing up. “My mother’s house is just over there,” he pointed. “I’m visiting her for the holidays. I’m sure she’d be happy to have all of you join us.”

“Thank you,” Kelly said. She turned to face the others. “What do you say, guys?”

“Anything to get out of this cold!” Ryan replied.

“Sure,” Dean nodded.

“I’m the Doctor and I know it!” Rahul assured everyone.

“It’s a Festivus miracle! Follow me,” the man said, enthusiastically. He began walking toward a house in the distance with vibrant Christmas lights and a homely glow coming from the windows inside. Then, he stopped, raised a hand and half-waved at the four people following him. “I’m Ash, by the way. Ash Ketchum. Nice to meet you all.”

Episode 11: Oakheart

The man named Ash led Ryan and the gang to a quaint little house decorated in Christmas lights and snow. A frenzied Mr. Mime opened the door for them and ushered them inside, wiping the snow from their shoes with a broom and thrusting a hand vacuum into their faces menacingly, as if to try to clean their very skin (they were all very, very dirty). Ash ignored the Pokémon and brought everyone into the kitchen, where an older woman was sitting, drinking coffee.

“Uh, hey mom,” Ash began, “I found these trainers out in the snow. They were looking for somewhere to stay, and it looked like everywhere else was closed, so I thought I’d bring them back here…” he shrugged. “We have room don’t we?”

His mother stood up, her face flushing with a smile as she greeted each of Ryan’s gang. “I’m sure we’ll find some room for them. I hope one of you isn’t opposed to sleeping on the couch…”

“Thank you, Mrs. Ketchum,” Kelly said earnestly, bowing in respect. “We’re extremely grateful for you taking us in.”

“It’s no trouble,” the woman replied. “Though it might make Mimey a little anxious. Just don’t make a mess, or he’ll go crazy!”

They all swore on the old gods and the new that they would not incur the wrath of Mimey, and Mrs. Ketchum showed them where they would be staying. Ryan asked Ash to use their home phone, and Ash pointed him to a corner of the kitchen. The teal-haired trainer immediately called his mother, thinking it was not too late - she was probably still up drinking eggnog or playing Poképoker with his dad or doing something else he didn’t want to think about or even think about thinking about.

“Hello?” came her voice from the fuzzy phone speaker. “Who is this?”

“H-hey mom, it’s me, Ryan. Merry Pokémas!” the boy spoke. “How’re things at home?”

“Oh Ryan, it’s nice to hear your voice,” his mother replied. “I thought you had forgotten about us. I hadn’t heard from you in a long time.”

Ryan’s voice was puzzled, “Didn’t you get my last message, mom?”

“That was weeks ago, Ryan. I’ve been worried that you haven’t called since, and I think your father is worried too, but he would never say so.”

Ryan scratched the back of his head, feeling his face go red. “Yeah, sorry I forgot. I guess after all this time trying to collect gym badges and catch Pokémon, it sort of slipped my mind.”

“So how is your journey going, Ryan? Have you met lots of nice people and caught many Pokémon?”

“Yeah… I’ve made some friends. I have a full team of six Pokémon now and three badges! We’re on our way to get the rest of them before the Indigo League Tournament begins. We still have a few months left before it does.”

“I’m proud of you, Ryan,” his mother said, her voice wistful and perhaps sad. “Your father thought you would be home for the holidays though. He hasn’t seen you since before you left on your journey.”

“Oh…” Ryan felt guilt hit him like a blizzard. “I’ll come home as soon as I can, but I don’t know how soon that will be…”

“It’s okay,” said his mother. “You need to finish collecting those gym badges first. I’m sure he understands.”

“Mom, did you tell him about Abra?” Ryan asked. “I… I tried to take one of the Pokémon he doesn’t use very much. Was he okay with that?”

There was a long pause. The wind was blowing outside the Ketchums’ kitchen door, howling like a feral Arcanine. “He knows why you took Abra. Though when you return, I think he’ll want to see his old Pokémon again.”

“Of course.”

“Okay Ryan, well I have to go now. Your father and I have the whole evening planned out.”

They said their goodbyes and Ryan hung up. He heard the others getting ready for bed in the rooms above him on the second floor. Rahul was yelling about something and Ryan could hear Kelly trying to calm the big brute down. Classic Kelly. Ryan took Abra’s Poké Ball out of his bag and held it in his hand, feeling it over with his palm and eyes. Was his father really that angry about him taking Abra? Ryan hadn’t thought it would be an issue, else he wouldn’t have taken Abra at all. Still, he and the small Pokémon had bonded on their escapades thus far, and he was glad he had chosen Abra, even if that meant he was going to get a lecture from dad when he returned home.

“Heh, looks like you got the couch,” Ash Ketchum said, causing Ryan to spin around. The man had a sleeping bag in his hands and he led Ryan into the next room where he could sleep. “So you’re trainers, huh? Just passing through?”

“Yeah… well, not exactly.” Ryan pocketed Abra’s Poké Ball. “I also wanted to see Professor Oak. I need to change my Pokémon’s name…”

Ash laughed. “I can show you where he lives in the morning. It’s hard to miss. Professor Oak’s lab is the main reason anyone comes to this little town anymore. It’s nice to have company.”

“Do you live here?”

“No, I’ve been staying in Cerulean City with my girlfriend,” said Ash. “But I came home for Pokémas, so my mom wouldn’t be lonely. She has a hard enough time living alone with Mimey these days.”

There was a moment of pause, where Ryan laid out his sleeping bag on the couch.

“Hey Ash, were you a trainer too? I mean, when you were younger?” Ryan asked, once he had finished making his bed. He thought Ash looked to be in his early twenties - maybe 20 or 21. He was definitely not ten years older than Ryan; that much was certain.

“Yeah, for a while. I collected all the Kanto badges when I was ten and finished in the top 16 in the Indigo League.”

“Wow,” Ryan said. “My father never did that well, and he tried a few times.”

Ash shrugged. “It’s not a big deal, really. There are plenty of great trainers and Pokémon masters who never win a tournament.”

“Pikapi!” a squeaky voice muttered from behind Ash. Then, a little Pikachu came bounding out from the other side of the couch with a pillow in its hand. The Pokémon handed it to Ryan, a dubious, reserved look on its yellow face. “Pikachu!”

“Uh, thanks!” Ryan replied, taking the pillow. “Is that guy yours?”

Ash smirked. “Yeah. Me and Pikachu go way back. He was actually my first Pokémon, heh.”

“Your first?” Ryan asked, his voice rising. “You mean you didn’t have a regular starter either?”

“Nope,” Ash said, scratching his Pikachu behind the ear. “But I’m glad I got Pikachu. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

They ate dinner together as the winter snows fell outside, a fire burning in the Ketchum’s fireplace keeping them snug and content. Kelly got into an argument with Dean over who the last Indigo Tournament champion was, and Rahul told a story about the time he dated three girls at once - a tale not even his prized goatee believed. Ryan didn’t say much - he ate his food quietly, observing the others while he clutched Abra’s Poké Ball under the table. He could not stop thinking about what his mother had said. Did he need to return Abra? Was that what his father wanted? Was Abra his? Abra had been the first Pokémon to join him on his journey, and the way Ryan felt about Abra was like how Ash felt about his Pikachu. Ryan didn’t want to have to return Abra to his father. But he didn’t know if it was an option to refuse.

Everyone went to bed not long after, and Ryan tossed and turned on the couch for what seemed like hours. Finally, in the dead of night, he thrust himself from the blankets, put on his warmest clothes, and left the house. He didn’t know where he was going - Ryan just needed to walk to clear his head. The snow was no longer falling heavily, but it was high and hard to trudge through. After getting his shoe caught in the snow and falling nearly a foot into it, the boy took out a Poké Ball and threw it. Out from it came the Pokémon that had brought Ryan to this town: his Charmeleon.

“Okay Get Over Here,” he said, remembering the Pokémon’s true name. “I think that’s the last time I’ll have to call you that. Tomorrow Professor Oak is changing your name. I guarantee it.” Ryan winked and gave the Pokémon a thumbs up. The Charmeleon had no idea what the heck his master was talking about so he barked. “Use your ember attack, boy! Melt all the snow in our way!”

Get Over Here shouted, “Meleon meleon charmeleon!” and then it roared out flames in all directions, melting entire dunes of snow and even setting a nearby tree on fire.

“Ugh, you’re so careless!” Ryan whined before throwing Golduck’s Poké Ball. “Quick Clawey, put out that tree!”

“Duck duck duck.”

Ryan eyed his two Pokémon, one melting all the snow, the other saving all the trees from the horrors of overzealous Pokéfire. They were an odd couple indeed. “Hey, what the heck… why don’t we bring out the whole team?” Ryan threw the remaining four Poké Balls all at once. He was very talented.

“Brah…. abra!” Abra yawned as he rolled out of his Poké Ball into a pool of cold snow water. “Abraaaaa!”

“Quiet Abra, you’ll wake the neighbors!”

“Ra.”

“Ieeeieieie!” Matata cooed.

“Neieieahalalaahal!” Thurnax responded.

Clostyer needed to get on the action too, since he was new and everyone was wondering what he’s like, “Cloyster… c-c-c-cloyster!!”

Ryan sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, you guys know I don’t understand a word you’re saying, right?”

“Cloyster,” said Cloyster.

The teal-haired boy wagged his finger. “Now now Cloyster, I’ll put you back in your Poké Ball if you talk with a sass mouth.”

That horrified the Cloyster and he didn’t say another word for the rest of the episode.

And so they went, marching through the melted snow, aimless and freezing. Ryan hoped that a walk would make him feel like sleeping, but the more he went on, the less he felt like returning to Ash’s house. The blizzards had cleared up, and the sky was visible - the night’s stars were twinkling like shining city lights. Ryan swore he could see a pink dot up there, something not like the rest, but whenever he honed in on it, it seemed to vanish. In that sky was something watching, he thought, but what it could be, Ryan had no clue.

Pallet Town was a small place with very few buildings. After circling the entire town several times over, Ryan decided their best course of action was to go into Pallet’s diner, as it was the only store open at this hour of the night. As they approached, Ryan and his Pokémon gang in tow, the boy thought he saw something dark moving on the edge of sight, thought he heard wings flapping. He stopped and looked around. There was nothing but darkness and the weak artificial light emanating from the nearest lightpost. He crossed an empty street towards the diner when he heard the buzzing of wings yet again. This time, he was sure it wasn’t Matata, as the sound her wings made was softer. Whatever was making that sound was bigger than Matata - much bigger. Ryan gulped.

“Get Over Here,” he whispered, hoping whoever was out there wouldn’t take that as their cue. “Shoot an ember in that direction,” Ryan pointed down the street into the darkness. The Charmeleon obeyed, spitting fire and illuminating the desolate road for a fraction of a second. In that moment, Ryan heard the wings buzz again, and he caught a glimpse of something green shooting off behind a far building.

“It’s a Pokémon,” Ryan declared to a bunch of Pokémon. “Probably wild. Any of you want to go catch it? I’ll buy you something tasty at the Poké Mart if you do!” The boy waved some Poké Dollars in their little Pokéfaces, but none of his buddies even flinched.

“M-m-meleon!” Get Over Here shivered, dancing in place, his wee little arms thrust up as if he was reaching for the moon. “Ch-ch-char… ch-charmeleon!”

“Fine, we’ll warm up in the diner first. But once you guys are nice and toasty, I want us to go catch that Pokémon, kay?”

“Eieieieieieie,” Matata agreed.

The place was mostly empty; a brown-haired boy in a white shirt was sitting in a far booth, and a waitress was sipping some coffee from behind a perched chair facing the other direction, but there was no one else.

“Uh, excuse me, is this place Pokémon friendly?” Ryan asked to the waitress who had her back to him.

She stood up and faced him, revealing herself to be none other than Mrs. Ketchum herself. “Oh,” she began, curiosity painted across her aged face. “Ryan, isn’t it? Weren’t you staying at my house?”

“Uh, yeah…”

“What are you doing here? I thought you were asleep. Plus, we ate dinner only a few hours ago. Don’t tell me my cooking’s that bad!”

The boy felt his face going red again, and he swallowed hard in an effort to prevent that. “Oh, no, you’re cooking’s great Mrs. Ketchum,” he said in an obligatory tone. “I… I, well I just couldn’t sleep is all. My Pokémon got cold, and this is the only open place…”

The woman had a shrewd look on her face, but she smiled all the same. “I’ll find you a table.”

Ryan’s Pokémon ordered enough food for a mob of Gremlins after midnight, and Ryan knew his wallet would be hurting come morning (rip in piece). They feasted on human food as if they had never eaten it before, the poor fellows. All the while, Ryan sat there feeling the brown-haired boy on the far side of the diner watching him. Ryan glanced at him a few times, and found him to have a familiar face - one which he had seen before but could not place. He almost wanted to get up and ask the other boy, but Ryan knew that was silly. Sane people don’t go up to one another and talk.

“Abra,” Ryan said, breaking the silence. Food and plates were being thrust around the table as if they were in a hurricane, so voracious were his little warriors as they traded dishes, tasting everything. “Yo Abra!”

“Ra!?” The Pokémon had a bowl of cheerios and milk mixed with hot and sour soup pressed to his mouth. “Rara abra!”

Ryan leaned in closer, as the little Pokémon was sitting across from him on a booster seat fit for an almost-newborn child. “Hey, when you were still with my dad, did he use you in a lot of battles? Were you one of his favorites? Is that why you have all those TMs and never evolved?”

“Bra. Abra!” The Pokémon took a swig of his cereal soup. “Abra abra abra, ra bra ah bra abra!”

“Yeah this isn’t working at all,” Ryan grumbled. “No matter how hard I try, I’ll never understand your gibberish! You make less sense than one of those casino games with all the pennies.”

“Abra!”

Before Ryan could respond, another voice cut into the conversation like a knife through salmonella. “Nice Pokémon.”

Ryan saw the brown-haired boy standing at the end of his table, a cool smirk on his face, his green eyes flickering like wildfire. He wore a white shirt and black pants fit for early summer, not the deepest part of winter. It made Ryan wonder how he didn’t get cold. “Thanks!” Ryan replied proudly. “I caught them all myself.”

“I’m sure you did. You’re a very good trainer.”

“Uh, thanks…” Ryan said. He detected a hint of sass mouth coming from the other boy. Just a hint.

“Welcome.”

Ryan ground his teeth. This was the perfect moment to be insane, and he wasn’t fully convinced it was a good idea. But he took a deep breath and didn’t think about the words that came next. “Hey, do I know you from somewhere?”

“I don’t think so,” said the other boy. “You weren’t at that Poké Debate on the proliferation of Tauros, were you?”

“No…”

“Haha mayne, you should have seen it. Some idiots were arguing that we need more Tauros in the world.”

“Well don’t we?”

“Nah dude, they’re too godly. I’d rather have a mongoose Pokémon anyway. Why can’t we just have a mongoose Pokémon? I don’t want to live in this world without one.” The boy took out a brown paper bag and began to drink from a concealed bottle inside it. He hiccupped.

With that, the boy walked off. He didn’t even say goodbye because he’s super rude and super fly. Mrs. Ketchum got up upon seeing the boy walk towards the door and waved. “Bye Charlie! Say hello to your father for me!”

Without turning around, Charlie raised his fist into the air, acknowledging the woman, bowed his head, and walked out the door. From the window, Ryan watched him throw a Poké Ball onto the ground, and suddenly a Porygon materialized on the sidewalk.

“Aight Dragonmaster,” Charlie said, reaching into his backpack and pulling out a bucket, which he then firmly planted over his head. “Let’s wreck some dudes.” He took another swig from his brown paper bag.

With that, Charlie’s Porygon raced off into the night.

“Hey wait a minute!” Ryan said, standing up. It dawned on him all at once, causing him to feel lightheaded. “Wait, that was the kid on the poster in the Cinnabar Island Poké Mart!”

“Duck golduck!”

“Yeah, I know!” Ryan lied. Ryan didn’t have time to wonder what Clawey had said. “It was a two million woolong prize! I don’t even know what a woolong is! But it sounds fancy as heck! We gotta catch that guy and find an Officer Jenny fast!”

“Neeee,” Thurnax screamed.

“Charmeleon.”

Ryan nodded. His Pokémon were definitely in it to win it. He ran out of the diner, his Pokémon hot on his heels. Throwing his wallet to Mrs. Ketchum and crying “Take it all!” Ryan flew out the door. His Pokémon, as it turned out, were not close behind. All of them lumbered out of the establishment slowly, holding their swollen bellies and groaning softly. They had eaten too much, Ryan realized. There was no hope, none whatsoever, of catching Charlie the wily bandit. Dismayed, Ryan fell to his knees and shot air pistols at the sky. He was no cowboy, though.

It was then that Ryan heard the buzzing of wings yet again, and this time he saw the Pokémon. It was large, green, had swords for hands. Ryan knew its name without even needing Dex’s help.

“Scyther,” he breathed, his heart pounding in his ears. “No way. Ever since I was little I wanted one of those!”

He stood up, wide-eyed, in awe, and slowly approached the Pokémon. It was standing motionless in the middle of the street, sharpening its swords on one another. When it saw Ryan, it hissed.

“Easy boy,” he said, carefully grabbing an empty Poké Ball from his bag. “No one’s gonna hurt you.”

Then, as the wind began to howl, Ryan took his chance and threw his Poké Ball at the green creature. It casually knocked the ball away with one of his arms and took off into the night.

“Come on everyone, let’s go!” Ryan yelled; he rushed forward, scooping up his Poké Ball, and pursued the Scyther into the darkness.

Of course, Ryan’s six Pokémon, bless their little gluttonous hearts, had overeaten to the extreme. They could barely waddle, let alone run, and they soon lost their master in the darkness. Ryan followed the Scyther to the edge of Pallet Town, to the place where the town converged with Route 1. The forest was beyond that point, as were patches of tall grass, a dangerous place for anyone to venture through in the dead of night, especially a trainer who had no Pokémon with him. Ryan stopped at the edge, breathing hard, his hands on his knees.

He waited there for many hours as his Pokémon moved at a snail’s pace until they reached him at the edge of town just as the sun began to rise in the distance. Upon seeing his crew, Ryan shook his head and facepalmed. “It’s too late,” he said hoarsely. “The Scyther got away.”

“Scytheeeer!!” a voice boomed through the forest from. Ryan screamed and ran back a few paces, for that was far too spooky for him.

And then, as if from the heavens, the green hunter descended from the tree, majestic as Rahul on prom night. “Scyther!!!!”

It began to move about in front of Ryan and the gang as if it were having a seizure or dancing to Katy Perry. Either way, the Scyther seemed to be in fits, thrusting its body back and forth, shaking its sword arms in the air like it was trying to exorcise demons from its body.

“Oh my god, it’s horrible!” Ryan shrieked. “The worst thing I ever saw in the whole wild world. Dex save us!”

He pointed his Pokédex at the madman Scyther. “Scyther is performing Swords Dance,” the device stated. “Its attack will be raised two stages.”

“What’s two stages?” Ryan grabbed his hair and fell to the ground, his eyes bloodshot and wide open. “What’s going on? Is this real life?!”

“Scyther scythe!”

“Charmeleon… someone… attack him!” Ryan despaired.

Scyther rushed forward and knocked over Charmeleon before the fire ‘mon could conjure up another ember attack. He sliced and diced his way through the other five until they all fell over, stunned or fainted. Ryan rolled over and beheld his defeated team. “No way!”

“Scyther,” Scyther retorted proudly.

“I’ll get you for this!” Ryan shouted, readying his Poké Ball again as he stood up. He did a little ballerina twirl and then flung the thing at the Scyther.

But the Pokémon was too fast - it dodged out of the way, hopping into the nearest tree and disappearing into the forest. As the sun rose into the sky of the new day, Ryan’s Poké Ball sailed into the forest, above the wet dew hanging on endless blades of tall grass. Just then, a small purple Pokémon raised its head from the grass and the Poké Ball smacked it right in the forehead. Stunned, the Pokémon fell over and was quickly sucked into the ball. In the next second, the Poké Ball rose into the air and then disappeared into nothingness.

“What just happened?!” Ryan said, dumbfounded. “I don’t even know which Pokémon I caught! Dexy, explain yourself.”

“As you wish, wise master,” Dex said. “Since you already have six Pokémon with you, any further Pokémon you capture will be sent to the Pokémon Center in the hometown linked to this Pokédex for storage.”

“Hmm…” Ryan scratched his chin. “This was my father’s Pokédex, so they must be going into his old storage container in Acapulco… But Dex, is there any way for me to see which Pokémon I just caught? I can’t travel all the way to Acapulco right now…”

“Avast ye landlubber!” came the unmistakable voice of Pinkbeard the first. “Didya think ya defeated me last time, argh?”

The man with two peg legs, two hooks for hands, and pink nose hairs that formed a ragged beard stepped out from behind a bush. A boy in a black suit with the letter “R” emblazoned on the shirt followed him. Pinkbeard patted the boy on the head with a hook which really just got tangled in his hair and caused the boy to scream out in pain and thrash about like a stuck pig.

“Yargh! This here be my son Gillford Matilda Gooseman! He be here to help me get revenge on ya!” the pirate pointed a hook gravely at Ryan. “Yargh!”

“Shut up, dad! I told you my name is The Supreme Extreme and I’m the newest member of Team Rocket! I’m not here to help you get revenge! I’m here to help Team Rocket take over the world!” He jumped forward and struck a pose that would have brought a tear to Captain Ginyu’s eye. “You!” he pointed at Ryan. “Tell me where Professor Oak’s lab is! I heard he’s got a whole bunch of godly Pokémon in there.”

“I dunno what you’re talking about,” Ryan replied. “Honestly, you sound like you’ve had too much o-”

Gillford jumped forward with a flying kick and a high-pitched squeal, hitting Ryan right in his pretty little nose. The blue-haired trainer was taken aback by the attack and fell backwards in confusion. He tasted blood and felt pain wash over his face. As he lay there in the dirt, Ryan saw Gillford and Pinkbeard pull out a pair of net guns and move forward. Ryan watched them trap his Pokémon in the nets, and though he screamed for them to stop, the deadly duo paid him no heed. Then, once all six were safely locked away in netting, Gillford walked back over to Ryan, net gun in hand, and grinned.

“I’m the Supreme Extreme! I’m a god! I have all the power! Hear me roar! Look at my chi!” Spittle dripped from his lips; his crazed, beady little eyes shot this way and that as if, in his paranoia, he felt like he was being watched. “You’re no match for me, kid! I can levitate. Watch this!”

Gillford raised the net gun and then smacked Ryan on the back of the head with it, instantly knocking out our poor protagonist.

Episode 12: Tauros, Tauros, Tauros!

Ryan awoke from a particularly sticky dream about some boysenberry jam to find that his head was killing him. He was woozy, like he had just drank a gallon of orange juice (not that he would know what that felt like, to be sure). The Pokémon trainer stood up and yawned, finding himself wholly alone on the edge of Pallet Town. The sun was high in the sky. It was far later in the day than the last time he had been awake. That worried him.

“Wh… what happened?” the boy asked, rubbing his sore head.

“Scyther! Scytheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer!!!!”

Ryan spun around and saw a Scyther perched on a nearby tree branch. It tilted its head and screamed. It was a perfect target, sitting there calmly, and he wasn’t about to let the chance get away from him. The boy reached for a Poké Ball, but found that his backpack was gone. That was when he remembered what had happened.

“Sweet Jeremiah!” the boy yelled in frustration. “That kid took all my Pokémon!”

“Scyther scythe scythe!”

Ryan scowled at the Scyther. “All I wanted to do was catch you! And look at the mess you’ve gotten me in! Well, are you gonna help me or what? I need to get my Pokébuddies back!”

The mantis Pokémon didn’t say anything to that, and when Ryan took a step forward to press the issue, it jumped back and flew off into the tall grass.

“Curses!” Ryan shook his fist at the sky. “What good’s a Pokémon trainer without any Pokémon?”

He found Pallet Town to be in utter chaos when he returned. He remembered that Gillford - The Supreme Extreme, as he wanted to be called - had said Professor Oak had a whole bunch of godly Pokémon he was going to steal. Hopefully the kid hadn’t stolen them yet, otherwise his own Pokémon could be long gone. But what Ryan found in the town did not get his hopes up.

Large three-tailed beasts were rampaging through the streets, running through houses, knocking over cars, and causing pedestrians to flee in all directions. Smoke and dust filled the air, as did the shouts of horrified citizens. Gillford must’ve done this, Ryan thought. But he’s careless… he let Professor Oak’s Pokémon out without catching them first. Ryan thought he saw Kelly and Rahul running down a street in the opposite direction, their Pokémon running alongside them. They must be trying to help calm things down. He frowned again, thinking about how he wanted to be there with them, how he wanted to show the world just how good a trainer he was. But I’m not a good trainer. I lost all my Pokémon. I have to get them back!

One of the beasts came Ryan’s way, huffing and mooing and stamping its feet. Ryan ducke aside and pulled out old Dexy from his pocket.

“What the heck is that?” he asked his machine.

“Tauros, the Wild Bull Pokémon. A rowdy Pokémon with a lot of stamina. Once running, it won't stop until it hits something.”

“Crap…” Ryan breathed. “This whole town’s gonna get smashed to bits if that’s true! We have to put a stop to this!”

Pocketing Lil’ Dex, Ryan rushed forward, down the street, and into pandemonium. He kept running through the smoke and past the Pokémon and people until he came to Professor Oak’s lab. It was situated on a hill, and as Ryan raced up the steps, he saw the figure of a boy in all black at the top.

When Ryan reached Gillford, he saw the young member of Team Rocket directing his Pokémon against those in Professor’s Oak’s backyard. He had knocked down a fence, letting out numerous Tauros and other creatures. At the same time, his own Pokémon, a Primeape, a Graveler, a Growlithe, a Poliwrath, and a Mr. Mime, were attacking Professor Oak’s Pokémon (and the reserve Pokémon of all Pallet Town trainers), and Gillford had a bag of Poké Balls next to him. Whenever his Pokémon took out one of their quarry, he would throw a Poké Ball and catch the thing. His pile was growing taller by the minute.

Ryan spied his own backpack on Gillford’s back and ran over to get it, his fists raised, when, out of nowhere, something tackled him from behind. He saw sky; then he saw ground and tasted dirt and felt something squeezing him hard.

“Hahaha! You dummy!” Gillford said, turning around to meet Ryan. “I beat you again! I’m so powerful!” He raised his right hand and revealed that he was holding a piece of cardboard with a crudely-drawn female face on it, lipstick and all. He kissed the thing passionately. “Yeah, victory! I’m the best, I’m the best, I’m The Supreme Extreme!”

“You… you’re crazy!” Ryan gasped as he felt himself being squeezed tighter. He looked around and caught a glimpse of the Pokémon holding him - a Tentacruel. It was using its wrap attack to immobilize and choke him.

“No, I’m The Supreme Extreme! And this is my wife, Mrs. Supreme Extreme. You’ll tell her how beautiful she is!”

“No I won’t,” Ryan replied. “I don’t do crazy!”

“She’s beautiful!” Gillford squealed like a ten-year-old chipmunk. “Look, look! She’s levitating! She’s a god! She’s reached a higher plane of existence!” he cried, waving around his cardboard girlfriend.

“Ba'hee Priss Dimmie…” Ryan muttered.

“What was that? You scoundrel! How dare you talk to a god like that! Is this anyway to treat the best Pokémon Master in the entire world?! Tentacruel, wrap him tighter! Make him feel supreme pain! For Team Rocket!!”

The Tentacruel obliged and tightened its hold on Ryan. The blue-haired boy screamed; he felt like he was being pressed into a vise. Just when he felt the last bits of air leaving his lungs and began seeing spots, Ryan felt sudden relief - he felt himself falling forward. As he crashed into the ground, he beheld the Tentacruel fall down unconscious next to him.

“Wh… what’s going… on…?” he gasped, rubbing his raw neck.

“Scyther! Scyyyyy!”

Before Ryan and Gillford stood the proud visage of the wild mantis Pokémon. It brandished its blade claws and screamed at Gillford. The Supreme Extreme shrieked like a schoolgirl and jumped back.

“Team of Gods, attack this wild animal!” he commanded his five quite average Pokémon.

Catching his breath, Ryan stood up and walked over to Scyther. “Hey, thanks for that! I guess better late than never, right?”

“Scyther!” the thing said in a crazed scream.

“All right, you’re gonna need to help me defeat this weird kid so I can get back my Pokémon, all right? One ‘Scyther’ for yes.”

“Scyther.”

That made Ryan smile. He took out Lil’ Dex and aimed it at Scyther. “All right you gorgeous piece of metal, tell me what moves Scyther knows.”

“I feel pretty, oh so pretty,” Dex said in monotone. “This Scyther knows the moves: Agility, Slash, Swords Dance, and Focus Energy.”

“We’re in business!” Ryan whooped. Pointing at the five Pokémon converging on him and Scyther, he shouted, “Swords Dance, Scyther, now!”

The bug Pokémon began to convulse again, this time in the flavor of Lady Gaga, and it was almost too much for Ryan to watch. He felt like throwing up or throwing himself from a balcony - perhaps both. Yet, by the time he was done, Gillford’s Pokémon had not yet reached him, so Ryan shrugged and shouted again.

“Okay, Slash ‘em up! Two attacks in a row yeah!”

“Scytheeeeeeer!”

He moved like a scythe through cotton candy, a green tornado of pain and heartbreak. Soon, the five godly Pokémon fell to the ground, dazed and of no more use.

The Supreme Extreme looked like he was nearly in tears. “N-no! They were godly! I trained them myself! Star Serelinglingauliniean and Deshawn Equinneus are the two strongest Pokémon ever to live! It’s a fact!”

Ryan didn’t know (and didn’t want to ask) why that insane trashboy had named his Pokémon so, and instead he stuck his tongue out. “Nananananana, I swept your team!”

“Cheater!” Gillford declared. “He’s a cheater, isn’t that right honey?” The cardboard cutout being held up by his right hand nodded. “See!”

“Yeah, I see!” Ryan replied, stepping forward and grinning. “I see you flying off into the distance! Scyther remove the trash! Send him where all good Team Rocket members go!”

And so he did. The Scyther bore down on Gillford and kicked him into the sky. Ryan’s backpack fell off of Gillford from the force of the attack and landed harmlessly on the ground. As the boy sailed off into the wild blue yonder, he screeched:

“Noooooo!!!! I’m blasting off for the first time!”

Scyther then followed that up by punting all of Gillford’s Pokémon after him. I guess he didn’t catch any legendaries after all.

“Good boy, Scyther!” Ryan beamed. He grabbed his backpack, made sure all six of his Pokémon were tucked away in their Poké Balls, and then tossed the wild mantis Pokémon a treat. “It’s an ultra-rare candy,” Ryan explained. “I won it off of Rahul after he bet me he could do a handstand. He didn’t even come close.”

The Scyther caught the candy in its mouth and gulped it down. “Scyther scythe,” it replied happily. Then, without warning, white light began to emanate from the Pokémon’s body, and he began to shake. “Scytheeeeeeeeeeeeeeer!!” the Pokémon yelled in an alarmed tone.

“What’s going on? Dex, explain!”

“You have given this Pokémon an ultra-rare candy. Ultra-rare candy is essentially Pokéroids,” the Pokédex replied. “Good job. I hope you are proud of yourself. I know I am.”

And such words could not have been truer, for as the light faded, Ryan noticed that where once had been a Scyther now stood a physical specimen of so fine a strain it would have impressed even dear old Ahnold. Covered in rippling muscles it was, massive and numerous, and its entire body seemed to shimmer with the light of midday. The Scyther was bigger than it had been before, and Ryan hoped that meant it was way more powerful now. It peered at the blue-haired boy solemnly.

“Now that’s a god Pokémon if I ever saw one!” Ryan declared.

“Scyther,” the animal whispered gruffly. Even its attitude had become more menacing.

“Okay boy, we still have a problem on our hands,” Ryan continued. “Pinkbeard is still out there, plus all those Tauros are loose! We have to save Pallet Town, boy. It’s up to us!”

“Scy scy scyther.”

The two ran across to the other side of Professor Oak’s lab where they could look down on the town. They could see Kelly and Dean and Rahul and Ash all battling the Tauros as best they could with the Pokémon they had. Ash’s Pikachu and Rahul’s Magneton were combining their electrical capabilities into one to try to zap the Tauros, but there were too many of the rampaging beasts and they were spread across the entire town. Kelly’s Arcanine was running up and down the streets trying to flame the Tauros into submission, but after a few such fire attacks, one annoyed Tauros turned and charged him, knocking the Arcanine out cold.

“With that ultra-rare candy in your system, you should be able to take them on, right boy?” Ryan asked. When his Pokémon nodded, he pointed at the Tauros below. “Okay, go knock all of the Tauros out. Agility now! And once you’re all fast, use Slash attacks!”

“Scyther.”

The green Pokémon flew down to the half-ruined town and worked his way through the charging Tauros like a butcher through a bowl of brown. Gleefully Ryan watched as Scyther knocked out all of the Pokémon he came into contact with. He found Pinkbeard demagoguing on top of a car with his Pokémon around him and sent all of them where Gillford had gone. Two Tauros chose to storm him as he glided towards them, but Scyther dodged their simple attacks by flying over them. When he did a backflip in midair and then landed on their backs, Scyther wasted no time in knocking them unconscious.

In the center of Pallet Town, Rahul and Ash stood with their Pokémon as the Tauros charged them from all sides. It looked like they were going to be run over until Scyther appeared and slashed the Tauros into submission.

With the last Tauros incapacitated, silence descended on the devastated town. Ryan and Kelly and Rahul helped Ash collect the Tauros into Poké Balls. Dust hung heavy in the air as the sun began to set over the forest of the wilderness. As he was helping capture all of the sleeping Tauros, Ryan noticed Scyther standing on the edge of Pallet Town, far removed from the rest of the people, sharpening his blades on one another. Finding this most curious, the Pokémon trainer walked over to the wild Pokémon hesitantly.

“Hey, Scyther! What are you doing out here?”

“Scyther!”

“You’re a hero, Scyther,” Ryan said. “You saved everyone. I can’t thank you enough! Without your help, I would’ve lost all the Pokémon I worked so hard to get.”

“Scyther scyther.”

Ryan scratched the back of his head. “So… why don’t you come back with us? You could be my Pokémon. You could travel around Kanto with me! I’m going to collect all of the Gym Badges. It could be fun…”

“Scy…” the Pokémon replied, stepping away from Ryan.

“It’s just… you know… I thought, after what we’ve just been through, together, you might wanna…”

“Scyther!” Scyther declared. He stared at Ryan for a moment, then turned away and took to the air.

“Wait, stop!” Ryan raised his hand. “Please, don’t go!”

But Scyther did not listen. Instead, he flew on, above the tall grass, towards the setting sun. Ryan let his hand drop and felt tears come to his eyes. He did not move as he watched the wild mantis Pokémon become a speck on the pink-orange horizon.

A hand fell on Ryan’s shoulder. “Hey kid, don’t beat yourself up about it. Not every Pokémon can be tamed. Sometimes you’ve got to let them go.”

Kelly’s voice was soft, kind, unlike her. That had taken aback Ryan almost as much as Scyther fleeing. “Th-thanks,” he mumbled, not turning to face her. He didn’t want her to see him crying.

“Don’t let it get to you, Ryan. There’ll be plenty of time to catch more Pokémon. We’ve got a long way to go before we reach the Indigo League.”

They watched the sun set for a few minutes before Kelly spoke again. The world was still as a painting, save for the sounds of feral Pokémon in the deep wilderness ahead. “Come on, we need to go back. Ash and Professor Oak wanted to talk to us. They’re at the lab.”

Ryan screwed up his face and wiped away his tears. He followed Kelly back into town, past the broken buildings and cars and refuse now covering most of the ground. They climbed the steps to Professor Oak’s lab for a second time that day, and for Ryan, it was with a much heavier heart, even though he had gotten his Pokémon back.

Awaiting them at the top, just inside the building, were Ash, Rahul, Mrs. Ketchum, Dean, and Professor Oak himself. They all smiled warmly upon seeing Ryan.

“There he is,” Professor Oak chuckled. “Thank you for saving my lab and the town, Ryan.”

“No problem.”

“I still can’t believe that happened!” Mrs. Ketchum exclaimed. “My diner was nearly destroyed! Oh, it’ll take Mimey forever to clean up the mess in there!”

“Yeah, I wonder what those two were up to letting all of my Tauros out,” Ash wondered aloud. “Kelly, you said they were part of Team Rocket?”

“Well, the kid was,” Kelly said. “His father is just a crusty old pirate.”

“They did so much damage,” Ash said, shaking his head. “I’m gonna have to stay here a lot longer than I had planned to help fix everything up.”

“But it wasn’t your fault,” Kell reminded him. “Team Rocket should have to fix this.”

“Knowing them, there’s no way they would,” Ash sighed. “But even though they managed to damage so much of the town, it would have been a lot worse if you hadn’t helped us when you had, Ryan. Your Scyther really saved the day.”

“Yeah…” Ryan replied, detached. “Couldn’t have done it without him.”

Ash patted him on the shoulder. “Here, as a token of our appreciation, take these.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out four Poké Balls. “A Tauros for each of you for helping to save Pallet Town. I mean, I have a whole herd of them. I’m never going to use them all in battle. So please accept this gift.”

“Oh yeah!” Rahul exclaimed, raising his screwdriver to the sky. “This calls for a celebration!” He clapped his hands and suddenly, two scantily-clad girls appeared holding plates of sweet rolls. Rahul didn’t hesitate to stuff his mouth with as many as he could while everyone else watched on in slight bemusement.

“Well, unfortunately, we have to get going,” Kelly said, finally breaking the awkward silence. “The Indigo League is starting pretty soon and all of us still need some more badges.”

“Yeah,” said Ryan cheerlessly.

“Before you go,” Professor Oak spoke up, “wasn’t there something you wanted? Ash told me one of you had a Pokémon with a name that needed changing.”

Ryan had almost forgotten, after all the events that had taken place that day. He fumbled in his bag before finding his Charmeleon’s Poké Ball. Then, he presented it to Professor Oak. “If you can, I’d like to change this guy’s name to Aegon, please.”

As the day turned to night, our four heroes set out on their journey once again. They said their goodbyes to Ash, his mother, and Professor Oak, who all thanked them profusely for helping them re-capture the Tauros. They left Pallet Town a grim place; it would take many months, perhaps even years, for that humble place to be repaired and rebuilt. Ryan wouldn’t forget that. For all of Gillford’s silly rambling, he was a genuinely bad person - he had threatened the lives of every member of Pallet Town and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property. If Ryan ever saw him again, he’d make that kid rue the day he attacked Professor Oak’s lab.

They set off down Route 1, flashlights in hand. Fireflies were buzzing and the air was fresh with the smell of grass. Kelly and Rahul and Dean were all in high spirits because they had acquired a new Pokémon, but for Ryan, the gift of the Tauros did not replace what he felt he had lost in Scyther.

Ryan fell to the back of the group and pulled six Poké Balls out of his bag and released the Pokémon from them. Regardless of how he was feeling, he had an obligation to his Pokémon, to make sure they got enough attention and were well-loved. They were probably frightened from being recently captured, and he needed to alleviate their fears. Ryan needed to show them that they were home again. Abra, Clawey, Matata, Cloyster, Dragonair, and Aegon came tumbling out of their balls.

“Hey guys, I’ve missed you! How is everybody?” His Pokémon whooped and laughed and bade their master good evening. It was a good feeling, Ryan knew, having someone care for you. And his Pokémon did, just as he cared for them. “Let’s go get some more badges, what do you say?”

His Pokémon screamed in agreement, and Ryan had to smile. As much as he wanted to wallow in regret, he couldn’t. Life goes on. He had to get the rest of the Gym Badges before the Indigo League started, and now he had a team of six to do so. So Ryan and his Pokémon rejoined Kelly and Rahul and Dean as they set off down the road to Viridian City and their next adventure.

Episode 13: Where The Wild Things Are

In the morning, the group continued on towards Viridian City. By noon, they could see the faintest signs of civilization looming in the distance, just above the horizon of the Viridian forest. Upon seeing this, Dean took the lead and led them swiftly down the grassy, wild path that was Route 1. It was like he really wanted to get home, or something.

In Ryan’s hand was his new Tauros’ Poké Ball. The Tauros - which he had named NaVorro - would be a great addition to his team. He had replaced old Matata with NaVorro last night; the process grieved the young trainer’s heart, in truth - she had been with Ryan on his Pokémon journey since nigh the very start. She had helped him get his very first gym badge. But she was just too weak. He hoped she wouldn’t mind.

Next to Ryan lumbered Rahul, his great belly swinging like a trash bag full of water with every step. In his hand was a plate of chicken and waffles, and he had syrup running down his lips and into his goatee. The devastation of the sweet stickiness was a grim sight to behold and even more tragic since they were all out in the wilderness and Rahul had no easy way to remedy himself of his sticky situation (save for, perhaps, thrusting his face into a river, which the well-cultured boy would never do (unless he was rewarded with food for doing that)). Despite that, the amiable bloke seemed not to care, and he was sucking on his fingers like they were made of cool whip.

“Hey Rahul, Dexy told me that Tauros is a great Pokémon. Did you add the one Ash gave you to your lineup?” Ryan asked the good-natured trainer as they walked side-by-side down the dirt path.

“What? Are you crazy?!” Rahul scoffed down two waffles in a breath. It was an astonishing feat of gluttony. He clapped his hands and two scantily-clad females burst out from the bushes and ran up to him with more steaming hot plates of chicken and waffles for sweet Rahul. He grunted in pleasure seeing the two plates and took them with great impatience. Then, the two women disappeared into the bushes again. As this had been happening ever since Ryan had first met Rahul, he no longer questioned such absurdities. “Your Pokédex must be broken. Magneton is way better than Tauros.” And with that, he downed another plate of breakfast. Ryan thought the boy had eaten enough for fourth breakfast, which would have made Merry and Pippin quite happy.

“Whatever you say, big man,” Ryan smiled. He trusted Dexy far more than Rahul, though. He liked his chances with the big, powerful wild bull Pokémon.

Kelly was in high spirits too, for she had also received a Tauros from Ash, and that meant that she had finally acquired a team of six. “I’m almost ready to challenge the Viridian City Gym Leader,” she told Ryan. “I think I need to get in a little more training, first. I haven’t used a Tauros in battle before. It would be nice to get familiar with Patrice before I use him in the gym battle.”

“Well at least you aren’t like Rahul,” Ryan observed. “He doesn’t see the value in a Tauros at all.”

Kelly’s face went pale and her eyes nearly bulged out of her skull. “Is he crazy?! This is Kanto! Tauros is one of the best Pokémon in the region. You can’t not have a Tauros on your team! It’s like thinking the first Pokémon theme isn’t the best one!”

“I tried to tell him, but he thought Magneton is better.”

Kelly nearly threw up, Rahul’s antics disgusted her so. “Well, if he finds a way to beat this Gym Leader, good for him. But he’ll be wanting that Tauros when he realizes how weak his team is without it.”

Poor guy. Ryan nodded in approval and felt his stomach growl for some chicken and waffles. Or maybe that was Abra, who was perched on his shoulder like a loyal parrot. The small Pokémon appeared to be asleep, and he was swinging this way and that, as precariously perched on Ryan’s shoulder as a glass of water. But Abra didn’t like his Poké Ball, and Ryan had not the heart to keep him in there too long, so this mad game was like to continue for some time.

“It doesn’t matter, though,” Kelly continued. “You two can’t face the Viridian City Gym Leader anyways.”

“What, why?!” Ryan was so startled at that bit of information that he jumped and caused Abra to go flying off of him and into the bushes. At once, Abra was confronted by another Pokémon: a ferocious Rattata! It was a hideous beast, as powerful as a carton of milk if Ryan had ever saw one. Abra yawned and hit it with Psychic. The poor purple rat went flying off into the deep forest, and Ryan wondered if that would allow Pokémon to become well-acquainted with Rahul’s food servants.

Kelly was not amused, and she did not even give Abra a thumbs up for defeating that super hard (and probably level 2) Rattata. That was okay, for Ryan lumped his Pokémon with many a praise as the little guy mounted Ryan’s shoulder again. “You need the other seven badges before you can go to the Viridian City gym,” she explained. “It’s the hardest gym. Only the best trainers can get through to take part in the Indigo League.”

Well that was not fair, not fair at all. Ryan had started this journey not too long ago and he had planned on going with Kelly to the end. But since he had started so late, she had gathered far more gym badges than him. How now was their journey together supposed to continue? He felt a flush creeping up on his face as he opened his mouth again, “B-but… I still have to get all of my other badges. Aren’t you coming with me?”

A strange look flickered across Kelly’s face as she looked over to him. Then, after a pause, the pink-haired girl shook her head. “Once I’ve got the last badge, I’m going to the Indigo Tournament. If you can get all the other badges in time, maybe I’ll see you there.”

The words stung like a slap to the face, and Ryan was left speechless. He stopped walking, even as the others continued on, not noticing how affected he was. “I… I thought we were going on this adventure together…” he whispered to himself. “I don’t want to be alone again…”

“Abra,” Abra contended.

“Abra,” Ryan replied sadly.

When he rejoined the group, Kelly had taken a few of her Poké Balls out of her pack. He saw her throw them into the tall grass on the left side of the path. Instantly, ‘Aichu and Patrice materialized. “All right,” the girl began, “this is a good place to stop. We should get in some last minute training before we get to Viridian City.”

“Why should we?” Ryan snapped. “Rahul and I aren’t going to the gym.”

Kelly laughed at Ryan’s attitude. “Then wait for me in the Pokémon Center. But your Pokémon could use some training too for when you finally do return to this gym.” She grabbed two more Poké Balls and threw them, releasing her Arcanine, Fluffy, and her Wartortle, Tortilla. “I didn’t think you’d turn down a chance to make your Pokémon stronger, Ryan, but if that’s what you want, then go…”

Ryan scrunched up his face like a rapturous gremlin. “Okay, okay! I’ll stay. My new guys could use some training, I guess.”

“Oh, are we stopping here?” Rahul said in a dazed voice. He had continued walking on with Dean when he realized the other two had stopped. Taking selfies of the ruination that was his sticky face with his Sonic Screwdriver had caused Rahul to lose so much awareness that, briefly, he was almost promoted to Lieutenant of that venture in Ryan’s eyes. “I guess it’s a good time for a snack.” The boy snapped his fingers, and a woman came stumbling out from behind a tree ahead, ran over to him, and handed him a plastic bag of trail mix, minus the trail and the mix. All that was left was the good part - the M&M's. And if Ryan knew Rahul - and he sure as heck didn’t - he would have expected no less.

Dean, who was leading them down the path, suddenly stopped, and turned around to glare at Kelly. “We’re not stopping here. I need to get home.”

“Well, kid, I need to train my Pokémon before we get there!” Kelly bit her lip, but did not back down. She put her hands on her hips and stood defiant to the younger boy. The way she looked then gave Ryan a tingly feeling down his chest. “And we’ll wait however long that takes.”

“Not me,” Dean replied. “I’m going home. I don’t even know who you people are, really. I don’t have to stay with you.”

“We’re not making you stay with us,” said Kelly.

Dean glowered. “It’s my way or the highway!” he said, annoyed.

Kelly shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

“Bye Dean. You were cool!” Ryan waved. “I’ll never forget how you defeated Pinkbeard! That was awesome.”

Rahul ate a handful of M&M’s.

Ryan had not known the boy very well. Aside from when Dean had saved him from Pinkbeard on the boat, Ryan had not had many interactions with the black-haired boy at all. And that was all well and good, since the boy was much younger than him, and they wouldn’t have much to talk about. Even when they had stayed at Ash’s house, he had only talked with Dean briefly. They had not been traveling companions so much as they had been strangers traveling to the same destination together. And now they were going to be separated. Ryan felt a little sad, but not much. That kid was cool, but he and Ryan had never bonded.

And so Dean went off down Route 1, alone. Ryan and the others released every one of their Pokémon - 18 in all - to fight the various wild Pokémon along the road. Ryan was a bit dubious at this strategy, since after a few rounds, he realized the wild Pokémon were weaker than a ninety-eight year old fiddler halfway up the roof. He didn’t think their Pokémon were getting much stronger with each passing fight, but he dared not say that to Kelly, for as determined as she was, he didn’t want to get on her bad side.

Ryan was very proud of his Pokémon: Aegon, the Charmeleon, was a seasoned fighter who fought his opponents with cold determination; Abra was as powerful as he had ever been, and lazily dealt with his quarry without even lifting an eyelid; NaVorro, Ryan’s newest Pokémon, proved to be quite powerful as well, as he viciously demolished all of the scary powerful Rattatas he went up against; Clawey handled his foes like he was a wild Pokémon himself and knew his way around the tall grass; Thurnax’s majestic force was a beauty to behold, and as he saw his Dragonair take out scores and scores of Pidgeys and Rattatas, Ryan nearly cried it was so beautiful to him; and last, but not least was Ryan’s Cloyster, who he had named Myrrah since she last appeared. Like the others, she easily took out dozens and dozens of wild Pokémon until their unconscious bodies piled up high as trees around them. Where all these Pokémon came from, Ryan did not know. The small patch of tall grass they were in did not seem like a big enough ecosystem to support so many hundreds of Pokémon, but he did not question it.

All of this took place in little more than two minutes, for Ryan’s Pokémon were legit (Kelly’s and Rahul’s probably were too, but Ryan had not the attention span to note their fights). And as Ryan was congratulating his buddies for wasting endless waves of wild Pokémon, he suddenly heard a noise coming from ahead. He raised his head like a Meerkat (or the Pokémon equivalent if there was one, but since there wasn’t one in Generation 1, Ryan didn’t care ‘bout that, no sir).

There stood Dean in the center of Route 1. Another boy, slightly taller than him, was standing in the tall grass to his right, and after a few seconds, walked out of the wilderness and onto the path himself. Ryan thought the two looked eerily similar. They were both Asian; that was a certainty. And they had a look about them, a certain type of face that would be too inappropriate for Ryan to explain in much detail here. Suffice to say, Ryan thought the two were related.

He could hear them talking, but did not understand them. It was like they were talking in some kind of Pokéspeak, though it could very well have been Chinese. Ryan could not distinguish the two from one another, of course. After a few moments, Dean and Big Dean turned around and walked back to the three trainers laying waste to the wilderness.

As they got closer, Rahul let out a squeal of delight, like a hungry Slowbro. “Alex, Alex, Alex! Yo! Alex! Aleeeex!!” he yelled, waving his hands over his head. Ryan and Kelly and their Pokémon watched this in silent awe. All of the battles stopped, and the lucky surviving wild Pokémon ran for the hills, bless their spleens.

The two Chinese kids arrived with smiles on their faces. The one Rahul called Alex put on a pair of sunglasses, then took a gigantic yo-yo out of his backpack, raised in the air and made some kind of gang sign with his hand. Then, unprompted, he burst out into a show of flinging the yo-yo around. Dean had a boombox in his hand and played some balla tunes as Alex flung himself about in some kind of show. This was all very bizarre to Ryan, who wished they could just go back to genociding wild Pokémon instead of watching Chinese kids convulse about with big yo-yos.

Once Alex was done with his spontaneous performance, he took a bow, and everyone clapped mightily for the little guy. Though Ryan could see he was several years older than Dean, he wasn’t actually that much taller. He wore a blue short-sleeved shirt with a grey long-sleeved undershirt, a red scarf, and black pants and looked like a small gust of wind could blow him over, he was so skinny and tiny.

“Sup, Rahul,” Alex said at last, in a voice that seemed too deep for such a small dude. “Didya… miss me?”

Dean laughed. Rahul grunted in approval. Kelly and Ryan watched in awe. Alex’s words sent shivers down Clawey’s spine - Ryan would bet a million Poké Dollars on that.

“Hey… so hey, that kid’s your brother, right?”

“Yeah, that’s Dean. He’s my brother.”

Ryan couldn’t believe an actual human being would say something so obvious.

“Awesome!” Rahul said, chuckling and with a glimmer in his eyes. “We met him on the boat ride back from Cinnabar Island. He’s cool.”

“Yeah, he told me all about it,” Alex said. He looked happy enough, but that gruff voice of his seemed like it was an impersonation of someone Ryan did not know.

“Hi, I’m Ryan!” Ryan shouted. “I’m a Pokémon trainer.”

Alex nodded. “Alright.”

Kelly was messing with a strand of her pink hair anxiously, as if she wanted nothing more than to go back to training her Pokémon. “I’m Kelly. We’ve been traveling with Dean and Rahul for a while now. I guess you know that, though.”

“Oh okay,” Alex said.

“Hey Alex,” Rahul said gleefully. “Look what I’ve got!” He held up the little booklet that held his three gym badges. “Three already!”

“Nice. Are you going to enter the Indigo Tournament?”

“Of course!” the big man yelled jubilantly. Ryan had no idea why Rahul had become so energetic all of the sudden. “You should enter, too.”

“Yeah. I know. Been too busy with Poké Smash, though.”

“What the heck is Poké Smash?!” asked Ryan.

“Are you kidding me?” Rahul roared. “A-are you kidding me, Ryan?! Really, you don’t know what Poké Smash is? How can you not know what Poké Smash is?!” Rahul laughed incredulously.

“Well, what is it?”

Before Rahul could respond, he decided to start a new conversation, as he oft does (what a guy). “Hey Alex, let’s battle. You and me, six on six. You better have your team with you.”

“I do,” the short Chinese adolescent replied.

“Awesome!” Rahul thrust his Sonic Screwdriver up, up, up, as if he was trying to color the sky. “Let’s do this!”

“Very well,” Alex said seriously. He turned to Dean. “You better get home. Mom’s been wondering where you’ve been. You’ll have a lot to tell her. Make sure to show her the Pokémon you caught, too.” Dean nodded. “Oh, and if I’m not home tonight, remember that after Mom and Dad and Tracey go to bed, you can wake up Robbie and Xiao Bao (aka Zach) and play Halo 7 with them. Just be sure to keep the volume off so no one wakes up. That is the only way you’ll be able to play Halo. I know it’s weird, since we have a Poké Box One and Halo 7, so we should be able to play the game, but Mom and Dad won’t let us play it ever unless we sneak up late at night to do so.”

Dean nodded and bowed. “Bye Alex! Good luck with the fight!” he said, before running off to his city and home. And that was the last time Ryan ever saw the kid, at least in person.

Alex turned back to face Rahul. “It’s been a while since we’ve dueled, Rahul. I’m sure we’re both a little rusty. I’m not sure I’ll be able to anticipate your moves that well.”

“Heh, Alex, my Pokémon are way stronger than they were last time. I even have a Magneton now. I’m soooooo going to win.”

Alex did a little spin move, his scarlet scarf twirling like something that twirls, and then did a somersault and a jump. It was all rather random and inexplicable. Ryan felt like he was watching performance art. The only thing that was missing was Alex cutting open a can of Spaghettios and pouring it all over himself. When the Chinese boy had had his fill of this, he stopped, caught his breath, and spoke, with all his conviction. “Were it so easy.”

Alex’s eyes narrowed (an impressive feat for someone with his eyes to begin with), and then threw a Poké Ball at the space in between him and Rahul. Rahul patted his belly and stroked his syrup-crusted beard and then followed suit. The greatest battle of our time had just begun.

Episode 14: To Be A Rock And Not To Roll

“You better not take forever!” Rahul screamed. “Battle timer is on! Inactive players will be automatically lose the match!”

“What are you talking about?” Alex asked.

“I don’t want this to take forever. It’s my request,” replied Rahul proudly. He slapped his belly, and Ryan thought he had never looked more like a Snorlax than at that moment.

“Alright.”

Out went Alex’s Starmie from its Poké Ball. Rahul’s Kadabra went flying out of his Poké Ball as well.

“Whoa, Abra, look, it’s your papa!” Ryan proclaimed carelessly, patting his Abra on the head.

“Bra rah!” Abra grunted, his eyes moving back and forth with great suspicion. “Rah, rah, abra, abra rah! Bra, abra. Rah. Rah, abra, abra, rah, bra, abra! Abra!”

Luckily for us, no one knows how to translate Abra’s language.

“Alright Shuriken,” Alex said in a low rumble, “use Blizzard.”

“Thunder Wave!” Rahul roared like an Entei in heat.

Ryan watched as the Starmie’s attack missed, and the Kadabra’s attack hit, paralyzing the Starmie.

“Ah, RNGesus,” Alex said and no one paid attention to what he said. It was great.

“Thunder Punch,” Rahul stated calmly.

“Blizzard again!”

This time, both attacks hit, dealing a multitude of damage to both Pokémon. Ryan wondered who would die first. It was truly suspenseful. He grabbed a bucket of popcorn from his backpack and started munching on it hastily.

“Whoa, who do you think will win?” he asked Kelly, who was standing nearby.

“Rahul has only three badges,” Kelly reminded Ryan. “I’m not sure he can win. His Pokémon probably aren’t at high enough levels.”

“Come on Kelly, believe in the big man. Rahul is awesome. Plus we have no idea what his full team is, since we’ve never seen him do a battle like this. In fact, we don’t know pretty much anything about him ‘cept he’s awesome.”

And Kelly, bless her pink hair, could not offer any counter to such a logical statement.

“Shuriken return!” Alex said, throwing a different Poké Ball. “Go, Mahogany!”

“Thunder Punch!” screamed Rahul.

The aforementioned Thunder Punch hit Mahogany, who Ryan’s Pokédex told him was an Exeggutor. The attack did very little damage, though it did paralyze the poor plant-egg-thing. Who the heck would make a Pokémon look like that? You would have to drink an insane amount of orange juice to think that eggs evolve into a palm tree. I mean seriously, it was one of the first 151 Pokémon and you’re telling me that they already ran out of interesting ideas for Pokémon? This guy looks like he should be coming from the 600s at the very least. Someone probably just gave the Pokémon creators a bunch of eggs, and their first thought was that eggs become palm trees, and I don’t know why anyone would think that.

Seeing his attack missed, Rahul became distressed. “Kadabra, return! Go Dragonair!”

“Sleep Powder!” Alex ordered Mahogany.

“Dragonair, use Toxic!” Rahul commanded.

The attack failed, yet somehow Mahogany was still paralyzed. Amazing how Pokémon physics work sometimes, especially in gen 1. Mahogany, the poor guy, was unable to follow up with an attack of his own. Dragonair then used an Ice Beam, which was super effective to the palm tree wannabe, and Mahogany once again used the Sleep Powder move. Dragonair fell asleep, bless its heart, but woke up the very next turn after taking a devastating Psychic attack! Wow, what a move! Alex twirled when he saw the attack hit, so sure was he that victory was in his grasp. He almost busted out the yo-yos at that point. Almost.

“Come back, Mahogany!” Alex ordered. “Go Incinerator!”

A Charmeleon went flying out into the battlefield, only to be met by an Ice Beam. Due to the undeniable power of the old gods of Alex’s homeland, Incinerator managed to survive the devastating hit.

“Body Slam!” grunted Alex. The attack did decent damage to the Dragonair, though it was nothing to write home about.

“Surf!” ordered Rahul. Somehow, the Surf attack, despite being even more devastating than the Ice Beam attack, didn’t take out the Charmeleon. “Wait, how is he not knocked out?!” Rahul yelled. “Surf should easily take out a Fire Pokémon! Are you kidding me?!”

No one said a thing to him, though Ryan reflexively patted his own belly.

“What do you think?” Ryan asked Kelly.

“Alex is by far the superior trainer. His Pokémon are stronger, and he’s spent more time with them, learning their movesets and styles,” she noted. “Rahul has only three badges. He’s not experienced enough. This Alex kid is a far smarter trainer too, and he’s outplaying Rahul. It’s not just that his Pokémon are stronger, but his strategy is far better than Rahul’s. He’s anticipating Rahul’s moves, whereas Rahul isn’t capable of such advanced thinking.”

“I bet that’s because they know each other!” Ryan chimed in.

Kelly shook her head, annoyed. “You could learn a lot from Alex.”

“So could you!”

“I have seven badges, and I’m about to get my eighth,” the pink-haired girl contended. “I’m far better at this than any of you three.”

“Oh yeah? I bet I could beat you right now! What do you think, Abra?”

“Bra.”

“Darn right!” Ryan replied.

“Please, there’s no way I’m going to fight you. I’ll leave you here before that happens.”

“B-but why?!” Ryan’s face fell.

“There’s already a battle going on. It’s too difficult for the readers to keep track of two battles going on at once. Plus, I need my Pokémon healthy for the trek through Viridian Forest.”

“Curses!” Ryan said, shaking his fist at the sky, causing Abra to fall off of him. As he looked down and saw Abra lying in the grass, the weeds around him, Ryan thought that the little Pokémon looked just like Santa Claus, and that made him feel okay again.

Regardless, back in the actual battle, Rahul used Surf again, causing Incinerator to faint. It was a crucial knockout, Ryan thought. Since Rahul got the first knockout, the good Ryan thought that there was no way the big man could lose now. He felt like busting out the sparklers for such a momentous occasion. His good friend with the goatee of a god was about to win.

Alex sent out Shuriken again, who was met with a devastating Thunderbolt attack. It was super effective, wow! But, Shuriken had a card up its sleeve as well - the oft used Blizzard. This time, the attack hit, and Dragonair fainted. A stunning turn of events in Ryan’s eyes! But then, Rahul brought back out his Kadabra, who used Thunder Punch again. This time, Shuriken the Starmie was dealt with and bam, bam, bam, it fainted. Ryan thought he saw a tear come to Alex’s eye then, for Starmie is one of his most favorite Pokémon ever. Then, Alex took out his Tauros, whom he called Robbie Jr., (“Hey, I have one of those!” Ryan told Kelly, who seemed to not hear him) and wrecked the Kadabra with a Hyper Beam like a durian in a meat shredder. At that point, Rahul took out his Lapras, a Pokémon Ryan had never seen nor heard of before, and had Dexy not confirmed it to be a real Pokémon, Ryan would not have believed his eyes. It was crazy how there were Pokémon in his own region that Ryan did not immediately recognize, but he dared not tell Kelly this, for she would have only called him stupid again had he revealed that fact to her, and he didn’t like her when she was being mean to him.

Then, Alex sent out his Jolteon, named Snuggly (and this made Ryan think that perhaps Alex is a fairy, but more on that in chapter 23). This scared the heck out of Rahul, who squealed, jumped up in the air, and stroked his beard ferociously, before withdrawing Lapras, and sending out his Rhyhorn. However, Alex seemed to have anticipated this, for he had his Snuggly-pooh use Double Kick instead of the expected electric attack. It was incredible! A super effective attack! Wow!

Rahul ordered his Rhyhorn to use Earthquake, but Alex withdrew his Snuggly and sent Mahogany the palm tree out again.

“Don’t let your eggs get cracked!” Ryan shouted to much fanfare from Abra. Neither Alex nor Rahul seemed to hear him, as the two were busy twirling and grunting about like a couple of circus bears on lunch break.

What happened next still haunts Rahul to this day. If one brings up the next battle, Rahul will throw curry at them or try to end the Skype call faster than Roger Goodell can play the xylophone (that dude can play the spoons like it’s nobody’s business - he’s like a centipede who’s eaten a couple hard candies). Suffice to say, the next battle did happen, regardless of Rahul’s feelings about it, and though one must cry oneself to sleep just thinking about it, the fight must still be documented for posterity’s sake. Rahul then switched out his Rhyhorn for his Magneton, his most treasured Pokémon, and one he actually thinks is a good Pokémon in gen 1 physics. Mahogany used Mega Drain then, to which Rahul’s Magneton had no answer. Then Mahogany did it again (Alex is a classic spammer, which is also seen with his younger brothers when they like to spam Meta Knight against me, and I will never forgive Zach and Robbie Sr. for doing so (this is why Dean is my favorite to this day)). Then, Magneton tried to use Supersonic, but the attack missed. Rahul must’ve nearly ripped off his wife-beater at that turn of events. Then Mahogany put the big man’s Magneton to sleep with Sleep Powder. Stunning finish I say, as any soccer commentator would say. The Mahogany used Mega Drain and Psychic for good measure, nearly wiping Magneton, Rahul’s prized Pokémon, off of the face of the Kanto region.

“Oh my god,” Rahul said in disgust. “How is this happening?”

Then Magneton woke up. It used a Thunder, which though it paralyzed the Exeggutor, was not a very effective attack.

“Gotta use Mega Drain again,” Alex said outloud. “Spam, spam, spam, yo. Gotta make my brothers proud.”

“Gotta go faster, faster,” Ryan sang tunelessly in response. Abra barked at him for such an atrocious showing, and the boy blushed and didn’t sing no more, no more.

Rahul didn’t seem to learn from his last attack and used Thunder again. It wasn’t super effective this time either, wow! And Mahogany used another Mega Drain. Sadly, for all of us readers, Mahogany was paralyzed by this attack, which prolonged this fight by at least two turns.

“Man, this is horrible,” Ryan commented. “They are just using the same attacks over and over again. What the heck? I didn’t pay to see none of this jive nonsense!” The boy threw his popcorn down in disgust. Abra, shocked by Ryan’s wanton mishandling of the popcorn, teleported to the ground and grabbed a couple of pieces before teleporting back to his master’s shoulder.

Rahul tried to use the non-effective Thunder again. But his Magneton’s attack missed. Then, Mahogany’s move finally went through, and surprise, surprise it was another Mega Drain. Everyone applaud this masterful effort, please, for Magneton was at last dealt with, and this long, horrible, boring battle was mercifully brought to an end. Praise Gooby.

“Go Charizard,” Rahul said.

“Return, Mahogany,” Alex replied. “Go Meteor,” the boy said, sending out his powerful Golem.

“Fire Blast,” Rahul ordered his Charizard.

But the attack was not very effective, alas. This fight just won’t end, Ryan thought. Six vs. six is a long, long battle. It takes forever and ever and ever and man we’re like 1600 words in, and turns like this are not helping.

“Charizard, Fly!”

“Rock Slide, Meteor!”

Alas again, the Rock Slide attack missed, prolonging this fight further. Ryan looked at the non-existent watch on his left hand. “Hey, do you want to go to Viridian City now?” he asked Kelly.

“We could,” Kelly said cautiously, “but Rahul will whine and chase us down and it’ll be horrible if we leave. Besides, the fight is almost over. Rahul is definitely losing.”

“But he’s such a guy…” Ryan muttered sadly. “I always want him to do good because he’s so nice to me and has some rocking facial hair. But he does bring this upon himself.”

As all of that was irrelevant, Kelly did not reply.

Then, Charizard used a Fly attack again. As expected, it wasn’t very effective. It was as if Rahul didn’t know which moves were effective against his opponent’s Pokémon. Then, Meteor used Rock Slide again, and this time, through the power of magic, the Charizard was knocked unconscious! Such a super attack. Ryan nearly cried it was so beautiful to watch the Charizard get taken out by a single attack.

“Go Rhyhorn!” said Rahul, throwing another Poké Ball.

“Earthquake, Meteor!” Alex commanded.

The Earthquake took out Rhyhorn in a single attack. Even Abra jumped and shouted in with pleasure at this. Popcorn ran down his face in buttery chunks, so hysterical was the little Pokémon. Ryan had to calm him down and remind Abra that this was just a game, that this was just a Pokémon battle. It wasn’t real life, no matter how much Alex and Rahul wanted it to be.

Rahul remained calm, even in the face of sure defeat. “Go Lapras! Use Ice Beam!”

The Golem absorbed the attack before he could render an attack of his own, and fainted from the sheer power of it.

“Go Snuggly!” Alex shouted. “Let’s end this.”

“Bra, abra, rah, rah, rah!” Abra shouted. Clearly, he wanted this fight to end too. Like any good game of monopoly, this fight had been over after about five minutes in, and the slow defeat of Rahul had been quite a painful sight up to this point. Had Abra not had some popcorn to munch on, he might have not been so amiable, and Ryan could not blame him.

“Thunderbolt!” Alex shouted.

“Surf!”

Only the Thunderbolt was super effective, as is expected. But Lapras didn’t die. Rahul got a glint in his eye. “I’m going to win this,” he declared. “I’m feel incredible! I feel great! I can do this!”

“Thunderbolt,” replied Alex, simply.

Before Rahul could even order his own Pokémon to do another move, the Jolteon sprung forward, shot a Thunderbolt at Rahul’s last Pokémon, and in a flash of light, the poor Lapras fell over, unconscious. The battle was over. Ryan clapped, but he was the only one to show such support.

“Dang, I want a rematch!” Rahul declared, grabbing some of his Poké Balls and fondling them furiously.

Alex smirked and jumped off of the rock he was standing on. “Were it so easy.”

“Come ooooooooooooooon,” Rahul said in a long whine. “Best two out of three.”

“Your Pokémon are unconscious,” Alex reminded him, “and a few of mine are too. You need to get them to a Pokémon Center before we battle again.”

“I probably have a bunch of revives in here somewhere,” Rahul responded, feeling through his man-purse for all of his Pokémon items. He found one or two revives, but not nearly enough for himself, let alone Alex, who did not seem to have any revives (though he probably did, knowing Alex, but he didn’t want to say so, so that he wouldn’t have to waste any more time beating Rahul again).

“Oh well,” replied Alex. “I guess we’ve got to go to Viridian City.”

“Yes,” Kelly said, stepping forward. “We better get going. It’s getting pretty late.”

“But we have to go through the dreaded Viridian Forest!” Ryan said, dismayed. “And Alex and Rahul don’t have many Pokémon. Are we going to make it through?”

“It’s no problem,” Alex said. “The Pokémon in Viridian Forest aren’t very powerful.”

“But, but, but,” Ryan stammered, “the Viridian City Gym is the best Gym in all of Kanto! Why would its forest have all of the weakest Pokémon?”

“Because, this is where most Pokémon Trainers start their journeys,” Alex replied. “Well, you are expected to start your journey in Pallet Town.”

“I didn’t,” grunted Rahul. “And I already have three badges. Ryan has three badges too, and he didn’t start in Pallet Town.”

“Alright,” said Alex. “But you were supposed to.”

Ryan felt his sass mouth coming to him and had to hold back a wee bit. “Hey, I wasn’t born in Pallet Town! It’s not fair that I should have to start there! I started my journey where I was born, and so did Rahul! That should be good enough for you, Yo-Yo Ma!”

Kelly crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. “Can you guys continue this stupid conversation on the way to Viridian City? I’ve got places to be.”

“Yeah, let’s go!” Ryan shouted, nearly causing Abra to fall off of his shoulder.

Rahul agreed and nodded his head vigorously, like a wet dog. “Hey Alex, why don’t you come with us? Come on, Alex, come oooooooooooooon. You know you want to.”

After a dramatic pause, Alex said, “Alright.”

“Awesome!” Rahul said. He roared like a dinosaur. He clapped his hands jubilantly, as if he didn’t remember just getting his Poké Balls served to him by Alex. At once, two women came running out of the bushes and presented Rahul with a plate of steaming hot curry and rice. Rahul grunted in approval, the sweat on his brow serving as an indication of how much he desired his food. Even Ryan felt his mouth watering. Abra, who was munching away on the last remnants of Ryan’s popcorn, didn’t seem to mind though.

“Alright, everyone, let’s go!” Ryan shouted, punching the sky. “Let’s go through Viridian Forest and get Kelly to her last Gym Battle!”

Ryan tried to sound encouraging and happy, but in truth, he was anything but. He didn’t feel funky funky fresh whatsoever. In fact, the blue-haired novice of a trainer was quite sad - almost as sad as when he had to depart with the Scyther but a few chapters ago. Ryan knew that he and Kelly were about to part ways, and he was not ready for such a thing. He liked Kelly, despite the way they interacted with one another; she had been with him near the start of his journey. He couldn’t imagine going on without her. And yet, he would have to. There was nothing to do about it. He couldn’t make her come with him to the other gyms, since she wouldn’t need to fight those gym leaders herself. Kelly would be better off spending her time training her Pokémon for the Indigo League Tournament. And he couldn’t tell her how he felt. So instead, Ryan led the group into the Viridian Forest, as if it was not, indeed, to their doom.

From behind the four trainers, a man peeked out from the bushes. He was nigh bald, except for several long strands of hair sprouting out from the sides of his head, falling in ragged blond strands down the back of his neck. The man was wearing a dark black leather jacket and black jeans. He was sporting a pair of binoculars around his neck, as lit as as a rusty fishing rod. He had a fearsome, slightly-wrinkled forehead, with pinkish skin, and the face of a man who looked like he had just shaved off a beard. The man grasped his binoculars and looked at the four children walking into the Viridian Forest ahead of him.

“They’re going into the Viridian Forest. That’s where the Dragonrider is. They must be in league with him. It’s a conspiracy!” he whispered to himself. “Ha, I should know. I was a governor, a fighter, a Navy SEAL. Think I don’t know what’s going on? Think I won’t put a stop to this? Think again.”

With that, the almost-bald man who looked like his face was carved out of buttered marble, stood up, and ran after Ryan and the gang. And as he went, one could hear the man whispering, “Mind control!” to himself over and over again.

Episode 15: Carry That Weight

“So why didn’t you become a trainer?” Ryan asked Alex as the group walked into Viridian Forest.

“I don’t know. Smash, probably.”

“Are you going to become a professional Super Smash Bros. Pokémon player instead?”

“Alright,” replied Alex.

“Okay, cool.” Ryan was perplexed by this boy’s speech, but he nonetheless went with it. “So you have a pretty great team, huh?”

Alex nodded his beautiful little Asian face. Ryan didn’t even think it looked whiny one bit. “Yeah, I was born to be a winner.”

“Do you want to be the best, like no one ever was?” Ryan asked, his eyes wide as dalmations.

“Don’t ever say that to me,” Alex scowled. He whipped his yo-yos back and forth. He whipped his yo-yos back and forth. “I am born to be a winner, hands down. Not what you said. That’s just dumb.”

This bizarre, cringeworthy behavior would surely be regretted by Alex in about five years, Ryan knew, but he said nothing about that. “Well, can you train me? I wanna get better!” He looked over at Kelly, who was talking with Rahul about how many poppers Rahul could eat in one minute. “I wanna be the best there ever was.”

“Yeah, alright,” Alex said in a very deep voice - perhaps too deep for someone his size. “Once we get to Viridian City, I’ve gotta brb dishes, but afterwards, I can show you the book I’ve been putting together. Rahul wanted to look at it too.”

“Huh? A book?”

“I’ve been taking notes on the best Pokémon and how to use them,” Alex explained. “Despite people using Pokémon for battle for years, only I have been able to find these secret strategies. It’s not widespread information. I won’t be telling very many people. I’m the only one in the world, pretty much, who knows which Pokémon are the best.”

“Woohoo!” Ryan shouted, punching the air. “I’m gonna be a part of the 1%!”

From up ahead, a Growlithe sprung from the bushes and came running over to the group. Riding him was a small Asian man with stark white flowing hair, a fine black-and-white suit with a red tie, and a dazed grin on his face. “1% solar diminishing is nothing to write home about,” the man explained to the group, who stopped as his Growlithe started prancing about in front of them. “But look, an Alien Megastructure,” the man said amiably, pointing to a hive of Kakuna perched on a nearby tree. "Truly spectacular! That is off-scale! 15-22% diminishing light return. Remarkable! We’ve finally made contact.”

“What are you going on about, old man?” Kelly asked him, annoyance high in her voice.

“Uahhhahahahhh, hi… you’re assaulting me!” the man said, almost falling off his Growlithe. He seemed startled that there was anyone there to speak to him.

Kelly raised an eyebrow. “You’re the one who came out of the bushes to come over to us.”

“Ah yes, bits of matter and antimatter are 100% efficient when they touch one another.”

“Well, who are you?” Rahul asked him, his hands flailing into the air like some blow-up clown at a car dealership.

“Hello. I am Dr. Michio Kaku,” the small man said happily, “professor of theoretical physicist at Smogon University.”

“Yeah, but how is that relevant?” asked Ryan.

“Well, theoretically, we are all in the Viridian Forest,” Dr. Kaku pointed out. “And Einstein liked to play the violin. Me, I like to ice skate.”

“Are you gonna lead us to Viridian City?” Kelly asked.

“If you want,” Dr. Kaku said. “Okay, let’s go. And we’re off! Welcome to the Dr. Kaku theoretical tour of the most dangerous forest in the physical world.”

And thus, the four were off, Dr. Kaku’s Growlithe leading them. As they went, they stared at the old man who seemed so oblivious to everything around him. He pointed this way and that, remarking on the crazy things he was seeing. “Ah yes, some scientists are saying that dark matter hides in bushes,” he said to the four trainers. “It is a new and exciting age of discovery.”

“We should ditch this guy,” Rahul put forth.

Kelly shook her head. “No, we need to get through this forest as quickly as possible. If he leads us out, it’s worth it.”

So the trainers did not ditch poor Kaku-san. They kept going along at a brisk pace until they came to a clearing in the trees, where a group of people were lying on the ground ahead of them. Every one of them held a bug catching net in their hands, and they were all lying on the ground, appearing dazed. Several of them had Pokémon knocked unconscious next to them. Upon seeing this, everyone ran over to the group of bug catchers, sans Kaku-kun who continued along at his regular pace, seemingly not seeing what Ryan, Kelly, Rahul, and Alex had seen. He began humming tunelessly to himself and would occasionally say, “At the present time, we are really clueless as to what natural phenomenon causes comets the size of Jupiter to migrate west for the winter.”

Ryan ran up to the nearest trainer, who was covered in bruises and scrapes and asked, “What happened?”

“Oh… it was terrible..” the bug catcher gasped. “A-a-a… d-demon… he took all of us out. He’s was riding on a dragon…”

“No it wasn’t… a d-dragon,” another fallen bug catcher replied. “It… it was Gojira!!!”

“Gojira..” an old bug catcher murmured as he held a lit lighter to his face, “Gojira…”

“I think it was a new kind of Pokémon,” another croaked.

“No, definitely not,” a fourth argued.

“Alright, so he was riding on a dragon or he wasn’t. But why did he attack you?” Ryan questioned the bug catchers.

“H-he… challenged us to a fight…” one said. “But we… we only h-had Metapods. We stood no chance. It was a massacre...”

“I-I had a Weedle,” one pointed out. “I named him Mr. Weddle.”

“We were no match for his awesome power!”

“But why were you all standing out here in the wilderness if all you had were Metapods?”

One shrugged and then fell over into a ditch. “We’re bug catchers. We’re supposed to just stand out here and let guys battle us even though we don’t have Pokémon with any offensive moves.”

“Metapod used Harden!” Rahul laughed, and then raised his hand to high five Alex, but Alex didn’t return the gesture because he was too busy not paying attention.

“Don’t worry,” Ryan said, feeling his Poké Balls in his backpack. “I’ve got a great team of Pokémon! I’ll find this Dragonrider and take him out!”

“Bless your sole, wee lad,” said a tiny bug catcher lying in a puddle who could have been no older than thirty-five. “Godspeed and thanks for all the fish.”

Alas, Ryan had not a Magikarp to give. With that, all of the bug catchers fell over again in exhaustion and defeat. Ryan noticed a Spearow sitting on a rock nearby. Annoyed, the teal-haired boy threw a rock at the bird, causing it to squawk and fly off into the forest.

Dr. Kaku came trotting by then, and suddenly shot off his Growlithe like a bullet into the tall grass. A Caterpie rose up and screeched as if it was going to attack him, causing Michio to run screaming back to his Growlithe. The loyal Growlithe easily took care of the Caterpie with a breath of flame. Once he was back on his Growlithe, Michio Kaku held up a little piece of candy in a blue wrapper. “Rare candy,” he laughed. “Bottoms up!”

With that, Dr. Kaku ate the rare candy. A white light seemed to encapsulate him, and he began to rise in the air for a second. And then, the good doctor descended from the heavens back down onto his Growlithe. “Yes,” he began, “this is most fortuitous. Einstein once called rare candy the lowest octave of the symphony of String Theory. Ah yes, that appears to be correct. I will have to travel to the nearest black hole to tell him.”

“Look old man, can’t you just lead us through this forest or not?” Kelly asked him, stomping her foot. “I don’t have time for your cockamamie nonsense.”

“Auahaha! The cookie people are coming for me!” Dr. Kaku nearly fell of his Growlithe again, but his Pokémon, apparently well-aware of Michio’s penchant for falling off of him, caught him at the last second. With that, Michio Kaku laughed. “I almost found dark energy once when I was in the Baja.”

“Who said… the Baja?” asked a cool voice. At once, a large bald man with the remnants of blond hair trailing down the back of his scalp jumped out from behind a tree. “I used to live down in the Baja, not a computer within twenty miles of me. That way the government couldn’t track me, see. I was a governor, a fighter, a Navy SEAL, and I still wasn’t allowed to have a computer! Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.”

“Ah yes,” Michio Kaku replied with a smile. “Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams. That is indeed true.”

“It’s a conspiracy. The HAARP system is trying to take us over with mind control! Mind control!” the man replied.

“What the heck is going on?!” Kelly shouted, causing the very trees around to shake. Pidgeys took the sky, and Kakunas began to evolve into Beedrills so mighty was Kelly’s scream. It made Ryan feel good in the pit of his stomach to see her do that. “I just want to get to Viridian City!!!”

“Heh, whoa, hold on there kiddo,” the bald man said, rubbing his black leather jacket with one of his hands. “I’m the governor, Jesse Ventura, and I know a thing or two about conspiracies. The dragonrider is a Pokémon conspiracy,” he explained. “And I’ve tracked him to this forest. Like the bigfoot or the yeti or the Baja Bobo, he is a mythical creature.”

“Ah, but the Dragonrider is a mere Pokémon trainer,” said Dr. Kaku. “Everything you say is wrong.”

“Nonsense!” grumbled Jesse. “I was a former Pokémon SEAL. Ha! I should know. Are you going to tell me that there’s a dragon Pokémon? Ha! Think again. There’s no such thing. Whoever this Dragonrider is, I’m sure he’s using thermite paint to beat up on these poor helpless people,” Jesse “The Body” Ventura replied, pointing at the hapless bug catchers. “It’s an inside job!”

“Please,” Michio Kaku laughed. “Thermite paint is just the wallpaper of the new computer technology that will let you put anything you want on your cyber walls in 10-15 years with no repercussions. If you want to throw spaghetti at the walls, now you can with virtual spaghetti on your computer wallpaper! What is really intriguing is that the positrional force of these walls will release anti-neutrinos for Poké Harvesting,” the theoretical theorist explained. “What an age to live in!”

“It’s a conspiracy! I’m going to find that Dragonrider! I bet it’s a government drone! I’d bet my tv show on it.”

“Actually… it was a kid with brown hair and green eyes riding on a dragon,” one of the bug catchers replied, but Jesse “The Body” Ventura didn’t have time for that jive turkey.

“Be sure to eat any rare candy you come upon,” Dr. Kaku advised Jesse. “You will need several bushels of them.”

Jesse just brushed him off and ran into the bushes. However, as he got to the bushes, he grabbed a random berry and ate it right then and there, perhaps assuming it was a rare candy. The man proceeded to make a sour face, as if he had just swallowed a salty penny, and then ran off in embarrassment.

“Ah, it looks like the tall American man ate a poisonous berry,” Dr. Kaku said. “Very good. He will most certainly die within 48 hours. Now let’s get to Viridian City.”

“Yeah, and let’s find this Dragonrider!” Ryan replied. “Maybe if I beat him, I can have his dragon. I’ve always wanted a dragon!”

“Idiot, you can’t steal someone else’s Pokémon,” Kelly replied. “Besides, when your Dragonair evolves, it’ll be a Dragonite, and Dragonite is a Dragon-type Pokémon.”

Ryan blushed. “Yeah… I knew that!”

From Ryan’s pocket, his Pokédex said, “Not true master, I have never told you that before, and anything I have not told you, you do not know.”

“Shut up, Dexy!” Ryan whispered, hoping that Kelly hadn’t heard the errant device babbling. She didn’t appear to.

The rest of the trip through Viridian Forest went with little incident. One time, Ryan thought he saw a boy in a Samurai outfit running about with a Pinsir chasing him, but perhaps that was merely a mirage. At one point, Rahul woke a hive of Beedrills when he complained about not getting powdered sugar for his breakfast pancakes. At that point, Ryan and Kelly had sent forth their fire Pokémon to quell the tide. Ryan was very satisfied with Aegon the Charmeleon for cooking up all of those Beedrills to a crisp (Rahul had complained that the burning of the Beedrills had roused a hunger in him for some fried chicken, and he had no fried chicken) and he was glad Matata wasn’t around to see such devastation. At the conclusion of the fight, however, Aegon had refused to go back in his ball, seemingly angry that Abra got to stay out of his Poké Ball (the sweet lad was perched on Ryan’s shoulder like a pirate’s parrot), so Ryan was forced to leave his disloyal Charmeleon out.

“Fine,” he said. “But don’t do anything bad and don’t set the forest on fire.”

“Yes, we are a type 0 society,” Dr. Kaku said, “because we can only harvest energy from dead plants such as these.”

“I want to harvest your brain for Rahul,” Alex said so quietly that Ryan barely heard him.

And even our blue-haired protagonist had to laugh at that.


There was no sign of the Dragonrider, and indeed, no sign of Jesse Ventura for the rest of the trip. Ryan had tried catching a Caterpie, since he wanted a Butterfree, but Alex had advised him against it, since Butterfree is a useless Pokémon. As they came to the edge of the forest, the sprawling expanse of Viridian City came into view.

“Finally!” Kelly shouted, dropping to her knees. There seemed to be tears in her eyes. “I thought we’d never make it after all that nonsense before.”

“Never fear,” said Michio Kaku. “If I travel at nearly the speed of light, I will age less than you. On the next trip to Viridian City, I will go so fast, I will age only a few minutes, while you will age several years,” he said with a long smile. “Ah that would be wonderful. And if we took the trip enough times you would eventually be older than me. I am looking forward to that day when you are even older than me.”

“Dude, shut up. You’re as uncool as Saint Elmo’s fire!” Kelly yelled. “Now that we’re here, you need to go back to wherever you came from. I don’t want you following us anymore.”

“Uahahahahaahah, don’t hit me with a brick!” Michio Kaku screamed, nearly falling off his Growlithe.

But instead of responding, Kelly walked furiously off towards the city. This puzzled Ryan, and he noticed that Alex and Rahul were also standing there with wide eyes.

He turned to his Pokémon. “What do you think guys? Should we leave Dr. Kaku here?”

“Meleon,” Aegon hissed, breathing a wisp of flames. He crossed his arms and looked away from Ryan.

“Dang, he’s giving me the sass mouth!” Ryan despaired. “Abra, help!”

“Bra.”

“You too, huh?”

“Rah.”

“Dang.” Ryan looked at the other two boys. “Well I guess we should go then.”

“Yeah, let’s go,” Alex said gruffly.

“To Viridian City!” said Rahul heroically, holding up his Doctor Who screwdriver. “Never cruel nor cowardly, never give up, never give in! I will lead us to safety!”

And thus the three boys ran off after Kelly.

Behind them, Dr. Michio Kaku watched them. “Don’t forget… jet fuel can’t melt steel beams. Oh, no, no, no. But, it can loosen up the metal just enough to make the building collapse. Ah yes, I am a genius. Now let’s go find that Alien Superstructure I saw before. Come on, Lil Jimmy, let’s go!”

Pity Jesse the Ventriloquist wasn’t there to hear him. With that, Dr. Kaku spurred his Growlithe around and the two raced off into Viridian Forest at near light speed, where many powerful monsters (levels 4-6) awaited them.


Alex had gone home to fulfill his destiny to do the dishes. Rahul was out looking for food and Doctor Who DVDs and girls (and perhaps not in that order). That left just Ryan and Kelly alone in the streets of Viridian City.

It was evening in Viridian City, and the activity of the people in it was rather muted, with few people still out and about. The two stood in front of the city’s Gym, its great imposing archway looking down upon them like the small creatures they were. Neither spoke for a long time.

“Don’t you want to train your Pokémon some more before going in?” Ryan asked her, finally breaking the silence. Abra was on his shoulder, and Charmeleon was holding his hand like a little lost child. “Come on, just a few more days of training!”

“No, I think I’m ready,” Kelly replied. She shrugged, “And even if I lose, I can train my Pokémon afterwards.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

Kelly turned to Ryan, who bowed his head so as to not look her in the eyes. “You’re an inexperienced trainer, Ryan.” She touched his shoulder. “But, you’ll get better. And I’m sure when we meet again in the Indigo League Tournament, you’ll be a real match for me.” He did not respond. The pink-haired girl removed her hand from his shoulder. “You better hurry and get those last five badges. Time’s running out.” He nodded, but still kept his eyes trained on the floor. “Okay then, well I guess I better get going. See ya later!”

“Yeah, see you…”

Ryan turned away and closed his eyes. He bit his lip.

“Oh and Ryan,” Kelly’s voice called from behind him.

“Yeah?”

“It wasn’t that bad traveling with you. Really, I had fun,” she said. Ryan turned and met her eyes. They looked like painted roses in the light of the dying sun. “When this is all over, let’s go on another adventure together, okay?”

“Yeah… sounds good…” Ryan replied. He felt numb, his voice sounded small, and he didn’t know what else to say.

There was nothing else he could have said, though, for at that moment, Kelly turned back around and strode confidently into the Viridian City Gym, a Poké Ball already in her hand. She’s ready to win, he thought as he watched her go. I wish I was too.

“Come on guys, let’s go,” the blue-haired boy mumbled to his Abra and Charmeleon.

Abra, nearly asleep on Ryan’s shoulder let out a sleepy, “Abra!” Ryan gave him a good couple scratches behind the ear for that one.

“Charmeleon Leon meeeeel!” Aegon protested. He tried to shake off Ryan’s hand and run off, but Ryan held on firmly.

“Whoa now, boy, don’t you leave me too! Come on, let’s go!” And when Charmeleon simply growled and didn’t budge, Ryan took out Aegon’s Poké Ball and held it in front of his snout. “If you don’t want to go back inside, you better listen to me, Aegon!”

And that, it seemed, did the trick, for fear danced across Aegon’s eyes like flames of wildfire, and he decided that he would rather obey his master than go back in the Poké Ball. So off they went, together, Ryan and two of his favorite buddies, and nothing was the matter, no sir.

Later, Ryan reunited with Rahul and Alex, who were intent on setting out for Pewter City, the location of the next gym, that very night. He couldn’t object. He didn’t want to stay in Viridian City a moment longer. Not until I’m ready to fight this city’s Gym Leader.

So after they healed their Pokémon at the local Pokémon Center and bought some goodies from the local Poké Mart (Ryan bought some Kiwis, while Rahul bought some deep fried cupcakes and unsuccessfully tried to hit on the cashier (he tried to impress her by telling her he was a brony, which didn’t impress her at all), and Alex, the poor bloke (cuz he’s gonna be a teacher when he grows up) couldn’t afford to buy a single thing). Then, they packed their bags and headed out towards Pewter City.

“So Kelly’s gone?” Rahul asked.

“Yep,” Ryan replied.

“Well at least we can move faster now,” Alex grunted. “Since she’s a girl.”

Ryan tugged on Aegon’s hand and led him forward to the edge of the city, Alex and Rahul not far behind. There, they witnessed a most peculiar sight.

Out from the forest behind the road, a boy with brown hair, green eyes, and a white shirt came strolling out on the back of a magnificent Porygon, as noble as any destrier Ryan had ever beheld at Summerhall in his youth. The other boy did not at first notice the three travelers, and as he dismounted, he spoke with cool wit:

“Nice work, Dragonmaster. We got those fakers.”

“Dragonmaster?!” Ryan suddenly shouted. The other boy looked up and they locked eyes. Ryan instantly remembered him as Charlie - the boy he met in the Pallet Town Diner not but a few chapters before. “You!” he shouted, running forward, Aegon mercilessly in tow. “You’re the one who defeated all of those bug catchers! You’re the Dragonrider!”

The boy just smirked and raised his arm in the air before dabbing with magnificent grace. It was like he had just lost the final round of a debate tournament or something.

Before Charlie could speak, however, another person emerged from the bushes. Nay, it was no bandit nor any wild Pokémon spoiling for a hopeless fight. It was, in fact, the balding former governor of Minnesota, who was also once a professional wrestler. In all black he stood, his meager strands of hair connected to the back of his scalp waving in the breeze. There he was: Jesse Ventura - the governor, the fighter, the Navy SEAL.

“I’ve found you, Dragonrider!” he screamed, his eyes two beady flecks of tar, his mouth foaming like someone had just poured hydrogen peroxide down Rosie O’Donnell’s throat. “Now you’re mine.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the brown-haired boy said, taking a step back. Ryan realized that Charlie no longer had an accent, which was strange, since the last time they had met, he had been sure the kid had had a southern twang to his speech. Maybe he lost his accent, though. Those are easy to lose.

“I was a governor, a fighter, a Navy SEAL,” Jesse said. “And I know you’re part of the conspiracy, man. That dragon of yours is covered in thermite paint!”

“Yeah, I painted him myself,” Charlie replied, looking at Dragonmaster. “Do you like how he looks?”

“He could blow at any moment! He could bring the towers down!” Jesse looked horrified. “Think I won’t deal with this? I’m a former governor! It’s my duty to protect the innocent! Give me your dragon. Are you really gonna refuse a former governor?”

“Yeah… man, I’m not doing that.”

“Then it’s a battle!” Jesse took a Poké Ball off of his belt. “And this former Navy SEAL ain’t laying down so easily. If you think your mind control’s gonna work on a former fighter, heh, think again!”

“Alright dude, whatever,” Charlie replied nonchalantly. “Let’s destroy this guy, Dragonmaster.”

“What did we just walk into?” Ryan asked the others.

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, it isn’t good. That kid could be a real problem,” Alex grunted.

“Whoo, go Dragonmaster!” screamed Rahul, waving a chicken wing to the sky.

And so, a great battle, perhaps not as great as the battle between Rahul and Alex, but still pretty great, began. This fight would decide the fate of the universe and Jesse’s quest to find the thermite paint. As Michio Kaku would say, “Our grandkids will lead the lives of the gods of mythology. Zeus could think and move objects around. We'll have that power. Venus had a perfect, timeless body. We'll have that, too. Pegasus was a flying horse. We'll be able to modify life in the future.” I don’t know what he was smoking, but I want some of it. It’s a shame he wasn’t here to give us any.

Episode 16: The Chapter with a Bunch of Foreshadowing

“I was a fighter, a governor, a NAVY seal!” Jesse Ventura declared randomly as he threw his Poké Ball. Out from it popped a Primeape, ready for battle. It was squat and round like a cheese puff, and Ryan thought it reminded him of Jesse himself, minus, of course, the hair. Poor Jesse had but a few tattered strands of blond hair growing out of the back of his head like bleached moss.

“Yeah mayne,” Charlie responded. “I think Poké Smash is the best game ever.”

“Oh, okay. He’s not lame,” whispered Alex, to himself. “Poké Smash is the best game ever and no one can have any other opinion about it.”

Charlie threw his Poké Ball, and out from it sprung a new Pokémon - not his Dragonmaster, but another, more noble Pokémon: it was Farfetch’d, the simplest, most excellent Pokémon in the whole world. Seeing it brought a tear to Ryan’s eye; he had never seen such a beautiful beast before. In its hand, it held a leek, and that got Rahul’s stomach a-rumbling. He clapped his hands furiously, and out from the bushes came two women running frantically. They each held a plate of crisp-tender roast duck with cherry-rosemary sauce. Rahul began to dig into the plates without even a plastic fork, so hungry was he. Cherry-rosemary sauce went flying in all directions, and Alex and Ryan had to run away from him to get out of the blast radius. Once they were clear, Ryan pulled out lil Dexy and pointed it at Charlie’s Pokémon.

“Farfetch’d, the Wild Duck Pokémon,” Ryan’s Pokédex stated. “Lives where reedy plants grow. They are rarely seen, so it's thought their numbers are decreasing. It is the Pokémon all gentlemen and scholars use in battle.” Ryan was in awe. He thought he was a gentleman (though he had no idea what a scholar was). He wanted such an amazing Pokémon for himself. Alas, that would mean going out into the tall grass to try to find one, and such a task seemed so tedious that Ryan nearly fell over right then and there.

“Bulk up, now!” roared Jesse, who was not listening. His hair waved about like it was seaweed in a hurricane.

Primeape obeyed and his began to bounce around like a popcorn kernel in the microwave. When he was done, Primeape stood a wee bit taller and a good deal thicker - his muscles were as thick as Rahul’s neck, almost. He looked like a fearsome beast. Ryan pointed his Pokédex at this Pokémon, and Dex droned: “Primape, the Pig Monkey Pokémon. It stops being angry only when nobody else is around. To view this moment is very difficult.”

Charlie smirked. “Swords dance, Annihilator!”

“Heh, well I’ll tell ya, it’s time for a Hyper Beam, eh?” Jesse thundered. His Primeape grunted and then shot its Hyper Beam at the Farfetch’d. Luckily for the readers, of whom the old Zerg is king, this attack missed.

“Alright man, whatever you want,” Charlie responded, a look of annoyance clear on his face. “But if you won’t respect the sanctity of a Farfetch’d Swords Dance setup…”

“Ha!” Jesse bellowed. “I know that’s just another HAARP conspiracy! They’re controlling the weather man. Mind control! Think again, ha!”

“Yeah, that sounds great,” Charlie said. “Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams. I learned that in my biological anthropology class.”

This declaration shocked Jesse to his core. He began to shake like a willow tree with Parkinson’s. Then, he began to grunt and howl like a feral Ponyta in heat. Primeape took this as his instruction to shoot another Hyper Beam. This time, the attack missed again and hit a nearby tree, causing it to burst into flames. Ryan, and Alex had to fling themselves out of the way, hailing curses and breadcrumbs at the Primeape who had as poor an aim as a stormtrooper in A New Hope. Rahul, meanwhile, did not move, for he was busy eating. No matter how loudly Alex and Ryan tried to yell at him, he did not look up. It appeared like he was ignoring them, but he was really probably just in a food frenzy. Ryan scowled and pulled out his Poké Ball with Thurnax in it.

Throwing the ball, Ryan shouted, “Thurnax, use surf!”

Ryan’s Dragonair was a good, loyal Pokémon, and she rode that wave right into the forest, putting the fire right out.

Ryan and Alex ran over to Rahul. “Yo, Rahul, why didn’t you move? There was a fire!”

Rahul looked up, his face and wifebeater covered in dark sauce, his beady little eyes shining like black diamonds. “Oh, I didn’t hear you,” he said with a shrug, and then went back to eating.

Up ahead, the battle continued. “Swords Dance,” shouted Charlie, proudly.

He was not going to give into Jesse’s insanity. He was going to maintain his honor. Farfetch’d, being the noble, simple Pokémon it is, could break under such pressure. This Charlie knew, and this Alex, who was watching with the intensity of a dude who once locked himself out of his own dorm room, knew too.

“The government did 911,” Jesse said, trying to break Charlie’s will, but that just made the boy in the white t-shirt laugh and nod his head.

Professor Chris Mercer, who is my teacher and decided to spend half of our last class showing us a 911 conspiracy video for no other reason than to show that he’s clinically insane, suddenly burst out of the bushes and gave two thumbs up. This comforted Jesse “the body” Ventura, and he was able to regain his composure. “Do another Hyper Beam. And, heh, I’ll tell ya, if this one misses too, Lyndon Johnson definitely killed JFK.”

The Hyper Beam missed.

“I knew it,” Charlie declared. “The second shooter at the grassy knoll definitely wasn’t your Primeape, mayne.”

‘Why, I otta…” Jesse stammered. “Heh, alright. I was a fighter, a governor, a NAVY seal. Come on, Primeape, Hyper Beam this stupid bird back to the Bilderberg secret underground headquarters!”

“Swords Dance,” Charlie responded, calmly.

The Hyper Beam missed again. It was so shocking that Rahul squealed like a stuck pig.

“Okay, Annihilator, it’s time for a Fly attack,” Charlie shouted.

“Wait, I gotta get another Hyper Beam in here,” Jesse protested. But it was too late. The next Hyper Beam missed, and the Farfetch’d took to the air, cawing and screaming and flying so very high.

“Man, that’s a brave bird,” Ryan said to himself. “I bet he’s as high as a kite by now.”

Rahul wiped his fingers on his wifebeater and raised his Sonic Screwdriver to the sky. “This is almost as epic as Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 14!”

“Gruhh, do one last Hyper Beam, I’ll tell ya!” Jesse hollered in desperation.

Then, Farfetch’d came flying down again. And before Jesse could so much as yell “the government!”, Farfetch’d crashed into Primeape, knocking it unconscious in one fell swoop. The furry Pokémon fell to the ground, dazed, causing Jesse to recall it. “Dang government trying control our minds,” Jesse protested. “Heh, alright, let’s see how you deal with this. This guy’s a fighter just like me!” Jesse “the body” Ventura spat proudly. He flung another Poké Ball, and out from it came a Sandslash.

Charlie was unimpressed. “Fly!” he shouted.

Farfetch’d, thus undamaged, and nobler for his beautiful setup, began to soar into the sky. This time, he flew so close to Jesse as he went that the former governor got spooked and ran off into the forest.

“I’m off the grid!” Jesse screamed. “No internet out here, no way man. The government can’t track me now! I live in the Baja! Ah, the Baja! Get your drones away from me! I’m not ready to die! I ain’t got time to bleed!”

Annihilator kept on his path towards the Sandslash, who began to tremble as it saw the opponent approach. Jesse saw this and wet himself. Streams of water flowed down his dark jeans and into the soil below, watering the parched ground of the Viridian Forest with the official release of a former governor, fighter, and NAVY seal. Jesse grunted and slapped his stomach. “I went off the grid so that the drones wouldn’t watch me! They can’t catch me! Not if they can’t see me, ha!”

And with that, Jesse Ventura, the puissant man who once pretended he was a NAVY seal, disappeared into Viridian Forest, never to be seen again. His poor Sandslash was left to stand there, without anyone having told him what move to do. So he did nothing.

Annihilator crashed into the Sandslash, knocking it over and dazing both of them. With no longer a master to guide him, the Sandslash ran over to the nearest tree and began to cower behind it.

“Hey!” Ryan said, running up to the Pokémon. “You can’t just leave your Pokémon here!” he shouted into the forest. There was no response. The drone, better known as the noble and honorable Annihilator, seemed to have scared off Jesse. Alas, his Sandslash had been left behind. When it saw Ryan, it recoiled, expecting another blow to come down upon it.

Rahul and Alex came running over too. “Hey, did that guy seriously leave his Pokémon behind?” Rahul asked.

“That Farfetch’d must’ve really frightened him,” Alex answered.

“Yeah…” said Ryan, looking down at the injured Sandslash. “What kind of guy just leaves his Pokémon behind? That should never happen. Your Pokémon should be your buddies! You gotta take care of them, no matter what!”

“I think he was on some mind control,” Charlie pointed out, walking over to them. He stopped, glancing up at Alex, first. “Sup whiny-face.”

“Oh, okay,” Alex said, flustered. He almost busted out the yo-yos he was so confused.

Charlie continued walking until he came across Rahul. “Oh hey, mayne,” he said to the big man. “Nice goatee.”

“Never cruel nor cowardly. Never give up. Never give in!” Rahul said, almost in reflex.

“Haha, yeah, Doctor Who, I get it,” Charlie said. “Great show.”

And then he came upon Ryan, who stood over the injured Sandslash that had once belonged to Jesse Ventura. “I know you,” Ryan said, as Charlie came up to him. “You’re on those wanted posters. You defeated all those bug catchers, and you’re on the run! There’s a big reward for whoever catches you! Why don’t you just give yourself up?”

“Haha, good one!” Charlie smiled sarcastically and pointed at Ryan as if to acknowledge the latter’s keen awareness. “I’m sure you’re a great trainer. Catch me if you can.”

“Is that all you have to say?” asked Ryan. He was a bit flustered himself, but at the same time, he took a Poké Ball out of his pocket. Abra, who was perched on his shoulder, jeered at Charlie rambunctiously. Thurnax, who was still out of her Poké Ball, eyed the white-shirted trainer with suspicion and growled. “I’ll defeat you myself if I have to! You aren’t getting away again!”

“I’m sure you’re really good, but I’ve got a debate to get to. Bob Odenkirk is the judge, so I can’t miss this. He’s no David Cross, but he’s aight.” With that, Charlie jumped on Dragonmaster, his patient Porygon, who had been at his side the entire time. Within a heartbeat, the white-and-pink blur that was the two of them disappeared off into the forest, in the opposite direction that Jesse Ventura had gone.

“Curses,” Ryan shouted, raising his fist to the sky. “Debating nuclear proliferation doesn’t matter!”

“Alright,” said Alex. “Brb shower.” And thus, Alex too disappeared into the forest, though Ryan knew he would come back soon.

“So what should we do with this Sandslash?” Ryan asked Rahul.

Rahul shrugged. He wiped his hand on his sauce-crusted wifebeater. “We’re nearly to Pewter City, right? Let’s take him to the Pokémon Center and leave him there.”

Ryan scowled. “You’re just saying that because you want to see another Nurse Joy.”

Rahul’s face lit up like Snoop Dogg on Christmas Eve. “A-are… you serious?!” there was annoyance in his voice, and a grin upon his face. “Come on Ryan, don’t mess with my game. Seriously.”

“Alright Rahul, whatever you say,” Ryan conceded. He looked at Rahul’s goatee and noticed it was in fine form, and that was enough to make him acquiesce.

“Well, go on, catch it,” Rahul told him.

“No you.”

“Are you serious?!” Rahul said in that booming, droll voice of his. He thrust his hands into the air and shook his head violently.

“Fine.”

Ryan jumped back, took one of his father’s Ultra Balls out of his bag, ran his fingers through his hair, did a little spin move, and then threw the ball at Sandslash. “Gotta catch ‘em all! I wanna be the very best there ever was!”

That made Rahul start humming tunelessly to himself.

The Poké Ball went flying through the air like a Poké Ball in flight. It hit the Sandslash dead on the nose, causing it to fly back and scream in confusion. At once, a red light enveloped the creature and it was sucked into the ball. At that very moment, Rahul sprung forward, with a deliberate look on his face. He ran over to the Poké Ball and covered it in a clear liquid with a little tube he was holding in his hand. When he was done, Rahul stepped back grinning.

“Crazy glue,” he declared. “There’s no way that Sandslash is getting out.”

“But, uh, Rahul, how am I supposed to get it out when I want to?”

Rahul’s grin turned upside down and he began to mutter to himself. Though they had captured a Sandslash, formerly the leal servant of one Jesse Ventura, it appeared the Pokémon was well and truly trapped inside its Poké Ball. But that would be a problem for another episode, Ryan knew.

“I guess we should get going to Pewter City, right, buddy?” Ryan asked Abra, who was snoozing on his shoulder. The words brought Abra to conscious, and he seemed completely displeased with being thrust back into the real world.

“Abra, brah, brah!” Abra whined. “Abra!”

“Neeieieieie!” Thurnax squealed from Ryan’s side enthusiastically.

“Yeah!” Ryan said happily. “We’re off to Pewter City for my fourth badge!”

It had been a long time since Ryan had gotten his last badge - dare I say seven chapters, which in a story that is only 16 chapters long is quite the long time - but alas, it appeared like he was on a collision course with Pewter City, and nothing could stop that. Barring some miraculous turn of events, it appeared Ryan would indeed be getting his fourth Gym Badge quite soon. Rahul, who was a great trainer and an even greater guy, who only sometimes answered when you Facebook message him because I’m sure he’s very busy with many important things, had not a Pewter City badge either. So it was good fortune that the two were traveling together. It was their destiny, surely, to get this next badge before this chapter ends.


It was night when they reached the stony enclave known as Pewter City. The streets were abandoned, and a cool breeze was blowing through the town. Ryan, Alex, and Rahul strode in together, and looked around. Off into the distance, they could see the lights of the Pewter City Gym. Closer by was the Pokémon Center, which was also adorned in what appeared to be old Christmas lights. It was cold, and they all began to shiver. Clumps of snow lay around the buildings and on their roofs, and judging by the dark sky, it looked like it might snow again.

“We should find a place to sleep,” Alex said.

“Isn’t the gym still open?” Ryan asked.

Rahul frowned. “Let’s go see. Come on Alex, I don’t want to stay here. Look at this place - it’s all rocky and cold and miserable. Let’s get out of here as soon as we can.”

“Alright, whatever,” said Alex.

And so they went off, but as they passed by the Pokémon Center, Ryan told them he needed to tend to Jesse’s Sandslash.

“If the gym’s open, you go first, alright Rahul?” he said.

“Yeah, fine, fine,” Rahul replied, and off he went with Alex into the night.

Inside, Ryan was greeted by a Chansey who whisked him over to a Nurse Joy standing at the counter. The pink-haired woman looked a lot like a nurse Ryan had seen in another Pokémon Center. It was almost like they were sisters, the resemblance was so uncanny.

“May I help you?” she asked in a sweet voice.

“Yeah,” replied Ryan, fumbling for Sandslash’s Poké Ball in his bag. Nurse Joy continued to stare and smile at him, and that made Ryan’s ears go red. He thought she looked mighty pretty in that nurse outfit of hers… “Uh, yeah, here it is!” he said, a little too loudly.

Nurse Joy took the Poké Ball and tilted her head, a look of puzzlement clear upon her face. “Um, what is this stuff all over the ball?”

“Oh yeah, that’s crazy glue… my friend put it on. I-I was wondering if you could get it off for me.”

Nurse Joy giggled. “Of course, I’ll get one of our Chanseys on it at once!” She stood up straight and laughed, throwing the ball behind here, where a Chansey was waiting to catch it. “And is this your Pokémon, mister?”

“Nope,” said Ryan. “There was the old bald guy who it belonged to, but after he lost the battle he ran off without taking his Pokémon with him.”

“Oh no, that’s terrible! What kind of trainer would do that to his Pokémon?”

“I know… he doesn’t know it’s here, either, so I’m not sure what to do with it.”

“Well,” Nurse Joy began, “we’ll keep the Pokémon overnight, and if its owner shows up, we’ll give it back to them.”

“But what if he never comes?”

“Well… in that case, we’ll keep his Pokémon here until he does!”

Ryan looked down and thought of Thurnax, the Dragonair he had found abandoned. He wondered if her owner was out there looking for her even now. Probably not, he thought. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have abandoned Thurnax in the first place…

And yet, there was also Abra, Ryan’s first and favorite Pokémon. That had been his father’s Pokémon, one he had never asked his father if he could take. I wonder if dad’s mad about that. He didn’t know. I should call home and see what’s up… maybe after I get my next badge. Maybe if Dad hears I've gotten four badges, he'll be proud of me.

Ryan looked up at Nurse Joy and nodded goodbye, before walking out into the brisk night air. He knew Jesse would never come back for that Sandslash, and it would be forced to stay in that cramped little Poké Ball for years, at least. That was no way to live. On the one hand, he knew it wasn’t his Pokémon to take, but on the other…

“Huh, what was that?!” Ryan shouted, his voice echoing down the empty streets. His breath frosted the air. Above him, there was a pink light hovering distantly in the sky. It was so dark that not even the moon was out. A few lights in the town made things a little lighter, but still, it was nigh black as pitch. It made that floating pink light all the more apparent.

Ryan pointed his Pokédex at the light, thinking wildly that he might be seeing a Pokémon, though there was no Pokémon he knew of that could float and generate pink light. “There is no data,” the Pokédex replied. “No Pokémon is in range.”

“Huh? Then what is that thing?” Ryan watched the pink dot for a few more seconds. As he walked down the road to the Pewter City Gym, his eyes on the sky, Ryan saw the pink light suddenly fade away into nothing. Just like that it was gone. “Weird,” he said to himself. “I must be seeing things.”

Ryan passed by a building that a sign told him was called the “Pewter City Museum”. He found it somewhat odd that though the building had a “CLOSED” sign on its front door, there were still a few lights on in the second story. Even so, such a sight did not concern the trainer, and he continued on his walk.

As the teal-haired boy approached the Pewter City Gym, Ryan noticed an old man sitting on a nicely-polished slab of rock to his left. He had a long, spiky brown beard and wore a red beanie pulled so far down his face that the boy could not even see the man’s eyes. He sat in what appeared to be a meditation pose, and Ryan would have mistaken him for a statue had the man not spoken just then.

“"Pewter City is grey... the color of stone. This town has always been famous for stone.”

“Huh?!” Ryan jumped back in shock. “What are you talking about, old man?”

“The name's Flint. And I’m not that old.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“You goin’ in the gym?” Ryan nodded. “Don't tell me you plan on challenging Forrest, the Pewter City gym leader.”

"Of course I do!" Ryan's voice rang with confidence.

Flint began to laugh a flinty laugh. "Hahaha... you'll beat him? Hahaha… that’s a good one.”

Ryan’s face went red. “What’s the big deal? He’s just another gym leader. I’ve already beaten three of them!” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the little booklet he was keeping his Gym Badges in. “See?”

“Hahaha…” Flint continued to laugh quietly to himself. “You’re confident now, but just wait until Forrest beats your Pikachu. Then you’ll come crawling back to me and beg me to help you.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t have a Pikachu.”

At that Flint stood up straight and grimaced. “O-oh… in that case, well you can go on in.” He then reached for something and produced a small rock with a pricetag on it. “By the way, do you want to buy any of my merchandise?”

“You sell rocks?” Ryan’s eyes narrowed in disbelief.

“They’re Pewter City souvenirs. Wanna buy some?”

“Uh, no thanks, man!” Ryan said, before running off into the Pewter City Gym. “Man that guy was weird!” he whispered to himself as he ran. “This whole place is creepy. Rahul was right. We should get out of here as soon as we can!”

And with that, Ryan went sprinting to the Pewter City Gym, where Rahul was surely battling Forrest for a Boulder Badge. And soon, Ryan knew, so would he.

Episode 17: Now She's In Me

The big man’s Lapras stood on the rocky floor of the Pewter City Gym, cool and confident. It was a dim place, the air dusty and brown-tinted; rocks were strewn across the ground in a sort of obstacle maze that Ryan found himself forced to navigate. Still, it was not a hard puzzle, and he realized that simply following the path through the rocks on either side was enough to bring him to his destination.

Ryan could barely make out the visage of the Gym Leader from this far away - all he could see was a brown, spiky-haired man with a green striped shirt and blue jeans. They were already at battle - Lapras was facing off against an Onix. Just when Ryan came into the warm, low-lit building, he heard Rahul shout, “Surf!”, and Lapras exploded onto a wave of water, shooting itself at the Onix. The Gym Leader’s Onix was hit fully by the attack and fell backwards, unconscious. Then, the Gym Leader returned his Pokémon, and yelled.

“Well done. You have defeated me. I guess that means you deserve a Boulder Badge.”

Rahul whooped and danced around like Stephen Hawking at a disco party. Ryan clenched his fists. If he can get one of those badges so easily, I should be able to too! He used a water Pokémon, and a water move… The boy glanced down at his bag, looking at the six Poké Balls within. Now, who do I use, he thought. I know! Cloyster! Ryan grabbed the ball holding his Cloyster and brought it out. In the other hand, he produced his Pokédex and pointed it at the ball.

“Alright Dex, tell me what moves Myrrah knows.”

“Myrrah the Cloyster knows the following moves: Withdraw, Supersonic, Clamp, Aurora Beam.”

“Are any of those water type moves?” the teal-haired boy asked.

“Clamp is a water move.”

“Perfect.”

Ryan stepped forward, ready to challenge the Pewter City Gym Leader, when suddenly from behind a boulder, a little kid lunged out. He threw his Poké Ball at his feet and then screamed:

“I’m a Jr. Trainer, let’s fight!”

Ryan was unimpressed. “I’m here for the Gym Badge. I don’t want to fight you.”

“Too bad, I already saw you! That’s all it takes!”

The boy sighed and fingered his Poké Ball containing Myrrah. Noticing that the Jr. Trainer had let out a Diglett, he wasn’t all that worried. “Fine. But this is an entirely pointless battle.”

“No way, I’m a Jr. Trainer! I’m in the gym! I’m important!”

Myrrah took out the Diglett with a single Clamp, causing Ryan’s opponent to cry out in anguish, as if he had just been hit by a bus. He threw a second Poké Ball, but Ryan left his Cloyster out. “It’s going to be another ground Pokémon,” he told Myrrah. “It’s definitely a theme. Clamp the heck out of whatever it is!”

And so she did. The poor Sandshrew the Jr. Trainer let out was immediately tackled by Myrrah, wrapped up in her shell, and clamped pretty hard. The whole battle lasted about ten seconds. Once it was over, the Jr. Trainer fell over and started crying. “But I’m supposed to be the best! I’m in the Gym! I’m Forrest’s second-hand man!”

“What’s your name, kid?” Ryan asked him, returning Myrrah to her Poké Ball.

“I’m Jr. Trainer!” the other responded, his face red with sorrow and humiliation.

“See, that’s your problem,” the boy observed. “I don’t know why your mother named you that, but it was a pretty accurate name.”

Leaving the crying Jr. Trainer behind, Ryan moved forward to the gym fighting platform, where Rahul and Alex stood, the former being congratulated by a man with closed eyes, whom Ryan knew to be the Gym Leader.

“Nice work, buddy!” Ryan said, enthusiastically. He came over and patted Rahul on the shoulder, causing the larger boy to grunt in pleasure. “Only four more to go!”

“Yeah,” Rahul stroked his goatee. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Wait, I’ve still gotta get my badge!”

“Oh, right.”

“Stand back and watch the magic,” Ryan said, cocksure as a midget on the yellow brick road. “This won’t take long.”

“Hello,” said the man standing across from the group. “I'm Forrest.”

“Nice to meet you,” Ryan replied with a little bow. “I’m Ryan. I’m here to beat you!”

Forrest nodded curtly. “I'm Pewter's Gym Leader! I believe in rock hard defense and determination! That's why my Pokémon are all the Rock-type! Do you still want to challenge me?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Fine then! Show me your best!”

Forrest threw a Poké Ball, and out from it popped a measly Geodude. Ryan almost laughed as he threw Myrrah’s Poké Ball. It doesn’t seem fair, he thought. But I guess that’s what I get for challenging some of the harder gyms first.

“Geodude, Tackle attack!”

Ryan stepped back and smiled. “Clamp it up, y’all!.”

His Cloyster nodded in obedience and then thrust itself forward, using its superior speed to catch the Geodude in midair. Before Forrest’s Pokémon could use its attack, Myrrah clamped down on it and knocked it unconscious.

“Impressive,” Forrest said. “Return, Geodude. Go, Onix!”

“Use an Aurora Beam this time,” Ryan commanded his Cloyster.

She did so without pause; in a brilliant flash of light, Myrrah’s beam hit Forrest’s Onix, sending it flying back into a nearby collection of rocks, strewn on the edge of the fighting pad. Seeing this, Forrest sighed, and then spoke:

“Return, Onix.”

“Return, Myrrah.”

Forrest smiled and stepped forward, reaching for something in his pocket. “I took you for granted. As proof of your victory, here's the Boulder Badge!”

Ryan beamed, did a little jump, and punched the sky. “Yeah man, I’m invincible!”

“I’m guessing this isn’t your first badge,” Forrest said. “Usually, trainers who come to face me have just begun their journeys.”

Ryan went a little red. “Y-yeah… well, I live on the other side of Kanto, so I may have already tried out a few other gyms!”

Forrest nodded. “You’re not a bad trainer, Ryan. Just make sure that you don’t get overconfident, so you don’t let yourself get outsmarted on the battlefield. Always remember that your opponents can defeat you; this will be more apparent once you fight against trainers who have similarly-leveled Pokémon. But good match nonetheless.”

“Alright,” the boy said, putting his new shiny Boulder Badge in the little booklet with his Volcano Badge, Soul Badge, and Thunder Badge. “Whatever you say! I’m the winner! I’m the winner! Whoo!!”

Forrest laughed, in spite of himself, but he never opened his eyes. Ryan had no idea why that was. Regardless, now that the Gym battles were over, Ryan and the others decided to run out of the rocky, poorly-lit place, their hearts light and their minds full of thoughts about how great they were.

Outside, they were met with a cold blast of reality; it was snowing, and snowing hard.

“Man, we’ll never be able to travel in this!” Ryan complained.

“Alright, let’s find a place to spend the night. You guys received some money for beating Forrest, so that shouldn’t be a problem.” Ryan and Rahul nodded. “And it’s getting late. Those dishes won’t wash themselves,” he said, more to himself than to the others.

So off the three went, into the blizzard, to find a nice, and hopefully cheap, place to spend the night.


The wind was rising. Ryan could hear it beating against the room of their motel. It was a shabby, dirty place they were staying in. In this bleak town, Ryan guessed there were few travelers who stayed more than a day, so these old rooms had probably not been cleaned in a long time. He noticed a layer of dust, nearly half an inch thick, coating the nearby dresser. He glanced over at the telephone, hanging on the nearby wall (which was a thin layer of pink-and-white patterned paper that was beginning to peel off and yellow) and bit his lip, remembering the message he had left for his parents. Hi mom, it’s me, Ryan. Just wanted to let you know that I won my fourth badge today. I’m making great progress! Hopefully I’ll be able to take part in the Indigo League Tournament this year. I hope you and dad are doing good and can come see me fight. That would be awesome. Anyways, I’m off to Cerulean City. I’ll call again after I get my next badge. There had been no answer. It was late, but not that late - only 8:30 pm. He would expect them to still be up at that time. Maybe they went to sleep early. That’s why there was no answer.

Rahul was lying back in bed, engorging himself on a cheese pizza he had ordered from room service and watching the television. On it, two Pokémon trainers were battling - one had a Rhydon, and the other a Nidoking. Ryan became enthralled with the battle too, and soon, the two trainers were shouting just as loudly as the crowd surrounding the two Pokémon and their owners (Ryan rooted for Nidoking, while Rahul of course rooted for Rhydon). I want to be like that one day, Ryan thought. I want the whole world to cheer me on. Right now, he would settle for his parents showing up to his first battle in the Indigo League.

Alex suddenly appeared, wearing a white apron and yellow rubber gloves, and sat down on the edge of the bed. After a few seconds of watching the battle, he stood up and walked away in annoyance. “There is literally no reason for Nidoking to use Poison Sting,” he said. “These two don’t know what they’re doing. And the crowd is just as ignorant.”

“What moveset would you give Nidoking?” Ryan asked him.

“Earthquake, Blizzard, Thunder, Body Slam,” the dishwasher replied instantly.

Rahul rolled his head around, grinning in disbelief. “Come on, Alex! Those are all TMs.”

“Yeah, well that’s the optimal moveset for Nidoking.”

“I know, but still…” Rahul laughed, shaking his head. “Can’t we just enjoy this? All I want to see is a bunch of mindless fights, and it doesn’t matter if it makes sense! I just want to be entertained.”

“Do you know the best moves for all Pokémon?” Ryan asked Alex.

Alex shrugged. “I’ve got a book I’m working on,” he said, pointing to his backpack, which was slung around a nearby chair. “I’ve been theorizing about the best movesets for all Pokémon, as well as which Pokémon are the best for competitive battling. But it’s not complete. Not yet. I still have a lot more traveling to do, and a lot more Pokémon to study.”

“Aw, can you tell me which moves I should give my Pokémon?”

Alex took off his rubber gloves and sat down in a chair to eat a cookie he had found on a plate. “In the morning, maybe. First you have to come up with your six-Pokémon team. No use coming up for moves for Pokémon that won’t get you anywhere in the Indigo League.”

“Quiet!” Rahul roared, as the Rhydon and Nidoking continued to battle it out on TV. “I want to see who wins.”

Alex shrugged, and Ryan got up, slinking over to the table where Alex sat. “What should my team be?”

“There’s no perfect team,” Alex replied nonchalantly, nibbling on his cookie. Ryan noticed it was a raisin cookie and nearly vomited. “Why don’t you tell me what you have right now.”

“Uh… well, I’ve got a Charmeleon, a Dragonair, a Cloyster… a Tauros that some guy gave me, a Golduck, oh and my Abra! And I have a Beedrill and either a Nidorino or a Nidorina in storage.”

“Those last two are useless,” Alex said unmercifully. “Cloyster, Tauros, and Abra are all good. Of course you still need to level them up some more, especially Abra. He needs to have evolved into an Alakazam by the time you get to the Indigo League if you want to use him there. Charmeleon and Dragonair might be usable if you level them up, too.”

“What other Pokémon should I catch?” Ryan’s voice was filled with awe. He had never thought about his final team for the Indigo League, but now he was getting excited. Especially if he had someone as smart as Alex helping him, he knew he might be able to get pretty far in the tournament.

Alex reached into his backpack and took out his book. Thumbing through it, he stopped on a page and pointed to a list of Pokémon. “Exeggutor, Gengar, Rhydon or Golem, Starmie, Chansey, and Snorlax are all good choices. If you don’t plan on using your Charizard and Dragonite, once they evolve, you should use three Pokémon from that list.”

“Well, I do like Aegon and Thurnax,” Ryan said. “But I would like a Gengar. I always thought that was one of the coolest Pokémon since I was a kid!”

“Alright,” Alex said. “If you can find a Haunter, definitely catch it. You may want to consider another Pokémon from my list, though. Charizard won’t be that great against trainers who have a good team.”

“And how many of my opponents in the Indigo League will know about the best Pokémon to have?”

Alex shrugged. “Probably not many. But it never hurts to have a good team anyways.”

“Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be the best!”

Alex didn’t laugh, as often happened when Ryan made a joke around him. And while that made Ryan sad, the boy could not dwell on such emotions, for he knew that he needed to get some sleep. Soon, the three would rise and set off for Cerulean City, and soon Ryan would need to find and catch a Haunter. He got up, thanked Alex for his wise counsel, and made his way to bed. Soon, Alex did the same. Rahul, however, stayed up quite a while longer, watching the great Pokébattles on screen and sucking on the hot green pepper that had come with his now-fully-consumed pizza, no doubt oblivious to the fact that such battles were, invariably, only a taste of what could actually be realized by the most skilled and intelligent trainers.


The blizzard had stopped by morning, and Ryan, Rahul, and Alex were greeted to the sight of snow slowly melting off Pewter City’s world famous rocks when they stepped outside. The three bundled up in their heaviest, warmest clothes, and then set out into the cold of day. It was a grim prospect, for Ryan hated the cold almost as much as he hated school, but he knew they could not afford to waste any more time. The tournament was coming up soon, and Kelly would be waiting for him there. He would not let himself miss that.

“We better get to Cerulean City fast,” Alex warned. “There may be another storm coming.”

“Yeah let’s go! Fifth badge, here we come!” Ryan said cheerfully.

Rahul looked rather tired and merely grumbled some quiet acknowledgement.

As the three adventurers gathered their bags and set out, Rahul’s Charizard, and Ryan’s and Alex’s Charmeleons blasted the snow from their path. They tread through the sodden, muddy path until they came to a spectacle just outside the Pewter City Museum. Dozens of people stood standing around, some even with their Pokémon. No less than four Officer Jennys could Ryan see. At once, Rahul went running up to one, whom he showed his sonic screwdriver to (Ryan knew Rahul was trying to get the pretty bluish-haired policewoman to show him her guns in return). Ryan and Alex walked up to the entrance of the museum, where a frazzled-looking man with long black hair and a fine suit and bowtie was standing.

“What’s going on?” asked Alex.

“Oh, it’s terrible. Dreadful! Horrific! Just the worst!” the man languished. “Someone stole all of our fossil specimens! Priceless artifacts! They belonged in a museum… our museum! And now they’re gone! It’s just dreadful! Horrific! A nightmare!” The man appeared to be crying.

Ryan tilted his head in confusion. “Why would anyone do that?”

“Oh, these fossils are worth a fortune! And if one has the proper technology, I’m sure you could reanimate a few of the ancient Pokémon found inside those fossils.”

“That sounds ridiculous,” Ryan noted.

“It’s always been like that. Don’t question the science of the Pokéworld,” the man wailed.

“Okay man, chill.”

Ryan and Alex were just about to leave, when the teal-haired boy spotted a familiar man standing just inside the museum.

“Dr. Kaku!”

“Who, wha… don’t assault me!” Michio Kaku screamed suddenly, turning and cowering.

“Uh, it’s just me, Ryan. Remember? You led me and my group through Viridian Forest not too long ago.”

“Ah yes, of course,” chuckled Michio, though in his eyes was a certain wild bewilderment that Ryan knew meant the man had no clue who he was.

“We were just going over what happened to the museum,” Mr. Kaku explained. “Some hooligans, most likely. That’s what the physics imply. They came in here,” Michio said with a little laugh, “and stole all of the fossils last night. All of them, every one! They sure were thorough.”

Ryan thought back to the light he had seen on in the second story of the museum the night before, and how weird he had found it at the time. I could have stopped this if I had realized what was going on. “Yeah, that sucks,” he said.

“We have teams out looking for whoever did this. Would you be so kind as to keep an eye out, too?” Dr. Kaku asked politely. “We really would like to get the fossils back. They are an important part of the history of this town… and of Kanto as a whole!”

“Don’t worry, we will,” said Alex quietly.

“Hey, who’s that?” asked Ryan, pointing to a hanging wall scroll just to the left of Michio Kaku and the destroyed museum cases that once housed all of the building’s fossils. On it was the visage of a woman with silver hair and bright purple eyes. She was riding on a Charizard who was shooting fire out of its mouth at another flying Pokémon with purple skin and a dinosaur-like face that Ryan did not know. She was the most beautiful woman Ryan had ever seen. It took his breath away just looking at her.

“Oh that?” Michio Kaku seemed surprised. “That is a painting done of the reclusive Dragon-type caretaker of Kanto, Derceyes. She owns the largest collection of Dragon and Dragon-like Pokémon in the region - if not the world, in my estimation.”

“She’s still alive?”

“Oh yes, she lives just north of Cerulean City to this day.”

“Why is there a painting of her in the museum, though?”

“Well, as you can see, she is a bit of a prodigy as it relates to Dragon Pokémon. It is her research that taught us much of what we know about these kinds of Pokémon. She has given us much of her research and even donated the eggs of her Pokémon to allow us to study these species more closely. And, look,” Michio said, pointing to a clear glass case just below the picture. “These mega stones were given to us by Derceyes to study.”

“What’s a mega stone?”

“Heheh, well, don’t worry about that,” Michio Kaku said. “That is something for us physicists at Smogon University to study. If we ever figure out what they’re for, we’ll let you know.”

“Dean has a mega stone for Magikarp,” Alex observed. “It’s on his mega ring. I think we already know what mega stones do.”

“No, no, no, no one knows. Not yet,” Michio Kaku stated. “We must study these mysterious devices more closely if we are to transition into the future of tomorrow. You see, Tomorrowland is a land of extraordinary promise and superhighways. In the future, no one will leave their houses - it will be a world of three-dimensional imagination full of cybernetic…”

Ryan and Alex got the heck out of there as soon as Dr. Kaku started to ramble. When they returned to Rahul, who was sitting on nearby bench, enjoying a bowl of hot and sour soup, they found the boy to be in high spirits. “Look what I got,” he boasted to the other two, holding up a little strip of paper. “Officer Jenny’s number.”

Alex snatched up the piece of paper and read it. “This is just the number for the police… 911.”

“It’s Officer Jenny’s number,” Rahul said, unperturbed. “Once I get all of the badges, I’m going to give her a call. She’s a fan of Doctor Who. I showed her my Facebook, and she loves how I share all this useless crap about things I like all day every day. 24/7, Alex.”

“Alright,” said Alex, ignoring his good friend. “Let’s go.”

So off they went, their fire Pokémon melting a path in the road for them. The road to Route 3 was as rocky as it was cold, as crater-filled as it was desolate. Ryan saw not a single strip of tall grass to train his Pokémon in. Instead, they trudged on in silence, occasionally stopping to eat, but never stopping for long. Abra rode in Ryan’s hoodie, sometimes muttering in his sleep, sometimes teetering on the edge of falling out (though he never quite did). The fire Pokémon continued their work in earnest, never seeming to tire of spitting out their lifeflames. But aside from the whooshing of their fires, or the hissing of the snow melting, there was almost no sound. Route 3 had an eeriness to it with how quiet it had become, Ryan came to learn. He guessed that was probably because of the blizzard sending all of the wild Pokémon and travelers into hiding, but it was unnerving nonetheless.

So it should come as no surprise that when the three boys heard voices carrying over the snow and rocky cliffs of Route 3, they all paused and looked at one another to make sure they were not hearing things. Curiously, Ryan leading them, the group made their way off the path, into the snow, and to the voices. When they rounded a large chunk of rock stuck in the ground, they found two people standing in a clearing, next to a few pine trees.

One, Ryan immediately noticed. He was Gillford, the pathetic little recruit of Team Rocket. He was wearing a dark suit with the Team Rocket logo emblazoned upon his chest in a red “R”. Standing next to him was a purple-haired girl with light green eyes. She too was wearing a dark Team Rocket suit. Upon seeing Ryan and the others, the two looked up and cursed. They jumped back, revealing a clearing in the snow, where they had laid out their plunder.

“The fossils,” Alex whispered to the others, pointing at the bag that lay on the ground. A few old rocks were spilling out of it, and the little yellow bag was probably filled to the brim with expensive artifacts.

“So these are the ones who stole from the museum?” Rahul stepped and scratched his goatee. “But why did you guys do that?”

“Shut up,” the girl replied. “Turn around and walk away. What we’re doing doesn’t concern you.”

“No way,” said Ryan. “We know what you did! We’re going to return those fossils to the Pewter City Museum.”

“Not a chance,” said the girl, smiling slightly.

She snapped her fingers, and then from the nearby bushes, a Pokémon came shooting out.

It was one Ryan knew, one that made his heart start to beat faster, one that made him as anxious and hopeful as it did scared. He brought out his Pokédex anyways and pointed it at the hovering, purple monster.

“Haunter, the Gas Pokémon. By licking, it saps the victim's life. It causes shaking that won't stop until the victim's demise,” the Pokédex droned.

“Haunter, use Hypnosis on these fools.”

“No wait!” Rahul said, reaching for a Poké Ball. Alex did likewise, but it was too late; the Haunter unleashed its attack on the two, instantly causing them to fall over into the snow, asleep.

Ryan, however, was saved. He too had screamed and put his hands over his face, anticipating the worst. Yet, his Abra had woken up at that moment, and just before the two could be hypnotized to sleep, Abra had teleported them safely away. Now Ryan stood alone to face the two members of Team Rocket.

Gillford grumbled, reached for a Poké Ball, and then threw it. Out came a Poliwrath to join Haunter.

“Oh come on, two-on-one isn’t fair!” Ryan complained.

“Life’s not fair,” the girl noted. She had a cute, pirate smile on her face now. “This ends now.”

Ryan scrunched up his face and then pointed to the snow. “Alright, fine. Go Abra! Let’s take these guys out!”

There stood Ryan’s most noble Pokémon. Haunter and Poliwrath loomed over Abra like two predators about to pounce on their next meal. Ryan knew this was going to be over soon. He reached into his pocket to grab a second Poké Ball. I can’t let Abra get hung out to dry.

Before he could throw the Poké Ball (the Pokémon inside being a mystery that will surely never be solved in this story), there came a shout from behind Ryan. He turned and saw a man in a thick Gore-Tex jacket slogging through the snow. His brown hair, dark skin, and closed eyes were unmistakable.

“Forrest?!”

“Go Golem!” the Gym Leader shouted. Out from the Poké Ball came a large rock Pokémon, the final evolution of Geodude. I knew that guy had stronger Pokémon than the ones he used against me! “Help that Abra take these Team Rocket lackeys out!”

Now Abra and Golem stood against Poliwrath and Haunter. We have a chance now, Ryan knew. It’s time to remind Gillford how bad of a trainer he is. And that girl, though she was pretty with her dyed purple hair and shiny earrings, would have to pay too. There was something attractive and cold about her, something that made Ryan both want to beat her in battle and take her out to see a movie. But he had priorities. They stole from the museum. We have to get the fossils back.

“I’m no lackey,” replied the girl. “I’m the second-in-command of Team Rocket! I’ll make you pay for underestimating me!”

“And I can levitate!” Gillford added. “I’m a Tier 1 warrior who exists beyond the planes of reality! My Pokémon are demi-gods! You cannot hope to defeat me!”

Ryan and Forrest looked at one another and nodded. “Don’t hold back,” Forrest told him. “We’re going to show Team Rocket that they can’t get away with stealing from anyone.”

Ryan clenched his fists and looked back at the four Pokémon ahead of him. “Alright Abra. Let’s do this! Use Thunder Wave on that Haunter!”

And thus, Ryan’s first double battle (which had had the most peculiar lead up to a battle ever), was about to begin. Like every other battle that had already occurred in this story, this one was going to decide the fate of the universe or something. Don’t miss the stunning conclusion to this legendary clash of titans in the next episode of A Just Edge!

Episode 18: Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets

The four Pokémon trainers stood opposing one another: Ryan and Forrest on one side, and Gillford and the mysterious girl who called herself the second-in-command of Team Rocket on the other. The wind was blowing, and everyone was quiet; everything was peaceful. And then, all at once, the four broke out into commands for their Pokémon, thus beginning the inevitable cacophony of battle.

“Hypnosis that Golem,” the Team Rocket girl ordered her ghost Pokémon. The attack was as quick as it was devastating. Ryan and Abra looked away just in time, but the Golem was not so fortunate. It fell to sleep at once, robbing Forrest of coming up with an attack for his Pokémon to use.

Ryan already knew what he was going to do. “Alright Abra. Let’s do this! Use Thunder Wave on that Haunter!”

Ryan’s Abra jumped forward in an elegant (but unnecessary) front flip. A second later, a charge of electricity left his fist and shot towards the Team Rocket girl’s Haunter. The attack hit, covering the poor Haunter in a field of electricity. But alas, Paralysis only works 25% of the time, so the purple-haired girl that owned the Haunter was unperturbed. When it didn’t appear like the Haunter had actually become paralyzed, Ryan’s shoulders sunk forward.

“Just great!” Ryan shouted. “Paralysis should work 100% of the time just like sleep!”

“Your fault for using that move,” the girl replied, smiling deviously.

“Even if the Haunter isn’t paralyzed, his speed is crippled,” Forrest whispered to Ryan. “It’s not over yet.”

Now it was Gillford’s turn. “Yeah, Deshawn Equinneus! Use your ultra powerful Water Gun on the Golem!”

And so, the Poliwrath thrust itself forward and shot a jet of water at the sleeping Pokémon. The attack hit Golem square in the face, doing massive damage, Ryan was sure. It’s a super effective move, after all. I guess Gillford isn’t as dumb as he looks. The first turn had ended in a decidedly bad place for Ryan and Forrest and their quest to return the Pewter City Museum’s fossils.

“Attack Haunter with an offensive move this time,” Forrest advised the teal-haired boy. “That’s our biggest threat, even with the Poliwrath having super effective moves to use against my Golem.”

“Right,” Ryan gulped. “Okay, Abra, this time use a Psychic attack on Haunter!”

Gillford was not one to be outdone. “Water Gun on the Abra now, Deshawn Equinneus! You are a tier 0 Pokémon! Blast that little half pint creature out of here!”

“Haunter, Dream Eater on the Golem now!” the Team Rocket girl ordered. “Let’s get this over with.”

Abra nodded in understanding and then shot a beam of psychic energy from his fingertip. The Haunter, slowed by Paralysis, was unable to move out of the way, even though it had just loosed its own attack. The psychic attack hit it, causing it to groan out in pain. But it did not faint. Still, Ryan thought it looked to be quite damaged now, and another good psychic attack could probably end the Haunter’s run on this battlefield.

“Brah, raaah!” Abra shouted triumphantly after his attack made contact with the Haunter. Just then, he was hit by by the Poliwrath’s Water Gun and knocked over. However, the attack didn’t seem to do that much damage to him, and he sprung back up a second later, looking perhaps a bit dazed.

Ryan gasped. “Are you okay Abra?”

“Ra.”

“Okay, hopefully that means you are. Now let’s focus on this Poliwrath!”

Still in the air, however, was the Haunter’s Dream Eater attack, bearing down on the sleeping Golem. Just before the attack reached Golem, the rock Pokémon curled up into a ball, and then jumped up into the air, awake. The Dream Eater attack, which of course only works on sleeping Pokémon, bounced harmlessly off of the Pokémon’s hard rock shell.

“Yeah, Golem!” Ryan cheered. “You woke up just in time!”

“Good work Golem,” Forrest said. “How are you feeling?” Golem shook his head and turned back to face his foes. “Well, he’s seen better days.” The Gym Leader turned to Ryan. “Listen Ryan, have your Abra attack Haunter again, and I’ll go after the Poliwrath.”

“Alright. Abra, let’s do another Psychic attack!”

“Rah!!”

“Golem, tackle the Poliwrath!” Forrest commanded.

“Show your true power to these tier 3 fools, Deshawn!” Gillford screamed, spittle flying from his mouth. He belongs in a mental institution, Ryan thought.

“Use Night Shade on Golem,” the girl ordered her Haunter.

Abra was the fastest, so his attack hit first. The Haunter, weakened and slowed, was unable to avoid another beam of psychic energy. It took the attack head on, screaming as a white light enveloped it. Ryan whooped. And when the smoke cleared, Haunter had sunk to near the ground, its eyes all swirly like a couple of sweet rolls.

“KO’d, yeah!” Ryan shouted. “We did it, Abra!”

“Abra, abra,” the Pokémon responded lazily.

“No! Dangit!” The purple-haired girl looked as angry as she did confused. “How did an Abra take out my Haunter? I’ve never seen an Abra that powerful before.”

Ryan beamed. “My dad raised him. He’s stronger than he looks.” Ryan gave his Pokémon a thumbs up. “Good work, buddy!”

But the fight was not yet over. Gillford yet stood against Ryan and Forrest. His Poliwrath took a massive hit from Golem’s Tackle attack, but he wounded the rock Pokémon severely with another Water Gun as well. When the turn was over, Golem looked like he was about to faint. Gillford’s Poliwrath, on the other hand, did not seem like it had been damaged all that much by the Golem’s Tackle attack. Abra, still fresh, would be the advantage for their side now, Ryan knew.

“Abra, use Psychic!” Ryan commanded.

“Golem, Tackle.”

“Destroy that Golem, Deshawn,” Gillford shouting and pointing like a madman at the rock Pokémon. “Water Gun! Quickly, go, go, go!”

It sucked for Gillford that his Pokémon was the slowest, for before Deshawn’s attack could be loosed, Abra hit him with a pink beam of energy, causing the blue-and-white Pokémon to fly backwards into the snow. The attack was massive, but it was not enough to KO the Poliwrath. Then came Golem, rolling forward like a boulder down a mountain. Before the Poliwrath could so much as stand up, he was hit brutally with another Tackle attack, and this time, he could not withstand it. Poliwrath fell over, no longer able to battle.

“We did it! We won!” Ryan shouted.

“Curses!” Gillford wept.

“Team Rocket will be back,” the girl said, her jaws clenched. “Just you wait, kid. Next time we’ll have more of our Pokémon with us, and you won’t win.”

“Cool,” said Ryan carelessly. “Now get out of here, before I have Abra use Psychic on you!”

The two Team Rocket lackeys cursed and then ran off into the snowy forest. Once they were gone, Forrest returned his Golem to its Poké Ball and stepped forward, grabbing the bag that housed all of Pewter City’s precious Pokémon fossils. He bent down to scoop up all of the fossils that had spilled out, then slung the bag over his shoulder and turned around.

“Thanks,” he said to Ryan. “Those two were up to no good. It’s nice to know that there’s still people out there willing to fight evil.” Ryan didn’t know about that fancy moral mumbo jumbo, but he nodded anyways. “Oh and here, catch,” Forrest said, turning to throw two little bottles to Ryan. The boy caught them and looked at them curiously. “Awakening potions,” Forrest spoke. “Usually, we give these to Pokémon, but it seems like your friends over there are the ones who got put to sleep by Haunter.”

“Oh yeah… Rahul and Alex. I almost forgot about them. Thanks!”

“No problem. I’ll take these fossils back to the museum, but I’ll make sure everyone knows you helped me, Ryan. The road to Cerulean City is that way, by the way,” he said, pointing in the opposite direction.

“Thanks.”

Forrest nodded and then trudged off into the snow, back towards Pewter City.

Ryan moved forward to where Rahul and Alex lay like steely mannequins amongst the snow. As he went to kneel down, he caught a glint of gold in the snow, just at Alex’s feet. He reached down and plucked up a little mass of hard, semi-translucent material. It was golden and there appeared to be a mosquito trapped inside it.

“What is this, Dex?” Ryan asked.

“The fossilized resin of a tree from prehistoric trees, better known as Old Amber. It appears to contain the genes of an ancient Pokémon.”

“A fossil!” Ryan’s voice was filled with awe. “Hey, wait. Forrest?!” he stood up, looking for the Gym Leader, but the man had disappeared down the path. “Huh. Genes of an ancient Pokémon? I wonder which one?” The boy shook his head. “Maybe I could have Professor Oak or Dr. Michio Kaku help me revive this guy sometime.”

But he knew that neither man would be in Cerulean City. So Ryan pocketed the little fossil and knelt down to wake Rahul and Alex up.


The three boys, Alex, Rahul, and Ryan, made their way through Route 3 at a brisk pace. Just an hour or so after the battle against Team Rocket, they were already approaching the end of the route. Having not met any other trainers or wild Pokémon to battle, they had breezed through the route. As they were walking, they saw the visage of a large cave system appear before them, with a Pokémon Center just to the left of it.

“We’ve made it!” Rahul said. “Yes! See Alex, I told you we could get to Cerulean City by the end of the day.”

Alex was unimpressed. “We still need to pass through Mt. Moon and Route 4.”

“Don’t be a downer,” Rahul scolded. “We are so getting there today.”

“Hey, look!” Ryan said, pointing at the snow-covered trees to their right. “There’s Pokémon in there. We should catch them!” The dark shapes of bird-like Pokémon could be seen in the small collection of trees. There were dozens of them in the trees, but every one of them sat completely motionless.

Alex shook his head. “I only catch Pokémon that are useful. There aren’t any useful Pokémon on Route 3. Those are just Spearows or Pidgeottos, most likely. Useless for competitive battles.”

“Aw come on,” Ryan complained. “I want to catch a bunch of Pokémon. Even if I don’t use them all in battles, it’d still be nice to have them. Not everything has to revolve around battles! What do you think, Rahul?”

Rahul was staring down at the little strip of paper that had Officer Jenny’s number on it. “Uh, yeah, okay. Let’s catch Pokémon.”

Ryan sent out Aegon. Rahul threw a ball that produced a Magneton.

Ryan smirked. “I bet I can catch one first.”

Rahul stood still as a statue of buddha. Then, a small smile crept onto his face. “You’re on.”

And so they went. Ryan and his Charmeleon trudged through the tall grass together, looking for any and all wild Pokémon. He was particularly keen on having his Pokémon challenge the birds he had seen sitting in the trees, so Aegon just burnt his way through all of the Rattatas and Mankeys he found in the tall grass. Then, Ryan and his Pokémon came to the edge of one of the trees, and there above them sat a Pidgeotto perched upon a twisted branch, looking down at them scornfully.

“Okay, Aegon, this is the one I want to catch. Don’t burn him up too much.”

“Meleon, char!”

Aegon, the loyal beast, rushed up the tree and knocked the Pidgeotto over with Scratch attack. The Pidgeotto squawked and fell into the tall grass. When Aegon chased it down there, it sprung up and defended itself with a Quick Attack. Aegon was hurt by this, as any Pokémon would be, but the damage was minimal, Ryan knew. His Pokémon was at a much higher level than the wild Pokémon he was trying to catch.

“One more Scratch,” Ryan commanded. I don’t want this Pidgeotto to faint.

After another swipe of Aegon’s claw, the Pidgeotto’s feathers became ruffled, and it looked like it was getting tired. Perfect. Let’s catch this guy.

Ryan wished he had a hat so he could spin it around and do a little twirl. As it was, he simply threw a Poké Ball right at the Pidgeotto. The ball opened, and the Pidgeotto was sucked inside. The red-and-white ball jiggled back and forth two or three times, and then split open, cracking to pieces. The Pidgeotto flew out majestically and returned to its perch on the tree. Ryan threw another ball at it, but the Pidgeotto just batted it aside with its wing.

“Just give up! I’ll catch you!” Ryan warned it. “This would go a lot faster if you just stayed inside the ball.”

But the Pidgeotto turned its head away to ignore Ryan. When he tried to throw two more Poké Balls, they were slapped aside just as the second ball had been. The boy sighed.

“I didn’t want to have to use up all of my Ultra Balls, especially against weak Pokémon like this, but it looks like I have no choice! Come on, Pidgeotto! Join my team!!”

He threw one of his few remaining Ultra Balls (in truth, these balls had once belonged to his father) at the bird Pokémon. This time, Pidgeotto was not able to bat away the black-and-yellow ball. It was sucked inside, and though it squirmed around in that ball for several seconds, eventually even that stopped. The light surrounding the ball dimmed, and it fell from the tree, to the tall grass. Aegon scampered over and retrieved it for Ryan, before returning it to him.

“There we go!” Ryan said, running back to Rahul and Alex. “Look, I caught a Pidgeotto!”

Rahul was unimpressed. He held up three balls. “I got three Spearows.”

“Aw, come on! Pidgeotto is way harder to catch than those things.”

“That wasn’t the challenge,” Rahul noted, laughing. “It was whoever caught the first Pokémon wins. I win. What do I win?”

“Three useless Pokémon,” Alex grumbled.

The three trainers stayed in the tall grass for a little while longer, training up all of their Pokémon on the wild species that could be found on Route 3. As the day wore on, a man in a business suit and with a bluetooth device stuck in his left ear came walking down the road from the Pokémon Center. He had an old rod slung over his left shoulder and was talking to someone on his bluetooth device. When he spotted the three, he called them over.

“Hello gentlemen,” the man said pleasantly. “My name is Ken. I am an experienced Pokémon breeder and fisher!” he said, patting his old rod. “Would any of you be interested in purchasing the Pokémon I have for sale?”

“What do you have for sale?” Rahul asked.

“I’m a Magikarp salesman!” the man beamed. He opened his fancy grey jacket to reveal a Magikarp hanging by a hook on the inside of his jacket. “For just 2000 Poké Dollars, this fine specimen can be yours! What do you say?” he said warmly, a wide, toothy smile forming across his shaven face.

“This guy is shady,” Alex said.

“It’s just a Magikarp,” Rahul said in disbelief.

“This is a fine Magikarp! It is one of the most powerful Pokémon you can hope to use! You guys are going to Cerulean City, right?” The three nodded. “Well, I’ll tell ya, this guy will be your ticket to a Cascade Badge, guaranteed!”

Alex shook his head. “Magikarp is one of the worst Pokémon to use against that gym. He has pitiful strength, plus no type advantages.”

The man scowled at Alex. “Don’t listen to your friend,” he said to Ryan and Rahul. “This Magikarp is a lot stronger than he looks. Heck, I’d even go so far as to call him jolly.”

Magikarp convulsed slightly, and Ryan thought he heard a “Carp, carp, carp,” escape from the thing’s lips. “Why does it look sick?” Ryan asked. “Its color is wrong. Aren’t Magikarp supposed to be orange? This one’s yellow.”

The salesman’s lip trembled. “Uh, don’t forget, you can get rich off of this Pokémon! Just breed him with other Magikarp, and you will have yourself a very lucrative business! The market is full of people who want to buy Magikarp… and not just for battling, but for food! Magikarp are very tasty.”

“Come on, let’s go,” Alex said. Rahul nodded in agreement, and the two began to walk off.

Ryan, on the other hand, stood. Magikarp is a pathetic Pokémon. But Magikarp evolves into Gyarados… maybe it would be better to buy this Magikarp instead of having to worry about catching one later on. I don’t even like fishing. “I’ll pay 500,” Ryan said, finally.

The man’s eyes lit up. “1500! Not a Poké Penny less! I swear I’ll walk away right now!”

“1000-”

“Deal!” the man said before Ryan could even finish speaking. The trainer frowned. He’s desperate to get rid of it. Man, I could’ve talked him down more…

“Here,” Ryan said, a little annoyed, handing the man the money. Most of the money he had won from the previous gym battle was now gone. Ryan knew he’d have to earn some more money soon if he wanted to be able to buy food and stay in hotels with the Rahul and Alex.

The man licked his lips and grabbed the cash. Then, he handed Ryan the yellow Magikarp. The boy took out a Poké Ball and quickly put his new Pokémon inside it.

“No refunds!” Ken the salesman said as soon as it was over. And before Ryan could so much as say another word, the man in the business suit was already sprinting off down the road in the other direction, as if a horde of Tauros was chasing him.

Ryan rejoined the others, and saw Rahul looking at him strangely. “Why did you buy it? Magikarp aren’t worth that much.”

The boy replied, “Hey, every Magikarp becomes a Gyarados some day. And Gyarados is one of the coolest Pokémon ever.”

“Yeah, I guess. But I’d rather get a Gyarados than a Magikarp. It’ll be annoying to have to train it before it evolves,” the big man pointed out.

He’s right about that, Ryan thought. But hopefully this Magikarp will evolve soon.

The three made their way to the Pokémon Center, where they rested their Pokémon for a few hours. Ryan used the nearby PC to exchange Clawey for the Pidgeotto he had just caught. He made sure to give his Pidgeotto, who was a female Pidgeotto, a name: Swirlie Whirlie. This was a name Ryan had always wanted to name a Pidgeotto if he ever caught one, but he didn’t know where that name had come from nor how he had thought of it.

He put Magikarp into storage too, thinking that he could focus on training that water Pokémon after he won his next badge. Just as he had done with his Pidgeotto, Ryan gave his new Magikarp a name: Shenlong. That name, he knew, would be more apt, once his lil yellow fish evolved.

As this was going on, Alex and Rahul went to the far side of the Pokémon Center, way in the back, where there was a small mart to buy things. Alex bought some trail mix, and Ryan saw that Rahul was purchasing things too, but he didn’t stay to see what they were. Instead, he returned outside, to the frost-coated air of evening. Abra, Charmeleon, Dragonair, Tauros, Cloyster, and Pidgeotto. Not my final team, but a good team, I hope. I’ve gotta level these guys up fast. The tournament is almost here.

He almost toyed with letting his new Pidgeotto out then and there. But at that moment, Alex and Rahul came walking out. When Ryan turned to face them, he burst out in laughter. There stood Rahul, the big man, in a blue t-shirt with a picture of the Ninth Doctor on it, in all his glory. And upon Rahul’s face was a ponyta beanie with large eyes. He had pulled the beanie down over his face and taken his glasses off to put over those bright fake eyes on the hat. Ryan had no idea how Rahul could see, but he was impressed, nonetheless.

“I am the Doctor…!” Rahul roared, thrusting his sonic screwdriver into the sky. He was so proud of himself, which made Ryan laugh even harder.

Alex stood nibbling trail mix next to the big man; there was a knowing, perhaps bemused look in his eye. “This is the first I’ve heard of him being a fan of My Little Ponyta.”

“Hey, it’s a great show!” Rahul countered. “But Doctor Who is the best!” It wasn’t easy having no shame.

Seeing that they were losing the light of day, the three then ran over to the entrance to Mt. Moon, which was just to the right of the Pokémon Center. However, when they got there, they saw a tall man with dark skin, long black hair, and large, defined muscles, standing in their way. He wore only the pants of a gi, as well as a black belt, and he had a serious look upon his face. When the three reached him, the man held up his hand.

“The way is shut. Mt. Moon is closed for renovations right now.”

“Hey, who are you to stop us?” Rahul asked, angrily.

“My name is Bruno. I am the one tasked with preventing trainers from entering Mt. Moon right now. As I already said, the cave is being renovated. No one is allowed inside.”

“Then how are we going to get to Cerulean City?” Ryan asked. “The map says this is is the only way there!”

Bruno, his body as still as a statue, pointed to his left. “My Onix dug a hole through the mountainside over there. There is a path through there to lead you to Route 4 and Cerulean City.”

“Alright, let’s go then,” Ryan said quickly.

“Fine,” said Rahul, still eyeing Bruno suspiciously. “Mt. Moon sucks anyways. There’re too many fairy Pokémon in there.”

“Be quiet, Rahul,” Alex said sternly. “There are no fairy type Pokémon in Generation 1.”

“Oh yeah. I forgot.” Rahul looked at Ryan. “Fairy type Pokémon are overpowered. Don’t forget that. If I could, I would ban them all.”

Alex shrugged. “Not really. I don’t have a strong opinion about them either way, but they aren’t that bad. You just hate them because they counter your Dragon Pokémon.”

Rahul and Alex argued for the rest of the trip through the Onix hole. Ryan was just glad that they were going to get to Cerulean City that day. He didn’t know what a fairy Pokémon was, or why it produced such rage in Rahul and his Ponyta beanie. When they got through the path - it took no more than a few minutes - the three trainers beheld the sprawling rocky, hilly region of Route 4. Beyond… Cerulean City loomed.

As Ryan stepped forward, he noticed that there were perhaps a dozen trainers milling about down the path, in the lower hills and valleys. He looked over at Alex and Rahul and then pulled out two Poké Balls. “Hey, why don’t we practice a bit on these other trainers before heading to the Gym? My Pokémon could use the experience.” And I could use the victory money…

Alex shrugged. “You should each take half.” The two trainers nodded and stepped forward. “Oh and Ryan, you should work on leveling up your Tauros when you can. He’s a beast at high levels, and I haven’t seen you using him much.”

“Y-yeah, I guess!” replied Ryan as he scratched the back of his head. “I guess I just forgot about Tauros! But you’re right. I need to level him up! These trainer battles will provide some nice experience for him.” He dropped the two balls he was holding back into his bag and took Tauros’ out. “Alright, Tauros, I choose you!”

Out came Ryan’s massive bull Pokémon. The boy ran up to Tauros and pet him on the neck. “Hey boy, I’ve missed you. Wanna stretch your legs? Battle a few Pokémon?”

The Tauros Ryan had named NaVorro stamped a foot into the ground and grunted. Ryan knew what that meant. He jumped on Tauros’ back and then pointed forward. “Okay, down the mountain, Tauros! Not too fast, though. I don’t want to fly off. Let’s reach those trainers before Rahul!”

Rahul took out his Dragonair and then got on its back, perhaps trying to do the same thing as Ryan. Yet Dragonair was a much smaller Pokémon than Tauros, and Rahul was a much bigger guy than Ryan. So needless to say, when the two began their race to the bottom of the mountain, Ryan and his Tauros got there a lot quicker, and that gave Ryan just a little more time train his Pokémon for the next gym. It was a small, but in Ryan’s mind, a much needed advantage.


Persian was staring at them when they entered the smoky, low-lit room. The magnificently-groomed Pokémon stood perched, never moving, never blinking, its eyes trained on them, lest they make the wrong move. The two of them bowed low, keeping their heads down until they heard the voice of their master speak.

“Rise,” he spoke after several moments. His voice was old and tired, a result of all the years he spent smoking cigars and drinking heavily. The two stood up and looked at their master, who sat in a chair of painted leather. His face was obscured by the darkness of the room, though they could see his eyes shining through, piercing into their souls.

“I’m s-sorry,” she said, bowing again. “We failed. We were able to capture the fossils, but several trainers tracked us down and took them back before we could return them to you, sir.”

“We will make it up, I swear!” the boy at her side shouted in earnest. “I promise, sir. We’ll capture the most powerful Pokémon in the world for you!”

“Quiet,” she said, slapping the boy across the face. Turning to face her master, she winced, preparing for the berating that would come from her partner’s insolence. She half expected the Persian to jump down from its perch above their master’s desk.

The man coughed himself into a fit that built itself into something bordering on theatrics. She wasn’t sure if he was strong enough to withstand such a barrage, but as soon as she stepped forward to comfort her ailing master, he raised a hand and stopped coughing. She saw him holding a handkerchief, and thought she saw dark stains on it. In the low, brown light of the room, she could not be sure.

Her master wiped his mouth with his handkerchief and then spoke, “You two have disappointed me. I should punish you… But there’s no time for that. Here,” he said, leaning forward to hand her a set of tablets. Each one turned on as she touched it, revealing a legendary Pokémon on its screen. “Lugia… Moltres… Zapdos… Mew,” the man said, as she cycled through the list. Each looked familiar, except the last. The Mew was not the familiar pink color she was used to. No, it was blue.

“Why is this Mew a different color?”

Her master shook his head. “Eyewitness reports all state that the Mew that has been spotted recently is blue. If it is a mirage or some kind of freak of nature is for you to figure out.” He leaned back, coughing some more. “Now go, you two. Attached to each file is a list of locations each Pokémon has been spotted at. You will not return to me until you have found and captured at least one of these Legendary Pokémon. Do you understand?” His voice was thin and careful, menacing as a razor laid against flesh. When they nodded, he continued, “Gillford and Jessica… you two are my last hope, the last hope of this organization. Team Rocket needs you to be successful. There can be no more failures. None. Do not disappoint me again.”

The two bowed, and exited the room. Jessica kept her eyes on the Persian as she walked out, still feeling anxious that it could, at any moment, jump from its perch and attack her. That’s how it used to be in the old days. I’m so stupid, she thought angrily. Persian died years ago. Giovanni had him stuffed. There’s no point in being afraid of ghosts. She reached for the Poké Ball hooked to her belt, feeling it over instinctively. At the same time, she looked at the two tablets she held (she had given the other two to Gillford to study); no matter how much she tried to look at the others, her mind and eyes kept coming back to that blue Mew. There was something about it, something different - something special.

That’s the Pokémon that will help Team Rocket rise from the ashes once again. That’s our ticket to immortality.

Jessica grabbed Gillford by the shoulder and pulled him over to her, pointing at the blue Mew on her screen. “Forget the others. We’re going to find this one.”

“Where was it last seen?” Gillford asked. “And is it a strong one? Tier 0? Well, it should be at least Tier 1. Come on, tell me, what are its stats? Can it break through the fabric of time?”

Jessica ignored him and scrolled down to the last known sightings of the Mew.

“Lavender Town,” she breathed. She looked up at Gillford and smiled. “Looks like we’re going home.”

Episode 19: The One That Got Away

The sun just beginning to set behind them, Ryan, Rahul, and Alex made their triumphant entrance into Cerulean City. Ryan rode atop his noble NaVorro, fresh off the spoils of victorious battle. He thumbed the Poké Dollars through his fingers, savoring the sweet cash he had just made by wrecking all those noobs on Route 4. He was certain NaVorro, as well as his other Pokébuddies, had gained a level or two in those battles.

Coming into the city, the three found themselves, for the most part, alone. Most shops were closing up, most trainers were retiring to their homes or hotels, and there were few bystanders left milling about. Not the welcoming party I had hoped for, Ryan thought to himself.

As they passed by a small building, the smell of roasting meat and aromatic spices drifted through the air. Ryan’s mouth began to water, and as he looked over at Rahul, he could almost hear the big man’s stomach grumbling.

“Come on, Alex! Let’s get some dinner. I’m starving.”

“You’re always starving.”

Yet, dinner they got. Rahul ordered for them, while Ryan and Alex stood back, watching the few people still out and about drift through the paved streets like leaves down a lazy river. Sitting at a table just outside the little food shoppe was a middle-aged man wearing a velvet shirt, grey sweatpants, and glasses (which Ryan thought were women’s glasses). He was a bald man, stocky and short and hunched over. On his table was a newspaper and a plate, on which appeared to be a block of cheddar cheese. As a side, the man had a platter of fries, crisp and golden like a deep fried Magikarp. The man was eating from this block of cheese, as if it were a normal thing to do, muttering to himself, pointing this way and that, as if he was bebopping and scatting and about to lose it. Yet, that was not the thing that drew Ryan’s eye to this man. No, that was the Squirtle who had appeared at that man’s feet.

It was a quick little bugger, that Squirtle. Darting up to the table, it took the opposite seat of the bald man, reached up and began to nibble on some fries. The man in the velvet shirt did not notice this at first. Ryan elbowed Alex softly, alerting the small Chinese Pokémon Master to what was going on, and in silence and awe, the two watched as the Squirtle ate more and more of the man’s fries without getting caught.

It should also be mentioned at this point that the Squirtle was wearing a wig - it was a wig of red, curly hair, long enough to grace the skull of an older Jewish woman. How this wig had found itself upon the Squirtle’s head is a question not for us, the readers, but a question for the great philosophers - the Nietzches and Kierkegaards and Kanye Wests of our time. Certainly, Ryan and Alex had no idea what was going on.

Just then, the bald man looked up and caught sight of the rascally Tiny Turtle Pokémon. The man let out a cry, half disgust and half outrage, and flung his newspaper onto the ground. Standing up and grasping onto his block of cheese, he pointed at the Squirtle. His voice caught in his throat, and every time he tried to talk and found that he couldn’t, his little round head (which looked like a polished orange) bounced up and down and his face got redder and redder. The man took large, quick bites out of his block of cheese and then flung it away. He dashed forward, gathered up his platter of fries and began to devour them hastily. All this time, Ryan noticed how the bald man had not let his eyes leave the Squirtle’s.

Eating like a madman, the bald guy said, “Hey, don’t tell me how to eat!” He cocked his head sideways and grunted; it seemed like, to the teal-haired trainer watching this, that the man was about to burst a blood vessel.

“Squirtle squirt,” came the reply, dry as the Boneway in midsummer.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” the man sputtered. He threw the rest of his fries onto the ground and stepped forward, raising a fist into the air as if he was about to pray to the heavens for rain.

“Whoa, dude. Chill out,” Ryan said, stepping forward. “Why don’t you take your Squirtle back home before you embarrass yourself?”

The man’s face was flushed a delicate shade of purple. Ryan thought he looked like an eggplant. “Mind your own business, kid. This is between me and my mother!”

Alex was in disbelief. “Mother? That’s a Squirtle.”

“Huh?” the man said, clearly flustered. He pivoted back and forth, looking from the Squirtle to Ryan and Alex and back again. After a few seconds, he straightened up, loosened the collar of his velvet shirt, and twitched his head in surprise. “Well… I suppose you’re right. That is indeed… a Squirtle. I-if you don’t mind, I will be leaving.”

And with that, the man began to walk away at a brisk pace, one that was surprising for such a pear-shaped individual.

“Hey, don’t forget your Squirtle!” Ryan shouted after him.

“I don’t have a Squirtle,” the man replied. “I don’t own any Pokémon!”

“Huh?”

“It’s not a lie if you believe it!” the bald man shouted before scurrying off into the growing darkness. “Don’t trust anyone in capes! Mark my words!”

Ryan cocked his head to the side. “What the heck just happened?”

“Beats me,” Alex shrugged.

Just then, Rahul appeared with three plates of food - sandwiches with fries (and Rahul had gotten himself a few extra portions of fries). The three sat down outside as the sun faded behind the horizon, talking over strategies for the next gym and for the Indigo League Tournament. Ryan let Abra out of his Poké Ball and let the little guy have some of his food.

“Rahul already has his final team… but a few more of them need to evolve,” Alex said as he ate his salami sandwich with chopsticks. “On the other hand, you need to make sure you have your final team soon, so you can start training them more intensely and make sure they all evolve into their final forms,” he told Ryan.

“I have Myrrah and NaVorro and Thurnax and Abra and Aegon. And I’m thinking about catching a Haunter or Gengar too.”

“Your Aegon is the weakest member of your team, but it should be alright. Rahul has a Charizard too.”

“Yeah I think I’ll go with him. I just need a Gengar and then I can level everyone else up, especially you, buddy,” Ryan said, patting his Abra on the head.

Abra, who was munching on a long fry, looked up annoyed and then continued to eat as if he was suspended in molasses.

“Your Abra is strange,” Alex spoke. “Why hasn’t it evolved already?”

“I don’t know,” the teal-haired boy said. “Maybe he doesn’t want to yet. He’ll evolve whenever he wants to. I won’t force him to.”

“Come on, let’s get to the hotel,” Rahul grunted. The other two looked over and saw that their friend had already finished his meal. Despite having much more to eat than Ryan or Alex, Rahul had completely devoured everything on his plate. And the two of them were not even halfway done. “Doctor Who is on in twenty minutes. I’m not missing it!”

“Stop being so impatient,” Alex scolded. “Some of us can’t eat as fast as you.” He turned to Ryan. “If that’s your final team, you will need to make sure you give each one the optimal moveset.”

“What’s that?” the boy replied.

“Well, it’s different for each Pokémon. And, to be fair, it will require you to get several TM moves for them. But it’s worth it. Especially for Tauros.” Alex leaned down and wrote some words on his napkin, then gave it to Ryan to look at. “These are what I’ve found to be the best moves for the Pokémon you have right now. Others would probably disagree, because there’s no perfect moveset for any Pokémon. But this is just what I think would be the best for you.”

Ryan looked over the napkin. He winced as he saw how many TMs he would have to purchase: Body Slam, Hyper Beam, Earthquake, Blizzard, Thunderbolt, Explosion, Mega Drain, Swords Dance, and Fire Blast. Funnily enough, the only Pokémon whom Alex did not recommend changing any moves for was Abra. Guess Dad knew what he was doing, after all. It made Ryan feel a little guilty that he needed Alex to tell him the movesets for his Pokémon, for he was sure his father had come up with the list for Abra and his other Pokémon on his own.

“Well,” said Ryan, sighing, “this’ll cost a lot of money, and I’ll have to look all over for these TMs. I have no idea where they are.”

“You’re not in that much of a rush,” Alex reminded him. The two looked over at Rahul, who was rattling his knuckles on the table. The big man was clearly in a rush. Doctor Who waits for no man. “The Tournament isn’t for a few more months. You’ll have plenty of time to search around for these moves. You will be able to buy most of them in Pokémon Centers, I believe.”

Once they were done eating, the four got up to leave when suddenly the Squirtle in the wig came darting over from the table it had been sitting at. It grabbed Alex’s plate and ran off with it, hoping to eat the last crumbs and remnants of food that the small Asian boy had left.

“Well, that was rude,” Alex said, but he didn’t seem to mind.

The Squirtle came running at them again, a moment later. He first went for Rahul, but seeing that the boy had left not even a crumb on his plate, he instead turned to Ryan and Abra. Abra was still holding Ryan’s platter of fries and was eating from it quite slowly. The Pokémon made its way for Abra and scooped the little basket of goodies right out of his hand.

“Abra?! Rah, bra!” Abra shrieked. He ran after Squirtle into the darkness, behind the food shoppe. A second later, a bright pink flash of light and a shout of pain followed.

“Hey, Abra!” Ryan yelled, running after his Pokémon. Rahul and Alex followed close behind.

When they rounded the corner, the three trainers were met by pitch black. Ryan reached into his bag and grabbed a flashlight. Shining it into the darkness, he saw Abra standing there, eating golden, crispy fries from the platter. He stood uncaring over the unconscious body of Squirtle.

“Whoa, Abra, why’d you do that?” his trainer asked.

“Abra, ra, ra, ra, bra, abra. Abra, ra. Ra, abra!” the Abra said earnestly.

“Come on, we’ve gotta get to the hotel!” Rahul whined.

“Fine,” Ryan replied. “Come on Abra, let’s go.”

“Ra.”

“And…” the trainer said, a small grin forming on his face. “Let’s not forget the Pokémon you just captured for me, buddy!”

Ryan threw a Poké Ball at the unconscious Squirtle. In a second, the Tiny Turtle Pokémon was overcome by a strong white light and sucked inside.

“Whoo baby! That’s another one for me! I’ve caught so many Pokémon! I’m so good at this!”

The others didn’t seem to care. Instead, Rahul led them frantically to the hotel they would be staying at so that he would not miss his precious show. As to if Rahul actually got to watch Doctor Who on time, Ryan never learned. For as soon as he settled down in the hotel and took off his backpack, he made his way back out into the night, towards the Pokémon Center. He had to make sure his new Squirtle got healed before the morning came, after all.


Two Chanseys were playing ping pong when Ryan entered the Cerulean City Pokémon Center. The one nearest Ryan scored an ace just as the boy walked inside and it screamed like Ryan had never heard an animal scream before. It was less celebratory than it was deathly, in the boy’s observation.

He made his way up to the desk, where a Nurse Joy sat snoozing in her office chair. One slap of the bell on the countertop awoke her like a bucket of cold water being thrown upon her head.

“H-huh, what’s going?!” the pink-haired woman asked Ryan.

“I need one of my Pokémon healed,” the boy explained.

“It’s late,” the Nurse Joy yawned. Ryan thought she looked mighty cute when she yawned.

“But this is urgent! I just caught him.”

Nurse Joy nodded. Taking the Poké Ball, she handed it to a Chansey lurking behind her. “It’ll be an hour or so,” she said sleepily. “You can wait in the waiting room while we attend to your Pokémon if you wish.” Ryan went to leave when suddenly, the Nurse Joy leaned over the counter and spoke again, “Wait a minute. You wouldn’t happen to be Ryan Morgan, would you?”

Ryan’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “How do you know that?”

“I was told to be on the lookout for a boy with blue hair. That’s you, right?” Ryan nodded. “Okay, I have a video message for you from your mother. She asked me to keep it until you reached Cerulean City. Do you want to see it now?”

Ryan nodded curtly. A video screen on the other side of the room turned on, and Ryan walked over to it, to get a little privacy. Then, a message began to play. There his mother sat, in her Sunday best, still as a sleeping Goldeen, in the living room of their house.

“Hi Ryan, this is your mother. I know you are busy collecting Gym Badges, but I would like you to return home as soon as you can. Your father and I need to speak with you about something. Please come as soon as you can, and make sure you bring Abra. Please hurry, Ryan.” She paused, looking down briefly, then returned her gaze to the screen. Ryan could see the glimmer of tears in his mother’s eyes. “I’m proud of you, Ryan. I really am. You’re doing so great collecting all of the badges. I love you very much. But please come soon. We can’t wait much longer. Goodbye.”

And with that, the video feed cut. Ryan didn’t know what to think. What’s going on? Why do they want to see me and bring Abra too? And why was she crying? Was it because of me getting all those badges so far… or something else? The boy had no clue. It was bizarre, though, that he was getting this message now, after all those messages he left for his parents without getting a response in the days and weeks before. He realized at that moment that he hadn’t spoken to or seen his parents since the day he set out on his Pokémon journey. That was a lifetime ago.

While waiting for Squirtle to be healed, Ryan went over to the Pokémon Center’s small shop in the back right corner of the building. When he saw a section for HMs and TMs, Ryan took out the napkin Alex had given him and looked for any and all TMs he would need.

“Alright!” he whispered after a few moments. Holding up two canisters containing the moves “Swords Dance” and “Fire Blast”, Ryan knew he had found two moves for his Charmeleon. When he reached the counter, and the man told him it would cost him 2000 Poké Dollars, Ryan nearly had a heart attack.

“I only have 2000 left!” The boy’s voice rang with horror.

“Well, either use that to buy the moves or put them back,” the cashier replied in annoyance.

“Fine.” Ryan handed him the money. Aegon better be happy about this. Now I can’t even buy anything to eat until I get my next badge. All that battling on Route 4, and I blow it in one day. But it’s for the greater good. Aegon needs these moves.

Ryan returned to the waiting room, watching the fierce battle between the two Chanseys for a while longer. The Chansey nearest the door was the far superior ping pong player, and it destroyed the other one in back to back to back games. That was as long as Ryan paid attention. He tried to read a magazine and sleep, but he couldn’t shake the thought of what his mother said. So instead of sitting there, Ryan got up and began to pace.

It was near midnight by the time Squirtle was healed.

“Here you go!” Nurse Joy said cheerfully.

Now it was Ryan’s turn to be tired. This was far, far past his bedtime, especially considering he was going to participate in a Gym Battle in the morning. He took the Poké Ball and put it into storage, sending Squirtle all the way back home. I’ll be there soon. Then, he gave his new Pokémon the fancy name of “Georgie Boy”.

Feeling the call of sleep tugging at his eyes, Ryan stumbled out of the Pokémon Center and returned to the hotel, where he found Rahul and Alex already fast asleep. Rahul had the remnants of some kind of food on his wife beater. Ryan, however, did not order anything to eat from room service before going to sleep. Though his stomach rumbled, he had no more money. He knew he’d have to wait until the morning. I’ll challenge Misty first thing in the morning. Rahul won’t get to go first this time.

And when Ryan got into bed, despite his hunger and the anxiety his mother’s message had given him, he fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.


In the morning, Ryan got up before the others had even begun to stir and ran all the way to the Cerulean City Gym. The air was bitterly cold, and it stung his face as he ran; yet, as soon as Ryan entered the gym, he was hit with a blast of warm air. This is the water gym… why is it so hot in here? This is more like Cinnabar than Cerulean. The boy’s questions were soon answered when he came to the great indoor pool. There, at the far end, stood the gym leader Ryan knew to be Misty - she was a young woman with spiky red hair and a two-piece bathing suit on. In the water, floated several kids and aspiring trainers, it appeared. Most of them had flotation devices around them - like tubes or smaller pouches on their arms. Ryan figured he would have to fight them too, if the past gyms had been any indication. From the waters rose steam, evidence of the pool being heated in these cold winter days. Ryan was happy for that, at least. Misty was smarter than she looked.

“I’m here to challenge you!” Ryan shouted across the water.

Misty was standing at the base of a white plastic chair elevated by a staircase. She began walking down the stairs as she spoke, “I bet you’re here for this, aren’t you?” she asked, holding up a shiny blue speck that looked like a teardrop. “Well, if you want it, you have to beat me first.”

“I’ll beat you!” Ryan replied. “I’m a great Pokémon trainer.”

Misty laughed. “We’re not going to do a standard battle like you have participated in with the other gyms. If you want to win yourself a Cascade Badge, you’re going to need to beat me in a water race! So, are you up for that?”

“A water race?” That was the last thing Ryan expected. He knew he could beat her Pokémon with his own. He had trained them well. But this… a race? He didn’t like his chances.

“If you’re too scared,” Misty said, her voice dripping with sarcasm, “the door’s behind you.”

“I’m not scared! I’ll do it!”

“Then get changed into your swimming pants and we can get started. You get one Pokémon to ride on, so choose wisely.”

Ryan scampered off into the dressing room, which was in an enclave on the right side of the building. Once he had changed into his old pair of swimming pants, which were black with white tropical flowers lining the top, Ryan stepped out and contemplated which Pokémon he could use. I have Myrrah, Clawey, Shenlong, and Georgie Boy… but none of them are very high levels. Myrrah’s the most experienced one, but I don’t think I could ride on her shell… wait! Thurnax knows Surf! I wonder if that’s okay. He looked down, grasped onto his Dragonair’s Poké Ball, and began to walk forward, when Ryan ran into someone. Stumbling backwards, he looked up and beheld a face he had not expected to see here of all places.

“Hi… Ryan, right?”

“Y-yeah,” the boy replied. “But what are you doing here, Ash?”

The young man smiled devilishly. “Just visiting. How’s Tauros?”

“He’s good. I’ve been training him a lot. He’ll be really strong by the time the tournament comes around.”

“I’ll be watching to see,” Ash replied. “Did you get your Cascade Badge yet?”

“No, not yet. I’m about to. Well, first I have to do a water race or something. I’m not entirely sure.”

Ash shook his head. “Be careful. Misty’s a great racer. She won the Tour de Alto Mare when she was 10,” he said. “Don’t underestimate her.”

“But what can I do? I’ve never been in a race before in my life!”

“Make sure you have a high level Pokémon. They have better speed.” Ash patted Ryan on the shoulder. “You’ll do fine. Hundreds of trainers get this badge every year. You will too. It’s not a big deal.”

That’s easy for him to say. “Alright, thanks Ash. I’ll see you around.”

Ryan returned to the pool with a towel slung over his shoulder and Thurnax’s Poké Ball in his hand. There were now floating balls of orange and white that dotted the waters, forming the lanes for the Pokémon to race through. Across from him, on the other side of the pool, Misty sat on a Gyarados - as magnificent and terrifying a Pokémon as there was. Ryan found himself longing for Shenlong to evolve.

After letting Thurnax out of her ball, Ryan jumped on her back and ordered her to swim over the Gyarados. Thurnax did so obediently. Once the two Pokémon and their riders were lined up, Misty looked over at Ryan. “Whenever you’re ready…” she said.

Ryan nodded. He leaned forward, and whispered to his Dragonair, “Just go as fast as you can, Thurnax. Use all of your speed. But don’t use it all at once. Swim steady.” It was then Ryan remembered that Dragonair and the evolutionary line Dragonair came from was not one renowned for speed. Too late now. “Put all your concentration into swimming fast and smooth. Follow the lanes, and you’ll do great. I believe in you, Thurnax.” He patted his Dragonair on the back. “We’re winning this thing.”

Thurnax went, “Neieieieieie,” as she was wont to do.

“Alright, let’s race.”

Out of nowhere, a Pikachu riding a Squirtle came flying into view. The Pikachu had a whistle in its mouth and a white flag in its hand.

“Pikachu’ll be the referee,” Misty explained. “Just follow him as soon as he blows that whistle.”

Ryan nodded. He took a deep breath and held onto Thurnax tight. And then, he heard the shrill whistle echo through the hall. They were off.

“Go, Thurnax, go! Race to victory!” Ryan screamed. It was a familiar scream, one that made him think of Olivia. She was pretty; even prettier than Misty.

“Don’t let up, Gyarados,” Misty shouted. Her Pokémon growled and lowered itself further into the water.

It began to pull away from Ryan and Thurnax, and by the first bend in the path, Gyarados had outpaced them by almost a yard. Thurnax lowered herself into the water, just as her opponent had, though she barely kept pace.

After the first turn, the water swirling around them, Ryan and his Dragonair were met by a trainer floating in the pool. “Heck yeah, Seaking! Waterfall attack!”

“Dodge it!” Ryan clung to his Pokémon’s neck as hard as he could. When the Seaking dove under the surface and then came roaring up on plumes of water, Thurnax jumped out of the water, arcing in the air like a rainbow, before landing beyond the Pokémon and its trainer. “Great job! Keep going!”

Gyarados was now pulling away from them even more, and Ryan didn’t know what else his Pokémon could do. Dragonairs aren’t known for their speed. I was so stupid choosing Thurnax for this. She’s trying her best, but it’s just not going to cut it.

Zig-zagging through the lanes, Ryan and Thurnax dodged other trainers’ attacks - Starmies and Staryus shot Water Guns at them, and Seakings and Seadras attacked them from beneath the waters. Somehow I don’t think Misty’s having the same problems. Indeed, the red-headed woman and her Pokémon were nearly the length of Dragonair’s body in front of them. The Pikachu kept weaving in between the two racers on his loyal Squirtle, squeaking “Pika pika!” and waving his little flag, but Ryan paid him no mind. His eyes were locked on the Gyarados. We’ve gotta try something drastic.

“Hard turn!” Ryan ordered his Pokémon. “Let’s regain the lead!”

On the next bend, Ryan’s Dragonair cut hard, making such a sharp turn that the trainer was nearly flung into the water. He held on just barely and ordered his Pokémon to take another sharp turn on the next one. He noticed how Misty was just barreling on with her Gyarados. Her Pokémon was sprinting, and as a consequence, it was swimming sloppily. It was taking its turns wide. Within three turns, Dragonair had closed on Gyarados again, nearly drawing level with it.

“Nice try, but not good enough! Let’s go offensive, Gyarados!” Misty yelled. “Use all of your power! Keep the sprint going!”

Her Gyarados roared. Water flung up around it, laying a lane for it to glide through unimpeded. Ryan urged Thurnax to remain in Gyarados’ wake to get a little boost too, but the Dragonair was too slow and was instead hit by the waves Gyarados had made, slowing it even further. To make matters worse, a line of four trainers were floating in front of them, just in front of the finish line, where the Pikachu was riding about on Squirtle. All four threw their Poké Balls at once, as Dragonair roared towards them. Out popped four Gyarados.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

“Hyper Beam!” the trainers spoke in unison.

The light was blinding, so much so that Ryan had to shield his eyes and look away. The situation was quickly growing dire. His Dragonair couldn’t afford to dodge the attacks, for she would lose her momentum. There wouldn’t be enough time to regain it. The finish line was too close. And she couldn’t take the hits either, for even one Hyper Beam would have surely been enough to KO her - four would do some serious damage. He wasn’t about to let his Pokémon get hurt like that. I need to think of something… anything. Ryan thought as hard as he could, but there was nothing; his mind was numb from the hysteria of the race. It was all too much. And then he saw the waves. They were flying this way and that around the pool, courtesy of the race that was going on. One passed just in front of Ryan and Thurnax, between them and the incoming Hyper Beams. That gave Ryan an idea.

“Thurnax, Surf! Dive underwater!”

“Nieieie!”

Ryan took a big gulp of air and then pressed his body against Thurnax’s neck. At once, he felt his Pokémon surge forward on her Surf attack, riding a wave of her own creation. Under the water she went, below the Hyper Beams, below the churning currents. Ryan opened his eyes and saw the Gyarados straight ahead, bearing down on the finish line. Come on, come on! Just a little more!

Thurnax was moving as fast as she could, torpedoing through the water and gaining on her foe. Ryan watched them get closer and closer to Gyarados. The Atrocious Pokémon was slowing up, running out of energy. Misty risked it all with a sprint, and now her Pokémon’s exhausted. Thurnax had kept a fast pace as well, but she had never gone all out as she was now. She had more energy, Ryan knew. And thus, they closed on Gyarados. The finish line was approaching; the Pikachu was screaming so loud, Ryan could hear it all the way under the water. His ears were popping, his lungs were screaming for air. Thurnax swam on, gaining speed, gaining distance, gaining hope. The closer she got to Gyarados, the faster she went, the more she realized she could win this thing. Ryan was feeling dizzy. He knew he couldn’t hold his breath much longer. He needed air. He needed to reach the surface. But he couldn’t let go. That would disqualify him. He squeezed Dragonair’s neck lightly, urging her forward. She got the message and boosted into a new gear, a speed yet unseen.

Gyarados was just about to pass the white ribbon that was hovering over the finish line when Thurnax broke the surface in an explosion of water. Before Misty had time to turn her head, Ryan and Thurnax crossed the finish line, the broken victory ribbon streaming around them. Ryan was panting heavily, and Thurnax collapsed in the shallow water just beyond the finish line, letting her trainer roll of her and lie in the shallows too, his chest heaving, his throat raw.

“Well done,” Misty said at last, riding her Gyarados over to Ryan. “I can't believe I lost! I thought I had it won, but you came up in the last second. Your bond with your Pokémon really shows. You two earned that victory together.”

All Ryan could do was muster up a hoarse laugh. His stomach was rumbling, and he was seeing spots. He wanted nothing more than to go back to the hotel and collapse in bed with a bowl of cereal.

Misty stopped just in front of Ryan and dismounted from her Gyarados. Wading into the water, she made her way over to Ryan and held out her hand. “All right! You can have the Cascade Badge to show you beat me!”

Ryan took the little glass drop of water from her hand and held it firmly. “Thanks! That was one heckuva race!” But your all-out offensive approach got you beat in the end. Sprinter never wins such a long races. Smart and steady wins the race. Beaming ear to ear, he got out of the pool and looked down at his Dragonair who had brought him the most miraculous of victories. “Hey, Thurnax, you did awesome!” He patted her on her tired head, and took out her Poké Ball. “I’m so glad I have you as part of my team. Now how about we go get a little rest?”

“Nieie…!”

The Pikachu jumped off the Squirtle and ran over to Ryan on all fours. Once it reached him, it stood up on its hind legs and murmured. “Pika, pika, pikachu!”

“Hey, you look familiar!” Ryan said, kneeling down to observe the Pikachu further. “Haven’t we met before?”

Pikachu cocked its head. “Pikachu?! Chu!!”

Ryan stood up. He was faintly reminded of being handed a pillow once by this very same creature. A wide smile burst across his face. He turned back to Misty, who was tending to her tired Gyarados. “Hey Misty, tell Ash I said hi.” She won’t know I already saw him in the dressing room.

She looked up and gave Ryan a weird look before nodding silently. Ryan returned Thurnax to her ball and then grabbed his towel. Once he had dried off and put his clothes back on, he walked back to the Gym’s entrance. There was no sign of Ash, and that made Ryan think of Kelly and how she had left him in Viridian City. I’ll see her again, he promised himself. I’ll fight her in the finals of the Indigo League. Then she’ll finally respect me.

Ryan stepped out of the Gym and was greeted by the bright light of day. Yet it was not that he saw. A dark shape descended upon him at that moment, and he felt a stinging sensation spread across his face. He was falling, falling to the paved ground. And when he hit the cement sidewalk, he felt Thurnax’s Poké Ball slip from his grasp. Just as he began to wonder what - or who - had hit him, darkness covered the boy’s eyes, and he thought no more.

Episode 20: Fire and Blood

His ears were ringing. Tears were streaming down his cheeks from the stinging in his nose, which must’ve been broken. He had a headache, felt so tired, so hungry that he just wanted to collapse and go back to sleep. But he couldn’t. He’s not taking Thurnax from me! Using all of his strength, Ryan stood up and sprinted down the road after the thief who had stolen his Dragonair. He was riding those fumes of adrenaline.

Up ahead, Rahul and Alex came strolling down the road, Rahul with an ice cream cone in each hand. When they saw the blur of the thief run past them and Ryan chasing after him, they stopped, mouths agape.

“Get him!” Ryan shouted. “He stole Thurnax!”

And thus, the three were off. Rahul threw his cones away, though one hit Alex in the hair and got lodged in there like a cozy, catatonic Kakuna. The Asian boy did not seem to mind, though, since the ice cream was green tea flavor, and that was of course Alex’s most favoritest flavor in the whole wild world. The man they were chasing was faster than them, and he was starting to get away from them when he jumped into a nearby alleyway. Alex and Rahul were closer, but Ryan soon caught up to them. His years of being a swimmer and playing soccer were finally paying off. He saw the man just escape around another corner and chased him down like a Jolteon racing stormclouds. When they came to the center of town, Ryan shouted to the other pedestrians to stop him, but everyone just looked up wide-eyed or went back to what they were doing.

“Go, Swirlie Whirlie!”

“Pidgeooooo!” his Pokémon howled as she flew gracefully from her ball.

“Catch him, girl!” Ryan shouted desperately. “Don’t let him get away.”

Pidgeotto caught her prey near a fruit stand, causing both of them to fall into it, destroying the wooden table and sending melons and jackfruit flying in all directions. Still, the man, who Ryan could see was dressed in a fine suit, wore sunglasses, and a fedora, got up, slapped Swirlie Whirlie off of him and continued to run. He could not go so fast anymore, not with the flying Pokémon constantly harassing him.

Ryan left Rahul and Alex behind, for they were too slow, and pursued the well-dressed thief all the way to the edge of town. The man didn’t stop there. He ran right out of Cerulean City and into the wilderness. He didn’t care about the tall grass or the forests or the streams. He ran through them all, as if he had a max repel on. Ryan was not so fortunate, for he was as penniless as a boy without pennies and could not afford such luxuries, and he had to dodge a Pokémon every 10 or so steps, as they sprung up from the wild with a joyless obligation that made it seem like they were programmed to do so. But being wild Pokémon, that was surely not the case. Ryan just had to push his way past them - the Oddishes, the Bellsprouts, the Venonats - and probably KO’d a few in so doing, for these were of course some of the weakest and most useless wild Pokémon in all of Kanto.

Swirlie Whirlie was yet pecking away at the thief and perhaps even drew blood. At last, the man collapsed on the ground, in the middle of an open field Ryan guessed was quite a ways into Route 24. The man rolled over and raised his left arm. Suddenly, he pulled back his sleeve. Ryan could see a metal computer-device on his wrist. The man fended off Pidgeotto as he punched a few buttons into the device. Then Ryan caught up to him.

“Give me back my Pokémon!” Ryan demanded.

The thief laughed. Ryan noted that his voice was not that of a man’s - he was a boy, probably only a few years older than Ryan himself. “Too late.” The thief held the Poké Ball up to his wrist and a white light shot out of the device and surrounded it. “Boss, I’ve caught another one! I think you’ll like this one a lot!”

And before Ryan could speak or take even another step forward, a bright light covered the thief’s arm, and the Poké Ball disappeared.

“No!!” Ryan rushed forward.

The thief went to stand up. “It’s too late, dude. Your Pokémon’s gone-”

Ryan punched him as hard as he could, knocking them both to the ground. He felt his fists connect over and over again with his foe’s face until he could feel nothing at all. His whole body went numb, and he forgot the pain and tiredness in his body. He could hear himself screaming as he hit the thief, could hear Swirlie Whirlie answering in screams of her own from behind, but it did not seem like he was doing it. He wasn’t meaning to attack this other boy; he wasn’t thinking; he had no control. He felt detached from his body, as if he was merely an onlooker watching two people go at it.

Suddenly, a gust of hot air touched Ryan’s cheek. He felt himself being thrown off the boy. Landing hard in the grass a few feet away, he sat up and peered around, confused. Then, he saw a shadow fall across the ground, and a second later, a Charizard touched down. Upon its back was a girl - no, a woman, Ryan thought.

She had silver hair and dark blue, almost purple eyes, and she wore a delicate sandsilk dress of pink and green. It was breathtaking, enough to make Ryan forget everything, if but for a moment. When she dismounted from her Charizard, the woman immediately walked over to the thief, who was lying still in the grass. Bending down, the woman made sure he was alright, and then stood up and walked towards Ryan. His heart was in his throat, and he didn’t know whether to run from or to her. She’s the most beautiful woman in the world. His fingertips were tingling. From a nearby tree, Ryan’s Pidgeotto let out a long, forlorn cry.

“What were you doing?” she asked him once she reached him. The woman held out a hand and helped Ryan to his feet.

“That guy stole my Pokémon! M-my Dragonair…”

That caused the woman to give Ryan a curious look. “You were beating him up.”

“I know.”

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“But wh-”

“Quiet.” Her voice was imposing, almost regal. Swirlie Whirlie’s shrieking cut through the air again. “Avarian, tend to the boy. But make sure he does not wake.” She threw a little bag of medicine towards her Charizard.

The fire Pokémon caught it and nodded in obedience.

“Now tell me what happened,” the girl said. “The whole thing.”

“Well, I… I had just won my Cascade Badge, and I was coming out of the gym, and that…” Ryan scowled at the unconscious boy, “th-that… idiot punched me in the face and stole my Dragonair before I knew what happened!”

“And you chased him all the way here?”

Ryan nodded. The girl looked into his eyes. He stared back; there was a flush rising in his cheeks as he did, and it was only broken when the bushes behind the two began to rattle. Ryan and the woman looked over to see Alex and Rahul come running over.

“Did… did… didja miss me?” Alex croaked in that deep, low voice of his. He was panting, but not much. Alex sure has some good endurance, Ryan thought.

Rahul looked like he was about to pass out. He needed an ice cream cone bad, maybe even a canister of ready whip. He’s probably never run that much in his life.

“I caught the stupid thief,” Ryan told the others, “But Thurnax is gone. He teleported her away on that device on his wrist.”

“Where’d he take her?” Alex asked. Ryan shrugged. “H-hey, I know you! You’re Derceyes!” Alex then said, as he got a clearer look at the silver-haired woman. “Aren’t you?”

She nodded serenely, though her face remained expressionless. “It does not surprise me that you have heard of me.”

“If you get some time, I would like to discuss some things with you,” Alex said. “For my research.”

“As you wish. Yet, our most pressing matter now is finding this boy’s lost Dragonair.”

“Do you know where she was sent?” Ryan asked.

Derceyes walked over to the thief and her Charizard. Looking down at them, she said, “I have a hunch. Is he stabilized, Avarian?”

“Rawr!” replied the Charizard.

“Good. You may return to your post.”

The Charizard jumped up and marched off to the far side of the clearing, where it held its guard. Its eyes stayed on Rahul, Alex, and Ryan, though, and that made the teal-haired boy more than a little uncomfortable.

Derceyes knelt by the unconscious boy’s side and pulled up his sleeve, revealing the device he had used to transport Thurnax’s Poké Ball. “Just as I suspected,” she said. “He’s a member of the Painted Dragons. Strange… he is still a boy.”

“Painted Dragons?” Ryan was confused.

“A gang. One of the most powerful in Kanto, now that the older gangs are starting to lose power and die off.” She pulled the thief’s shirt up even further, showing that his arm was totally covered in tattoos of Pokémon - this one had Staryus, Starmies, Seakings (heck yeah!), and Gyarados painted across his flesh. It was the most bizarre sight Ryan had ever seen. “There’s been a power vacuum these past few years, ever since Team Rocket began to decline. The Painted Dragons were the first to seize on the opportunity to become the new mega gang of Kanto. They have been growing steadily these last few years, and I’m sure by now, they are running operations in almost every major city. I have tried to stop them before, but I don’t know where their base is. They steal Pokémon all the time, often never to be seen again. I don’t know what they do with those they steal, or where they take them.” She took the fedora and sunglasses off of the boy’s now-swollen face and looked him over. “He’s not as old as I had imagined. Most of the Painted Dragons are adults. This one is just a kid. It looks like their influence and ranks are growing larger and more diverse.”

“We have to get Thurnax back.”

Derceyes stood up and looked at the three. “Do all of you have Pokémon? Pokémon who can fight?”

They nodded in unison.

“We’re all really good trainers,” Ryan boasted.

“I’m the Doctor!” Rahul wheezed from the ground.

Alex remained silent, picking at the remnants of Rahul’s ice cream cone in his hair and licking his fingers thoughtfully. He was probably thinking about when he would have to do the dishes or go to Kung Fu on Wednesdays, which would then require him to take a shower immediately afterwards and take up roughly four hours that he could have otherwise used to train his Pokémon.

“In that case,” Derceyes began, “I may have an idea for how to get your Dragonair back.” She stepped forward and threw three Poké Balls. Out from them came three Dragonites. Ryan nearly fell to the ground in astonishment.

“Dragonite, the Dragon Pokémon,” Dex told them. “It is said that this Pokémon lives somewhere in the sea and that it flies. However, it is only a rumor.”

“Wow, that is so cool. How did you get so many Dragonites? Aren’t they like super rare? Do you use them to fight?” Ryan asked, his voice rising.

Derceyes smiled slightly. “I am the mother of dragons… but I have spent too long fighting these criminals and thieves. I cannot be everywhere at once, cannot take on an entire organization by myself. But with you three here, together, we can destroy the Painted Dragons; we can return the Pokémon they have stolen; we can remind them what happened to those who came before them.” She walked over to her three Dragonites, who stood loyal and unmoving, like soldiers in regimented lines. “Vengeance,” she whispered as she passed the first one. “Justice,” she whispered as she walked past the second. “Freedom,” she said as she made her way to the third Dragonite. Then, she walked over to her Charizard, who stood away from the rest. “Fire and blood,” she whispered so softly, Ryan almost missed it, “for every one of them. They are not dragons like me. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”


“M’lady”, Ryan said, tipping his fedora.

The woman did not respond. Getting off her motorcycle, she approached the boy with a scowl on her face. “How did you get lost out here?”

He shrugged. “Chasing Pokémon.”

“Fool. Let’s go. The boss won’t be pleased.”

Ryan clambered into the sidecar of the Painted Dragon’s motorcycle. Once he settled in, he wiped his sweaty palms on the slacks of his suit. This has got to work, he thought. Just stay calm. He was all dressed up, his sunglasses and fedora masking much of his face. They would never know he wasn’t the thief who stole Thurnax, so long as Ryan didn’t mess up. Just gotta find their base, the boy thought over and over in his head.

The ride was blindingly fast, awkward and silent. He didn’t so much as look at his driver, lest he make a mistake. He felt the device on his wrist, thinking back to how he had called up the Painted Dragons’ headquarters. I don’t think they suspected anything, but this could be a trap. Gotta stay on guard. He had five Pokémon: Abra, Aegon, NaVorro, Swirlie Whirlie, and Myrrah. They’re gonna get a lot of work today. Maybe Aegon’ll even evolve. There’s no way I’m leaving without Thurnax.

The woman drove the two around the eastern side of Cerulean City, just outside the city’s limits. They passed by a waterfall, and then the woman pressed a button on her motorcycle. At once, the waterfall receded, revealing a hidden cave beyond. And into it, the two sped.

Once inside, the two dismounted, and the woman said, “Go see Lieutenant Miyazaki. He’s not pleased with you.”

“Why? I found a great Dragonair!” Ryan tried to sound as threatening as he could, but he feared his tone just came off as lame. Regardless, the woman didn’t seem to notice.

“You’re expected to catch valuable Pokémon. That’s your job. Getting lost is not. The Lieutenant’s gonna rip you a new one,” she said, relishing the thought. “And don’t think about hiding from him. You wouldn’t want to make the boss wait.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll go.” Ryan threw his arms in the air. “Just stop the nagging!”

But when Ryan left the girl in the garage, he made his way to the nearest room instead. Inside it, he found the place mostly empty, with a few dusty boxes of rope and jackets and Poké Balls, a couple empty rusty cages, and a large, partially broken lamp that looked like a woman’s leg stuck in the corner. Once he was sure no one else was in there, he took the transponder that Derceyes had given him out of his pocket and pressed the button.

“Well, looks like they’ll be here soon. Let’s do this thing,” he said to the dusty nothingness.

Ryan was reaching for his Poké Balls when a voice responded. “Uh, hello? Is anyone there?”

Ryan jumped back, but he remained silent. I’ll take this guy out first. He can’t let anyone else know I’m here yet. Not till the others get here!

“Uh, I just heard a voice. Hello? Heh, I know someone is in here.”

“Who’s there?” Ryan asked, suspiciously.

“It’s me, David Liebe Hart!”

“Who?”

“Heh, well, you know I was abducted by the Corinians. I need to get out of here!”

Ryan walked around the boxes he thought he had already checked and found a man chained to a pole. In front of him was a plate with a half-eaten grilled cheese sandwich on it. There sat a pathetic-looking man, mostly bald (what hair remained reminded Ryan of those fancy trimmed bushes that rich people have in their yards) and dark-skinned with glasses and many a wrinkle on his face.

“Who are the Corinians?” asked Ryan.

“There are other humanoids from, uh, another star, living among us! My favorite race is called the Corinians. They abduct me all the time. See, when you see them, they say ‘Salame’ for hello and goodbye!”

Ryan raised an eyebrow. “Dude, Salame.”

As the trainer went to leave, David Liebe Hart lunged forward as far as he could (which was no more than a few inches). “Please, take me on board your beautiful ship!”

“I’m not a Corinian!”

“Salame!” David Liebe Hart replied. Then, he produced a massive hand puppet from the darkness that was about as large as him. It looked like if Alf had been microwaved on the popcorn setting. “I wrote a song about them!” David screamed in falsetto, perhaps attempting to be a ventriloquist, but it didn’t work, for he still moved his own mouth when he talked in a very obvious way. “Let’s sing along, boys and girls!” the man screamed.

Leaving David Liebe Hart behind, Ryan returned to the hallway and saw several members of the Painted Dragons - all dressed in suits, fedoras, and sunglasses (even though they were inside in a poorly-lit underground secret base) - run by him. They were shouting orders to one another, preparing to battle someone. Looks like the others have arrived. Perfect.

All of the lights turned red, and a deafening horn began to reverberate through the bunker. Then, a voice came on the loudspeakers: “Intruder alert! Intruder alert! All Enforcers and Painted Dragon personnel with active Pokémon are required to make their way to the main entrance to battle a group of intruders trying to make their way into the base. Protect the base! Anyone who tries to hide or refuses to fight will be swiftly punished. Push the invaders back! Do not let them in! This is Lieutenant Miyazaki speaking. Over and out.”

Ryan fell in with the next group of Painted Dragons who went running down the hall, though he was sure to remain in the back. When they came to the garage where the woman had dropped him off, Ryan caught a glimpse of Rahul, Alex, and Derceyes standing calmly on the far side of the room. Derceyes had four Dragonites out - though one was green-skinned instead of the standard orange - as well as a Charizard and a Gyarados.

Rahul had his full team out and ready to battle, too: a Lapras, a Rhyhorn, a Kadabra, a Magnemite, a Charizard, and a Dragonair. Alex’s team consisted of: an Exeggutor, a Starmie, a Charmeleon, a Jolteon, a Tauros, and a Golem.

The Painted Dragons, this well-dressed group of Pokémon thieves, threw their own Poké Balls in answer. Dozens of Pokémon emerged - Raticates, Magmars, Pinsirs, Haunters, Kadabras, Hitmonlees, Hitmonchans, Gyarados, Raichus, Golbats, Electrodes, and many more. There were far too many for Ryan to count.

“Aw come on, they outnumber us three to one, at least!” Rahul yelled from the far end of the room.

“Heh, then it’ll be an even fight,” Alex replied. “Pokémon, go!”

The three sent their Pokémon forward, with Derceyes taking the lead. She spoke not a word, even as the other two directed their Pokémons’ every move. Ryan was in awe as he watched the Dragonites soar into the field of battle, using Body Slams, Hyper Beams, Blizzards, Surfs, and Wrap attacks. He even saw one take out an opposing Cloyster, a Pokémon that should have wrecked a Dragonite, with a mere Thunderbolt.

“Dang, she’s got some strong Pokémon,” Ryan muttered to himself. “Alright, let’s show everyone what we’ve got too!”

Ryan threw his Poké Balls out into the open.

Ryan’s five Pokémon shot forward, hitting the Painted Dragons’ legions from behind. Many a Golbat and Electrode fell that day to the stampeding force of Tauros and the flames of Aegon and the whirlwinds of Swirlie Whirlie. After a few moments, some of the gang members realized that they were also being attacked from behind. At first they were confused - Ryan was wearing the same garb as them. He was one of them. And yet, he was also, inexplicably, attacking them.

“Huh, what’re you-” one guy managed to get out before Ryan shouted: “Abra, Psychic!”

That shut that thief up real good. Seeing his side winning the battle, Ryan recalled his Pokémon. “Looks like Rahul and the others have this battle just about wrapped up. Come on, let’s go find Thurnax!”

Ryan began to run down the carpeted, if cramped, hallways. At first, he didn’t meet anyone. He figured the entire base’s forces were battling his friends. But, perhaps, that was not true. For when he pushed his way through a door and came into a new room, there he was met by an older man in the outfit of his organization, sipping red liquid from a glass. When he saw Ryan, he chuckled mildly.

“What are you doing here, grunt? Get back to the battle.”

“I’m not with you,” Ryan grinned. “If you don’t move, I’ll have my Pokémon make you.”

The man laughed and then threw three Poké Balls. Ryan directed his Tauros forward.

Out from the man’s Poké Balls came three Magikarp. They flopped about on the carpet gasping and panicking, shouting “carp, carp, carp!” ceaselessly. When the man saw that Ryan’s Pokémon of choice was a Tauros, he dropped his glass. “Oh my word!”

It almost didn’t feel fair, how easily Ryan beat that old man. He had thought, upon first glance, that such a man could only have been Miyazaki, or perhaps one of the higher-ranking members of the Painted Dragons. Yet, it appeared he was amongst the worst trainers in the history of the world.

One last charge by Tauros sent the man running for the hills, and Ryan was able to move onward. In the next room, he found two women in white lab coats huddling over a table.

Ripping off his fedora and sunglasses, Ryan rushed up to the two. “Where’s my Dragonair?”

The two women looked up, startled, and then glanced at one another. “Who are you, kid?” one asked.

“We don’t have any Dragonairs…” the other said.

“Liars! Aegon, Abra, go!”

His two Pokémon rushed forward, and though the women each threw a ball of their own - releasing a Butterfree and a Venomoth - Aegon’s Fire Blast and Abra’s Psychic easily took them out. Upon seeing their Pokémon defeated, the two scientists scurried out of the room in humiliation.

“Huh? What is this place?” Ryan asked. His Pokémon all grumbled in surprise as well. For on the walls around them, in little cages, were many a Ditto.

“Ditto, the Transform Pokémon,” Dex stated as Ryan pointed the little red device at all of the caged animals around him. “When it spots an enemy, its body transforms into an almost perfect copy of its opponent.”

A few began to do just that as Ryan’s Pokémon went up to the nearest cages to check them out. “We don’t have time to let them out,” Ryan reminded his team. “After we get Thurnax back, we’ll free everyone. I promise. Come on!”

So off they went, deeper and deeper into the base. Ryan met few people here - those he did, he dealt with quickly. Only the lowly grunts even tried to send out Pokémon against him, and like the ones he had already faced, they did not seem to have very powerful Pokémon.

“Why do all of you use Raticates?!” Ryan bellowed at the fifth one he defeated. “That Pokémon is useless!”

“We’re the bad guys, and Raticate is a bad guy Pokémon, eek!” the Painted Dragon cried before fleeing.

“Man these guys are lame.”

The next few rooms were long hallways, with rows and rows of cages on either side, stacked all the way up to the ceiling. Inside were Pokémon of all sorts. The stolen Pokémon, Ryan realized. Thurnax must be in one of these cages. He went down the rows until he came to a section where Arcanines looked out at him with soft growls and yellow eyes. They think I’m with the Painted Dragons. Ryan clenched his fists. Once I get Thurnax, I’ll let all of you out. I will!

There were two people - one man and one woman - ahead of Ryan, inspecting one of the cages. These two were dressed in fancy white suits, and neither was wearing a fedora. When they saw Ryan, they didn’t seem to think anything of it.

“What are you doing here?” the man asked. “Did the boss allow you in?”

“I’m not with you idiots,” Ryan proclaimed. “I’m here to get my Dragonair back!”

The two people jumped back. Suddenly, Ryan’s five Pokémon sprung out from behind him and ran up to the two. They were spoiling for a fight.

“So you’re the one who broke into our base. All for a Dragonair?” the woman said, a bit of sarcasm in her voice. “That’s so cute.”

“My Dragonair has been with me for a long time,” Ryan contended. “She’s my Pokémon and my friend! I won’t let anyone take her from me!”

The man laughed. “We’ve probably already sold her. The demand for dragon-type Pokémon is huge.”

Ryan grit his teeth. “You better not have. If she’s gone, I’ll make you pay.”

“Nieieieieieieie!!!” came the shriek from a nearby crate. Ryan knew that voice.

“Thurnax!”

“Neieie!!”

Ryan ran past the two Painted Dragons, down the hall until he came upon his Dragonair. She was locked in a cage on the right side, on ground level. Ryan scowled when he saw her - she was strapped down to the inside of the cage with several different chains. And she looked as weak and tired as she did scared. Ryan put his hand through the bars to pet her.

“It’s okay, Thurnax, we’re going to get you out of there! Aegon, burn the bars off!”

“Char, meleon!” the Charmeleon replied, bounding on over.

“Hey, you can’t steal from us!” the woman shouted. “That Pokémon is property of the Painted Dragons Cereulean branch!”

“You stole her from me in the first place. I’m taking her back,” the boy replied.

The man and woman shook their heads. “We’re Painted Dragon admins! No one talks to us like that!”

And thus, the two threw two Poké Balls each - and out came a Persian, a Rhydon, a Vaporeon, and Marrowak. Ryan’s four remaining Pokémon attacked these other Pokémon at once, with Ryan shouting commands to each one of them, even as Aegon continued to burn through the metal bars.

“Myrrah, Aurora beam that Rhydon! Abra, hit that Marrowak with a Psychic attack! NaVorro, Stomp that Vaporeon! Swirlie Whirlie!!! Hit Persian with a Quick Attack!” Ryan said, with all of his authority. He felt like a real Pokémon trainer then, directing all of his loyal buddies at once. He felt in command for once.

The admins were shouting out commands for their Pokémon as well, but in the chaos of battle, Ryan could not focus on what they were doing. He had to think ahead, to prepare for the next round of attacks. He knew that he had to get Persian out of there quick, as well as Rhydon. So after the first round, in which only Abra’s attack KO’d a Pokémon, he regrouped, and set everyone after Rhydon except for his Tauros. Tauros Stomped Persian this time, but Persian used Bite. When all was said and done, the Rhydon had gone down, but NaVorro had too, as had Swirlie Whirlie.

“Curses! Abra, Myrrah, attack Persian together!” The Persian hit Abra first, instantly KOing him. Ryan was forced to return his Pokémon just as he watched Myrrah hit Persian with an Aurora Beam. The attack KO’d the poor kitty, leaving Vaporeon and Myrrah to duke it out.

The Vaporeon shot Myrrah with Water Gun, but as we all know, that is a terrible idea, so Myrrah was not affected very much.

“Alright, Myrrah, this one’s for all the marbles! Spike Cannon!”

His Cloyster obeyed, shooting three spikes at the Vaporeon. The lumbering eeveelution was hit head on by all three attacks, and on the third consecutive hit, it fell over, unconscious. Ryan had won - if barely. He let out a sigh of relief. The two admins fell over in horror and anguish.

“How could we lose?!” said the woman. “We’re admins!”

“No fair, he cheated! I know he used some of our superiorly-bred Pokémon! That’s the only way he could have beaten us!”

Ryan turned away from the now Pokémon-less airbags. “Nearly there, Aegon?”

“Char, char!”

“Great!”

Ryan could see the metals bars turning white hot, getting close to melting. Ryan was struck by how awesome his Charmeleon was, how much more efficient he was than a 767 would have been. Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams. Just as Charmeleon was cutting through, even weakening and beginning to melt the chains that lined the metal floor of Thurnax’s crate, he was thrown forward, into the metal bars, covered in a veil of electricity, and then crumpled on the ground, unconscious. Ahead, Myrrah shot itself at this new attacker, but she was hit by a burst of electricity as well, and fell with a sickening crunch onto the ground, KO’d.

“Raichu!” came the boisterous voice of a Pokémon.

For a second, Ryan’s heart fluttered. Kelly, he thought. But no, that was wrong. Kelly wouldn’t attack me. No…!

Ahead of him, a man came striding into view. Ryan returned his last defeated Pokémon to their Poké Balls and realized he had no one left to challenge this man. The man wore an expensive-looking purple suit and purple-shaded sunglasses. His hair was long, spiky, and black, pulled back with gel. His face was clean-shaven. He wore gloves, and in his hand was a bejeweled Ultra Ball. His Raichu ran over to him after defeating Ryan’s last two Pokémon.

“Nice suit you’ve got there, kid,” the man said, with a little smile. He took a cigar out of his pants pocket and lit it. Placing it into his mouth, he walked over to the two admins who had collapsed on the floor. “Get out of here, before I have my Raichu shock you into the next world!” he roared, and the two fled. Turning back to Ryan, the man’s smile returned. “End of the line, kid. Looks like you’re out of Pokémon. You may as well give up now.”

“I’m not leaving without my Dragonair!”

“You ain’t got a Dragonair anymore. All of the Pokémon in this place belong to me, Lieutenant Miyazaki! They are official property of the Painted Dragon clan! Now, I’ll give you this option only once: turn around and leave. Or, you can stay and feel the wrath of my Raichu! Your choice, really.”

“Raichu!” Miyazaki’s Raichu laughed devilishly.

Ryan clenched his fists and frowned. He had once faced a tough guy with a Raichu. That had resulted in his first-ever Gym Badge. He didn’t want to back down now and lose Thurnax forever. He owed his Dragonair that much. I have to fight to the end.

“I’m not leaving! I’m taking my Pokémon home.”

“Fine, kid. Suit yourself. But this is gonna be a waste of a really nice suit. Oh well. Raichu, use Thunderbolt!”

Episode 21: Long, Tan, and Handsome

“Chu!!” the Raichu screamed, materializing a cloud of electricity around it.

Ryan flinched, waiting on the electric shock that would surely jolt him all the way back to R'lyeh, when all of a sudden he heard the snapping of metal, the breaking of chains, and the scream of a Pokémon he knew well.

“Neieieieie!” came the indistinct scream; it was one that sounded like a crusty homeless man trying to sing Creep but forgetting half of the lyrics.

Ryan knew that scream. Thurnax! Out from her cage, which had been partially melted by noble Aegon (the first of his name), came the blue dragon. The Raichu sent out its Thunderbolt attack, but it was too late. Thurnax soared through the air and intercepted the electricity, taking it head on. And since we all know that dragons are resistant to electric attacks, this Thunderbolt didn’t do much to Thurnax at all. Indeed, she kept soaring right through the electrical cloud and hit the Raichu hard in the stomach. The Raichu screamed in pain and flew through the air like a ragdoll before crumpling at the feet of its well-dressed master. Lieutenant Miyazaki was quite upset with this, and he began to curse and spit and rant, but I can’t repeat his words since this is of course a family-friendly story. Suffice to say, Mr. Miyazaki was not pleased with Thurnax breaking out of her cage.

Thurnax landed just in front of Ryan, keeping one eye on the Raichu. Ryan ran up to her. “Aw, Thurnax, you saved me!” His eyes were brimming with tears. When he placed his hand on her neck to pet her, suddenly Thurnax’s entire body began radiating with white light. She looked back at Ryan for but a moment before being swallowed whole in the blinding whiteness. Ryan stepped back, his mouth agape.

“Impossible! Raichu, stop this madness!” Miyazaki screamed.

His Raichu flung itself forward and shot Thunderbolt after Thunderbolt at Thurnax’s radiant visage, but all of them bounced off harmlessly. The cigar fell from Miyazaki’s mouth; sweat covered his skin and he looked horrified. As the explosion of light died down, Thurnax stepped forward, and Ryan saw her not as she had been before. No, Thurnax had changed. She had evolved.

“No way! That’s so awesome!” Ryan yelled at the top of his lungs. There before him stood the orange-skinned dragon Pokémon that was, of course, Dragonite. “You’re a Dragonite! Woohoo! I have a Dragonite!”

Miyazaki stepped back and sneered. “Alright, kid. This ends now. Your Pokémon may have evolved, but she’s no match for six of mine, ha ha ha!” The Painted Dragons Lieutenant threw five Poké Balls, and out from them came a Mr. Mime, a Nidoking, a Tentacruel, a Dodrio, and a Ninetails. “See if your Dragonite can take on six Pokémon at once!”

“Crap!” Ryan said, slinking his shoulders forward. “This’s gonna be a heckuva test, Thurnax,” Ryan said. “But don’t worry! You’re a Dragonite now! You’re the most powerful Pokémon in the world, yeah!!”

“Brawaaah!” Thurnax bellowed, her voice cracking in determination.

Just before Ryan and his new Dragonite were about to charge Miyazaki’s six, the door on the far side of the room slammed open. “Wait!” came the voice of a woman. Derceyes, Ryan knew. “Stop!” Her hair was smoke-streaked, and her cheeks were flushed and covered in ash. Even so, Derceyes marched forward, beautiful as a new dawn. Two Dragonites flanked her. “Let all of these Pokémon go,” she said, gesturing widely to the cages around her, “and we’ll let you go.”

“Fat chance,” the man responded, coolly. “I’m the leader here. You’re going to see the full might of the Painted Dragons now! No one disrespects me! You four,” he nodded to Mr. Mime, Nidoking, Ninetails, and Tentacruel, “fight her!” He left Raichu and Dodrio for Ryan and Thurnax. “Let’s show these meddlesome fools who we really are!”

Ryan gulped. “Alright, girl. Let’s do this! I know you can take on two of that evil guy’s Pokémon. You’re a Dragonite! You’re the best!”

“Brah!!”

“Yeah, I agree!”

From the other side, Derceyes remained calm as four Pokémon came to challenge her two Dragonites. “Berion, Shiraxes, take two each. You know what you need to do.”

The two Dragonites nodded and split off into the air, flying high to the ceiling of the large warehouse building. Ryan turned his focus back to his own foes - a Raichu and a Dodrio.

“Okay, Thurnax, use Agility!”

Thurnax grunted in understanding, but before it could enact its attack, Miyazaki roared, “Raichu, Thunderbolt! Dodrio, Drill Peck!”

The Painted Dragon’s Pokémon were faster than Thurnax, so their attack each hit Ryan’s Pokémon first. It appeared to Ryan, though, that neither the Thunderbolt, which he knew was a poor move to use against a dragon, nor the Drill Peck did much damage. Thurnax let out a small cry when she was shocked and pecked, but she remained steadfast all the same. After absorbing the attacks, she took to the sky and built up her speed.

“Same attacks,” Miyazaki roared. “Take that Dragonite down!”

“Body Slam Raichu,” Ryan ordered his Pokémon.

Silly dude, Ryan thought. Either he’s dumb, or he’s too preoccupied with having to fight Derceyes too. Otherwise he wouldn’t be ordering his Raichu to use so many electric attacks. This time, however, Dragonite held the edge in speed. Before her foes could attack her, Thurnax flew high in the air with her now-superior speed. In a blinding flash of light, she descended upon the poor Raichu, covering it in a Body Slam so vicious that it rattled the building and left a crater in its wake. When Thurnax stood up, unhurt, the Raichu lay there slumped and long-fainted.

“Yeah, great work Thurnax!”

Yet, there was still a Dodrio, that cursed ugly bird that looked like a couple of dandelions glued together. It sprinted forward and pecked the heck out of Ryan’s Dragonite, hurting her a little, but not much. That angered Ryan. No one attacks Dragonite like that. She just got a KO! That’s not fair. Dodrio isn’t playing fair… so I guess we won’t either.

“If you’re gonna play dirty like that, then so will we!” Ryan shouted to the man standing across the room. “Thurnax, use Wrap!”

“No! Oh, no! Not that move! Any move but that one! Please, I’m begging you! I know I’m a villain, but even I have standards!” Miyazaki spit. He fell to his knees, which was a terrible rookie mistake. Ryan knew the man’s radical purple pants would be ruined now. It was a crying shame.

Regardless, Thurnax rushed forward and wrapped the Dodrio around its tail, squeezing it and squeezing it and squeezing it. And then when it was Dodrio’s turn to attack, well, the Dragonite just wrapped it up again, because Wrap is broken and what were the designers of Pokémon thinking of? I don’t know, but it’s pretty ridiculous that such a broken move could have gotten through all the playtesting. After another series of Wraps, which were admittedly not that powerful, Dodrio looked like it was at about half health, at least to Ryan’s well-tuned eyes.

“Body Slam to finish it!” he ordered Thurnax.

“Braahahahahahwrah!” the Dragonite roared. The power of his Pokémon, both in voice and force, gave Ryan goosebumps. Mom and dad would be so proud.

Dodrio staggered to its feet and had time enough to squawk before it was buried just as Raichu had been. When the dust cleared, Ryan saw his Pokémon stand up and Miyazaki’s stay on the ground. He had won.

Elsewhere, Derceyes’ two Dragonites were using Hyper Beams to clean up the mess. The Painted Dragon leader’s four remaining Pokémon were wiped out rather effortlessly by the two dragons, leaving that man, improbably, as the only one in the room without a Pokémon to battle.

“Y-you cheated!” he spit, his eyes wild as a hungry Newman. “Dragonite is OP! The boss is gonna hear about this, I promise you that!”

“This operation you have led is a disgrace. Stealing Pokémon from the people of Cerulean City and doing who knows what with them… it’s disgusting. You don’t understand that Pokémon are living beings! You just see them as things to sell and buy - ways to make money. It’s a disgrace. You are no true dragon!” Derceyes said, stepping forward. Then she thrust her hand forward, pointing at Miyazaki. “Avarian, dracarys!”

At once, the silver-haired woman’s Charizard appeared shooting down the room, coming through the hallway from the far door, flying as fast as the winds. The fell beast reached Miyazaki, its snout extended, and its mouth frothing with dragonflame. Miyazaki’s eyes bugged out and he tore off his purple suit in hysteria. Screaming like a Clefairy surfing down the side of Mt. Moon at 1 a.m., the first Lieutenant of the Painted Dragons fled the room, Avarian hot on his heels.

Derceyes strode over to Ryan. “Well done, Ryan. You and your Dragonite performed well.”

“T-thanks!” Ryan stuttered, his face going red. He scratched the back of his head and laughed nervously, “It was really Thurnax who did most of the work!”

“Indeed,” she said, walking over to Ryan’s Dragonite. Putting her hand to the Dragonite’s flesh, she murmured something Ryan could not hear.

In reply, Thurnax let out a bellow.

That took Derceyes aback. She looked back and forth between the two several times before settling on Ryan. “Where did you get this Dragonite?” she asked him.

“I found her near Fuchsia City a few weeks ago. She was wounded and alone, and I thought her owner abandoned her, so I took her to the nearest Pokémon Center. And afterwards,” he shook his head, “Thurnax decided to join my group and help me win some Gym Badges!”

A small smile crept up across Derceyes’ face like a single flame flittering across a sheet of paper. “Dragonites are rare in the wild. Finding one on land like that is most unusual. It is also… unusual that when you found this Pokémon, one of my own Dragonairs had recently gone missing. I have yet to find her. But,” she said with a glimmer in her eye, “it appears I won’t have to look for her any longer.”

Ryan’s jaw dropped. “H-hey, wait. You mean… you mean Thurnax is your Pokémon?!” Maybe that’s why Thurnax is so powerful. I never meant to steal a Pokémon from Derceyes!

Derceyes walked past Ryan and did not answer. “We will have to let these Pokémon out. My Dragonites can do that.” She turned back to Ryan and Thurnax. “Make sure the way is clear for us. Rahul and Alex have been holding off the rest of the Painted Dragons, but I do not know how well they are faring now. Go see.”

“Okay.” Ryan and Thurnax ran down to the other side of the room, to the door where Miyazaki had run through. He looked over at Thurnax and grinned. “I thought we’d try fighting our way out - y’know, mix things up a little. What do you say, girl?”

“Braharawr!”

Thurnax knelt down and Ryan climbed on her back. Then, she spread her wings and began to accelerate down the carpeted hallways of the secret Painted Dragon base. These hallways Ryan had once tread, going the other way. He never thought he would be leaving on the back of a Dragonite. It was awesome feeling the wind through his hair.

Numerous grunts were running this way and that, perhaps fleeing from Rahul and Alex or drifting about in confusion now that Miyazaki had been defeated. Either way, Thurnax pushed her way past all of them, knocking them and their Pokémon unconscious with her wings and tail.

They came upon Rahul and Alex in a great open intersection between various hallways and rooms. There, they stood, their Pokémon on all sides of them, surrounded by Painted Dragons. The fighting was intense and blindingly fast - Ryan could barely see what was going on. Amid the smoke and chaos, Thurnax came stumbling in, breaking a hole through the Painted Dragons’ circle. She landed and immediately began to attack and subdue any and all of the enemy Pokémon she could find.

Ahead of them, on a pile of defeated trainers and Pokémon, stood Alex with his Charmeleon. Two Bellsprouts charged the two, and Charmeleon beat them back with flames. Then, a Scyther raced towards it, and a single, more powerful blast of fire decimated it. The Scyther fell over, as did its trainer, who appeared to be charred like a well-done steak. The nearby wall caught on fire, and the Painted Dragons nearby began to flee. Yet, Ryan’s eyes stayed on the Charmeleon, for he saw that as soon as it had defeated the Scyther, it became enshrouded in white light - just as Thurnax had earlier. Awesome, it’s evolving. Looks like everyone’s getting a lot of experience from this!

And before Ryan could even blink, the light cleared, and standing next to Alex was not a Charmeleon, but a Charizard, the fiercest and coolest of the starter Pokémon.

“Heck, it’s about time,” Alex muttered, patting his new Charizard on the neck. “It didn’t make sense for a trainer of my level to have a mere Charmeleon.”

“Well, we dealt with that pretty logically, didn’t we?!” Ryan shouted, but Alex didn’t hear him in the commotion of battle.

Together, the three friends cleared out the rest of the Painted Dragons, KOing all of their Pokémon and forcing them to follow their Lieutenant off into the sunset of despair. When it was all said and done, they returned their Pokémon to their Poké Balls and helped Derceyes set the rest of the Pokémon in the cages free. As the building began to burn, they all fled with the Pokémon, who, though scared, realized that the four people had set them free - these four were not with the Painted Dragons, no siree. Thus it was that the four and perhaps a few hundred Pokémon made their way out of the secret entrance of the Painted Dragons’ secret base and marched off into the rugged, wild land of Route 24. Derceyes assured the group that she would take the Pokémon back to Cerulean City, to the police office, where they would be held until their owners could be alerted that they were there and could go retrieve them.

“It’s getting late,” Derceyes commented, as they continued to walk. Indeed, it was. The sun was beginning to set. “Why don’t you come back to my home for the night? You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to, but I have food and beds and plenty of Pokémon to keep you company.”

Ryan’s stomach rumbled. He was reminded of the crazy day he had had - from challenging Misty to chasing down the thief to fighting the Painted Dragons. He was exhausted. He was hungry. He didn’t want to do anything else except fall into bed. So he looked at the others, and when he saw that they were nearly as weary as him, he nodded to the silver-haired girl.

“Alright, we’ll stay the night.”

Off into the sunset, they plodded on. Rahul took out a Poké Ball and shoved it in Ryan’s face as they went “Hey Ryan, look. My Rhyhorn evolved into a Rhydon.”

“That’s great Rahul. Maybe if you would have come up with a cool line to say when he evolved, like Alex did, I might’ve noticed.”


Her title of ‘Mother of Dragons’ could not have been more apt. Dratinis, Dragonairs, Charmanders, and Charmeleons crawled around Derceyes’ home like many little children, eager to help and get the attention of their mother. Derceyes had them all help make dinner for Ryan and the others, though Ryan was more amazed at the sheer quantity of dragon and dragon-like Pokémon this woman owned. He let Thurnax out of her ball so that his former Dragonair could reunite with her old friends and family.

Derceyes invited her old uncle George over to the feast, and he was most pleased by the selection of food that was being prepared. Like Rahul, he was a big man, and he had a long, messy white beard. He wore dark overalls and a sailor’s cap, and he carried a large appetite. He liked to grunt to himself and talk about his favorite child, Hugo (which angered Derceyes quite a bit), but no one wanted to listen to an old man babble, so they just ignored that.

Awaiting the group were tables and tables of delicacies: baked chicken glazed with sweet orange sauce and brushed with just a hint of red peppers; baked, lightly buttered naan; pots and pots of ramen, fragranced with chopped green onions, whisked eggs, white pepper, and shrimp; roasted vegetables with potatoes sprinkled with cheese; creamy risotto with buttered mushrooms and melted parmesan; lightly battered Magikarp tails with golden, crispy chips; hot Krabby pie with crumbled cheese and lemon juice; and tall glasses of orange juice for everyone. Chubby George particularly enjoyed the orange juice, but that was not something for Ryan, or Alex. Kelly would’ve liked this, Ryan thought then, and he felt quite lonely, despite the feasting going on around him.

Soon, the Pokémon joined in, and it was pure pandemonium. Roasted onions, red rice salad with pecans and fennel coarse black pepper, and strained tortellini with bruschetta filling, bathed lightly in garlic and olive sauce and tossed with tomatoes, began getting passed around. George engorged himself, as if he had never eaten before. Grease ran down his mouth and into his beard as he shoved handfuls of chocolate-covered bacon into his mouth. He grunted in pleasure and roared:

“More, more, more! More food descriptions! This is symbolic!” Spittle flew from his mouth and into his beard, running down with the grease to form a waterfall of liquid that culminated in a nice puddle in Uncle George’s plump lap.

Derceyes nodded and silently produced many more dishes with her Pokémon servants. Ryan had barely helped himself to a nibble of one or two plates before plates of boiled quail egg salad - full with basil and white pepper and yellow mustard and watercress and leafy, iceberg lettuce - and piping hot plates of red and green and yellow tofu curry with rice and flat noodles with vegetable medley were brought forth. These curries swam in sauces of butter and spice, and George felt as if it was his prerogative to lower his face into them and blow, to essentially be a pig amongst mud, to frolick and eat and taste and be content. With how happy this made George, Ryan wondered how the man got through the days he couldn’t feast.

Soon came the pizzas, of the anchovy and pineapple variety, and fish tacos, decorated lavishly with cilantro, white cabbage, red and green onions, sour cream, and a good helping of salsa. When George saw those on approach, he began to lick his lips and rub his belly really hard.

“Mine, mine, mine! Ooh, gimme! Mexican food is my specialty!” He reached out and took all of the fish tacos off of the massive silver serving plate a Charmeleon was carrying over. In the blink of an eye, he downed all of them and then burped long and hard, patting his belly once again. Grease continued to run down his mouth and into his beard, though he was no longer eating. Ryan had no idea what was going on with this man. “Ah, reminds me of my childhood,” he said wistfully.

In comparison to Uncle George, Ryan, Rahul, and Alex were all rather tame in their eating, and indeed, even Rahul, who was known for his unabashed serial gluttony, looked like a Victorian mistress in the company of George. In fact, after a few moments, Ryan became so disgusted by what he was seeing that he got up to leave. The whole room was getting hot, and he was sweating. He had reached beyond the point of being tired, and he felt lucid again. His body was weak and ached with tiredness, but his mind was awakened anew, and he couldn’t just sit around watching the old hog eating endless plates of food. Pokémon and people were roaring with laughter; there were so many conversations going on that Ryan couldn’t make out what anyone was saying, though he could hear them all talking at once. It was pure noise, chaotic in its inanity. When he got up, he passed by a Charmeleon carrying a plate of fresh, cold sushi. Ryan turned around and saw that old George was snorting jello shots off of the belly of a Dratini. This place is nuts. I have to get out of here. In the midst of the childish nattering and feasting in Derceyes’ house, no one noticed him walking out.

Ryan went for the door when he bumped into Derceyes, whose face was also flushed. Her eyes, he noticed, were not in fact a deep blue color. They were purple - a delicate shade of summer lilac. That made his heart beat just a little bit faster. She smiled cheekily. “Need some fresh air?”

“Y-yeah, it’s getting crazy in here.”

Derceyes opened the door, and the two stepped outside. The gust of bitter wind that met their faces was a welcome relief, one that made Ryan feel like he had broken free of the hot, sweaty lunacy that was taking place in that house.

The woman sighed. “My uncle is always like that. He likes food too much. I’m sure some of it is symbolic, and a lot of it tastes good, but he goes overboard. I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who likes food as much as him.”

“It shows,” Ryan said. “I thought Rahul was a big man.”

Derceyes chuckled. “Rahul has a long way to go before he can equal my uncle’s size.”

They walked down from Derceyes house to the nearby lake, where many other Pokémon lived. Here, Magikarp were king, though Ryan spotted a Gyarados as well. Some Dratinis, Dragonairs, and Dragonites were also down here. Ryan noticed that Thurnax was amongst them.

Ryan gulped. “I-I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to take her. I didn’t know sh-she was yours,” he said awkwardly.

Derceyes shrugged. “I have many Pokémon. If one of them finds a good trainer willing to raise them and take them around the world to battle and meet other people and Pokémon, who am I to stop them? I can’t give all of my Pokémon equal attention. It’s good that some of them will be able to go out into the world and make names for themselves. Besides, it appears that Thurnax is very happy with you.”

Ryan went red and got a tingly feeling in his stomach. “I hope so.”

They came to a stop at the water’s edge, watching the Pokémon play about - the dragon Pokémon in particular seemed to be playing racing games through the cold, midnight waters. The moon hung in an empty sky, and its reflection in the center of the lake seemed to be rippling with a constancy that could only mean there were many Pokémon having fun in the waters.

“Uh, Ms. Derceyes, why do you have so many dragon Pokémon?” Ryan blurted out.

She did not turn to face him. “It is my passion to study these kinds of Pokémon. And not all of my Pokémon are dragons - I have many other types that look only superficially like dragons. Still, I enjoy their company. Breeding them, studying their genetics, their fighting capabilities, their eating habits… all of it… I am trying to unlock the mysteries of these rare creatures. I do not know if what I am doing will result in anything meaningful, but I have discovered a few little things already.”

“Like what?”

“The preferred moves for each species, for one. I talked with Alex about that earlier. He was mostly interested in the moves and training I gave all of my Dragonites.”

“Does Thurnax have good moves?”

Derceyes looked up at the moon. “If I remember correctly, I gave her Body Slam. Otherwise, she should have Wrap and Agility,” the woman trailed off. Ryan nodded. “She also has Surf, I believe.”

“Yep.”

“Her moves are good. I trained all of my Dratini from when they were born to be great fighters. They have the natures and instincts that are needed of them. You will want to give Thurnax Hyper Beam when she gains some more experience, however.”

“Alright.”

“But other than that, she is ready to take on the best Kanto has to offer. You are lucky you got your Dragonair from me, and not from the wild. These beasts are notoriously difficult to train if you catch a wild one. Will you use her in the Indigo League?”

Ryan nodded in determination. “She’s gonna be one of my best Pokémon!”

Derceyes bit her lip, perhaps hiding a smile. “I’ll be there to watch. Don’t disappoint me. I don’t want to see her losing to Shellders or Drowzees.”

“I won’t let that happen!” Ryan declared. “I’m a great trainer! I know how to counter the Pokémon that are super effective against mine!”

“Yep, sure.” Her voice was thick with sarcasm. It was sudden and unexpected, causing Ryan’s pride to swell in his throat. How dare she question my prowess?!

“Fine, let’s have a battle!” Derceyes turned around, not believing Ryan’s declaration. “Come on, Thurnax, get over here! There’s a battle you need to win for me!”

Thurnax popped her head from the water and cocked it in surprise. When Ryan continued to shout across the water and gesture wildly with his hands, she came flying over and landed next to him in the mud. Derceyes shook her head and then whistled. A second later, one of her own Dragonites appeared. It was the shiny one - the one with green skin.

“Trinnetar, show Thurnax just how strong you are,” Derceyes commanded. “You know which moves to use.”

“How can you say that?” Ryan asked. “How does your Pokémon know what moves to use without you telling it?”

“We’ve been together for a long time. Trinnetar was the first Dratini I ever captured. He’s been with me since the beginning. After all these years… well, we’ve been in a lot of battles together.. He knows what I want him to do.”

“Hmph, well then, we’ll just have to show you who’s really good, isn’t that right, Thurnax?”

“Wraaahahah!”

The two Pokémon took their places opposite one another. “Agility, Thurnax,” Ryan commanded.

Derceyes stood as still as a statue. The two Pokémon flew at one another. At the last second, Thurnax split off and took to the skies to build up its speed. But Trinnetar was not one to be outdone. It followed Thurnax up there, and just as Thurnax was about to begin its Agility, Trinnetar hit her with a Thunder Wave, instantly paralyzing Ryan’s Pokémon.

“Wha…?! How does that Dragonite know Thunder Wave?!”

“It’s something I learned in my research. Dragonites can learn that move,” Derceyes replied. “Not the best move for all Dragonites, to be fair. But since I have so many, this move is very valuable for my team as a whole.”

Now paralyzed, Thurnax could do little as the other Dragonite used Wrap on it and then finished her off with a simple Hyper Beam. Thurnax crashed into the water, soaking Ryan in the process. Just great… now I’m tired and cold.

“That’s enough, Trinnetar. We don’t want Thurnax to get too injured.”

When Thurnax came back up from the water, Ryan waved her off.

“Great try, girl, but the battle’s over. You can go back to playing.”

And thus his Pokémon swam away to mingle with its friends for one more night. Derceyes approached Ryan and held out her hand, as if to shake his. He shook her hand and felt a small rock or something similar in the woman’s palm. When their hands broke off, he held up the little stone, though he held no understanding over what that thing was.

“Dragonitite,” Derceyes said. “It’s the mega stone for Dragonite.”

“Huh, what are you talking about?”

Derceyes said, “Perhaps when you’ve journeyed a bit more, you will learn about mega stones. It is not my place to explain what they are or how they are used. But make sure you keep that stone with you. There aren’t many of them in the world, and I have most of them.” She smiled. “Just a perk of me being the dragon expert in Kanto.”

“Th-thanks! I guess…”

“Make sure you battle with your Dragonite often. You two will build your bond primarily through battle - the understanding you will share during the heat of battle that will allow you to adapt to and beat any opponent you may face, regardless of the Pokémon you are up against. If you wish to become a Pokémon Master, or even a dragon expert, you must keep at it. The more you two practice together, the more you two will grow in tandem. And you still have a while before you will face the other trainers in the Indigo League Tournament. You have plenty of time to learn all there is to know about Thurnax.”

“Maybe,” Ryan said, lowering his head, “but it’s going to take a lot of work. I’m not nearly as good of a Pokémon battler as you… Your Dragonite defeated mine in a minute! And I thought Thurnax was one of the most powerful Pokémon in the world!”

Derceyes clasped Ryan on the shoulders. “Don’t worry about that now. Let’s get back to dinner. Come on, I’m sure you can bear with my uncle George a little longer. If you get past his eating habits, he can tell you some really twisted and bloody tales.”

“Awesome!”

And so the two walked back to Derceyes’ house. Ryan kept the mega stone clutched tight in his palm, and he looked up at the moon as he walked. I’m going to become a great trainer. I’m going to make all of them proud of me… Derceyes, Rahul, Alex, mom… and even dad. It wasn’t a mistake that I became a Pokémon trainer. This is what I was born to do. But I’ve got a long way to go yet.

The moon flickered pale and lonely in the starless sky. Ryan clutched the mega stone tight in his hand for several moments. And when they reached the house again, he pocketed it and walked inside, ready to meet the insanity that awaited him.


It was full tonight, she knew. The loonies’ll all be out. Good thing I’ve got Haunter. She remembered where she had first befriended her ghost Pokémon. It had been very near where they were standing now, a little ways beyond the Pokémon Tower. She remembered that day as vividly as if it had been yesterday. I had been picking flowers for mother when I had stumbled upon it hiding in the forest. I felt something watching me and walked right into the forest, completely oblivious to the fact that it was a scary ghost Pokémon awaiting me. But he was more scared of me than I was of him. She giggled a the memory of it. It took me a week to get him to work up the courage to come out of that forest. He didn’t tell me why he had been hiding in there until years later… I guess I never actually caught him, but ever since he realized he could trust me, he began following me around.

She thought about how having a Haunter from such a young age had helped her to catch other Pokémon. When she had applied to Team Rocket, she had had more Pokémon than any 13 year old girl should have had. And now I’m the second-in-command. But that’s not worth much, in this dying organization.

“Is it ready yet?” she snapped at the Team Rocket grunts around here.

“A few more minutes, please,” one of them grumbled.

“We don’t have much time. This is the best time to try out our device. Hurry up! Gilly?! Where are you?”

“Here,” Gillford said with a bow. “I was just meditating into transatlantic planes. And my name’s ‘The Supreme Extreme’, don’t forget that!”

“Shut up,” she said, handing him the remote control. “Here, you’re in charge. Make sure the device gets turned on.”

“Wha… what?! Me? Why me?!”

“You’re my second-in-command,” she explained. “But, if you don’t get this Mew hologram to turn on before the moonlight fades, I’ll fire you from Team Rocket.”

“No!” Gilly bellowed. “I’m the Supreme Extreme, you can’t do that to me!” He took out his little wooden-painted girlfriend, fondly known as ‘Mrs. Supreme Extreme’ and thrust her in Jessica’s face. “You can’t do this to my husband! He’s beautiful and talented and so powerful! He can levitate! You’ll be making a big mistake if you try to fire him.”

“Gilly, stop it. I’m not in the mood for your nonsense. Just get the projector running, and once it’s up, radio me.”

“Where are you going?”

“None of your business.”

“Ms. Jessica,” a grunt said, bowing, “before you leave, I should inform you that we have just received some information about the Painted Dragons’ operations in Cerulean City.”

Jessica’s blood turned cold. “What of those fools?”

“They were defeated by some sort of police force, we think. The entire branch was disbanded, and First Lieutenant Miyazaki himself was defeated! He’s since gone missing; our spies assume he’s retired from the organization and given up on Pokémon fighting after being humiliated in front of his whole force! The word is he’s going to become a really popular anime and manga producer now!”

A small smile crept onto Jessica’s face. “Pity. Very well, if that’s all, I’ll be leaving now.”

The grunt bowed and let Jessica move out. She walked through the desolate streets of Lavender Town alone, catching glimpses of ghosts coming from the Pokémon Tower and the various abandoned buildings around the place. It was a dead city, for the most part. It was creepy, but that was just how Jessica liked it. Much of its population was either dead or gone, and this place was little more than a cemetery now. Why would the Mew come here? Pressing on, she came to the edge of the forest, where she had once played as a child. But that was a lifetime ago.

Unhooking the Poké Ball from her belt, Jessica released her Haunter.

“Haunter, haunt!” the ghost croaked.

“Hey Haunty. We’re home.”

“Hauu!!”

Haunter began to fly around in circles, overwhelmed with happiness. His euphoria was enough to make Jessica smile - for a second. Then, her thoughts and plans came flooding back into her brain, and she began to pace. This was her time; Jessica found it easiest to think, to plan, to scheme when she was alone, and there was no better place to do that than this forest.

Giovanni will want to know that the Painted Dragons have been crippled. If it’s true Miyazaki’s gone, that organization will be vulnerable… we could move forward and crush them. We have the soldiers for it. Gilly and I alone could probably take out most of those pathetic trainers who call themselves members of that gang. Kanto is Team Rocket’s territory. There is no room for other gangs. We have to eliminate them if we are to regain our power.

But she was in a tricky situation, she knew. She had to catch the Mew - she knew not how much longer it would be around Lavender Town. And yet, she would also need to lead the assault against the Painted Dragons’ main base soon if she wanted to destroy them. If she waited too long, someone else would be promoted to First Lieutenant, and the Painted Dragons would recruit enough new people to their gang to make up for those they lost in Cerulean City.

Jessica sighed and kneeled down to pick up a withered flower at the forest’s edge. Killed by the frost of winter, she thought. But every spring, the flowers come back, in full bloom. She looked to the sky, scanning for any sign of the Mew. Our projector will fool the Mew into thinking there’s another member of its species in Lavender Town. And once we get it to come to us, to act on its curiosity, catching it will be the easy part. But… where are you, Mew?! Where are you?!

The sky was dark and cloudless, save for the overbearing whiteness that was being exuded by the moon. It was beautiful, in its own way, but Jessica didn’t have time for sentimentality. She needed to think up a strategy to catch Mew and take out the Painted Dragons in one fell swoop. And as her Haunter roamed about her gleefully, Jessica knew she had no answers for how to do that… yet.

The girl dropped the dead flowers and motioned to her Pokémon to follow her. “Come on, Haunty. Let’s see if mom and dad are still awake.” They haven’t seen me in a year. They’re going to be in for a big surprise. Jessica twisted her tongue between her teeth. I wonder if they will be proud of me becoming the second-in-command of Team Rocket.

Not a chance, she thought sadly.

Episode 22: I’m Not Handsome, But Sometimes I’m Cool

The next morning, Alex, Rahul, and Ryan awoke refreshed and said their goodbyes to Derceyes. Returning to Cerulean City, they healed their Pokémon, gathered their belongings, and set out on their next adventure down Route 5.

“Now we’re onto Saffron City!” Ryan declared, leading the troupe.

“No way,” replied Rahul, stroking his goatee. “I already beat Sabrina.”

“Huh? But you have the same number of badges as me!”

“And that’s one of the ones I have.”

Annoyed at the big man, Ryan took out his little booklet with all of his badges and showed it to the others. “See, these are the ones I have. You should have the same badges as me, Rahul.”

And yet, when the human Snorlax took out his own booklet, Ryan beheld that there was a Marsh Badge in it, though there was no Soul Badge. It was a crying shame.

Alex was not really paying attention. He was holding a little bowl of rice and was cutting up a cucumber over it while he walked. When the two looked at him, he shrugged and said, “Since I ran out and there aren't enough for one meal, I will be also eating a little less than half of an entire cucumber.”

“That’s great and all, but we have more serious matters to talk about,” Ryan said earnestly. “Rahul and I have different badges, look!”

The two held up their badge booklets to Alex’s face. “Yeah, I know,” grunted the small Chinese Pokémon master. “Rahul and I are going to Fuchsia City next.”

“Bu-bu-bu-but… I’ve already beaten Koga!” Ryan whined. “I want to go to Saffron City.”

“Then go there. We’ll go to Fuchsia, and you can go to Saffron. After Rahul and you get your next badges, we can meet up in Celadon City. It’s pretty simple. That’s where the next badge should be,” Alex said, slurping up his cucumber slices.

“Fine,” replied Ryan quietly. “I’ll see you guys in Celadon.”

“May Pagan’s light shine upon you all,” Rahul roared proudly, his Sonic Screwdriver thrust high in the cool morning air.

“Yep,” Ryan sighed. “See ya, space cowboys.”

And so Ryan left the other two at the next fork in the road. This was the first time since he had set out on his journey that he had been alone. He missed Kelly, and even though he knew he would be meeting Rahul and Alex again very soon in Celadon City, he was already beginning to miss them. Feeling a bit lonely, he let out all six of his Pokémon as he continued on, and trained them on the wild Pokémon lurking in the tall grass on the route for a while. He was sure Rahul and Alex had not done so with their own Pokémon, so they must have have quickly overtaken him on the path. Still, he did not mind going at a slower pace. Fuchsia City is much farther away than Saffron. I’ll have time to train.

The road through Route 5 was rather short, however, and soon Ryan found himself approaching Saffron City. The sprawling megapolis protruded up from the forest in the distance like a sore tooth, yet when Ryan reached its northern gate it, he saw that the entrance into the city was blocked. In front of it stood an Officer Jenny.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “this path is closed until further notice.”

Ryan cocked his head to the side. “Wha…?! How’m I supposed to battle Sabrina, then?”

“We ask that you please bear with us during these trying times,” the blue-haired woman beamed. “There is an underground path you can take,” she began, gesturing to her right, where a small, slumped-over building stood, “that will take you to Vermillion City.”

“I don’t want to go to Vermillion. I already have that badge.”

“Not to worry!” Officer Jenny chuckled. “Due to maintenance, several entrances to Saffron City are closed, but not all of them are. The gate from Route 8 is open. If you really need to get into the city, that’s your ticket in!”

Ryan frowned, took out his map of Kanto, and shook his head. “But that means I have to go through Lavender Town!”

Officer Jenny didn’t seem to care. She laughed, winked, and held up a peace sign. “Lavender Town’s pretty far away! You better hurry up if you want to get there soon!”

Ryan grumbled to himself and turned away. “Come on guys, let’s go,” he said to his leal Pokéservants.

They followed him over to the small building, and just when he went to open the door, Officer Jenny spoke again: “Be careful down there, and don’t cause any trouble! I don’t want to have to arrest you!”

Ryan didn’t turn around to look at her; nor did he reply. Instead he stumbled inside the old shack with his Pokémon hot on his heals. Finding the building abandoned, he noticed a ladder in the middle of the floor that led down to the underground tunnel. The room was dark, but Charmeleon kept it alight with his flames, and soon, all of Ryan’s gang had made their way down to the underground tunnel. It was cold down there, silent and empty and ominous. He could hear water dripping, could smell a dusty, moldy smell. It didn’t seem like this place was traversed much.

“Aegon, come here. I need your light,” Ryan ordered his Charmeleon as they began walking through the place. He took out his map again and looked it over. “Lavender Town’s a long way away,” Ryan told the others. “We’ll have to get a bike or something or we’ll be walking for the rest of our lives!”

“Rah!” came the dry reply from Ryan’s Abra, who sat perched on the boy’s shoulder, half asleep. “Abra abra abra bra, abra abra rah.”

“Oh, wait, I have to go back home too. I almost forgot. Thanks for reminding me, Abra,” Ryan said, scratching his psychic Pokémon behind the ear. Yet, at the same time, a dread feeling flashed through his stomach. Don’t forget Abra, mom said. Why would they want me to bring back Abra specifically? He didn’t know, and he didn’t want to know. Glancing down at the map again, Ryan noticed that the route to Lavender Town would lead him right past his hometown of Acapulco. “Well buddies, we may as well take a short trip home before challenging Sabrina,” he said, his voice echoing through the tunnel. “What do you say?”

His Pokémon clamored out in approval. Ryan still didn’t know what to think about going home. Were his parents going to congratulate him? Were they going to be mad at him? He had not the faintest idea. But the way his mother had been crying in her last video message to him gave him pause all the same. I wonder what that’s about. But maybe it’s not even about me. They could have been fighting again.

Plodding on, the tunnel narrowed, and Ryan could see graffiti lining the stone walls on either side of him. Phrases like ‘SMB’, ‘X was here’, and ‘Feel the Bern’ were common, but Ryan’s favorite was surely ‘The lombax sleeps tonight’. However, Ryan was cut off from further admiring these fanciful, if illegal artistic expressions, when a smell, so foul it brought tears to his eyes, hit his nose. Likewise, Aegon and the others began to gag and hold their noses. Ryan coughed and took out his Pokédex and pointed it at the darkness ahead.

“Hrawhechahea!” Thurnax moaned.

“Rah, abra!” Abra howled.

“Meleon!” Aegon whined.

“Fruahaha!” NaVorro sniffed.

“Pidgeooooooo!” Swirlie Whirlie screeched.

“Cloyster, cloy!” Myrrah sang.

“Dex… what’s that smell coming from?!”

“Scanning…” Dex said. “No Pokémon detected.”

“H-huh? How can that not be from a Pokémon?! Scan again!”

“You must get closer to the source for me to give a more accurate reading,” the Pokédex replied without emotion.

“Aw, come on!”

“Rah, abra, abra!”

Ryan shook his head and pinched his nose as tight as he could. “Okay guys, guess we have no choice. There’s only one way forward! Aegon, lead us out of here!”

And so they moved further and further ahead. By now, the tunnel had tightened considerably, and Ryan could barely walk straight without the walls scraping at his shoulders. The smell grew stronger and fouler the more they moved on. Ryan’s entire face went numb, and it felt like he was dreaming. He was low on oxygen, he knew. Can’t turn back… this is the only way to Saffron City!

After a few more steps, Dex’s light flashed again. “Scanning… Pokémon found! Muk, the Sludge Pokémon. Smells so awful, it can cause fainting. Through degeneration, it lost its sense of smell.”

“You don’t have to tell me that… I already know!” Ryan motioned to his Charmeleon. “Go Aegon! Use your Fire Blast on that Muk!”

“Charrrrr!” Aegon complained. “Meleon, char char!”

“I’m not in the mood for your sass mouth right now,” Ryan said. “Go take that Muk out! I wasn’t asking you!”

Aegon barked, “Meleon!”, and ran off into the darkness. Ryan stayed back as far as he could, with his other five Pokémon. In the distance, he saw flames bursting through the darkness, heard roars coming both from his Pokémon and the thus-unseen stinker. At great length, the reek of the Muk became even greater, causing tears to flow down Ryan’s cheeks. He nearly threw up. At last, Aegon came running back to the group on all fours. When he reached them, he stood up and proudly flexed his muscles for Ryan. Then he let out a reckless mouthful of flames that caught Ryan right in the face and made him fall over screaming in shock and pain.

“Aegon… don’t do that!” he screamed.

“Char.”

“The Charmeleon has significantly damaged the Muk,” Dex then noted. “A good Pokémon trainer would use this opportunity to capture the wild Pokémon.”

“Shut up, Dex. I don’t need the sass mouth from you either.”

“My apologies master. I never meant to do you harm,” Dex droned before turning itself off and quickly going into sleep mode.

“Stupid computer,” Ryan said, standing up. He felt his hair, and noticed that the edges were all burnt and blackened. “Come on, Aegon, why’d you do that?”

“Char.”

“Yeah, I thought so. Anyways, it’s time for me to catch another Pokémon. I’m a great Pokémon master!! Come on, Aegon, give me some light.”

Ryan ran forward, forgetting that the Muk had stunk up the joint until the last moment. Just when he grabbed his nose, he saw Aegon’s light reach the far corner of the room. There, a pile of sludge lay, burnt and blackened, like Ryan’s poor face and hair, and radiating a stink that would’ve made Reek Sr. envious.

“Go Poké Ball!”

Ryan threw a Poké Ball at the ugly thing, but it didn’t seem to do anything to Muk. The Poké Ball just sunk right into its folds of grime and was lost. “Dang it all! Aegon, use another Fire Blast!”

“Char!”

This time, Muk got cooked up real good, like a scallop in Hell’s Kitchen. Ryan saw its eyes bulge in terror and pain and then saw the thing collapse into a puddle. He knew this was his time to show his true skill. “Muk, you’re mine!”

This time, the Sludge Pokémon indeed was. It was sucked into the Poké Ball, and didn’t fuss at all. In a few seconds, the Poké Ball fell to the ground and stopped moving. Ryan picked up the ball and pocketed it. “Yeeeaaaah! I caught Muk!”

“Rah, abra!” Abra complained from Ryan’s shoulder.

“Meleon,” Charmeleon agreed.

Ryan grinned. Despite the stink of the tunnel, despite having to take a detour to Saffron City, despite having to leave Rahul and Alex behind for a short while, this day was turning out better than he had expected.

He stepped forward, into the muck ol’ Muk had left behind, the puddle of filth and residual grey matter that looked like melted jello, and reached down to pick up the first Poké Ball he had thrown. “Huh, what’s that?” he said when what he picked up was not, in fact, his Poké Ball. Indeed, Ryan was looking at a cylindrical cobalt-tinted package. On its surface, in delicate white-blue cursive, was but one word: Blizzard. “Dex, explain,” Ryan commanded.

“This device is a TM for the move ‘Blizzard’. This powerful move may be taught to a variety of Pokémon.”

“Blizzard, huh? How did that get stuck in Muk?” Ryan muttered, kneeling down again; this time, he found his missing Poké Ball, and put it back in his bag. “Hey, wait a minute! That’s one of the moves Alex wanted to me to find!” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the napkin that Alex had written down his TM purchase list on. And on it, there was Blizzard, sure enough. And it was meant for not just one Pokémon, but two - both his Cloyster and his Tauros. Ryan smiled and said, “Awesome. Looks like NaVorro and Myrrah are getting a new move today! But first, let’s get out of this stinking tunnel! Come on, buddies, let’s go!”

He raced his Pokémon to the end of the tunnel, found the other entrance, and soon, the seven travelers emerged on the outskirts of Vermillion City.

“Remember this place, buddy?” Ryan asked Abra.

Abra yawned noisily and leaned up against Ryan’s head, hoping to fall back asleep.

“Good, because we’re never going back there.”


Acapulco was a short bullet train ride from the mainland to the Island of the Giant Pokémon, situated not far off the harbor of Vermillion City. Ryan arrived back in his hometown just as evening was falling on the world. The city itself as was bustling and chaotic as it had been when he had left, with people moving in great crowds across the sidewalks, and cars zipping through the streets by the like angry Beedrills. He would have thought this to be pandemonium had he not grown up in it. Still, he decided it would be safer if he returned all of his Pokémon to their Poké Balls - and he did so for all of them save for Abra, who still sat sleepily on the teal-haired boy’s shoulder. The two of them made their way through the crowds of people, trying to get uptown to where Ryan’s parents lived.

As they went further and further north, away from the beach part of the town Ryan knew to be a tourist trap, the crowds thinned. Up there, the streets faded into cobbled paths lined with shops and food stalls on either side. Ryan treated Abra and himself to some uni sushi and bought some sweetbread for the morning. Then, they began to walk home.

It was at this time that a most curious thing happened. As Ryan made his way to the end of the market, he noticed an old alleyway that he used to traverse as a kid. He remembered when he had been much younger, waking up early on Saturdays and sneaking out of the house with a few extra Poké Dollars to come down to the market and buy some candy. The thought of those simpler days made him a bit sad. But this was a shortcut home too, he knew, so he took it. And when he went down that dark alley, Ryan ran into someone he had not expected to.

The boy’s hair was dark blue and gelled, tall and pointed as horn. He wore a ridiculous suit of red-and-yellow with thick red-rimmed glasses. Ryan noticed that the boy’s pants were bell-bottoms. He looked thoroughly out-dated, as if he had time traveled to the future from thirty years ago. He held a can of spray paint in one hand and was huddled over one of the walls, writing something on it. Hovering over his shoulder was a Ghastly, and it saw Ryan and Abra before the bell-bottom-wearing boy did.

“Ghaaaastly,” the ball of smoke wheezed, causing its master to look up.

“Who’s there?” came the voice, high and shrill. “Oh, it’s just a kid. Get out of here, I’m warning you. This is my territory.”

“What are you doing?” asked Ryan.

“None of your business.”

“Suit yourself,” Ryan shrugged. He walked past the other boy, weaving his way through the curving alleyway.

Yet, when Ryan came out on the other side of the buildings, he noticed two more boys wearing suits of red and yellow. They each had a Pokémon out - a Golbat and a Spearow - attacking an Eevee, and they were cackling with delight, watching the battle unfold in their favor. There was another boy in what looked like black-and-blue running clothes to Ryan, who was standing a little ways off. His eyes were wide, and he was shouting:

“Hey stop it! Call it off! Don’t let them hurt my Eevee! I swear I won’t come back here! Please!”

“Heh, this’s what you’ll get!” one of the others replied savagely.

Ryan scowled and looked back at the graffiti artist, who was still working on writing something on the alley wall.

“Yo, your friends are beating up on this kid’s Eevee,” Ryan noted. “Make them stop.”

The blue-haired boy looked over at Ryan and then giggled. “Get out of here before they go after you too. This is our territory. If you come looking for a fight, you’re gonna get one.”

“I don’t think he was-”

The other boy looked up and stared down Ryan. “Get out of here before I make you. No one comes into the Bell-Bottom Brigade’s territory and tries to boss us around.”

“You don’t tell me what to do.”

The other boy frowned and then pointed at Ryan. “Meatball! Shut this loser up!”

“Come on, we don’t need to fight.”

“Yes we do. I’m Falco, the leader of the Bell-Bottom Brigade! You have insulted my honor! And for that, you will pay!”

“Fine, Abra, use Psychic.”

“Rah? Bra!” the Pokémon replied unhappily. He was still munching on his uni and looked none too pleased with the prospect of fighting.

“Abra, I don’t have time for this. Go and fight that Ghastly.”

“Rah…” Abra grunted. He hopped off Ryan’s shoulder, swallowed the rest of his uni in one gulp, and cracked his neck.

“You’re a fool,” Falco smiled. “Psychic Pokémon are weak to ghost Pokémon.”

“Maybe,” admitted Ryan, “but you may be surprised. My Abra isn’t a normal Abra.”

“Night Shade, Meatball!”

Abra sprung forward, running up to the Ghastly, purple energy already forming between his claws. Before the Ghastly could conjure up its own attack, Abra’s Psychic was fully formed. In the blink of an eye, the Psychic attack hit Ghastly right on the nose.

“Ghaaaa!” the Pokémon groaned. He twirled about a few times in a dazed stupor and then fell to the ground like an old fat man would after jumping into the east river.

Falco grimaced. “Impressive. I didn’t expect that! But you’re out of luck now, kid. Because… personally, I prefer the air! Go Clenny!”

Out from a Poké Ball soared a Pidgeot, as graceful as the wind.

“Wow,” Ryan said. “He’s got a Pidgeot!”

“Pidgeot, the Bird Pokémon,” Dex stated when Ryan pointed him at Falco’s new contender. “This Pokémon flies at Mach 2 speed, seeking prey. Its large talons are feared as wicked weapons.”

“Hmm…” Ryan thought. “Let’s use Myrrah!”

He threw the ball for his Cloyster, and out came Ryan’s most favorite Pokémon on his team, aside from the other five.

“Blizzard, Myrrah!” he ordered her.

“Clenny, use Wing Attack!” Falco shouted back.

The two Pokémon clashed briefly, with the Pidgeot hitting Myrrah’s hard shell. The attack did minimal damage, but Myrrah’s icy blast hit Clenny hard in the belly, causing him to fall like the Ghastly had. This time, however, it was because the Pidgeot was encased in ice, not because it had fainted.

“Yeah, Freeze!” Ryan whooped as he punched at the sky. “I’ve always wanted to Freeze a Pokémon!”

“Curses and such,” growled Falco. “I’ll make you pay for this humiliation! The Bell-Bottom Brigade won’t let its reputation be sullied by some loser like you!”

“I don’t like that tone of yours,” Ryan replied. “Myrrah, clear out the trash.”

“Cloyster!”

Another Blizzard attack sent both Falco and his Pidgeot flying into the air.

“Noo! I’m blasting off for the first time!” Falco screeched.

“Have fun enjoying the air,” Ryan said.

He walked back down the alley to the other two Bell-Bottom Brigade lackeys, whose Pokémon were bullying that poor dude’s Eevee. They had their backs to him and were screaming at the top of their lungs as their Golbat and Spearow attacked the Eevee simultaneously and with great teamwork.

“Happy feet!” one yelled, as his Spearow landed on the ground and danced around the Eevee while the other’s Golbat circled overhead.

“Wombo combo!” the other shouted in jubilation as his Golbat nose-dived onto the Eevee, hitting it hard. The Pokémon cried out in pain and fell to the ground, looking as if it had fainted.

Ryan bit his lip in disgust. “Hey, over here!” he shouted at the two. Then, more quietly, he said to Myrrah, “Do to them what you did to Falco.”

“Cloyster.”

The two boys turned around, grinning from ear to ear. And then, their smiles vanished instantaneously. “Dat ain’t Falco!!” one gasped. Myrrah was already bearing down on him, charging up her Blizzard as she approached. “Oh! Oh! Oooh!” he began to shout as he realized what was going on.

“Oh, ooh, oooh!! Oh!” the other boy screamed at the top of his lungs as he watched in horror as Myrrah suddenly and swiftly took both his and his friend’s Pokémon out in but a single attack.

“Falco, where’re you at?!” the first lackey screamed in dismay.

“He had to fly,” Ryan said. “Why don’t you two join him?”

“Oooh!!” they screamed in unison as Myrrah’s furious tempest hit them, slapping their faces with ice and whipping winds harsh enough to blow them away. And then, like Falco, the two Bell-Bottom Brigade members and their Pokémon went flying off into the sky. And Ryan didn’t even think about how they were going to survive the landing.

Ryan approached the boy who was crouched over his fallen Eevee. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“I-I’m okay,” the other boy replied, his voice distant and sad. “But they beat up Zoe pretty good.”

“Here,” Ryan said, reaching for something in his bag and then tossing it to the boy. “This Super Potion should heal her.”

“Thanks!” The other boy’s eyes were brimming with tears. “How can I repay you for saving me from those creeps?”

Ryan shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. Just train your Pokémon some more, and hopefully this kind of thing won’t happen to you in the future.”

The other boy nodded and stood up. He put out his hand, which Ryan took. “I’m Logan by the way,” he said. “Nice to meet you.”

“My name’s Ryan,” Ryan replied. “Anyways, I have to go. Maybe I’ll see you at the Indigo Tournament. Later.”

With that, Ryan walked off, leaving the grateful boy behind. In the distance, he saw houses - the houses of his neighborhood - peeking up from a wall of hills. I’m almost home. He was nearly there when he heard the town’s belltower start sounding. He counted the rings, and was horrified when he heard this one go to eleven. Mom and dad are already asleep, he knew. This is way past their bedtime - and mine too, they would tell me. They would be really mad if they knew I was still up. And I don’t want to wake them. I’ll have to be quiet.

But another thought crept into Ryan’s mind then and there: If they’re already asleep, there’s no point in me going home so soon.

Ryan clapped his hands and Abra came scurrying up. “Alright, Abra. Whaddya say, you and I have a little fun?”

“Raaaah,” came the reply, as dry and miserable as the Sahara.

“Great!”


The boy with the burnt hair found his luck at a little shop called ‘Pokémon in a sandbox’. There, he found a Poképoker tournament going on and entered himself into the fray. Ryan ordered lots of orange juice, placed Abra on his lap, and went to town. With his Psychic Pokémon helping him, Ryan was able to clear through the competition like they were a bunch of idiots from northern Europe.

After he had had a few too many orange juice boxes, Ryan carelessly informed the other players around him, “I’ve got white magic, baby!”

This caused one man - a gentleman, to be sure - to stand up and challenge Ryan to a duel for all of his chips. Ryan was too imbibed with the juice to realize what a silly thing it would be to challenge the gentleman to a battle for his tournament life. But challenge the man he did, and when Abra lost to the man’s Machamp, Ryan found himself busted out. He cursed them all and ran screaming from the building insisting that he still had all the white magic in the world.

As the night got later, Ryan became less and less cognizant of what was going on. He did not know why he was buying and drinking so much orange juice - he hated the stuff, truly - but a feeling of wanting to party, to finally let go of all of inanity of life had suddenly and perhaps unconsciously overtaken him. The rest of the night, as a result, was mostly a blur to him.

In one shop, he tried to become a karaoke megastar with Abra serving as his backup dancer, but that failed when Ryan forgot the words to ‘Daddy’. Then, he tried to join a crowd of fellow teenagers dancing in a rave, but when he realized he didn’t know how to dance and had more epilepsy than grace in his bones, he fled the place. Ryan soon found himself in a food stall taking bets for how much wasabi he could eat (the answer was none), and briefly tried to fight someone who made fun of his hair.

Afterwards, he stumbled out into the streets and attempted to hit on an Officer Jenny, but when she suspected there was orange juice on his breath, he ran off, carrying Abra like a sack of potatoes. Laughing and shouting, Ryan kept running until he found himself back at the alleyway where he and his Pokémon warriors had vanquished Falco and his gang. Ryan stumbled forward and nearly tripped over the spray paint can that Falco had been using. He looked down and picked it up, finding himself face-to-face with what Falco had been painting on the wall. There was but a simple statement on the wall ‘F was here’. It was as pathetic and lame as Ryan could have expected, and he began to laugh uncontrollably. He remembered the Officer Jenny in Saffron City who had cautioned him to not get into any trouble or do anything mischievous.

“Well, to Pokéheck with her! I’ll live my life in my own way!” the boy bellowed at no one and no one in particular. He pointed the can at the wall and held down the trigger until the ‘F’ looked more like an ‘R’. Satisfied, he turned around put out his hand for Abra to high-five him. Yet, his little psychic Pokémon was huddled up against the far wall, his arms folded, his head bowed, snoring loudly. Ryan broke out into hysterics again for but a moment. And then he collapsed onto the filthy ground and joined Abra into that grand venture known as sleep.

Ryan awoke with Abra in his arms. The teal-haired boy’s head was killing him, and he did not feel well-rested at all. Yawning, Ryan sat up and looked around. It was morning, and he was alone in the alleyway. Fog was rolling through the town. He shivered and stood.

Rubbing his eyes, Ryan found his hand covered in red paint. Weird, he thought. I don’t remember getting my face painted. In truth, he remembered very little of the previous night, nor why he had gone as crazy as he had. No one will know about this, he thought, but guilt flooded through his veins all the same. He walked out of the alleyway, rubbing the paint off his face, and once again made his way back home.

“Come on, Abra,” Ryan said to his snoring companion, who awoke at the boy’s words, “are you ready to go home?”

I know I’m not.

Episode 23: Bra Abra Rah Rah Abra

Note: The first section of this chapter is written in the POV of Ryan’s Abra. As such, when he speaks, it will be written in English, but none of the humans will be able to understand him (and they will think he’s saying “Abra ra ra” etc. whenever he speaks). This is similar to the episode “Island of the Giant Pokémon” from the Indigo League arc of the Pokémon anime. I hope this isn’t too confusing.


It was just as they had left it: the same little, two-story house; the same freshly-mowed lawn; the same blue door to let them in; the same smells, the same colors, the same sounds. Abra remembered the first time he had seen this place - that had been when Ryan’s father, Richard, had bought him. That had been many years ago. Yet, as Ryan carried Abra in his arms and walked up to the door, the psychic Pokémon felt that same old anxious feeling he had felt the first time he had been carried to this home.

Ryan knocked three times, and after a short pause, his mother opened the door.

“Oh, Ryan, you’re here!” she said, beckoning her son and Abra inside. “You look terrible, Ryan. What happened?”

“Oh, uh, nothing,” the boy replied, laughing nervously. “Just been out battling a bunch, that’s all.”

Abra, of course, knew that was a lie. The previous night, he and Ryan had partied all throughout Acapulco, and his master had been in rare form. In truth, Abra knew not why Ryan had done that - the teal-haired boy had always been on the quieter side, not one for parties or mayhem. Nevertheless, Ryan’s mother did not press the issue, and they stepped inside.

The house was just as Abra remembered it, and the same old wretched Pokémon were still scurrying about inside: sniveling Squirtle, who tattled if someone even breathed out of turn; lethargic Persian, who liked to take Abra’s prime sleeping spots; and, of course, the worst of the bunch - Butterfree. That little bug irked Abra the most, not only because it was super effective against him, but because it liked to coat the house in Sleep Powder. And while Abra liked to sleep (a good day was a day of almost total sleep), he hated that the Sleep Powder would often cause him to fall back asleep after already getting his beauty rest. He had tried to tell Ryan’s mother about that back when he had still lived here, but she didn’t seem to understand him like she understood her Squirtle.

Ryan and his mother walked off to the kitchen to talk, leaving Abra in the living room. The stuffy, carpeted place was barely-lit, save for a sliver of light that came from a window peeking out to the backyard. In front of that window was a tall cat tower that would have been a great invention for cats, but since there are no cats the Pokeworld, this tower was for Abra - and Persian. Richard (or Richie, as he had been known back in his Pokémon Trainer days) had bought that specifically for his two Pokémon. At this moment, however, Persian was asleep on the top platform, sunning himself with the light of the morning. He was snoring too. Abra hated how that ugly cat snored.

Grumbling to himself, Abra waddled forward and used his psychic abilities to pick Persian up and gently set him down on a lower platform of the cat tower, out of the sun. This was a well-practiced art, one that he had mastered during the many sleep wars between him and Persian that had taken place before the start of Ryan’s journey. The Persian didn’t even wake up.

Gleefully, Abra scampered up the carpet tower, digging his claws deep in the padding as he went. That always felt really good. When he reached the top, he found the sleeping area already warmed for him (how kind of Persian) and sat down for a nap.

Then, he heard a door creak open, and out into the backyard strode Ryan, disheveled and slightly hung over, but chipper nonetheless. He walked over to an open area with a thin, short pen around it, and walked inside. Abra could spy with his Brock eyes that inside that pen were familiar Pokémon - Ryan’s Pokémon. These were the ones he had captured but couldn’t hold on his team, Abra knew. Richie had done the same thing when he had been a trainer. He had managed to capture a lot more Pokémon than Ryan, though, even on his first journey.

In that pen, Abra spied the Nidorino Ryan had accidentally caught a long time ago back in Pallet Town. He saw his master embrace the little purple creature, as if they had met for the first time. So too in the cage were Matata and Clawey, two of Ryan’s first Pokémon, and two that Abra himself remembered quite fondly. He remembered especially how Matata (who had been a mere Kakuna at the time) and him had defeated Lt. Surge for Ryan, to earn the boy his first Gym Badge. Ryan had been so proud of them for that. It made Abra feel warm inside when he remembered that.

Also in the area was the Muk that Ryan had just caught. Abra wrinkled his nose and thought he could smell the stench of that monster even from his perch. He had no idea why Ryan had caught such a disgusting and hideous-looking Pokémon. He watched as, when his master went to embrace his Muk, the Muk lurched forward and swallowed the boy up in his goo. Ryan screamed like a girl, reminding Abra of the great Koga.

In a pond in the pen, there was also a Magikarp and Squirtle - two additional recent catches of Ryan. Despite all that Abra had been through with Ryan, he found it odd that the boy kept him on his team. He was a mere Abra, a lowly Pokémon, and yet Ryan had not put him in storage, as he had with Matata and Clawey, to test out some of the others. The little Psychic Pokémon could not guess as to why that was.

One thing he did know, however, as he watched his master hug his Squirtle and watch it shoot Water Guns into the air, was that Ryan truly loved his Pokémon. He was their friend, more so than their master, and that was a big difference from his father. Ryan didn’t work his Pokémon like his father had: where Richie had commanded a tight, disciplined crew, Ryan was a casual owner, who often let his Pokémon out of their Poké Balls to travel with him, and never made their training too strenuous. That was something Abra’s previous master would have never been caught dead doing.

“You stole Persian’s place,” came the cackle of a keen-eyed Squirtle.

Abra turned around and looked down the cat tower, to where the sneaky lil sneaker stood, hands on his hips, grinning a sharp-tooth grin. “Mind your own business,” he told the Squirtle.

“Persian won’t be happy when he wakes up.”

“Don’t wake him up,” Abra replied in cold annoyance. “Or I’ll glue you inside your shell again.”

“That’s it, I’m telling Mommy!” the Squirtle whined and ran off.

Abra sighed. “This isn’t going to end well,” he whispered, and jumped off the cat tower. He walked over to Persian, who was still passed out, his tail fluttering, and his snores reaching obscene levels. Abra swatted at the Persian’s tail a few times, in spite of himself.

He followed Squirtle into the kitchen, where Ryan’s mother was doing the dishes. Abra thought she looked like Alex, for just the shortest of moments. He quickly determined, however, that her face was not actually whiny. The whiner was, in truth, her pet. Squirtle was tugging at her apron and whining and whining and whining.

She looked down at him and laughed. “What do you want now, Squirty?”

“Abra stole Persian’s sleepy spot. I saw it, I saw it, I saw it, I did! Oh, oh, oh!”

“Slow down, boy, I can’t understand you,” she said sweetly. Then, she looked up and saw Abra peering into the room. “Oh, Abra! It’s nice to see you! It’s been a while. Here, are you hungry?” she asked him.

“Not really.”

“Great, have a berry!”

She tossed him a little purple berry. It was a single berry. Abra had never eaten a single berry before. What was wrong with Ryan’s mother? He could not begin to guess. Humans were such weird creatures. Yet, he caught the berry anyways and downed it in a single, sweet gulp. Squirtle complained until he too got a single solitary berry. However, when he went to munch it up, Abra used his psychic powers to pull the berry from the Tiny Turtle Pokémon’s grasp. Crunch! came the sound of Squirtle biting down on his own stubby finger. He didn’t even see the berry fly right over to Abra’s open mouth. By the time Squirtle looked up, tears of pain in his eyes, the berry was long gone. He glanced over at Abra, who was smiling sinisterly.

“No fair, he stole it. Mommy, he stole it! Give me another! I need a berry! It’s no fair!” he squealed.

“Come on, Squirty, go play with Abra in the other room,” Ryan’s mother soothed. “I’m busy now. I don’t want all this drama in the kitchen.”

“B-but…”

“Out!” she yelled forcefully.

And out the two scampered. Squirtle chased Abra into the living room. There, Abra was cornered. He turned around to face the livid water Pokémon, who was huffing and puffing and sweating like an overweight postal worker.

“No fair,” Squirtle complained. “You took my berry.”

“No I didn’t,” Abra wheezed lazily.

“Yes, you did. I was eating it and then it was gone. It must’ve been you! I know it was you! You always do that stuff to me!”

It was true, Abra had to admit. Back before Ryan went on his journey, Abra had messed with Squirtle almost every day. But the blue-skinned Pokémon had deserved every torment, Abra knew. Snitches get stitches. Every Pokémon - aside from this stupid Squirtle - knew that.

“You’re going to pay for that,” Squirtle insisted. “I challenge you to a Pokémon battle!”

Abra raised an eyebrow. “Pokémon don’t fight other Pokémon,” he said. “We need masters to tell us what to do.”

Squirtle wasn’t listening. He turned on the television, which was on a Pokémon battle channel (Richie’s favorite channel now that he was retired). Battle music blared throughout the room, waking even the Persian, who quickly jumped off the cat tower to watch this clash of titans.

“Water Gun!” Squirtle roared.

“Psychic,” yawned Abra.

Abra was faster. He had always been faster, and he always would. This went beyond their species’ differences, though. Abra was a higher level. He was a grizzled veteran of Pokémon battles, having been through four tournaments with Richie and another he was about to go through with Ryan. Squirtle had probably never battled anyone ever. Ryan’s mother never left the house with him. Thus, the Water Gun never went off (which Abra knew, was a good thing, for that would have ruined the carpet). Abra’s Psychic attack swiftly silenced his foe, and once Squirtle keeled over in a daze, the Psi Pokémon marched out of the room. He heard Persian from the other room shout after him:

“Hey wait, how did I end up on the lower part of the cat tower?! Did you move me again?! Hey, Abra, get back here!”

Abra scampered off to Ryan’s room, to get a little peace and quiet. He had never been in here before. Why would he have? Ryan had not been his master until the moment the two left the house, so he had never bothered going in there. Now, he could.

Inside, the room was dust-covered and dark. He used his psychic powers to flick on the light. The walls were painted blue with clouds painted on the ceiling, and Ryan had a bunk bed made of dark cherry wood in the corner. His room was rather unremarkable, however - a television was in the corner, clothes were strewn about, there were bookshelves of books Ryan had surely never read, and the boy had a fat mini fridge tucked away behind some shelves. Abra walked up to that, opened it, and pulled out a cold soda that had probably been in there for months. He didn’t care. He cracked it open and began to sip sweet soda from it. It wouldn’t do for Ryan to know that he liked people food and drinks, though, so when he was done, he flung the empty can behind Ryan’s bed.

Walking over to the boy’s desk, Abra jumped on the boy’s desk chair - which was made of black leather and was a spinny chair, much to the Pokémon’s delight. He spun himself around many a time, until he felt sick, and then wondered why he had done that. Shaking the dizziness from his frail little body, Abra climbed up onto the desk to see what Ryan had up there.

Abra noticed many a Pokémon magazine - most were battle updates, tournament issues, or issues about the Gym Leaders of Kanto. The one on the very top was a colorful little magazine with a Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander on its front, all engaged in a three-way battle. In bright yellow writing, the magazine’s title said, ‘Water, Fire, Grass - Which Starter Is Right For You?’ Abra opened the magazine and a little white piece of paper fell out. On it, Ryan had written a list of Pokémon, and crossed most of them out. He had circled Charmander, but next to that, he had written in pen ‘Not enough time’. Further down the list, past a myriad of crossed-out Pokémon - including Abra himself - Ryan had circled Persian. Abra dropped the paper and hopped off Ryan’s desk chair.

He returned to the fridge and got himself another soda, downed it, crushed up the can, hopped back on Ryan’s desk chair and pointed the can into the air like it was a sword. He began to spin the chair again, and pretended he was a powerful Alakazam fighting in the Indigo League.

Suddenly the door opened, and Ryan walked in. “Huh, Abra? What are you doing in here? And what’s that you’ve got in your hand?”

“It’s nothing,” Abra replied hastily. “I was just playing Dora the Explorer.”

“Man, I wish I could understand you,” Ryan sighed. He walked over to his dresser and began rummaging through it. “Anyways, you can stay in here if you want. Just don’t mess anything up, alright? I have to go talk to mom and dad.”

“I won’t do anything bad,” Abra promised.

Abra’s master seemed to understand that, for he nodded, gathered up the clothes he had taken from his dresser, and left the room. It was at that moment that Abra realized he had no idea what they were doing here. Why had Ryan returned home? He had badges yet to collect; he had to sign up for the Indigo League soon if he wanted to get in it. Why was he wasting time bringing Abra back here? Did he just want to see the Pokémon he had caught? Abra suspected not.

He cracked open the door, peering down the hallway. There was no one there, not even Squirtle. All was quiet. Abra crept out. As he walked down the hallway, Abra noticed the door to the living room was shut closed. Was this Squirtle’s doing? Persian’s?

No, Abra soon learned. In the kitchen were the regulars - all of them, even Butterfree. Squirtle was cackling to himself, and when he saw Abra enter, he said, “Ryan’s getting reamed! Ryan’s getting reamed!”

Abra frowned. “Why?”

Squirtle giggled but said not another word. Curiosity then drove Abra back to the hallway, to the drawn door. Once there, he put his ear up against the wood and listened in.

“I-I thought it was okay…” came Ryan’s distant voice. The boy sounded a good deal sadder than the last time Abra had seen him. “M-mom said it was… it was…”

“I said no such thing,” Ryan’s mother replied emotionlessly. “I thought he was taking his own Pokémon. I didn’t know he was taking Abra.”

A chill spread across Abra’s body. He stepped back, closed his eyes, and used his psychic powers to listen in on the humans inside the room more clearly. “He’s mine,” a gruff voice said. “You had no right to steal him.” That was Richie, Abra knew. The voice was older, colder than it had been many years ago, but he knew it all the same.

“Bu-but… I didn’t have any Pokémon… and you had so many, dad…”

“You never asked me,” Richie said.

There was a long pause. “I’m sorry,” Ryan said at last. “I… I didn’t think you would mind.”

“That Abra was one of my favorite Pokémon. I bought him from a breeder,” Richie growled. “You should’ve known better than to take him. He wasn’t yours. You can be so stupid, you know that?”

“I’ve been really nice to him, and he helped me get all of my badges so far… please, can’t I keep him until the Indigo League ends? Please? I’ll bring him back afterwards.”

“No.”

“Come on, dad!”

“I said no. That Abra is my damn Pokémon, okay?!” Richie’s voice was rising harshly. “You think this is all okay? I bought him. I gave him his TMs. I made sure he was the perfect warrior. The only thing that nitwit didn’t do for me was evolve. Hell, if I started my journey with a Pokémon as experienced and powerful as that Abra, I would’ve had all the badges by now.”

“Dad, please…” came Ryan’s voice. “I really like Abra. He’s an important member of my team. I-I need him.” The boy’s voice broke with that last line.

“I already told you,” Richie spoke. “Now get out of here.”

Abra ran back to the kitchen, his body shaking. He jumped up onto a stool, ignoring the stares of Squirtle and Persian and Butterfree. Reaching for a nearby mango, Abra tried to clear his mind of what he had just heard. I don’t want to leave master, he thought. Ryan is a good trainer.

The living room door slammed open. Abra saw a blur of teal-hair fly down the hallway back to Ryan’s room. Using his thumb claw, Abra stabbed the mango, ripping into its flesh. Mango was his favorite food in the whole world. Abra loved how sweet it was, the fragrance of it, the texture of it. Yet, when he brought the yellow-orange flesh up to his mouth and tasted it, he felt nothing. It was sweet, yes, just as any mango was, but it didn’t make him feel good to eat it.

A few moments later, Ryan’s mother - a woman Abra had never learned the name of through a series of at least thirteen unfortunate events - and her husband, Richard, walked in. They sat down at the table and poured themselves some cereal.

“He’s out of control,” Richie said,” thinking he could steal a Pokémon from me. If I would’ve done that to my father, he would’ve beat me, I’ll tell you that.”

Ryan’s mother did not say a word. Her head was bowed, awkwardly, as she focused on her cereal.

“He’s a loser,” Richie continued. “Only five badges after all those weeks out there. He should have at least seven by now. And he’s barely caught any Pokémon. There’s what, five of them out there? That’s pathetic. He wouldn’t even have one without my Abra. He’s going to lose his first Indigo League match if he even gets that far. The kid’s fourteen years old, and he’s got the intelligence of a nine-year old. He’ll get beaten by any ten-year old trainer, I know it. Idiot,” he murmured, slamming his spoon into his bowl. “He doesn’t even realize how stupid he is. That’s the sad part. He’s a pathetic trainer. He has no skill and no future with Pokémon. He’ll learn that soon enough. His arrogance will get the better of him.”

Abra kept digging into the mango, taking bite after bite, hoping for one of them to taste sweet. None did. He thought back to the day he had come to this house for the first time. His breeder, a fat, short woman with curly brown hair, had raised him from birth. He barely remembered her, and didn’t even remember her name. He did remember one thing she had told him once, however:

“Remember that this trainer is your new master. You must obey him and battle any other Pokémon he asks you to. But… there is one thing he cannot make you do.” She had been carrying him up to the door, just as Ryan had, when she spoke the next line. “You should only evolve if you want to. That is your choice, my little Abra. When, and if, you evolve, you will be changed. You will become different… a part of you will remain I’m sure, but you will not be the same if you choose to become a Kadabra. You should only evolve if you feel like your trainer has earned it from you… only if you are willing to sacrifice who you are for them. Remember that, my dear.”

Richie looked up and locked eyes with Abra’s. At once, his face broadened into a smile. “Abra!” he said. “Long time no see. Glad to have you back.” The man stood up, walked over to Abra, and began scratching him behind his right ear - Abra’s most favorite scratchy spot. Abra tilted his head in pleasure. “Don’t worry, Abra. You’re back. That loser isn’t going to be using you anymore.”

Abra looked up. Even though Richie was still scratching him, he no longer felt it. “Why?” Abra said. “I like traveling with Ryan. He’s a good master.”

“That’s right Abra,” Richie chuckled, patting the Psi Pokémon on the head before returning to his chair. “You’re home. You’re back with your true master.”

Abra didn’t know what to think. He liked both of his masters. He liked Ryan and Richie in different ways… but the way Ryan’s father was talking about Ryan made Abra feel sick. He didn’t know what he could do about it.

Around the corner, Ryan poked his head. His eyes were red and raw, and he had his pack slung over his back. “Alright, I’m leaving,” Ryan said solemnly, not looking at his father. “I’ll see you a-at the tournament…”

His mother nodded stoically, while his father didn’t so much as acknowledge Ryan was there. Ryan bit his lip, looked down, and then walked out.

“Moron,” said Richie. “He’s never going to accomplish anything. He’ll figure that out now that he doesn’t have my Pokémon to win all those battles for him.”

Squirtle cackled. No one else spoke. The scraping of spoons against glass bowls clamored throughout the room. Abra couldn’t take it. No, he thought. It’s not right. Ryan’s not stupid. He doesn’t deserve this!

Before he even knew what he was doing, Abra had jumped off the stool and begun running out of the room. He came to the entryway, where Ryan was standing, getting ready to open the front door and leave the house.

(cue It’s An Ugly Life)

“Wait, come back! Wait! Don’t forget me!” Abra was yelling, running as fast as his little legs could take him.

Ryan turned around, saw Abra running up to him, kneeled, and caught the Pokémon in his arms. “Hey buddy,” he whispered. “Y-you can’t come with me… not anymore…”

“I don’t care what Richie said. I want to go with you,” Abra replied.

“It’s okay, Abra. D-don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” Ryan broke off the embrace and stood up. He smiled weakly at Abra. “It’s not your fault. I shouldn’t have taken you to begin with. “But,” he said, lowering his voice, “I don’t regret it. You were a great Pokémon, Abra. You helped me a lot… and not just with earning all those badges. Y-y-you were a great friend. I’ll miss you,” Ryan said, his eyes shimmering. He looked like he was about to burst out into tears, but he bit his trembling lip to stop himself. “I’ll see you around, Abra. Thanks for everything, buddy.”

With that, Ryan turned around, and walked out. The morning was still fresh, and the sun was out, shining bright in the world. The street was empty and quiet.

“Don’t go…” Abra called after him, but Ryan just raised his hand, gave a thumbs up, and never turned back around.


Moe’s Restaurant had the best ramen in the world. Ryan liked ramen; it was one of his favorite foods in the entire world. He took a table, ordered his favorite chicken and ramen dish, and buried his head in his hands. Outside, cars honked and swished through the streets as rain poured down. It was dark out - probably around 8 pm - so the restaurant would be closing soon. There were few people in the place, aside from Ryan, but he didn’t care. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. He didn’t want to think. Everytime he closed his eyes, every time he tried to think, heat rose from the back of his eyes, and a great lump welled up in his throat. It took all of his strength not to give in to that emotion. Ryan found himself missing Kelly more than ever.

“Hi, Ryan… right? Am I getting that right?” a voice spoke.

Ryan looked up. The boy standing opposite of him frowned slightly upon seeing Ryan - he sees it in my face - but, after a moment, he smiled again and sat down in the chair across the table from Ryan. Ryan didn’t stop him. He was too tired to say anything.

“I’m Logan, remember? You saved me from the Bell-Bottom Brigade yesterday?”

That feels like a lifetime ago. “Yep.”

The blue-eyed, brown-haired boy had wonder in his eyes. “So… what are you doing here?”

“Eating.”

“Well, I know that… but, aren’t you like a Pokémon trainer or something?”

“I guess.”

“Are you going around Kanto collecting all of the Gym Badges?” Ryan sighed and pulled out his little booklet of five badges. He passed it over to Logan, who opened it and had a look of awe on his face as he perused all of the badges. “Wow, you already have five!”

Ryan looked away and took a deep breath. Not enough to make dad proud. “It’s not impressive, really,” Ryan told Logan. “Hundreds of trainers get all of the Kanto badges every year.”

“Not me,” Logan said, shaking his head. “I tried to be a Pokémon trainer, but I got whooped by Lt. Surge. I guess that was a bad gym to pick as my first one!” I would’ve lost to Surge too, if not for… “And afterwards,” Logan continued, “I lost all my desire to keep going. I don’t like losing. I don’t like it at all. And I realized that I don’t like fighting much either. So I decided to become a Pokémon breeder,” Logan explained.

“Nice,” replied Ryan sadly.

“A-are you okay?” Logan asked.

“I’m fine.”

“Oh, good. So if you’re a trainer, that means you have three more Gym Badges to get, right?” Ryan nodded. “Where are you going to next?”

“Saffron.”

“Aw, that’s where Sabrina is. She has Psychic Pokémon! I heard she battles with an Abra, Kadabra, and Alakazam! All three. How cool is that?”

Ryan bit his lip until he tasted blood. He did not look up at Logan. It’s not his fault, Ryan reminded himself. He couldn’t know. “Why do you care?” he asked.

“Good question. Well, I was wondering if… well, if maybe, I could join you? I always wanted to travel around Kanto, looking for Pokémon to breed and catch and all that stuff… but my Pokémon are so weak… you already saw what happened with Falco and his friends… I don’t know if I can travel by myself. It’d be pretty dangerous, I think. But your Pokémon are so strong…”

A waitress walked over with a big bowl of broth and another bowl of ramen and set it down just in front of Ryan. “Thanks,” he said to her.

“Eat fast. We’re closing in twenty minutes,” the woman answered.

Ryan began placing his ramen in the broth with his chopsticks. Once he was done, he reached for a mass of the noodles, covered in chicken in green onions and sweet broth, and took a bite. It tasted nice, but it didn’t make him feel better.

Ryan looked up at Logan, who was staring at him eagerly. “Well, what do you say?” Logan asked quickly.

“Sure,” Ryan breathed, looking back down at his ramen. “So long as you aren’t annoying.”

“Great!” Logan shouted, causing a few of the other patrons to glance over at him in bewilderment. “I’m going on an adventure, yeah!”

Ryan remembered back when he had been so happy to set off on his own journey. He had been so full of promise and hope and love for Pokemon. How long ago that had been. He’s no Kelly, but he’ll do, Ryan thought.

He closed his eyes to savor another bite of ramen, but as soon as the darkness overcame his sight, the figure of a little Psi Pokémon poked through the endless black to gaze back at him. And though he had daggers in the back of his mind, Ryan found he couldn’t look away.

Episode 24: Fat Chansey/No Plan

They took the bullet train back to Vermillion City and set out for Route 11 towards Route 12 the next morning. It was a warm morning, and a light rain was falling. Still, Ryan and Logan plodded along without a care in the world. Well that’s not true at all, but it sounds nice.

Not long into their first journey together, Logan gave Ryan a present: it was a Poké Ball, with, presumably, a sweet ‘mon in it. “It’s a token of my appreciate for you saving me from that Falco creep!” Logan had said. A quick scan from ol’ Dexful had alerted the young trainer that his newest Pokémon was none other than an Eevee. “It’s one of the best Pokémon for breeding,” Logan explained. “I have a lot of Eevee. I called that one Dexter, but you can rename him anything you want.”

Ryan thanked Logan and then pressed the white button on his Pokédex to send Dexter back home. Ryan wondered if his Pokédex would get jealous over that Eevee’s name. Well, he won’t have time. Not yet. I won’t be using that Eevee until after the Indigo League. That was because he had already come up with his most bestest team for the tournament with the help of Alex, the Chinese prodigy who knew how to swing yo-yos on a stage in front of a large audience. He needed to make sure his six Pokémon were going to be as powerful as possible before then. Just need to catch a Haunter, and I’ll have everyone I need. Of course, his newest member of his final team - Muk - was not one he had expected to use. But things change, and in the end, everything goes away. So he had to adapt.

By midday, they had reached the outskirts of Vermillion City and were now on the dirt path that was Route 11. For a while they roamed, not seeing another person or Pokémon. The surrounding forest seemed to box them in, and tall grass was all over the place. It was all Ryan could do to stay on the path and never ever venture into the tall grass (he’d once seen a movie that had made him horrified of tall grass). So he didn’t. Even so, most of his Pokémon were out and stretching their legs - Aegon, Swirlie Whirlie, Myrrah, and Thurnax. He kept Reek (his Muk) in a Poké Ball since ain’t nobody wan’ dat stank on ‘em.

The two came upon a gate leading them into a deeper forest of Route 11 where the road became little more than an animal trail. As the two boys made their way forward, suddenly from the tall grass came a man - tall and with blond, spiky hair. He wore military pants, boots, a military-style green undershirt, dog tags, and black sunglasses. This was a grizzled veteran if Ryan had ever seen one before: it was, of course, Lt Surge who stood before him. The first Gym Leader I ever faced.

“Hey, kid, long time no see,” Surge said warmly. He looked over at Logan and narrowed his eyes. “Oh, we fought too, didn’t we?”

“U-uh, yeah! You beat me pretty bad though,” Logan said, going red.

“Hey, that’s alright. Keep workin’ at it, and ya’ll do fine. Come back’n challenge me again when yar Pokémon are stronger, eh?”

“Ye-yeah, sure!” said the liar, aka Logan, who had, in the very previous chapter, no less, swore to Ryan that he had quit being a trainer after getting destroyed by Lt. Surge. Of course Ryan wasn’t a snitch, so he wasn’t about to say anything.

“What are you doing out here?” the teal-haired boy asked instead. “Vermillion City is miles back.”

“Oh, nuthin’, just been training my Electabuzz.”

“You have an Electabuzz? Can I see it?”

“Sure, kid,” Surge replied in that gruff voice of his. He unhooked a Poké Ball from his belt and threw it, and out popped a Pokémon that definitely looks like it’s a gen 2 Pokémon (at least) if not gen 4.

“Electabuzz, the Electric Pokémon. If a major power outage occurs, it is certain that this Pokémon has eaten electricity at a power plant.”

“Wow, cool,” Ryan murmured. “I’ve seen these on tv… but I’ve never seen one in person.”

“Hey, how aboutta battle?” Surge asked. “Come on, one of your Pokémon,” he said, gesturing to Ryan’s regal entourage, “against mine. If you win, I’ll give ya a special prize!”

“You’re on,” said Ryan, determination thick in his voice.

“Hey whatever happened to that Abra and Kakuna ya used on me last time?” Surge asked. “I don’t see them here.”

“I don’t have them with me,” Ryan replied coldly. He doesn’t need to know why. Better if he never knows.

“Oh, okay… well, let’s go, eh?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright! Take him out, Ryan!” Logan shouted with glee. He wants me to get back at the man who humiliated him. Well he’s lucky I want the prize… whatever it is. As long as it’s not Girl Scout cookies, I’m good

“Go Aegon,” Ryan commanded.

“Meleon!!! Meleeeeeeon!” the Charmeleon complained. “Char char, char char!”

“Stop it, Aegon,” Ryan sighed. “Don’t embarrass me in front of Lt. Surge.”

“Char!”

“I said get in there!” Ryan shouted. “Or no candy for a week!”

“Meleon?!” The horror in Aegon’s voice was enough to take the breath away.

“I’m not kidding boy. Go fight the Electabuzz!” There was anger in Ryan’s voice, raw and unchecked. He still hadn’t got over what had happened yesterday, and he didn’t mean to take it out on Aegon, but… he should be listening to me anyways. I’m his master, and I have five badges. He’s not even a Charizard yet. He has no excuse not being loyal.

The Charmeleon dropped his head and stumbled forward to face the much-taller electric Pokémon. “Heh, alright, let’s whoop that Charmeleon. Electabuzz, use Thunder!!”

“Buzz…!”

“Aegon, use Slash.”

“Char.”

Aegon was faster, so he slashed the Electabuzz across the face with his very sharp claws. Electabuzz shrieked in pain and proceeded to miss with his Thunder attack. It was awesome. It was like Lt. Surge was a master of high definition.

“Thunder again!” Surge roared.

“Fire Blast, Aegon.”

The Charmeleon leapt forward, flames boiling out from between his teeth. He landed just in front of the Electabuzz.

“Thunder him!” Lt. Surge yelled desperately.

But Charmeleon was too fast. He unleashed his torrent of orange flames on his foe, burning the Electabuzz to a crisp. He looked like a burnt marshmallow.

“Electa… buzz…” the electric Pokémon coughed before falling over.

“Unbelievable!” Lt. Surge said. His eyes went wide and he grasped onto his hair and fell to his knees. “That Charmeleon’s pretty powerful… I bet he’s going to evolve soon!”

“Yep,” replied Ryan apathetically. “Good work, buddy. Come back.”

“Wow, that was so cool. You’ve gotta teach me how to fight like that,” Logan said, punching Ryan’s arm softly.

“Char, char, char!” The Charmeleon strutted back, posing and flashing his muscles for the trainers and Pokémon. He put on a good show, and I’m sure they were all really proud of him. Now he’s bragging; he didn’t even want to fight that Electabuzz a couple minutes ago.

“Man, kid. Ya’ve really grown a lot stronger since the last time we fought,” Surge grinned. “I remember when ya barely beat my Electrode with two Pokémon combined. Hah! My Electrode wasn’t nearly as powerful as my Electabuzz.”

“Thanks.” Ryan bowed his head.

“Oh yeah, I almost forget… your prize. Heheh, here, catch, kid.”

Surge threw a small metal canister Ryan’s way. When the boy caught it, he saw a tiny inscription etched on the front of it that read ‘Thunderbolt’. His heart began to race and he looked up at Lt. Surge, his mouth agape. “Th-this… this is a TM, right?!”

“Yep. TM 24.”

“Awesome!” Ryan smiled for the first time in a long time. “This is just the move I need for my Gengar!”

“Gengar?” Lt. Surge eyed the Pokémon standing behind Ryan. “I don’t see a Gengar, kid.”

“Well, I haven’t caught him yet, but I will once I get to Lavender Town.”

“Heh, well good luck wit’ that. It’s gettin’ late. I better get back to the gym. I bet there’s a bunch of kids waitin’ to challenge me.”

“Alright, see ya,” said Logan quickly. He’s eager to get out of here; doesn’t want to have to spend another moment with the man who humiliated him. I don’t blame him. Ryan thought back to yesterday, to how quickly he had left his parent’s home after realizing why they had asked him to visit them.

“Yeah, bye,” Ryan said, feeling the canister over before placing it in his backpack.

Now I just need to catch my Haunter, and I’m good. He felt alright, but not as good as he had felt the last time he’d beaten someone or found a TM. There was something missing now, a hollow feeling in his chest every time he battled, and he knew so long as things remained the same, that would not go away. He blinked rapidly before motioning to Logan to follow him deeper into Route 11. Lt. Surge walked off in the other direction. Ryan watched him go for a minute, feeling the light midday rain on his cheeks. Ya’ve really grown a lot stronger since the last time we fought, Surge had told him. I just wish Abra was here to hear that.


Deep in the wilderness of Route 11, Ryan and Logan came upon a rickety old bridge. It was not really a bridge over troubled waters, so to speak, but a long planky one extending out over the tall grass and further into the forest. Clever, thought Ryan. This way trainers can travel through the route without having to battle wild Pokémon if they don’t want to.

At the front of the bridge stood a girl holding a Nidorina. When she saw Ryan, she got really excited. “I’ll trade my Nidorina for your Nidorino!” she called. “What do you say?”

“Are you crazy?” Ryan replied. “This is way too far into the story for me to still be using a Nidorino. I have an Indigo League to win! And if you expect me to win with a Nidorina, well I have a bridge to sell you...” With that, he walked right past the stunned girl with Logan and his Pokémon hot on his heels.

Onto the bridge they went. It was an old bridge, a terrible bridge, a bridge for people who like Flight of the Concords. As the group shuffled on deeper into the forest, a curious thing happened: little egg children ran forward to confront them, blocking their path. They wore costumes of pink and white and looked like ballerinas mixed with eggs. It was the most bizarre sight Ryan had ever seen.

“Stop! You shall not pass!” one voice, a boy’s, said.

“Oh look, it’s Happinys, wow!” Logan shouted, eagerly pushing his way forward. “There’s so many!”

Indeed, there were - perhaps one dozen, a baker’s dozen, even three dozen and a quarter little children dressed up as ugly decorated eggs. Ryan didn’t get it. “What’s a Happiny?” he asked.

“It’s the baby form of Chansey,” Logan said. “Wow, there’s so many! I want to catch one! I’ve always wanted a Chansey!”

“There is no such thing as Happiny,” came the monotone voice of Dex from Ryan’s pocket. That prompted the boy to take his red Pokédex out and point it at the children. “There are no Pokémon here. Happiny is not a real Pokémon. There are only 151 Pokémon. It is known.”

“It is known,” murmured Ryan.

“Gotta catch ‘em all,” droned Dex, fervent as a woodchipper.

“Well, you can’t argue with that logic,” Ryan shrugged.

“No, it’s not true. Those are Happinys!!” Logan sang. He took a Poké Ball out of his bag and threw it. Out came a Scyther. “Catch me one of those,” he ordered his Pokémon.

“Scythe!”

Ryan raised an eyebrow. He has a Scyther. He said he sucked as a trainer, yet he captured one of those Pokémon… The thought made Ryan remember the Scyther he had once befriended near Pallet Town, who had helped him stop an insidious Team Rocket plot. I wanted him to join me. But he just ran off into the forest. That about sums up my Pokémon journey so far.

“Use your Quick Attack, Echo!” Logan ordered.

“Wait, dude, stop!” Ryan yelped. “Those aren’t Pokémon. They’re little kids dressed up!”

“Mother’s gonna punish you!” one child teased.

“Mother doesn’t like it when fights break out on her bridge.”

Logan was unconvinced. “I know a Happiny when I see one.”

“You don’t know anything,” Ryan replied angrily. “Look, these aren’t Happinys! They’re talking like normal kids!”

“You have to pay a toll to cross,” said one of the Happiny children. “It’s 100 Poké Dollars per person.”

“Wha… are you kidding me?!” Ryan screamed, his voice cracking. “That’s a ripoff!” He turned back to Logan. “Okay, okay, order your Scyther to knock these greedy little brats into the tall grass… I mean, catch yourself a Happiny.”

“Chansey!!” came a shriek from nearby. Before Ryan could see who had shouted such a foul word, he was hit in the side of the head and fell over. A second later, Echo and Logan fell over too. Ryan’s Pokémon behind him were likewise taken out in a flash.

And what had taken them out, you may wonder? Why, it was none other than the fastest Pokémon in the world. Standing before them, fat as a pre 2011 Rahul, stood a pink Pokémon. Ryan recognized it instantly. Chansey. For a moment, doubt crept into his mind. If there really is a Chansey here, maybe those Happinys are real. But no, that couldn’t be true. Only Generation 1 exists, as we all know.

The Chansey jiggled her belly and yelled, “Chansey, chansey!”

Ryan pointed his Pokédex at her. “Chansey, the Egg Pokémon. A gentle and kind-hearted Pokémon that shares its nutritious eggs if it sees an injured Pokémon.”

“Gentle and kindhearted? Are you kidding me? Dex, you’re a filthy liar!” Ryan sat up and massaged the sore point on his head. “Why’d you do that, anyways?” he asked the Chansey angrily. “We were just trying to cross the bridge.”

“Chansey, chansey, chanseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!” came the sweet reply from the tub o’ lard.

Well that clears things up. These Pokémon have no idea that no one can understand them. They can understand us; why don’t they speak our language?!

“We’re sorry!” Logan responded, sitting up and waving his hands about. “W-we didn’t know this was your bridge! We’ll happily turn around and go back.”

“Chansey, chansey.”

“Oh look, another enlightening quote from Chansey.” Ryan’s voice dripped with sarcasm. He began to clap. “Well done. Thanks for all the useful things you’ve said.”

“Chansey!” The Chansey’s voice was now getting angry as well, which didn’t phase Ryan in the slightest. My Pokémon could take on that fat thing easily. I’ve about had it with her.

“Look,” Ryan began, “just let us through. I don’t care what you have going on here with all the kids dressed up like Fakemon. Not my problem. I just want to get to Lavender Town. Is that so hard? Just let us through or I’ll have my Pokémon deal with you! This is a free route! Any trainer’s allowed to travel through here! I’m not paying one Poké Dollar, either!”

“Chansey, chansey, chanse!”

Ryan stood up and crossed his arms. “Enough of this nonsense! Thurnax, take the loudmouth out.”

“No wait,” Logan said. “We still don’t know what’s going on.”

“I don’t want to know what’s going on.”

“Let me find out.” Logan walked up to the Chansey, who stood quivering, standing in front of the many little children. She was frowning. I’ve never seen a Chansey frown before. “What’s going on here?” he asked her, in a gentle, soothing voice. “Come on girl, you don’t have to be scared. Just tell me what’s happened. Why are you attacking anyone who comes onto this bridge and making them pay tolls?”

The Chansey began to ramble. It said its name at least fifty times, and Ryan could not understand a word of it. But Logan stood there, his head down, staring at a small notepad in his hands, taking notes, sometimes nodding, sometimes grunting in understanding. Is he pretending? Or does he really understand the Chansey? Ryan was getting flashbacks back to his mother and her Squirtle, and that made him want to throw up.

“I see,” Logan said after the Chansey ended her long-winded speech that would have made Arnesen & Arnesen look like Greg Hughes. “So… you were right. These aren’t Happinys.”

“I knew it. I swear on me mum, I knew it!” Ryan yelled, his eyes bloodshot and his mouth close to foaming. “I told you this Chansey is messed up. Let’s get out of here!”

“She said she has no plan,” Logan continued, “so she brought them here.”

“Brought who?”

“The kids.”

“What kids?”

“Well, they aren’t Happinys.”

“Right you are.”

Logan ignored Ryan’s shenanigans, as he was wont to do. “They’re orphans. Kids with no place to go. Chansey’s taken them in, because no one else wanted to, apparently. She’s trying to raise them out here. But she says it’s hard. She’s been squeezing tolls out of travelers to pay for feeding and clothing all the children.”

“Great. Let’s go to Lavender Town now.”

“Ryan, you know this wouldn’t be a good episode of a Pokémon story if we didn’t solve this problem!”

“I don’t care about that.”

“Come on.”

Ryan shook his head. “What are we supposed to do? Even if you did understand that Chansey, which I don’t believe for one second, what are we supposed to do with all these orphans?”

“Take them back home?”

“Oh yeah, and where is that?”

“I don’t know. Probably Vermillion City. We should start there. At least, we should tell an Officer Jenny,” said Logan.

“Fat chance,” Ryan replied. “We have places to be. I have to get to Saffron City.”

“Fine, I’ll call an Officer Jenny. I’ll use a payphone. I’ll let her know the kids are out here. The police can decide what to do.”

“Great. Let’s go.”

“Chansey!!” Chansey bellowed. She ran and jumped to the other side of the bridge, blocking Logan’s path off of the thing.

“Uh oh,” Ryan said, “looks like ol’ blubberbelly doesn’t want you to do that.” He laughed cruelly. “You’ll have to deal with this one. Show her you’re a real Pokémon trainer, Logan.”

“Chansey chansey chanse, see!” Logan pleaded. Is he really trying to talk in the Pokémon language Ryan wondered. Why haven’t I ditched him yet?

Logan and the Chansey debated back and forth for a good three minutes. It was thrilling stuff, so thrilling that Ryan nearly fell asleep. By the end of it, Logan was pointing at Chansey, his face flushed. He was yelling something, but Ryan wasn’t paying attention. And then a green blur blew past the teal-haired boy and that got his attention. Now, Echo the Scyther stood against Chansey. The two were itching for a fight. I knew it would come to this. But Logan had to go and prolong things. He’ll need to learn that I won’t allow such things to happen in the future.

“I told you this was how it was going to end,” Ryan said helpfully. “This is how it always ends.”

“She doesn’t want to give up her ‘children’,” Logan replied, not looking at Ryan. “But these are kids… little kids who don’t know better. She should know better than to steal them from Vermillion City. She can’t raise them out here. Not alone… she may have good intentions, but this isn’t going to end well. And I think, deep down, she knows that. Don’t you?” he asked the Chansey, but she just frowned back at him.

“Teach her a lesson,” Ryan yawned.

“Go Mama!” yelled one kid.

“Chansey, chanse!” shouted another.

“I like turtles,” offered a third.

A fourth shouted, “I wanna be president… for life!!”

Ryan thought this was a little messed up. “What do you think, Thurnax?” he asked his Dragonite, who was as much as spectator as he.

“Brawaaauauauaaugh!”

“I thought so.”

“Echo, use Quick Attack!”

“Scyther!”

“Chansey!”

Ryan opened his Pokédex and pointed it at the fight between the Chansey and the Scyther in front of him. “How long is this going to take, Dexy-poo?”

“Never call me that again,” Dex droned helplessly. “If things continue as they are going, the Scyther will knock out the Chansey in seven more turns, possibly. Additionally, Chansey is using Pound, which is possibly the worst attack ever.”

“Seven turns?!” Ryan nearly pulled out all of his beautiful hair (which was, all of it, above the neck). “Are you kidding me?!”

“No am I not kidding with you, master. I would never do so.”

“Logan, hurry up!” Ryan shouted over to the other trainer. “Or I’m leaving you here. I’ve got places to be.” He’s sure doing a lot of battling for someone who says he’s quit being a Pokémon trainer.

Ryan looked over at the children dressed as a fake Pokémon that surely never existed ever. “So what’re you doing out here?” he asked the nearest child. She looked at him, sneezed and skipped away. That about summed up Ryan’s life. “What about you?” he asked another one. “How’d you end up out here.”

“I don’t care what the future holds, cuz I’m right here and I’m today,” the child said, her monotone almost as impressive as Dex’s. This is the cult of Chansey, Ryan realized, and that chilled him to the bone.

“There’s no way you’re a little kid.” For a second, Ryan contemplated throwing a Poké Ball at that one - he may have been a real fake Pokémon. But he convinced himself not to at the last second. I don’t want to have to explain anything to Officer Jenny when she gets here.

Ryan looked back over at Logan, who was in all his glory. He had never been a successful trainer, but here he was, protecting the children who were being brainwashed by the Chansey. At least, Ryan thought that what was going on. He wasn’t really paying attention. He turned his focus back to the dressed-up children.

“Hey, if I use an old rod here, do you think it would work?” he asked the kids. They gave him blank stares and blank stares alone. “If I had an old rod, I’d throw my line out into the tall grass. I bet that’d catch me a real good Pokémon.” No one said anything. “Nothing? Nothing? Okay, okay. That’s fine. Go back to what it is you do,” he said, waving off the children. But they just stood there, staring at him. One was sipping a capri sun, and that gave Ryan a mighty thirst. “Hey, you got any more of those?” The Happiny shook his head. “Fine, I see how it is.”

The sun began to set as the battle between Chansey and Scyther continued. One used Quick Attack, the other used Pound. It was a trading of meager moves that did little damage. But that’s what you get when you have two Pokémon who are really low levels. I bet that Chansey isn’t above level 20. Logan’s Scyther probably isn’t much higher.

Finally, Ryan decided he had had enough of this nonsense. He stood up and tried to push his way past the kids to freedom. However, when he tried to make his way through the sea of Happinys, they all grabbed his arms and legs and prevented him from moving. “H-hey… get offa me!” Ryan shouted.

“Not until you pay your toll,” one girl said. “Mama always makes trainers pay a toll.”

Ryan was forced to return to his Pokémon. If he had been a baaaaad man, he could’ve just blasted his way through the children with his Pokémon. But that didn’t feel right, and he had not the heart to set their little egg suits aflame with Aegon’s Fire Blast, even though it would probably look lit as heck. So he sat back down, his feet dangling over the edge of the bridge and into the tall grass, and laid back, staring at the darkening sky. Rahul will beat Koga pretty soon, and then he’ll be on his way to Celadon. He may be already there. I have to go faster. I can’t just spend days and days out here in the wild doing inane hero quests with Logan. He looked over at the Chansey and Scyther and noticed that neither one had won yet.

A girl sat down next to Ryan and giggled as she watched Aegon and Myrrah playing ‘I Spy’. “Cool Pokémon,” she said.

“Thanks.”

“Are they really strong?”

“Strong enough to beat that Chansey.”

“Hey, don’t talk about Mama like that,” the girl shot back. “She’s great.”

“Oh yeah, what’s so great about her?”

“She promised she would take care of us when no one else would! Mama's gonna keep us right here under her wing, she promised. She won't let us fly but she might let us sing.”

“That’s nice. But you know, you’re a human, and she’s a Pokémon, right? It’s not like she could be your real mother.”

“She is too! She buys food for us and plays games with us and never lets anything hurt us!”

Maybe she’s right. Maybe we should just leave the kids here. Chansey seems like a fine enough mother. Ryan glanced over at Logan, who was dripping with sweat. His Scyther was all beat up, but so was Chansey. And when he heard Logan cry, ‘Quick Attack, one last time!’, Ryan saw Echo shoot forward in a blur, slam his claws into Chansey, and the pink Pokémon with the egg in her pouch fell over, off the bridge, and into the tall grass. Or not.

“No!!”

“Mommy!”

“You big meanie! You hurt our Mama!”

The children began to scream and cry in cacophony. Ryan covered his poor sensitive ears. Logan, however, did not relish in his victory. He ran down the bridge, to where it met the ground and then disappeared into the forest to find a payphone. Since this is the Pokémon world, where nothing ever makes sense, Ryan knew that there would have to be a payphone out there somewhere, just like the tollbooth that existed on the beach on the Island of the Giant Pokémon. He would bet all of his Poké Dollars on it.

“What did he do to Mummy?! What did he do to Mummy?!” a little British girl was squealing.

“Calm down, he just knocked her out,” Ryan replied casually. But that made all of the children fall silent, with a few of them letting out gasps of shock.

A long while passed before Logan returned. In that time, Ryan had to entertain the children, lest they decide to turn on him too. And he was not desirous of being flung into the tall grass, where who knows what kind of Pokémon lurked. He had Swirlie Whirlie perform aerial maneuvers and had Aegon and Myrrah shoot their ice and fire attacks to see whose could go the farthest. That kept the children decently entertained, but there was still sadness on all of their faces.

When Logan returned, he ran right up to Ryan, poked him, and whispered, “Officer Jenny and the Sunshine Girls are going to get here soon.”

“Oh good. I’m glad this all hasn’t taken very much time.”

“He’s the one who hurt Mommy!” a girl shouted, noticing Logan. “Get him!”

The children lurched forward collectively and began to run at Ryan, Logan, and their Pokémon.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hey, stop it! Violence is not the answer! Make love not war!” Ryan pleaded, but the children ignored him and stampeded over him like a wild pack of hungry Tauros.

When they got to Logan, they pushed him and his tired Scyther all the way back to the edge of the bridge, where he was dangerously close to falling into the tall grass. Just before the children could do the deed, however, a voice rang out:

“Chansey! Chansey! Chansey, chansey, chansey!”

The children stopped and looked and saw. There was their mother, the beaten-up Chansey, standing at the foot of the bridge. She looked terrible, absolutely dreadful, but she was smiling nonetheless.

Logan said, “Chansey, please… we’re just trying to help the kids. They need real homes, real moms and dads to raise them! They can’t live out here in the forest with you forever! It’s not right, and you know it!”

Chansey nodded. She walked forward and took a white egg out of her pouch. Then she handed it to Echo, who took it between his claws and began to nibble on it. “Chansey, chansey. See, chanse, see see!” she said to her children. “Chansey, chansey. Chansey, chansey.”

Ryan looked at the children, who were mesmerized by their cult leader. They’d drink any kind of kool-aid for her. A few began to cry, as if they understood her soft, sweet, sad voice, and others ran up to her to hug her. She let them.

Soon after, Officer Jenny and other policemen arrived. They gathered up the children and took a head count before loading them on a police bus. After it was done, the Vermillion City Officer Jenny walked up to the beaten-down Chansey and spoke:

“You don’t have to worry about a thing! I’ll make sure all of these kids find good homes. You can count on me.”

“Chansey.”

“You did a really good job of watching over these kids,” Officer Jenny continues. “And for that, we’re giving you the Papa John’s Badge of Honor!” She nodded, and another officer stepped forward and handed Officer Jenny a red ribbon. In the distance, Papa John squatted by some bushes and fist-pumped the air as if he had just won the Super Bowl. Officer Jenny placed the ribbon on Chansey’s head and stepped back. “Thanks for taking care of the kids. But it’s time for them to return back into society. I hope you understand.”

“Chansey, chanse.”

“Great! If you ever want a job in the city, I know a Nurse Joy who is in need of a new Chansey assistant.”

“Chansey.”

“Great, well, if you need anything else, don’t hesitate to give me a call!” Officer Jenny smiled, gave a peace sign, and then bolted off to the bus with her policemen.

A second later, the bus started up and drove off back towards the city. Chansey stood there watching her children go. Ryan could see many of them gathered around the windows, looking back at Chansey, some calling after her, telling her how much they were going to miss her or how they would never forget her or how they loved her so. And then they were gone, off into the night.

Silence fell across the forest. Ryan saw tears in the Chansey’s eyes. “Come on, we should get going,” he said to Logan.

“Ye-yeah, I guess so.” Logan walked over to Chansey and patted her on the shoulder. “Sorry it had to end like this, but it really was in the best interest of everyone. I hope you understand.”

“Ch-chanse…”

Ryan and Logan once again climbed onto the bridge, with Aegon leading the way with his fiery tail. As they went on, Ryan looked back and saw the Chansey still standing there in the middle of the road, as if she was waiting for the bus to return for her. She really loved them. She wanted a family just as much as they did, he realized. He stopped and grabbed Logan’s shoulder.

“Hold up, Logan. Look,” he said, pointing to the Chansey.

“She’s pretty sad,” Logan admitted.

“All she wanted was a family,” Ryan said. He hadn’t liked the Chansey or the children or really how any of the day had gone, but now that it was all over, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. “Why don’t you go see if she wants some company.”

Logan gave Ryan a curious look but then walked back over to the Chansey. Ryan stood back, just out of earshot. He still didn’t know if Logan knew how to speak Chansey, or if his communications were all a clever ruse. It didn’t matter. Things went exactly how Ryan had expected them. Within a few minutes, Chansey and Logan were hugging, and before Ryan knew it, the Chansey had jumped into a fresh Poké Ball. Logan got the Pokémon he always wanted, and Chansey’s got a few family.

“Char char,” Charmeleon observed.

“Yep, buddy. There’s a new Pokémon in our group,” Ryan said, scratching Aegon’s ears. “I’m a matchmaker, aren’t I?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Of all the things I ever wanted to be, that would’ve been the last one on the list.” But in the end, I made two people happy. And the kids are all going to be able to grow up in normal society now.

“Thanks,” Logan said when he returned.

Ryan patted him on the back. “You did good, dude.”

“How did you know Chansey wanted to join us?”

“I knew a few Pokémon like her,” Ryan said. “Now let’s get going. We’re way behind schedule. No more of these filler episodes, okay? We have to get to Lavender Town, and then to Saffron City.”

“But that wasn’t filler! I got a new Pokémon! And you got some nice character development,” Logan pointed out.

“Yeah, well I just wish Alex was here to appreciate that. He loves character development.”

“Who’s Alex?” Logan asked.

“You’ll meet him soon enough.”

And with that, Ryan began walking across the bridge. Logan followed him. Most of their Pokémon marched along with them. And above, the stars were out, shining bright. In the distance, perhaps, a keen-eyed wanderer may have spotted a little pink dot, just as big as a far-distant star, flicker and bob before burning out.

Episode 25: Too Spooky

They came to Route 12 the next morning, which was a planky-town built upon wooden boards, stretching out over the waters beyond the forests of Route 11. Ryan and Logan bought some breakfast at a shack in the middle of the route (known affectionately as ‘The Salt of My Eye’), which was situated on a small island located between the northern and southern sections of the plank bridge. After their bellies had been filled, they got directions to Lavender Town and set off down the road.

Up north, where the island met the wooden bridge, Ryan spied a brown-haired boy running about in the sand, which was quite odd, since he was fully clothed. He was waving his cell phone around, and Ryan was sure the boy was Snapchatting like this was 1999. The boy was far-off, messing about on the beach, but Ryan thought he found the trainer familiar. Before he could run up to get a closer look, out of nowhere, a tall muscled woman in nothing but a thin two-piece bikini came running over, picked the boy up, and ran off. Ryan saw the boy scream with delight and raise his hands to the sky, as if he was thanking Pokégod.

“That was odd.” Ryan’s voice barely rose above the crashing of the waves. Salt was heavy in the air.

“Yeah, I wonder why that woman wasn’t acting her age,” Logan yawned.

Further ahead, the two came to a gate on the water, which was guarded by a man that didn’t look a day over 95. He swayed and braced himself against the side of the gate. It would only take a small wave to take him out. He looks more fragile than my dad’s leg lamp. The man was covered in age spots, and his white, wispy hair had almost completely fallen out. What remained on his scalp seemed to blend in with his light skin. He wore a fisherman’s outfit, with overalls, rubber boots, and he was holding several fishing rods; he had a nametag on his chest that read: ‘Hi, my name is Old Man Jenkins’. When he saw Ryan and Logan approaching him, he opened his mouth, sucked in a gasp of air, and licked his lips.

“Uh, hi,” Ryan began. “We’re trying to get to Lavender Town. Is this the way?”

“Y-y-y-y-yes…” Old Man Jenkins answered hoarsely. “B-b-b-but… to g-get th-th-through… you have to b-b-buy a rod.”

“Aw come on, we barely have any money,” Ryan complained. “Can’t you just let us through? This is extortion, man!”

The man sucked in a large gulp of air. “B-b-buy… my s-s-s-super rod or g-go h-home…” He licked his lips and looked very proud of himself. I should just push him into the water, Ryan thought. If only we didn’t live in a society…

“How much are they?” Logan asked?

“Th-th-three hundred… P-p-poké Dollars…”

“Really?” Logan stepped forward and pulled something from his backpack. “This fishing rod I got in Vermillion City only cost me a hundred!” His was a nice red fishing rod, all contracted and shiny. The old man’s face lit up and his eyes began to water like bowls of hot and sour soup.

“M-my word! Y-y-y-you love fishing!”

Logan smiled and nodded.

“Two h-h-hundred then. N-not a penny less, eh!”

“Deal.”

Ryan stepped up and handed the man two hundred Poké Dollars as well. “Ach!” the old man squealed. “Y-y-you don’t love f-fishing l-like th-that boy.”

“I do too.”

“Show me your rod.” Ryan frowned and shook his head. “Th-three hundred then!”

“Fine. Here you go.” Ryan handed away much of the remainder of his money for a long blue rod. Why does it always seem like I’m running out of money between gyms? This Pokémon journey sure is a ripoff.

The elderly gentleman waddled up to the gate, shook it a couple times, then scratched his head. “Must’ve le-left the keys in the sh-sh-shack…”

“We can go get them for you,” Logan offered. The old man waved him off and then began to hobble back down the road, back to ‘The Salt in Your Eye’.

“This is gonna take forever!” Ryan complained, taking off his backpack to sit on the wood, his feet dangling over the churning waters below. “That guy’s a conman. He made us buy his stupid rods to get through because no one would do that otherwise. I bet his business is in shambles.”

“I thought he was nice,” Logan beamed. “He gave me a discount.” That just made Ryan more angry, but before he could say anything else, Logan unclamped his super rod, put a hook and bait on its tip, and threw it into the water. “Come on, let’s fish. You’re right about one thing, Ryan. It’s going to be a long time before he gets back.”

So Ryan did. About two hours and endless fruitless reel-ins and lost baits later, Ryan caught his first Pokémon by fishing - a nice little Poliwag. “Poliwag, the Tadpole Pokémon. The direction of the spiral on the belly differs by area. It is more adept at swimming than walking,” Dex spoke once it was over.

“Alright,” Ryan yelled. “I caught a wicked cool Pokémon!”

Logan himself looked like he had caught a Tentacool, and he was finding a Poké Ball for it. “Hate to break it to you Ryan, but that’s a pretty common Pokémon. I bet all of the people who fish over here have a million Poliwags.”

Ryan’s triumph crashed and burned faster than Buddy Holly. “Aw man,” he said, his shoulders slinking forward. “Why do you always have to be a downer, Logan?”

But before Logan could reply, up came the slow-moving man, known to Ryan only as the super rod swindler, who was probably of the sea, and in the boy’s humble opinion, quite ready to return to it.

“Got some sweet lemonade,” Old Man Jenkins boasted with a sly grin. “A-a-anyone w-want any?”

Ryan’s eyes lit up. He loved sweet things. “I do!”

The old man laughed, which soon descended into a fit of coughing. He sounded like he had smoked every day of the past seventy years with those lungs. “Hahaaaaachaaach! W-w-well y-you can’t ha-have any! It’s mine!”

The man jerked the cup back as Ryan went for it, and in so doing, he too lost the lemonade, as it fell into the sea below. I have never been happier in my life, Ryan thought.

Old Man Jenkins didn’t seem to mind losing his lemonade, even if it was probably the last glass he would ever have hope of drinking. He ushered the boys over to the gate and unlocked it for them. Once they were through, he slammed it shut and shouted, “T-t-tell your friends! Old M-man J-j-j-jenkins sells the b-best super rods in K-kanto!”

Yeah, I’ll tell all my friends. I’ll tell them all how much of a con artist you are. But the good news is, you probably won’t be around the next time any of us come down the route. Up ahead, the planky bridge met the shore, and a deep and foreboding forest awaited them. On a sign just outside of the forest the words ‘Lavender Town Ahead’ were written. And on the corner of the sign, Ryan saw a bit of graffiti that he thought was shaped in the Team Rocket logo, but it was so small and sloppy, he couldn’t be sure. Either way, Ryan was now one step closer to getting the ghost Pokémon he knew he would need to help him defeat Sabrina. Just a little bit farther, he assured himself, and before I know it, I’ll be in Celadon City with Rahul and Alex.


The fog rolled in like a chain smoker spontaneously combusting in an armchair. Lavender Town was a small town, smaller than what Ryan was used to; and he thought it looked even smaller in the dimming light of the evening. He was a city boy, so seeing a little settlement enclosed on all sides by the forest, with very few buildings, aside from the very tall one in the center of town, was quite off-putting.

“You ever been here before?” he asked Logan.

“No, never! I always thought this place was too spooky.”

Ryan sighed and led them up the path to the town’s entrance. There, they were met by a man who looked like he had just seen a ghost. His eyes were bugging out of his head, his hair was roughed-up, and he was running about in circles. When he saw the two boys, he cried out:

“Welcome to Lavender Town! I’m integral peasant #37!”

“Hi,” Logan said.

“Don’t go in there. Turn around and go home! Never set foot in that haunted place!” the man warned them as spittle flew from his mouth in majestic arcs. “It’s a terrible, gruesome, frightful place! Never go to Lavender Town, that’s what I always tell them! They should burn it to the ground, I say! Get me some wood! Wood! Don’t go in there, ah!”

“Why not?” Ryan asked.

“It’s pandemonium… Team Rocket… came in… took everything over… the ghosts… the horror… the horror…”

The man fell down to the dirt, assumed a fetal position and started muttering to himself.

“We’re looking for a ghost Pokémon to challenge the Saffron City Gym Leader,” Ryan explained. “Any idea where we could find one?”

“Flee!” the man screeched. “I’m only human; don’t let them take my soul!”

“Alright, let’s go,” Ryan said, stepping over the man. Logan followed him into the town.

He wasn’t wrong, Ryan admitted, observing Lavender Town from the inside. People were running about, some shrieking, some yelling. Pokémon battles between residents and Team Rocket lackeys clothed all in black were spreading across the streets. There were shrill screams seemingly emanating from the skyscraper of a tower in the distance. Streetlights flickered. Confetti flew through the air. A spotlight seemed to be waving back and forth in the distance. Ryan saw an Officer Jenny chasing two Team Rocket acolytes, with her Growlithe at her side.

“Looks like we got here just in time,” Ryan said, turning to Logan.

Logan’s eyes were wide and he was shivering. “We should find a place to sleep and look for a ghost in the morning!”

“Don’t be a scaredy-pants,” Ryan scolded. “Everyone knows you can only find ghosts at night.”

“Oh please, I’m scared of ghosts! I don’t want to do this!”

“Then hide behind me. It’s me who needs to catch the ghost Pokémon anyways.”

“O-okay…”

“I wonder what Team Rocket is doing here…” Probably nothing good. After we foiled their plot in Pewter City, I’m sure they’re up to something devious.

Further into town, the fighting and screaming got thicker, as did the smoke. Ryan realized something was burning. There’s a serious battle going on here. It’s not like when we fought them. Where did all of these Team Rocket jerks come from anyways? I thought Team Rocket was decaying…

“You there!” came a voice, high and cold as a banshee. Ryan spun around and Logan groaned in fright. Up to them ran a woman, covered in a thick purple velvet coat. Her skin was a deathly white, and her black hair reached nearly down to her knees. She wore a purple bandana and black-and-white fingerless gloves. She was old… in her thirties or forties, maybe. In her hand was a Poké Ball. “Are you two with Team Rocket?”

The boys shook their heads meekly. They gaped at the woman, who is, shall we say, full of figure. Despite the heavy coat, certain aspects of her physique were very much apparent to the naked eye. Nice bod, Ryan thought. Just what I like.

“Oh, then what are you doing here?” she asked, slightly taken aback.

“I’m here to capture a ghost Pokémon before my battle against Sabrina in the Saffron City Gym!” Ryan declared. He felt his ears go red after he saw how the woman stared at him.

“Now’s not a good time for that. We’re under attack. Team Rocket is trying to capture all of the ghost Pokémon in Lavender Town,” the woman explained. “Can you help us stop them?”

“I guess.”

“Great! I’m Sydney by the way,” the woman said, putting out a hand. Ryan shook it and felt a tingling finger spiral up from his fingertips to his breast. He and Logan told her their names too. “Most of them are located around the Pokémon Tower,” Sydney said, not noticing. She pointed at the huge megalithic structure just ahead of them. “It’s crawling with Team Rocket trainers. And they’re shooting that beacon in the sky, see? It’s flashing something up into the air, and it’s been doing that for the past few days. I’m not sure what they’re trying to do with that, but we have to stop them.”

“I’m on the case!” Ryan said. Maybe she’ll like me if I show her how strong my Pokémon are. He started to run forward when Sydney grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back.

“Whoa cowboy. We can’t just rush in. There’s too many trainers and Pokémon!”

“Then what are we supposed to do?” Ryan gave the woman his best puppy-dog eyes, but she didn’t seem to take the hint.

“We’re going to sneak around and hit them from behind. And to do that… we’re going to have to go underground. I was going to do this myself… but three of us will be better.”

“Underground?” Logan squeaked.

“We’re going to take the old sewer system under the Pokémon Tower and come out just behind it. Then we can hit them before they know what’s going on.”

“Alright! Let’s go!” Ryan once again went to run off when Sydney grabbed him and pulled him back.

“I need a leash for you,” she chuckled. Yes please, thought Ryan. “Anyways, before we go down into the sewer, you two will need to wear these,” she said, pulling two devices out of her large coat. Ryan was disappointed to see that her figure became much smaller with those things out of the coat. She handed one to Ryan and one to Logan. They were a type of head goggles, it seemed to Ryan. “Silph Scopes,” Sydney explained. “You can see in the dark with these. And you can see ghosts too, but that’s not really important for our mission.”

“Ghosts?” Logan sounded like he was about to faint.

“Suck it up,” Ryan whispered, punching Logan in the shoulder. “Come on, we have to help this woman. Be a man, dude!”

“I don’t want to be a man,” Logan complained miserably.

Nonetheless, he put his scope on his head, just as Ryan did, and they followed Sydney to the sewer entrance. It was through a manhole, past a Team Rocket girl’s Zubat battling a trainer’s Oddish. Into the darkness, the three plunged, but instantly, the lights flickered on, and they could see. It was a green, night-vision sight, but it was good enough. This is cool, thought Ryan. It’s like we’re superheroes! He scanned the area, and saw that it was quite a narrow tube, going one way. He could see that Sydney, who was already ahead of them, also had a Silph Scope, and she still held her Poké Ball in her hand.

As they walked on, the sounds of battle above ground could be heard with distant thuds and shouts. It’s like we’re drifting through a dream down here. We’re out of the chaos. But Ryan was not comforted. He felt like something, or someone, was watching him, but no matter how many times he peered around, he saw nothing. She said these goggles would pick up ghosts, so nothing could be watching me… right? He dared not say anything to Logan for fear of putting the poor shivering boy into a coma.

After a short walk, the sewer system widened into a larger tunnel. Up here, Ryan could see supply boxes, all with the Team Rocket logo on them, scattered about. “Team Rocket was using this path as well. I’m not sure why, or even how they knew about it. But they shouldn’t have anyone down here now. Not with the battling going on above ground. We should be okay.”

“Yeah, it’ll be fine,” Ryan agreed, patting Logan on the shoulder.

As they moved further on, the smell got worse. My lungs are burning, he realized. But I should have expected as much with this being a sewer and all. Logan and Sydney didn’t so much as mention the smell, so Ryan toughed it out. It would be terrible if Sydney heard me complain. She has to know that I’m a strong and fearless Pokémon Master.

Logan screamed soon after, his voice echoing thrice before fading out down the tunnels behind them. And he had good reason to scream, too, for Ryan’s own yell caught in his throat before he could vocalize it. Ahead of them was a procession - nay, a conglomeration - of Pokémon. Yet, these were not normal Pokémon. They were ghosts. They drifted about solemnly and rhythmically, in lines too long to count. Many of the lines proceeded and receded into the brick walls on either side of the tunnel. He saw Psyducks, Magmars, Charmeleons, Butterfrees, Meowths, Cubones… and a countless number of other types of Pokémon.

“Th-they’re ghosts!” said Logan in a hushed town. “They’re the walking dead!”

“No, we are the walking dead!” Ryan tried to tell Logan, but the aspiring Pokémon Breeder wasn’t listening.

“We ain’t them,” Sydney said from ahead. “They won’t hurt you. Just ignore them, and they will ignore you. We’re under the Pokémon Tower now. This used to be the old basement area. A lot of Pokémon ghosts come here to rest once they have passed on. It’s not our place to disturb them.”

They may be ghosts, but these aren’t ghost Pokémon. Yet again, Ryan felt a chill on the back of his neck, like he was being watched. He craned his head and peered into the darkness, piercing all nooks and crannies with his Silph Scope, but he saw nothing. Nothing. This can’t be nothing. There’s something out here. There’s something hunting us.

Around the next corner, torchlight greeted the trio. Standing above a bridge over sewage waters was a Team Rocket man. He wore their blacks well, but he had no cap on, revealing his shaggy, bearded face. He was an older man, a grizzled veteran. Silently he shook his head and bowed in front of his opponents. Then, he took out a Poké Ball and threw it.

“Stand back. I have this one,” Sydney assured the boys. She stepped up and threw a Poké Ball of her own. Out from the man’s ball came an Arbok, a fearsome snake Pokémon, while out from Sydney’s came a Golbat, who soared above her quarry.

“Who’s going to win?” Ryan asked Logan, and perhaps the ghosts walking numbly behind them. All Logan could do was bury his head in his hands and mumble out a curse word.

Ryan took a Poké Ball of his own into his hand. If it comes down to it, I can battle too. But I should save my buddies until the real fighting gets underway. I want them to be fresh. So he stayed back and watched. And then, a cold chill fell over Ryan again. He took out Dex this time and pointed the device in all directions. “Ghost Pokémon are in vapor form. No additional information available,” it offered helpfully.

“Great.”

“Do you feel that?” Logan whispered. “It’s here. There’s a ghost right here!”

Ryan nodded. Their breaths were frosting now. Ahead of them, Sydney’s Golbat landed a critical Leech Seed attack on the Arbok. Seeing himself humiliated in defeat, the Team Rocket veteran let out a yell of frustration that echoed through the chamber and then grabbed his nose before jumping feet first into the sewerage river, just to be whisked away.

“Wait… why did he do that?” Ryan asked.

Sydney shook her head in disbelief. “Forget it. We’re close. We need to move on.”

Ryan and Logan followed the purple-adorned woman across the bridge, but as Ryan brought up the rear, he suddenly tripped and nearly fell into the water below him. He felt coldness spread across his body, as if something dead had touched him. Logan reacted just in time to catch Ryan and prevent the boy from going the way of the Team Rocket veteran. There was a sound of chains echoing through the tunnel, followed by a long, insidious giggle.

Ryan stood to face his foe; a Haunter hovered on the other side of the bridge, smiling and bobbing, his teeth bared. “Haunter, the Gas Pokémon,” Dex droned. “By licking, it saps the victim's life. It causes shaking that won't stop until the victim's demise.”

“Leave us!” Sydney yelled at the Pokémon. “We are just passing through. We mean you no trouble. Please… let us pass!”

“No,” Ryan said, his teeth gritted in concentration. “He’s mine.”

Charmeleon flew from his ball and landed on the middle of the bridge. The smell was becoming overbearing. Ryan’s eyes were brimming with tears at the stench of it all. Yet, he could not flee. I need this Pokémon. I won’t get another chance like this.

“Fire Blast, Aegon.”

“Char!”

The Charmeleon sprayed orange-yellow flames at the ghost Pokémon, briefly illuminating the area. The Haunter took the attack dead on, and when the smoke cleared, it coughed, grinned again, and rushed forward, licking the Charmeleon from his neck up to his head. That got Aegon really scared, and he began to yelp uncontrollably.

“Easy boy,” Ryan assured him. “You’re okay. That Haunter can’t take another Fire Blast, I know it!”

“Meleon?”

“Do it! Do it now!”

A second burst of flames hit the Haunter, this time causing it to sag to the ground. It wasn’t grinning anymore. It was frowning and yelling ‘Haunter, haunt!’, but Ryan wasn’t listening. He took a Great Ball out of his pack. The Haunter used its next move to put Aegon to sleep, for clearly a third Fire Blast would have sent it back to the netherworld. That’s fine, Ryan thought. I’m not trying to beat him. I’m trying to catch him.

The first Great Ball hit Haunter, sucked him in, and spit him back out a moment later. Haunter used his powers to pick the ball up and throw it into the sewer. Then he licked Charmeleon again. Ryan threw a second Great Ball, and the same thing happened.

“Kid, we don’t have time for this,” Sydney’s voice rang behind. “Catch the Haunter or follow me. I’m not waiting any longer.”

She called me kid. He felt his ears going red again. Ryan sighed and felt for the Ultra Ball - the last Ultra Ball he had. This was one of the ones he had gotten before setting out on his journey. It had been in his father’s stash, which he had taken. He felt guilty about doing so now, but at the time… all he had felt was hope. And it hadn’t helped that his mother had seemingly egged him on. Regardless, now he held the last of his father’s unused Poké Balls. And there’s not a better Pokémon to catch with it.

Haunter faced down this Poké Ball as confidently as he had faced down the others. Yet when it hit him, it sucked him with such force, that his smile turned into shock in the blink of an eye. And then, the Ultra Ball fell to the stone floor, wiggled a few times, and lay still. I caught a Haunter.

Ryan beamed. He looked for the other two to congratulate him, but Logan was too busy looking this way and that to prevent any ghosts from sneaking up on him, and Sydney, though she had watched the fight, seemed unimpressed. “Can we go now?” was all she said.

“Yeah…” Aren’t you proud of me? Wasn’t that impressive? I caught a ghost Pokémon! Most trainers never do that in their entire lives! Sydney appeared to him to be most difficult to please, but that only made him want her more.

They came to a ladder, a little ways past the bridge, that led up into a home.

“This is where Team Rocket came through,” Sydney spoke. “They used this house as their staging area before taking over the Pokémon Tower.”

Up the ladder they climbed, making their way unannounced and surely uninvited into the home. Inside, all was quiet and all was still. There were more Team Rocket crates up here, and a ton of Poké Balls covered the tables (Ryan and Logan pocketed quite a few of them). As they moved silently through the house, Ryan saw that pictures lined the hallway walls. On them were always three people - a mother, a father, and a girl. As they moved towards the door, the pictures went back in time. And Ryan saw that the girl’s dour look eased up as the years turned backwards. The younger she got, the happier she seemed, until, when the pictures showed her to be only five or six, she was positively beaming in every one of them. That face is familiar, Ryan knew.

He spoke softly, “I know why they used this house as their staging area.”

Sydney wasn’t listening. “They caught us completely off-guard. We had no idea they were here until they swarmed the tower. And then it was over. For a while at least.”

She opened the front door, and they all began to run. The tower was right there. Team Rocket was in front of them, facing the other way. There were dozens of them, fighting natives and trainers Sydney had no doubted recruited to help her take back Lavender Town. Now that they were out of the sewers, Logan seemed to be less scared. He ran with the buxom woman, a Poké Ball in each hand. When they reached Team Rocket, Sydney said, “I’ll lead the attack. We need to regroup with the others. Push through with all of your Pokémon!”

Logan did what he was told. His two Eevees, his Ditto, his Scyther, his Squirtle, and his Chansey all came shooting out of their Poké Balls. Sydney’s team consisted of a Golbat, two Gengars, a Haunter, an Arbok, and a Nidoqueen. The two charged the Team Rocket members, but Ryan didn’t join them. Something isn’t right. He didn’t know what it was; just a feeling deep in his throat. He knew that this plan made no sense. Why would Team Rocket attack the Pokémon Tower like that to get all the ghost Pokémon? They would be better served to use stealth tactics, to go into the tower from the sewer tunnel. Sydney said the tunnel ran under the tower, so why didn’t they sneak in from there? They were making a show on purpose. This is all a distraction.

Ahead, Gilly was leading the acolytes. Sydney pointed to him, and his Pokémon soon engaged hers in battle. It was swift and total defeat for The Extreme Supreme. Where’s that girl? The one with the purple hair…

Ryan didn’t follow the others into the battle. He went looking for Jessica instead. Running around the side of the Pokémon Tower, he found himself face-to-face with a beacon waving two beams of light at the sky. It was a massive machine, running on a generator and spewing noxious gas into the night sky. What is this for? Ryan moved over to it, and that was when he saw her.

She was delicate as a flower, draped in moonlight, facing away from him. She’s so depressingly beautiful. Her Haunter was patrolling around her, and he noticed Ryan before she did. Jessica was shouting into a walkie-talkie, saying, “Hold them back! I just need a little more time. I need to put it to sleep. What?! How did you lose all of your Pokémon, Gilly? Ugh…! You’re so useless sometimes!”

She threw her walkie-talkie into the dirt and turned around. Her Haunter was barking, and it did not take her long to understand why.

“So we meet again.”

“Give up, you can’t win,” Ryan boasted. “I beat you last time, and my Pokémon are way stronger now.”

She laughed humorlessly and then turned away from him to inspect her device. “You’re too late. We got what we came for.”

“Oh yeah?! What was that? Were you trying to steal fossils again?”

“No,” she smiled. “This time, we got the real thing.” She bent down for her walkie-talkie. Ignoring Ryan again, she shouted into it, “All Team Rocket personnel, fall back to rally point alpha. The prize has been captured. We’re leaving now. If you stay behind, don’t expect anyone to come back for you. Jessica out.”

“What’s the prize?” Ryan fingered a Poké Ball, and then threw it. Out came Thurnax, his noble Dragonite.

“None of your business.” Now Jessica’s voice had an edge to it.

“You’re not getting away.”

“I am too.”

“Thurnax, take the Haunter out.”

“Haunter, return,” Jessica commanded. Her hair blew in the wind. “Slowbro, go.” She sighed, “You make this so hard on yourself. It would be so much easier if you just walked away right now. Don’t you find it boring playing the hero all the time?”

Now it was Ryan’s turn to laugh. “My Dragonite is better than any Pokémon you have; I guarantee it.”

“Blizzard, Slowbro.”

“Hyber Beam, Thurnax!”

The Hyper Beam hit first, doing terrible damage. The Slowbro was knocked off its feet and impacted into a crater three feet deep. Yet, the Hyper Beam had not caused the Pokémon to faint, which was disastrous. Now she gets two free hits on Thurnax. The first was, of course a Blizzard, which did super effective damage - even Ryan knew that. The second time, Jessica commanded her Slowbro to use a Blizzard again, and this time, Thurnax was encased in ice.

“Frozen?! No fair! There’s like a 10% chance of that happening!” Ryan complained.

“Life’s not fair. Now get out of my way before I have you frozen too.”

Ryan reached for another Poké Ball, but that was when all of the able-bodied Team Rocket soldiers came running around the corner. There were dozens of them, and they were being chased by Sydney and the other trainers and residents, but it didn’t seem to perturb them.

“Here,” Jessica pointed to a medium-sized cage behind the corner of the Pokémon Tower. “Wait, I just need to get Haunter to put it to sleep first.”

“There’s no time, Jessica! We have to gooooo!” Gilly’s voice came high and whiny, and Ryan saw him run up to his superior officer from amidst the chaos of black and red.

“Hey, we’re not done here!” Ryan tried to shout, but his voice was lost in the confusion.

“Fine. Take it as it is. It won’t matter, I guess. Let’s go! Quickly! Whatever you do, don’t drop it!” Jessica commanded.

Several grunts rushed forward and picked the cage up between them. They held it on their shoulders and then marched off towards the forest, Jessica leading them. She sure acts like a leader, at least. From behind, the final holding line of Team Rocket members were losing their battles against the trainers. It would soon be over. But they had already won, Ryan knew. Whatever they wanted, they already got it. And no one but me realizes that. He would have stopped them if he could have. But with four Pokémon, and dozens of enemies to face, it was an impossible task. In the frenetic energy of Team Rocket’s exodus, there had been no good way for him to even challenge Jessica again. He could only stand there and watch them go, furious at his own powerlessness.

The cage moved by in a blur; it was a tightly-bound box, with metal sheets covering most of the bars. But one space in the back of it had a small opening. From there, Ryan saw the Pokémon inside. It had blue fur and a thin, curved figure. Its eyes were large and blank and innocent. They stared at Ryan for a moment, pleading. He could only stare back until the darkness of the forest swallowed the cage whole.

A cold chill fell over the teal-haired trainer. He had no idea what kind of Pokémon that was. He didn’t know any blue-furred Pokémon, especially not ones with such curved faces and huge eyes. Is this some kind of secret ghost Pokémon? Some new experiment? A newly-discovered species? He had not the faintest clue. The Team Rocket lackeys ran past him, and he felt the wind they generated whip across his body. He took all of it without moving. Once they were gone, the sound died down. Many of the trainers and residents came to the area to inspect it, to see what had happened, but there was nothing there that gave them any idea what was going on.

“What did they take?” Sydney asked breathlessly as she came running over to Ryan.

He shrugged. “It was a Pokémon, but I don’t know what kind.”

She shook her head angrily. “We should go after them. They don’t have many Pokémon left to defend themselves. If we can just track them down…”

“It’s the middle of the night! They’re out there deep in the forest! Better luck finding a needle in a haystack if you ask me!” one resident shouted.

A confused, frustrated air clung around the group. They had won; they had beaten back Team Rocket. But that’s just what Team Rocket wanted.

Sydney thanked Ryan for his help, and the two said goodbye. He tried to hug her, but she wasn’t interested. Soon, the residents and other trainers had dispersed too, many of them returning to their homes or hotel rooms to get some much-needed sleep. Others went to the Pokémon Center to heal their Pokémon, while other still set off into the night, either to try some stupidly courageous scheme to track down the Team Rocket gang, or to continue on with their journey. It didn’t take long for it to just be Ryan and Logan again. Trash littered the ground, and a fire still raged in the distance. The air tasted of smoke, so bitter and empty.

“Well that was something, wasn’t it?” Logan asked, trying to break the silence.

“We’ll stay here the night, then go to Saffron tomorrow,” Ryan said. “I will get the badge tomorrow so we can get to Celadon as soon as possible. Alex and Rahul must already be waiting for me there. But I can’t keep them waiting much longer.”

“Okay. But shouldn’t we stay here a few more days? You know, in case Team Rocket comes back.”

“They’re not coming back.”

“I wonder what they could be after.”

Me too. Ryan raised his head to the sky, where starlight flickered weakly from gaps in the fog and smoke. He noticed that the light of the beacon was still flashing back and forth. Curiosity sprung up in his chest at that moment, so Ryan walked over to the machine to get a better look at it. He couldn’t see what image it was projecting at the sky. Why would it be pointed at the sky, or all places? Who could see it from up there?

With Logan’s help, he kicked the beacon over on its side, positioning it to shine its light on the brick walls of the Pokémon Tower. There, a light, unmistakable and vivid, shone. It displayed a mirage Pokémon, that was for sure. It had pink fur, a tail, and was quite slight of frame. Its eyes reminded Ryan of the creature he had seen in that cage. But that’s wrong, he thought. The one I saw had blue fur, not pink fur.

“Dex, what am I looking at?”

“There is no Pokémon here.”

“I know that. It’s a picture of a Pokémon being projected out from that beacon thing. Which Pokémon is it? I’m not familiar with it.”

“Scanning…” Dex said, before going silent.

“What do you think?” Ryan asked Logan.

Logan shrugged. “Never seen anything like it, personally.”

“Pokémon ID match found,” Dex spoke after a long pause.

“Which Pokémon is it?” Ryan asked.

The Pokédex sang with excitement, “Oh great master, it looks like you have found Mew, the Legendary Pokémon. Well done. Great job!”

Episode 26: Crazy Girl

Ryan barely slept that night, and come morning, he was exhausted. All he saw when he closed his eyes were those two large eyes locked behind the bars of the cage. They had looked at him, and for a moment, he had felt a connection with the Pokémon inside. I wonder if that really was a legendary Mew. Dex said so… but he’s just a computer. What does he really know?

Regardless, Ryan and Logan rose early in the morning, left the smoldering ruin that was Lavender Town, and plodded off down Route 8 towards Saffron City. Logan was in good spirits, for he had gotten a good night’s sleep. Funny that he would be the one to get good sleep here of all places. He’s the one afraid of ghosts, not me. Route 8 was a quiet route, barely inhabited by Pokémon or travelers, and they made good time to the city. Ryan only met a few wanderers and Super Nerds on the way, but his Muk dealt with them easily. The money he won from beating them he knew would be crucial in getting him some breakfast in the big city. As long as there aren’t any Old Man Jenkins in Saffron, I shouldn’t go broke again.

When they arrived in Saffron City, it had begun to rain slightly. The sun was a lonely, cold beacon in the sky, and grey clouds crowded around it. Saffron City was the biggest city Ryan had ever seen. It was so vast, it took his breath away. Through the eastern gate the two boys went, and almost immediately, skyscrapers surrounded them on all sides. Cars sped through the streets, spraying water everywhere, and people hurried across the sidewalks in seemingly endless streams. It was overwhelming.

“Man, this place is huge,” Ryan said to Logan. “We could get lost here easy.”

“Don’t worry, I know this city. I used to live here.”

“Oh nice. So where’s the gym?”

Logan pointed to the street intersecting the one they were standing on. “You just have to go north until you reach the end of this road, and then go west. The gym’s all the way down the west road. You can’t miss it.”

“Uh, aren’t you coming with me?”

“Nah, I have to check some stuff out first. I’ll meet up with you later.”

“What stuff?”

“Just stuff…” Ryan raised an eyebrow. “Well, you know, I used to live here. I just wanted to check up on a friend of mine I haven’t seen in a long time. Don’t worry, I’ll meet you at the gym.”

“Okay,” Ryan replied.

Logan walked off in the other direction and soon he was lost amongst the throngs of sapiens. Ryan sighed and pushed on. It wasn’t raining so hard that he needed an umbrella, but he was still annoyed by how wet he was getting. After walking up the street for a few blocks, he saw a Pokémon Center, went inside, and purchased a new black-and-white hoodie. Then, he rested his Pokémon for a few minutes and exchanged Swirlie Whirlie for his new Haunter, whom he had named Spectre. Spectre would be his ticket to beating Sabrina, he knew. No one else mattered in the upcoming battle. Ghost Pokémon are the best counters to psychic Pokémon. He made sure his new Haunter was healthy, then gathered his Poké Balls, and set back out into the city.

It had started raining harder since he had gone in the Pokémon Center, and now the sidewalks were swamped with rushing water. People were running past him, and when lightning began to crack across the sky, Ryan ran too. He ran all the way to the gym, past the people, past the lights of cars and lamps and buildings, all blurred together in blues and reds and greens. He was out of breath when he found the Saffron City Gym, tucked away neatly in the northwestern corner of Saffron City. His heart beat like a drum, not just from exertion, but from anticipation. This was the single most important Gym Leader for him to face, he thought. She was well-renowned for her skill and intuition. Sabrina would be the first true test to see how well he’d do in the Indigo League. Without hesitation, Ryan went inside.

This place looks more like a temple than a gym, Ryan thought. Pillars of stone with lit torches dotted the room, while curved walls gave way to the darkness beyond. As he moved forward, Ryan noticed tables full of young trainers trying to perform various psychic maneuvers. One girl was trying to bend a spoon with her mind, while others were trying to guess cards. A big fat man was trying to catch a bullet with his teeth, and a hobbling British fellow looked like he was about to saw himself in half he was so saturated with orange juice. Ryan shook the water off of himself like a Growlithe, which horrified the guard standing at the door, and walked over to the table with the cards.

Pointing at the girl who was holding three cards up, but facing them away from the boy who was trying to guess them, Ryan said recklessly, “Queen of hearts, seven of clubs, and the jack of spades.”

The girl let out a squeal before dropping the cards onto the table; thus were the very same three cards Ryan had guessed revealed. “Y-you’re psychic! Wow, you have great telekinetic powers!” she said, awe in her voice.

“Yep. That’s all skill, baby,” Ryan grinned, before marching off, leaving the group to wonder how he had managed to do that.

Ryan came upon another set of doors further in, where a second guard stood. “I want to battle Sabrina for a Marsh Badge,” he explained, and the guard bowed before opening the door and letting him in.

Ryan stepped into the stage, which was dim-lit, surrounded by pillars and torches, and rather confined. On the far side, a woman sat in a chair. She was pale-skinned and wore a crimson tank top that revealed her flat belly, and white pants. She’s pretty, for a Gym Leader. But she’s nothing compared to Olivia. Her face was blank, but her eyes watched Ryan as he moved into his spot.

“I’m here for a Gym Battle!” Ryan shouted, his voice echoing through the chamber. “I challenge you for a Marsh Badge!”

“As you wish,” Sabrina said. Ryan thought he saw a red glow in her eyes. She stood and drew a Poké Ball. “Three on three. Is that okay with you?”

“Sure.”

Sabrina nodded curtly. She threw her ball, and out popped a sleeping Abra. Daggers cut through Ryan’s heart seeing the Pokémon, opening old wounds he had wished to forget. I wanted Abra to help me beat this gym more than anything. But now I’d just settle for seeing him again. He felt his nails digging into his palms again and had to stop himself before he drew blood.

Ryan threw his Poké Ball, and out poofed his Haunter. Spectre hovered over the sleeping psychic Pokémon, grinning slyly.

“Use Hypnosis,” Ryan urged his ghost Pokémon.

“Flash, now,” Sabrina commanded calmly.

Haunter dodged the Flash and then proceeded to hypnotize the Abra. He’s already asleep. I wonder if Hypnosis will actually do anything. But apparently it did, for when Haunter’s attack was finished, Abra collapsed on the floor, arms and legs splayed in all directions, snoring as loud as Rahul after a particularly good episode of Doctor Who. Ryan almost laughed. The lazy abandon of it all reminded him of someone he once knew.

“Perfect, great work Haunter. Now use Dream Eater!”

“Haunter, Haunter,” the Haunter cackled, not listening to Ryan. He proceeded to Lick the Abra, which did minimal damage.

Still the Abra slept.

“Use Night Shade!” Ryan commanded.

Spectre licked the Abra again.

“Come on, Haunter, listen to me!” Ryan complained. “I’m your new master!”

Spectre turned to face Ryan. He bared his teeth at the teal-haired boy before doing a somersault and sticking his tongue out. He doesn’t take this seriously. But why? I have five badges. He should listen to me!

“Abra, return. Go Kadabra,” Sabrina said.

This time, Spectre tried to use another Hypnosis, and Ryan wasn’t sure if he was listening, for that was the move he wanted his good ‘mon to use. But the Kadabra deftly dodged the sleep-inducer, leaving Spectre vulnerable.

“Psychic!”

Haunter could not dodge that attack, and it hit him square in the face. The ghost Pokémon flew back into the wall, and sank to the ground, his eyes closed, his mouth open in surprise, a little bit of spittle running down his sharp purple teeth.

Ryan’s heart sank with his newest buddy. But… Haunter was supposed to be the Pokémon to defeat Sabrina. How could he lose so badly? Scrambling, Ryan took out his next Pokémon - Aegon. He hadn’t hoped it would come to this, and he didn’t really have a strategy for what to do now that his Haunter was down. He knew the battle was already over. He wanted to run out of there, he was so embarrassed.

“Go Aegon.”

“Psychic!”

The Charmeleon was hit savagely by the attack, instantly knocking him out. Ryan reached for his next ball, which held Thurnax. You’re my last hope, girl.

“Go Thurnax.”

Sabrina was a spammer if Ryan ever saw one. She used another Psychic attack, but that bounced rather harmlessly off of Thurnax’s belly.

“Hyper Beam!”

“Araghrahah!” Thurnax bellowed. She was hit with another Psychic, but it was no matter. The two beams had only inflicted flesh wounds.

The stage lit up and a bright white light overcame Kadabra. The Psychic Pokémon screamed in horror as it was overwhelmed with energy. When the smoke and light cleared, there stood Kadabra, covered in scrapes and bruises, and he looked as overcooked as a Thanksgiving ham at my Grandmother’s house. He let out one hollow ‘Kadabra!’ before falling over.

“Return, Kadabra. Go Alakazam,” Sabrina said calmly. It was like she hadn’t even lost a Pokémon.

It’s down to this, Ryan knew. All I have to do is beat one more Pokémon, and I will have my sixth badge. Come on, Ryan, you can do it!

“Finish him off with a Hyper Beam, Thurnax!”

“Psychic,” Sabrina said calmly.

Thurnax was hit with the beam first, and this one did far more damage than the Kadabra’s, Ryan knew. Thurnax let out a howl of pain and wobbled in place before falling on her back. His Pokémon was running out of time. Thurnax is at less than half health now, he guessed. Thurnax’s Hyper Beam shot wildly in the air as she fell over from the Psychic, hitting the ceiling and causing a large chunk of it to fall onto the stage. Ryan’s heart sank even further. It was definitely at the bottom of the sea now. For a moment, there had been hope. And then, it had all gone away, as smoothly as an old man easing himself into a bathtub.

“Finish it off with another Psychic.”

“Hyper Beam!” Ryan screamed desperately, but it was no use. Thurnax was slower. The Psychic hit first. And it was a crit if Ryan ever saw one. Thurnax collapsed, defeated; then, the boy returned her. He knew it wasn’t her fault. She did good. It was his fault for overestimating his team. He had always thought he could beat Sabrina if only he had a ghost Pokémon… but that was more fantasy than reality. Ryan shrugged his shoulders forward and held back the tears he knew were coming. Even this far into his journey, a defeat such as this was hard to stomach. Speaking of stomachs, Ryan thought, glancing up at Sabrina again. Man, she’s nice.

“Good game,” Sabrina said before sitting down again. “Your Pokémon are strong, but you need to train them some more. I look forward to our next match.”

“Th-thanks,” Ryan replied, not looking at her.

He turned to leave, when Sabrina spoke again. There was not a trace of emotion in her voice. “Next time before we battle, I’ll make sure I put on some makeup. Would you like that, kid? I know I’m no Olivia, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?”

Ryan’s jaw dropped. “Wait… how do you know…?”

Sabrina smiled thinly and then opened the far doors with her psychic powers. Ryan stood there for another moment and then sprinted out. Did she read my mind? Did she know everything I was thinking? Ryan felt his cheeks flushing in supreme embarrassment, even though he was now no longer in the room with Sabrina. Oh well. Next time, I’ll beat her, and she won’t have anything to say.


He waited for Logan for a long while. He waited almost fifteen minutes. But Ryan was an impatient boy by nature, so he soon decided to leave the Saffron City Gym. He knew he’d find Logan somewhere somehow, before this was all over. That was a certainty in a story like this. Ryan returned to the Pokémon Center, healed his Pokémon, ordered a sandwich, and began to think. How am I supposed to beat her if my ghost Pokémon isn’t actually the counter to psychic types? Thurnax did good, but I don’t think she could last forever. And her Pokémon are all faster than mine. Aegon and Reek’ll get knocked out before they can attack for sure. Maybe Myrrah could last a turn or two, but could she outduel the Alakazam?

No, he knew. He needed his Pokémon to get stronger. But Ryan was in a quandary. While he could very well stay here for weeks training his Pokémon, and undoubtedly, that would produce a victory against Sabrina, he lacked the time to do that. He had to meet Rahul and Alex in Celadon soon. He was already behind schedule, he knew. I was supposed to be there already. I don’t want them to leave me behind. He liked Logan, but he didn’t want to give up traveling with Rahul and Alex for his newest companion.

Ryan left the Pokémon Center and began to wander through the city. There were few people out now, even though the rain had died down a bit, and he liked that. He pulled his hoodie up and began to pace like a hobo madman. Ryan didn’t get many ideas as he was walking about, but soon, he found himself in front of a curious building with a large sign that read ‘Fighting Dojo’. That sounds promising, he thought. So he went inside.

It was a hot, dusty place inside, as different from the rest of Saffron City as Ryan could have guessed. The floor and walls were made of bamboo, and there were piles of cardboard boxes stacked about the room in a patternless but deliberate way. In the center of the room, there was a large fighting mat, with four wooden posts, and a man wearing a white gi was kneeling in meditation in the middle of that. Everything looked so balanced, so harmonic to the teal-haired boy, that at once he felt at peace. Ryan shook himself off and then walked up to the man, who might’ve been asleep. He’s snoring. Ryan was having flashbacks to Koga. I don’t want to make this man scream like a girl either, so he tapped him lightly on the shoulder.

Still the man sprung up, his eyes darting this way and that, his hands out in a fighting pose, a shrill exhale escaping from his lips. Ryan put his hands over his ears, but it was too late. The pain in his poor sensitive ears made him tear up. When the man saw him, he frowned and lowered his attack stance.

“What are you doing in here? And are you crying?”

“No!” Ryan said earnestly, wiping away the tears. You’re one to talk. You just screamed like you were high on helium. “I wanted to know what this place is.”

“Oh.” The man looked around, as if trying to figure out if Ryan had come with anyone else. “Did you want the guided tour, or were you looking for the brochure?”

“Well, I wanted to see if this was a place I could train my Pokémon. I need to beat Sabrina by today, and my Pokémon just aren’t strong enough yet.”

The man laughed and sat back down. “You can’t even beat Sabrina, and you’re coming in here? Do you know what this place is?”

“Nope.”

“We used to be a gym, just like Sabrina’s place. We specialized in fighting type Pokémon. But, there can be only eight!” The man shouted that last line and jumped up again to point his index finger as high as he could. “So we battled, and Sabrina won. It didn’t take long for Gym Leader Kiyo to leave here. Now, I’m the only one left. I was his first student.”

“That sucks.” Ryan sat down across from the man.

“It was most unfortunate,” the martial artist nodded. “Fighting types are of course weak to psychic Pokémon, so we stood no chance. She ran us out of business.”

“So why are you still here then?”

“It’s my duty, as the last student of Master Kiyo, to uphold his trainings and philosophy of raising the most disciplined and technically-proficient fighting Pokémon!”

“So do you have a lot of fighting Pokémon here?”

“I may.” The man’s answer was more cagey than Ryan had anticipated.

“Can I battle against them to try to level up my ‘mons a few times?”

“You have to battle me before you can use the dojo,” the man said. He stood up and took out a Poké Ball. “Are you ready to defend your honor against me?”

“Uh, yeah. Okay. How many?”

“Two on two.”

“Sounds good.”

“I’m Ryan, by the way,” Ryan said.

“Hideyoshi,” the man grunted, and then bowed. “I will show you the true power of fighting type Pokémon.”

Yeah, sure you will. I bet these are the same ones who lost to Sabrina, just like me. We’re just a bunch of losers fighting each other. This is going to end really well. That did not give Ryan much hope of getting his own Pokémon any stronger, but he had no other options.

“Go Spectre.”

“Primeape, I choose you.”

“Thunderbolt,” Ryan ordered.

“Rock Slide!” the man roared.

The Haunter was faster, much to Ryan’s relief, and the bolt of lightning that he hurled at the Primeape was as blindingly fast as it was lethal - as soon as the electricity exploded and vaporized around the pig monkey thing, Primeape fell over, unconscious.

“Alright!” Ryan said. “Good work, Spectre!” He’s listening to me again. That’s a good sign.

“Unconventional move for a Haunter,” the man replied in a gruff voice. “I was not expecting that! Go, Machamp!”

“Okay Spectre, do a Hypnosis this time!”

“Haunter, haunt.” Uh oh. I know that tone.

“Earthquake, Machamp!”

The Haunter drifted lazily over to the Machamp and licked him long and hard, like a lollerpop. Ryan was horrified. As gross as it looked, he knew that was the weakest of Spectre’s moves. A second later, the stage began to rumble, and Haunter, though he was a floating Pokémon, was evidently damaged by the move. Ryan called haxs, but alas, this was not his dojo. Spectre was severely damaged by the attack.

“Haunter, put the Machamp to sleep!” Ryan pleaded. “He’s going to KO you if you don’t! Stop using your weakest moves and obey me!”

“Haunter!” Spectre sneered. He gave Ryan a foul look; he most certainly did not want to be bossed around like that. Too bad. It’s the job of every Pokémon to listen to their master.

Haunter proceeded to use Dream Eater on Machamp, which was just about the stupidest thing Ryan had ever seen. The move, of course, only works on sleeping Pokémon, so it failed on Machamp, who was as lucid as Phillip Wang. “You’re a Haunter!” Ryan shouted, outrage clear in his voice. “You know what your moves do! Why would you do that?”

“Haunter…”

Another Earthquake followed, and that put Spectre in the ground. Ryan returned him, annoyed as he had ever been. He threw that match. He knew exactly what he was doing. Why would he do that? Why doesn’t he like me? I was never mean to him. I never hurt him or made fun of him… I treated him like all of my other Pokémon. Why can’t he see that?

“Go, Tauros.”

“Let’s try a Submission, heh!”

“Stomp him NaVorro!”

“Now this is a fight!” the man laughed. “Yeah, let’s see some tackling! Show me what you got Machamp!”

Well, Machamp was the slower of the two, so he didn’t show much at first. Tauros slammed his hoof into Machamp, sending the four-armed freak spinning and nearly careening out of the fighting arena. Machamp caught himself at the last moment before flinging himself on NaVorro in a duplicitous Submission attack. It hurt a lot, Ryan could see, but his Tauros was still standing.

“You good, boy?” Ryan asked his Pokémon.

“Heiahaha!” the Tauros huffed.

“Nice, that sounds like the voice of a winner to me! Use Blizzard!”

It was a strange move for a Bull Pokémon to use - an icy blizzard attack - but Tauros had practiced it to perfection. Somehow, he conjured up a snowstorm, and then he hurled the blizzard right at poor Machamp. Machamp took the hit like a champ, which is to say he didn’t take it well at all, and fell over defeated almost as soon as the storm hit him.

The martial artist bowed. “Looks like you won, kid. Nice job. I can see I’m no match for you.”

“Thanks,” Ryan replied. “Uh, not to sound rude or anything… but are those your strongest Pokémon?”

Hideyoshi scratched his head and thought. “Uh, the boss may have left a couple old gems somewhere in the back, still in their balls. We could check. Otherwise, you can train against all of the other fighting Pokémon we have here. Most are about as strong as my Primeape and Machamp.”

“Thank you so much!”

Ryan went to run off, in order to find the other Pokémon, but Hideyoshi stopped him with a brutal front chop. “Whoa kid, you can’t go running off before I give you your prize.”

“Prize?” Ryan cocked his head to the side, not understanding.

“You beat me fair and square, so here, take this.” He held out a canister and gave it to Ryan. On the front of it, the word ‘Earthquake’ was written in thick blocky script. Ryan thought that was so polite. “You can teach that TM to any of your Pokémon.”

“Awesome! Thank you!”

“I saw that you were using some TMs already, heh… Blizzard on Tauros, and Thunderbolt on Haunter. Been a while since I’ve fought against other TM users.”

“Yeah, my friend told me about that. He says those are the best moves.”

“It’s certainly weird, I’ll give you that. You’ll catch a lot of people by surprise. I hope you can use Earthquake to such use as well.”

Ryan took the old napkin Alex had given him from his pocket and looked it over. Aegon and NaVorro… they both need Earthquake. This is great. That’ll help a lot against Sabrina. Now I just need to make sure everyone is a little stronger before I challenge her again.

He looked up at Hideyoshi. “Okay, I’m ready. Let’s train some Pokémon!”

Hideyoshi bowed again. “It feels good, knowing that perhaps my training will help you beat the gym that put us out of business. It is a small level of revenge, to be honest, but I’ll take what I can get at this point. Come, follow me. Your Pokémon are going to get quite the workout.”

Ryan followed the man into the back room, where another training mat was laid; dozens of Poké Balls were arranged neatly on a table just behind the mat, too.

Hideyoshi picked one up and threw it. Out came a Hitmonlee. Ryan took out Spectre’s Poké Ball and released his sleeping Haunter. Then, he sprayed a revive on the ghost Pokémon, waking it up. The Haunter looked annoyed to be back in the living world, and he had a particularly cruel look reserved especially for Ryan.

“Okay Spectre, we have to train you for the Gym Battle now.” The Haunter folded his arms and turned away from his master. “Come on buddy, don’t be like that. I caught you fair and square. Why are you doing this?”

“Haunter, haunter. Haunt hau!”

“Yeah, I don’t speak Haunter, so you’re just going to have to listen to me, okay?”

“Haunter!” Spectre growled.

Ryan sighed and shook his head. “What do you think? How can I get him to follow me?”

Hideyoshi stood still as a stone. A small smile spread across his face. “That Haunter has a damaged pride. I see it in his eyes. He’s ashamed he allowed himself to be caught by you. He thinks he’s weak. He’s depressed. But… when he sees all the training your other Pokémon will get, he won’t stay out of the battles for long.” Hideyoshi walked over to Haunter and looked him right in the eyes. “After all, Haunter wouldn’t want the other Pokémon to surpass him, would he?”

“Haunter?” Haunter’s eyes widened in fright. “Hau hau, haunter!”

Hideyoshi whispered coolly, “Yeah, that’s right Haunter. I know you want to be number one. Well, go prove it to your master. He may have caught you, but you can show him you were worth catching. Come on, don’t you want to level up?”

“Haunter!”

“I thought so.”

How come everyone in this world except me can speak Pokémon languages?!

Hideyoshi stood up and retreated to his side of the mat. His Hitmonlee stepped into the ring, ready to battle. “Your Haunter will be willing now. Try him. See if he will listen.”

“Okay, Spectre, go into the ring. Battle that Hitmonlee,” Ryan said helpfully. “Use Hypnosis as your first attack.”

“Haunter!” the Haunter barked. He glided into the stage, and before Ryan could even take his place on the other side of the mat, Hitmonlee had already hit the floor, fast asleep. Ryan could not contain his broadening smile. Maybe we have something here. Maybe there’s a chance.


She swore under her breath when she dropped the syringe again. Picking it up for the tenth time, Jessica tried to hold it steady, but she couldn’t. She was shaking too much. Why is this happening? I’m not scared of it. I’m the second in command of Team Rocket. I captured the legendary Mew. I should not be afraid. Yet, her hand could not lie. She called Gilly over after she dropped the syringe again and ordered him to hold it.

“Just like this,” she explained. “Ease it under the fur, into the skin. I want a pure blood sample. No air bubbles. The boss wants as much Mew DNA as he can get.”

“I’m on the case! I’m the Supreme Extreme, and there’s nothing a god like me can’t do!”

Some days, Jessica wished Gilly had been born a dog; that way he would have been drowned at birth. Other days, she loved his company because it made her feel smart. Days like today, though… well, she didn’t know what to think. He annoyed her like no one else, except perhaps that teal-haired boy who had ruined her plans in Pewter City. But Gilly was good at one thing. He could be ordered around like a mindless slave. He definitely acts like a god.

Gilly did the good lord’s work, and produced a vial of Mew’s blood. Jessica looked at it greedily, just thinking about how Giovanni would praise her for this latest success. I have saved Team Rocket. But there was more work to be done. The Painted Dragons still need to be dealt with before we can return to our former glory. With a Mew at her side, Jessica would be unstoppable. She knew the main Painted Dragons base was in Viridian City. An insult, she thought angrily. They took over our old base. But we’ll take it back. We’ll remind everyone who’s really the top cat in Kanto.

“Shouldn’t we put it to sleep before doing this?” Gilly asked. “One time I had a dream that I was on the planet at the center of the universe called Planet Supreme and it was a huge one with food as far as the eye could see. And there was a big fat man who was the chef of the whole world, known affectionately as the Gourmet Emperor of the Universe, and he had a Hitler mustache and he tried to bake me into a cake. I told him that was pretty sweet but I wanted to eat nummy food too so he made me a seaweed and cranberry pie, and it was so good Jessica, when I woke up, I was eating my pillow. I swear it’s true, I do, I do. I teleported into the dream world, and it was just like real life, only I was more powerful and I could fly and I could hover and sometimes I could shoot energy blasts from my hands when I was thinking a really good thought. I’m always thinking really good thoughts, Jessica!”

“Shut up, you cretin,” Jessica whispered. “Just for that I’m demoting you from god to demi-god.”

“No, no, no, you can’t! You can’t, please! I’m a tier one warrior!”

“Not today you aren’t. And if you keep rambling, I’ll knock you down another tier, you half-breed fool.”

“You’re really mean, Jessica,” Gilly pointed out. And you make Magikarp look like Michio Kaku.

But he’s right, she knew. Just looking at the frightened Mew, all curled up in a corner of the cage, made even Jessica’s heart feel something. When she saw it, and the look it gave her, the way it begged with its eyes, she almost felt regretful. Almost.

Haunter sprung from his ball and put the Mew to sleep. At rest, the thing looked beautiful and streamlined, its blue fur swaying back and forth with the wind from the overhead fan. There was no power in its appearance. But that’s its greatest asset. It has the element of surprise on its side. For Jessica knew that the Mew was likely more powerful than any other Pokémon in all of Kanto.

I wonder how much I could sell him for. Mew are rare enough as it is… but a shiny one? She would never do that, of course. She needed the Mew. It was to be her newest Pokémon. It was to be her secret weapon against the Painted Dragons. Not today, and not tomorrow. But soon… soon it will learn that I am its master now. And soon it will start to do my bidding.

Just thinking about that sent shivers up Jessica’s spine. I always wanted to rule the world. And now I can. Giovanni’s too weak to command Mew. It’ll be mine. And if Giovanni died… well, Jessica knew that would be soon. The sooner the better, she thought. She had not always wanted him to die. Indeed, mere days ago, she had cried herself to sleep as she had laid in bed thinking about Giovanni dying of lung cancer. But now… with the Mew in her grasp…

“Gilly, leave.”

“But I have two more samples to take!” the boy whined.

“Out! Or I’ll make you a mortal for a week!”

Gilly scrambled out without another word. Then it was just Jessica, Haunter, and the sleeping Mew. “What do you think, Haunter? Is this Mew going to turn around? How long will it take to tame it?”

“Haunter hau haunter hau haunter.”

“You’re right,” she said. “Now is not the time for patience. We have to move. Time is not on our side. The boss doesn’t have long… and the Painted Dragons are going to try something soon, I know it. They’ll know about what happened in Cerulean City by now, and they’ll want revenge. The longer we wait, the harder it’ll be to destroy them. Oh well. Mew will have to learn its new role on the job.”

She stood up and smirked. Slamming Mew’s cage shut, she picked it up by the handle and walked out. Giovanni wanted three samples. He’ll get one. And he should be happy he’s getting that much from me. It’s me who’s running the show now. With a legendary Pokémon at my side, I’ll be unstoppable.

“Hey Haunter, what do you think about taking a trip to Viridian City?”

Episode 27: Beyond the Pale

When Ryan returned to the Saffron City Gym a few hours later, he found Sabrina already in a battle with someone else, forcing him to wait. So he returned to the streets, to think over his plan. As he paced about, thinking which Pokémon and moves to use, he couldn’t help but remember Abra. I wanted him to challenge Sabrina’s Abra. That way she could have seen how strong I was, how strong my bond with him had become. But it wasn’t meant to be. Gravity kept pulling him around, this way and that, and the rain felt good on his face.

In the distance, a billboard flashed with the message: ‘Silph Co.’s latest product: The exciting and filling Varka! Coming soon to a town near you!’. Ryan was trying to figure out what a Varka was when an older gentleman approached the entrance to the Saffron City Gym from the inside, said good morning to the guard, and then kicked the door open and ran out like a rabid tarsier. The guard chased him for a moment, but as soon as he started sprinting down the street, the guard gave up and returned to the gym.

The elderly man wore a fine white suit and ran with a cane in one hand. He had a merry face and a short white beard. His face lit up when he saw Ryan wandering aimlessly ahead of him, and he quickened his run to reach the boy in a most timely manner.

“My boy!” the man smiled, patting his stomach.

Ryan looked up in irritation. “Yeah?”

“Fine day for a walk, don’t you think?”

It’s raining. A few hours ago, it was raining so hard, no one was out here. Now the rain had let up, a few pedestrians had returned to the Saffron streets for travel, but not that many. It wasn’t exactly ideal weather, either way. “Is there something you want?”

“I refuse to let you take away my Nashville Hot Chicken, with its delicious spicy, smokey flavor!”

“Yeah… you got the wrong person. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The man licked his lips and chuckled. “And the delightful pickles on top, mmhmm…”

“That’s great.” Ryan walked away.

“Wait! Don’t leave me here! I’m the Colonel, for god’s sake!”

Ryan whirled to face the man when he was hit in the head by something. Then, the old man ran off with the vitality and speed of an overweight forty-nine year old father of five. Cursing, Ryan looked down at what had hit him. A golden chicken bone lay on the pavement, shining in the rain. The boy picked it up, feeling it, sniffing at it, shaking it to see if it was real. After all his highly scientific tests, Ryan concluded that he had no idea if this chicken bone was made of real gold or not. Given the bizarre nature of the man, he couldn’t guess either way. So Ryan put the bone in his pocket and never thought about it again for the rest of the episode.

After a few more minutes of waiting, Ryan returned to the gym. The battle has to be over by now, he thought. When he went to open the door, from behind, a voice shouted:

“Ryan! Hey, Ryan! Wait up!”

The teal-haired boy turned around to see Logan running through the rain after him. He was wearing his usual black and blue running clothes and his black beanie, and his cheeks were flushed. If that was from him running or something else, Ryan did not know.

“Look who decided to show up.”

“Yeah, sorry… that took longer than I thought it would. Have you battled Sabrina yet?”

“Nope.”

Logan looked surprised. “What’ve you been doing then? I left hours ago!”

“I was training my team. Don’t you know? Sabrina’s one of the most fearsome trainers in all of Kanto. I have to make sure I’m at my best before challenging her.”

“That makes sense,” said Logan.

“Do you want to watch?” Ryan asked.

“Yep!”

“Alright. Just a fair bit of warning, though… Sabrina can read minds, so don’t think about anything you don’t want her to know.”

Logan nodded and followed Ryan inside before stopping dead in his tracks in confusion. “Hey, wait a minute. How do you know that?”

Oh crap. “Uh… come on, we’re going to be late!” Ryan ran off into the gym, refusing to answer Logan’s most astute question; thus, the other boy was forced to run after him in confusion.

The guard at the inner door told Ryan that Sabrina’s match against the trainer had just concluded. Suddenly, the door opened, and a tall blonde girl with rosy cheeks and a pink-and-white dress came storming out, tears in her eyes. She got wrecked, just like me, the first time I fought Sabrina, Ryan thought. He was content, though. This trainer’s misery didn’t affect him at all. In fact, it made him a bit more confident. If so many other trainers have had trouble with this gym, that only means that I’ll be seen as a great Pokémon Master when I beat Sabrina.

The doors slammed behind them after the two entered. There stood Sabrina, on the other side of the temple stage. She was wearing the same thing she had been wearing the last time Ryan had faced her. Ryan thought about thinking a thought, but he thought that was a bad idea, so instead, he thought some nonsense instead, hoping to confuse Sabrina. Two one two three, no prognathism for me!

“You’re back,” Sabrina said.

“I’m going to beat you!” Ryan announced. “My Pokémon are a lot stronger now!”

“Whatever you say.”

“I thought you said you didn’t battle her yet!” Logan whispered, but Ryan ignored him.

Sabrina’s eyes flashed Ryan’s way. Golden showers from the skies, open your mouth for a surprise, taste pretty darling, don't be shy, and I will sing a lullaby, he thought fiercely. “Three on three. You know the rules.”

Ryan nodded and stepped forward onto the temple stage. “Go, Haunter!”

The Haunter shot out of his ball to meet Sabrina’s expected fighter: Abra. Spectre already knew what to do.

“Flash attack,” Sabrina ordered her Pokémon, which Ryan had indeed expected.

The Flash hit Haunter, but it wasn’t an offensive move. Spectre began to spin about, disoriented, but still fully healthy. He then rushed at the Abra and hypnotized the small creature easily. With Abra asleep, Ryan’s Haunter was now free to do what he wanted. I don’t think her Abra has any offensive moves. I should be able to do whatever I want now.

“Night Shade!”

“Hau, hau!”

Haunter disappeared and the whole stage flashed with purple light as the ghost Pokémon attacked the poor sleeping Psi Pokémon. The Abra fell backwards onto the floor, its body smoking and bruised. But it was not yet defeated, so Ryan ordered his Haunter to use another Night Shade.

Seeing this was going to go no better for her, Sabrina returned Abra and sent out her next Pokémon.“Kadabra, finish him. Use Psywave.”

The Night Shade hit Kadabra first, doing decent damage, but not as much as Ryan would have hoped. The Kadabra shrugged off what had so easily downed its previous evolution, and hit Haunter with a swirling beam of psychic energy. Spectre howled in pain, but didn’t go down, allowing him to use a move too.

“Thunderbolt,” Ryan screamed at the top of his lungs.

“Huh?” he heard Sabrina say.

It was too late for Kadabra, who was too close to Haunter to dodge the attack. The Thunderbolt cracked it right in the belly, exploding in a torrent of energy. The Kadabra fell over, twitching. He’s paralyzed, Ryan realized. His heart started to beat faster. He looked up at Sabrina, who was staring him down. I don’t want to be mass-consumed. I’m not a happy meal. She looked repulsed and he began to laugh. Keep reading my mind, Sabrina. It’s doing you a lot of good.

“Arrogance…” she said just loud enough to carry across the battlefield. “I’ll put you in your place, kid.”

“Kadabra, use Psychic!”

“Hypnosis, Haunter!”

“Haunter, haunt!” Spectre roared before charging forward. However, when he tried to put the Kadabra to sleep, he missed. How such a straightforward attack could miss, especially against a paralyzed foe, Ryan could not guess. If I raise three times the pot and semi-bluff the river, I’ll be good, Ryan thought, hoping his nonsense would confuse Sabrina and cause her to make a mistake.

The Psychic did not miss. It hit Spectre in the face, and just like last time, he let out a gasp of pain, as if the air was being sucked from his gaseous body, and then fell like a log onto the stage. Ryan returned him at once.

“Go, NaVorro!”

“Psychic attack, Kadabra.”

“Earthquake!” It’s Christmastime in Indonesia, Ryan knew.

Since Kadabra was paralyzed, he was now slower than the Tauros. He jumped up into the air and slammed down on the stage, causing a small Earthquake to rumble across the floor. Poor Kadabra could not dodge such trickery, and he was hit so ferociously by it, that by the time the shaking stopped, the stage all cracked to pieces, Kadabra fell over, swirly eyes upon his face. That’s two.

“Kadabra return. Alakazam, go.”

“Earthquake again.”

“Psychic!” Sabrina yelled. Ryan could tell she wasn’t calm anymore. She doesn’t want to lose to me. He looked her in the eye and saw the red flames they had become.

Alakazam, being faster, hit NaVorro first. The hit was devastating, causing the Tauros to fall over and huff out in pain. It was a critical hit, Ryan knew. His Tauros had one more attack in him, maybe. Come on buddy, you can do it. Standing up, his body quivering, NaVorro, used his remaining strength to once again jump in the air and cause an Earthquake to rain down upon the stage. The Alakazam shook and fell to one knee, taking decent damage, but it wasn’t enough. NaVorro’s done.

Indeed, another Psychic attack caused the Bull Pokémon to collapse, and Ryan was forced to return him. It was then that he was truly left with a decision to make. Sabrina eyes were on him, boring into his skull like sharpened toothbrush handles. He shivered, knowing she was prying into his mind for any hint at what he was going to try. There's no more hyperventilating in wheelchairs. We're gonna save the last Arcanine on Funk Island, he thought, trying to throw her off. He had no idea if he actually was.

“Go Aegon.”

“Reflect, Alakzam!” Sabrina said quickly.

Ryan shouted his own order at the same time, “Swords Dance, Aegon!”

The two Pokémon performed their two defensive moves, though Ryan was unsure what Reflect did exactly.

“The user’s defense is raised considerably against physical attacks,” Dex told him. “Is there anything else my noble master requires of me?”

“Shut up and go back in my pocket!” Ryan grunted, stuffing the red sass-puter back into said pocket.

He knew what Sabrina had done, and that she had specifically countered his Swords Dance strategy. He was out of options, then. He didn’t know how damaged Alakazam was, or if Charmeleon could do anything to it before getting KO’d. I’ve got one try. He didn’t care if Sabrina read that from his mind.

“Fire Blast, buddy,” he urged his Charmeleon. “Make this one count.”

“Psychic,” Sabrina ordered her Pokémon. That’s all she tells them to do, Ryan thought in displeasure. Can’t she use some other attacks?

The Psychic hit Aegon first, as everyone knew it would. Aegon weathered the hit poorly - just as NaVorro had - and Ryan knew he could not withstand another. Come on Aegon! We’ve trained so hard for this. He’s already weak from what NaVorro did to him. You just have to finish him off. You can do it!

“Char… meleon!” Aegon roared, producing white-hot dragonfire between his teeth. He jumped in the air and dove forward at the Alakazam, who simply stood there holding a bruised shoulder. Ryan knew there was no way Alakazam, in his current state, could dodge the attack.

The flames leapt from Aegon’s mouth and covered Alakazam in a raging, swirling inferno. Charmeleon landed deftly on the shattered stage, just feet from his foe. The flames burned for a long time, and everyone stood still, too anxious to think or even breathe. And then, at last, the flames cooled, and Alakazam stepped out from behind a veil of smoke.

“Ka… zam…” the Psi Pokémon coughed before collapsing on the ground, unconscious.

“Yes!” Ryan shouted.

“Char, char, char!” Charmeleon roared back, beating his chest ferociously. “Char, char! Charmeleon!” He shot a blast of flames into the air, and then once again beat his chest and howled.

Suddenly, a white light covered Charmeleon.

“Ah, no way!” Logan cried.

Ryan’s jaw dropped. “Is he…?”

Another spire of fire erupted from the glowing figure of Aegon’s body. Smoke billowed outwards; the stage reeked of brimstone; Ryan glimpsed his Charmeleon changing and morphing growing larger in the mess of it all.

The smoke dissipated, and there stood Aegon the Charizard, in front of his master. Ryan ran onto the stage, tears in his eyes, and hugged his Pokémon.

“You did it Aegon! You beat Sabrina! And you evolved too! Wow!”

The Charizard grumbled and tried to play it cool. Logan ran onto the stage too and congratulated Ryan and his team for their amazing victory. Across the hall, Sabrina descended the stairs below her throne and walked over to Ryan and the others. She held out a Marsh Badge in her hand for him to take.

“A loss is a loss. You beat me fair and square, kid. I admit I didn't work hard enough to win. You earned this Marsh Badge. You have a strong bond with all of your Pokémon. I wish you well in the Indigo League.”

“Th-thanks…! And about what I was thinking…”

She held up her hand and shook her head. “You didn’t know I could read your mind.” A thin smile crept onto her face. “So I could see the true you for a while. But this time, you knew, and you used that to your advantage. You tried to confuse me. I don’t know if it worked, but at least I didn’t learn anything else about how you think of me.”

“Uh,” Ryan blushed, “y-you’re a great trainer, Sabrina! You’re the most difficult foe I’ve ever faced.”

She laughed humorlessly and turned away. “It will only get harder from here on out. Keep training your Pokémon, and I’m sure you will do well.”

“Alright, well we better get going. I have a battle waiting for me in Celadon City!”

Sabrina nodded. Ryan congratulated Aegon again, and gave the dragon who was not really a dragon (yet) another big hug, which only seemed to embarrass the Charizard further. Then, he returned him to his Poké Ball, patted Logan on the back, and the two made for the door.

“Wait,” Sabrina said. The two froze, then turned around. “You,” she said, pointing to Logan. “You should tell him. He has a right to know.”

“What do you mean?” Ryan asked.

Logan went red and shook his head. “I-I don’t know!”

“I read your mind earlier,” Sabrina explained. “It’s no use. I won’t tell him myself, but I just wanted you to know that that is not something you should keep from him.”

“Tell me what?” Ryan asked. “Tell me what?!”

“Right, I’ll think about it,” Logan replied slowly. “Let’s go, Ryan.”

“Hey, what just happened?”

This time it was Logan’s turn to run off into the darkness, with poor confused Ryan forced to chase after him.


It was evening by the time they set out down Route 7 towards Celadon City. Ryan tried his best to pry Logan’s apparent secret from him, but the other boy would not say a thing about it. Ryan even offered to give him the golden chicken bone if he would spill his secrets, but that radical prize didn’t tempt Logan in the slightest.

They came upon four people in the tiny Route 7 not long after, as Ryan was in a heated exchange with Logan over being honest and all that noble stuff he had read about in books. They stopped their argument at once, for the four people they saw were most familiar to Ryan - or at least their outfits were. What are they doing here?

“This Route belongs to Team Rocket!” one of the men in the black jumpsuits declared. “Pay a toll or prepare for a Pokémon battle!”

“No it isn’t! Celadon City is part of the Painted Dragons territory!”

“Never!” said the Team Rocket soldier. “The Painted Dragons are nothing compared to Team Rocket. We own all of Kanto!”

“Hah, nice one. That joke was almost funny,” the Painted Dragon seethed. Ryan could see he had a Bulbasaur and a Porygon tattooed on his bare arm.

“Whoa, hold up, there’s someone approaching!” the second Team Rocket man said to his peer.

“Team Rocket, what are you doing here?” Ryan asked when he had Logan reached the others.

“Shut up kid, this ain’t your business.”

“Where did you take the Mew?!” he asked more forcefully.

Before, the Team Rocket man had not even looked at Ryan, he had thought so little of the teal-haired boy. Now, he did look at him, and Ryan saw both fear and confusion briefly surge through his face. “Wh-what are you talking about?”

“You captured a Mew in Lavender Town. Where did you take it?!”

“Why does that matter to you, kid?”

“Tell me!” Ryan shouted, his voice going high. “I’m not asking again.”

“I’m not telling you anything, kid. Get out of here!”

NaVorro materialized from his Poké Ball. He lowered his head, stamped his foot, and exhaled sharply from his nose. Ryan patted his Tauros on the nape of the neck and bit his lip. “Tell me where Mew is, or this is going to hurt a lot for you.”

The two Team Rocket lackeys exchanged a look and then drew their Poké Balls. Ryan squeezed NaVorro’s neck, telling him to charge. Before the two men could release their own Pokémon, the Tauros was already racing at them, stampeding wildly. And then, they flew. I never knew men could fly, Ryan thought. He watched the two tumble through the air, high enough to nearly crash into a gliding Fearow. Then, they sailed away, as if they were riding a wind current, and fell out of sight deep into the forest.

Ryan turned his attention to the two Painted Dragon members. “You two…” he began.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” one with Zubat tattooes said in an alarmed tone, “we don’t want no trouble! Let’s just go our separate ways.”

“Do you remember what happened in Cerulean City?” Ryan asked them.

“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with anything?”

“Well, I was the one who destroyed your base there.”

The men shrieked in shock and fear. “No way!”

“Yes way. Get ‘em, NaVorro.”

NaVorro the Tauros was happy to oblige his master. Soon Ryan learned that Painted Dragons could fly just as well as members of Team Rocket.

Once the route was empty again, Ryan sighed. “I want to find that Mew,” he said. “But I don’t know where to look. If none of the Team Rocket guys are going to talk, how are we supposed to find it?”

“I say we take one hostage and torture him until he gives us the goods,” Logan said savagely.

That’s one way to do it. But if we did that, wouldn’t we be just as bad as them?

The two walked the rest of the way to Celadon in silence. Ryan didn’t want to bring up the supposed secret Logan had again, not after their most recent victory. It’d ruin the vibe. And, he was too tired. All he wanted to do was collapse into bed, in a preferably cheap hotel, and dream of how to beat Erika, the Gym Leader of Celadon City. With a Charizard, it shouldn’t be so hard, he knew. Pride swelled in his throat as he thought of Aegon, whom he had raised from Charmeleon to Charizard, whom he had made into a deadly fighter capable of beating the Pokémon of one of the greatest Gym Leaders in all of Kanto. Erika won’t be nearly as hard as Olivia or Sabrina. He wondered if Erika was as pretty as them.

They reached the end of the route not long after, and Ryan could see the lights of Celadon City in the distance. The evening was turning to night, and soon everything would be dark. They’d have to find a hotel, somewhere to eat, a Pokémon Center to rest NaVorro. There was still so much to do.

I wonder if Rahul and Alex are in that city somewhere. Are they waiting for me? Or did they leave me behind because I took so long? He tried counting the days since the group had last been together, but they all sort of blurred together. He would have liked to have reached Celadon a day or two ago, at the very least. But maybe it took Rahul ages to beat Koga, or they got lost on the trip back. Maybe they aren’t even here yet. He could hope.

“So there’s another Gym Leader here?” Logan asked, breaking the silence, as they gazed off at the city beyond the forest’s edge.

“Yep. This one shouldn’t be so hard. We’ll go fast. And then I’m off to my last gym.”

“You’re a really good trainer, Ryan,” Logan said. “I can’t believe I’m getting to see all these cool battles.”

“Yeah, thanks. But I’m not really that good. I’m sure all the people in the tournament are going to be just as good, if not better.” He thought of Kelly, of her team and how she had wiped out all of the gyms they had traveled to together. I never beat any Gym Leaders as badly as she did. And she had had all those weeks to train her team since they had gone their separate ways. It wouldn’t surprise me if she wins the whole thing. “Come on, let’s find a hotel. I’m tired.”

“Alright, let’s go!” Logan said cheerfully, leading the way.

“You wouldn’t happen to have another friend in Celadon, would you?” Ryan asked. “I don’t want you running off again.”

“Nope,” Logan shook his head.

“Good.”

Ryan saw something in the dark, moving at ground level across the treeline to the right. He stopped and stared, and for one mad moment, he thought he saw Abra - his Abra. Was his mind playing tricks on him? Was he delirious from fighting Sabrina? He didn’t know. He went to call out, but the shadow faded, and nothing remained.

Ryan felt a cold chill spread across his body as a gust of wind blew through the trees. He felt unbearably lonely then, like he wanted to shrivel up and die. Memories from when he had returned home and faced his father flashed through his mind, and he felt himself biting his lip so hard he could taste blood. He shook his head, trying to forget.

The past is the past. I can’t change it. Yet, as he followed Logan into Celadon City, Ryan’s feelings for Abra did not diminish. He knew he would never get over losing his first Pokémon, just as he would never get over that look the caged Mew had given him back in Lavender Town. I’ll find that Mew, he promised himself. I can’t get Abra back, but I’ll save that Mew, even if I have to beat every trainer in Team Rocket first. They’re not getting away with that.

Episode 28: Thousand Cranes

The morning came too soon; Ryan awoke in the Celadon hotel as groggy as King Bob after a tourney. But he had to go get that badge (the plot must go on), so up he got. He got dressed, ate himself some room service ‘assorted fruit’ (it was mediocre) and set out for Erika’s grass gym. The teal-haired boy had a plan - roast Erika’s Pokémon like ants with a magnifying glass (source: HZ 1) with his new Charizard. Ryan, like any good Pokémon Master, knew grass Pokémon were weak against fire types. And I’ve got the best fire type there is.

Logan was still asleep on his own bed, and Ryan left him where he was. Ain’t nobody got time to wake up that rando. Ryan stumbled out into the new day, which was quite too bright for him. It was merely 10 o’clock, but it was as cold as miserable as my professor named Terrence Elliot (may he not rest in pieces). He is a terrible sapien, who didn’t even give the Beatles more than five minutes of lecture time, but I digress.

Ryan stepped outside and saw that around him, there was a farmer’s market in full bloom. He hated such things. Buying organic fruit for exorbitant prices was not his favorite activity in the world. It ranked just above cleaning the kitty litter box in his best friend’s house.

The streets were as crowded as Lu Xun’s mind. Men and women, Pokémon trainers and their Pokémon companions, travelers and miscreants all crowded around wooden stalls, exchanging Poké Dollars and organic food like a bunch of veritable vexations. Ryan had to be swallowed whole and spit out again before he came to the end of the farmer’s market, where one last stand stood in all its ramshackle glory. It looked like a 20 year old chicken coop that hadn’t been used in 19 years. This stand was manned by a woman he recognized; an older, lumpy female. Let’s call her Jenny (she has no relation to any officer, which makes this even more confusing). She was sitting behind a small wooden stand with piles of jackfruit for sale. Ryan’s belly grumbled. I like me some jackfruit.

“Yo Jenny,” Ryan said. He was a balla, as she well knew. She was the mother of all of his old friends back in Boston, Kanto. “Gimme sommadat jackfruit jafeel me?”

“It’s really sticky!” she cautioned. “I have known you since you were a small child Ryan, be careful.”

“I like getting my fingers sticky,” the boy reminded her, and he bought an entire 47 lbs. fruit for a mere 160 Poké Dollars.

“Have you seen my own perfect child… Quinny?” She cleared her throat. “He is one of the best people; he went to UC Berkeley. Tell him to come home soon because I need him to unload the dishwasher.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for him,” Ryan promised. He was about to leave when he remembered something.“Oh, has Quinny become a master gardener like he promised he would?”

Jenny was looking at her phone, playing Candy Crush and not paying attention. Fine, be that way. Maybe I won’t weed whack your backyard anymore. He placed the spiked fruit in his backpack and continued on towards the gym. Gotta save the sixth best fruit in the world for my celebratory feast after I destroy Erika.

He made his way over to the hulking, greenhouse-wannabe building, which had a sign on it that read: ‘Out of order, contact the supervisor’. “Who’s the supervisor?!” Ryan yelled angrily. “Come on, I need this badge!”

He looked around and saw that no one else was paying attention to the gym or him. This is just like season one of the Pokémon anime all over again. So Ryan did the only thing he could do - he went to the Pokémon Center to kill time. Invariably, this allows certain plot points to develop, otherwise this would have been a terrible idea. Ryan went to the Pokémon Center like he was on a field trip in third grade where his dad bought him an ice cream,but didn’t buy any for any of the other kids he was driving, which made this all pretty awkward. As Ryan rested his Pokémon, he browsed the Pokémon Center’s inventory, which was legit af. They had all sorts of TMs, most of which were useless and overpriced as a pair of hello kitty panties. But Ryan saw one TM that he liked - a Hyper Beam. Lordy, lordy, he thought. That’s just what I need for NaVorro and Myrrah and Aegon too! Practically my whole team needs this move!

So he bought it, he did. It made Ryan nearly broke to purchase such an expensive move, but he didn’t care. He was always living on the edge. He was like a cannibal hobo, riding those Lionel Trains. He had just given three of his Pokémon a move they would use in the upcoming Indigo League; that made it worth it. The boy looked at the canister he had purchased and read the instructions: ‘To teach a Pokémon this move, simply spray them in the face for at least five seconds. They’ll understand soon enough.’

That made sense. Ryan returned to Nurse Joy, who looked fine as a bottle of merlot (I mean orange juice), and requested his Pokés. She gave them to him after a nice succ. Ryan took Aegon, Myrrah, and NaVorro out of their fresh, shiny balls then and there and sprayed them all in the face with the Hyper Beam TM.

“There, now everyone knows Hyper Beam!” Ryan shrieked.

“Aharhaahahahahahah!” Aegon grumbled, semi-lucidly.

“Squeakalalka!” Myrrah added in a dazed tone.

“Grhmmpph!” NaVorro snorted with a tremendous amount of consciousness, given the circumstances.

It was a beautiful cacophony of noise, which Ryan understood as well as he did the nuances of Liebermann’s melodic fancies in Op. 29, No 1. “Great job everyone, now you know Hyper Beam! It’s the best move ever! I will need you guys to be able to use this one during the Indigo League,” he told them, patting the three on the head before returning them into their balls. He didn’t wait to hear what they thought about learning the new move; that would waste an insane amount of space in this already-packed chapter.

Ryan bought a sandwich of peanut butter and honey and sat in that Pokémon Center until high noon, at which time he returned to the dusty streets of Celadon City. He wondered if Logan had woken up yet, but felt too lazy to go back to the hotel to check. Outside, he found the endless squabble of the farmer’s market still going on into the wee hours of the noon, as if it were a Green Day concert. It nearly made him sick. This is such a non-wonderful mess.

Ryan decided to pass the time by going into a side building, which was called ‘Thousand Cranes’. Once inside, Ryan saw the place was a rustic building, to be sure, wrought of bamboo wood, old as a mummer’s farce. The very air seemed to be thick with dust. Ryan walked up to the podium in the center of the room, where an old Chinese man stood, yelling ‘Cartwright!’.

“Hello, what is this placed?” asked the boy known as Ryan.

“Thousand Cranes, Cartwright four!” the man bellowed, fingering his ear and nearly collapsing on the crimson rug. “P-please… go on, don’t bother me, I am poor man of little fame.”

“Oh okay,” Ryan said, pushing his way forward past the apparently dying man. He thought he’d seen that man somewhere before, but he couldn’t think of where.

In the next room were a series of paper doors, painted with ink in delicate strokes, rendering flowers and lilypads and even vagabonds in the WC in their forms. Ryan took the first door forward and soon found himself in a circle of hominids - three men and four women. A regally-robed woman sat at the center of the group, preparing tea, while the other six sat around her in a circle, still as the dawn. They all wore kimonos and looked as if they were about to drink some kool-aid.

Ryan took his seat next to a middle-aged woman who wore a kimono with a patterning of 99 red cranes. That made Ryan feel nice. He took a misshapen cup and gave her a wink (he really wanted to take her back to his hotel room, but I digress); the woman didn’t even look at Ryan, but was sipping her tea like a hypnotized spectre. That doesn’t surprise me, Ryan thought sadly. My hair could start a bowl cut fad, and the state of my attire’s pretty sad.

They drank tea in silence as the woman in the center of the room poured it with utter indifference and slowness, akin to a Slowpoke dipping its tail in a fountain hoping to evolve into a Slowbro. It was as sad as it was desolate in its beauty. That is to say, Ryan thought the woman with 99 cranes ‘round her neck was prettier than even the Nurse Joy in Pewter City. But he couldn’t say anything since fancy time was happening. The tea server was really serious about what she was doing, and when she finally poured Ryan his cup, he took it, drank it, and thought it was unbelievably mediocre.

Afterwards, as everyone filed out in stiff silence, Ryan confronted the woman with 99 cranes on her kimono, who didn’t look a day past fifty years old. “Nice tea,” he said.

“Yes, it was exquisite…” the woman said distantly. She brought a robed hand to her mouth and yawned dramatically. “It reminds me of home.”

You wouldn’t happen to have a big dark patch of skin hidden somewhere on your body, would you? “Well, if you need a home tonight, my room number is 102 in the Celadon Hotel,” Ryan said hopefully.

The woman laughed and walked off. He took out and waved the golden chicken bone he had won from an eccentric old man in the last chapter, hoping that would interest the woman, but alas, it did not. Curses, he thought. She was almost in me, like a dancer who is tiny.

But Ryan knew it was going to be alright, even if he was on a sinking ship. He was never the short knife and never dull mind; Ryan had always been somewhere in between. As such, he’d never been good enough, or bad enough for anyone. That made him cry a long time. The woman was getting away, and Ryan was going to cry himself a river, when he saw her making her way to the Celadon Gym. She walked right up to it without care and opened the door, taking the ‘Out of order’ sign off, just like that.

Ryan’s jaw dropped. He wondered, is that Erika? If that is, she’s nice as all heck. He ran over to the gym preparing to make his way inside when a man came running out from the bushes. Old was he, and clothed in camouflage with binoculars around his neck (which reminded Ryan of a giraffe’s). He had a mustache that would have looked more at home on the face of a thirteen year old boy, and he was scratching his chin as if to ponder the sun and stars and their relation to psychoneuroquanta.

“Nice girls inside,” he laughed, elbowing Ryan as the boy walked past. “This gym’s got all the hotties.”

“Uh, sure man, whatever you say.”

“Say, you wouldn’t want to dress up as a girl for me, and sneak in and let me in, would you?”

“Why would I do that?”

“I wanna get inside!” the crotchety old man laughed lustily. “Wanna see me some of them girls! Woohoo! But they banned me… if you pretended to be Gym Leader Erika and let me in…”

“Dude, she’s an old woman. No way I can pull that off.” Ryan did like dressing up as girls, but only on the weekends and only when Gym Badges were not on the line.

“Aw shucks.”

“It’s okay,” Ryan said, trying to comfort the lecherous man. “I’m sure you’ll die before you get inside there. You’re really old.”

And with that, Ryan ran into the building. Inside the stench of perfume pervaded, as thick as his daddy’s mustache. There were greenhouses and gardens, overflowing with flowers and pepper plants. It would have made Ryan’s best friend, the aforementioned Quinny, cry with tears of habanero. Ryan felt a little less than indifferent at the sight of all the plants. I just want to win this badge, he thought.

As he was walking through the greenhouse, watching Oddishes, Bulbasaurs, and Bellsprouts dance in and out of the mist of falling water and perfume swimming through the air, he came upon a girl standing in his way. She blocked the path to the room beyond and wore a dress of orange and white, a pink bow in her blonde hair, and had a meek look on her face. When Ryan tried to pass her, she looked up at him, drew a Poké Ball, and shouted:

“If you want to face Gym Leader Erika, you’ll have to get past me first!”

“Come on, I’m here to battle her, not you!”

“Most gyms have all sorts of lackeys! We’re like cockroaches!” the girl declared with fervent yelps. “Battle me, or turn back now! If you hope to beat the Gym Leader, you should have no trouble with me!”

I won’t. “Fine. How many Pokémon?”

“Two Pokémon apiece!” the girl cried. “A battle to the end!”

Ryan sighed and took out Aegon’s ball. Let’s just get this over with. “Go Aegon!”

“I’m known as Beauty around these parts,” the girl insisted, and Ryan didn’t really think that was an apt name. She looked alright, but she was no woman in a 99 red cranes kimono. “Go Oddish!”

“Go Aegon!”

“Poison Powder!” Beauty squealed.

“Earthquake,” Ryan ordered his Charizard.

Aegon, who was a higher level, went first and rocked that Oddish’s world. But he didn’t rock it enough, for when the ground stopped shaking, the Oddish popped up like an annoying weed and shot its Poison Powder at Aegon. The cursed, tricksy powder hit the fire Pokémon in the face, causing him to growl.

“Aegon the Charizard has become poisoned!” Dex told Ryan.

“Oh no! Come on! Did you really have to use a cheap trick?”

Beauty shrugged.

“Ugh, okay Aegon, use Fire Blast.”

“Rawahahahawr!” Aegon screamed, warming up his inner fire before blasting the little plant thing with a hurricane of cleansing dragonflame. When the smoke cleared, the Oddish had collapsed; Ryan saw the swirly eyes on its face and knew it had fainted.

“Score one for Ryan, the greatest Pokémon Master ever!” the teal-haired boy shouted with glee.

“Raa…” Aegon agreed, though the poison was continuing to affect him.

“Very well. Go Gloom!”

“Okay this time Aegon, don’t let her use a move. I need you to be alright to face Erika, okay?”

“Mwrahaha!” the Charizard shrieked. His confidence made Ryan feel good. His next blast of fire made Ryan feel even better, especially when he saw the Gloom fall over, roasted to a crisp.

“You beat me!” Beauty complained, falling to the ground, her legs splayed in an impossibly cute manner. She looked like she was going to cry, and before Ryan could say anything, she threw a bunch of Poké Dollars at him as well as a canister that read ‘Mega Drain’ and ran off.

“That was weird,” Ryan said. He picked up the TM canister and looked it over. “Hey, I could give this to Spectre… But that’ll have to wait until after I get my badge!”

Aegon barked and returned to his ball. Ryan saw a few other girls standing around the greenhouse as he moved further into the Gym, but he never got within their lines of sight, so as to not trigger them to walk forward several steps and challenge him to a fight. He’d learned this lesson in the Cinnabar Island Gym.

Eventually, Ryan came to the end of the room, where he saw a woman standing in front of a mess of vines, holding a watering jug in her hand. Next to her stood a Gloom, humming tunelessly. The light of the sun was coming in through the great window panes in front of the woman, silhouetting her against the wild green. It was hot in that room, as humid as a summer spent in North Carolina. But even in the blinding light, Ryan could make out the red dancing cranes lining Erika’s kimono. That was her, he knew. He drew Aegon’s ball and stepped forward to face his opponent.

“Erika!” Ryan’s voice echoed throughout the greenhouse. “I’m here to challenge you for a Rainbow Badge!”

“Oh, another challenger already?” the woman said lazily, turning around. Water was still spilling out of her watering jug, giving the floor moss some much-needed rain.

“That’s right.” Ryan raised his Poké Ball, preparing to throw it. “Can we get this over with, please?”

“As you wish,” the woman yawned, moving as slowly as a Slowbro dipped in molasses. “Three on three, how does that sound to you?”

“Sounds fine,” Ryan replied.

“Good,” the woman spoke, her eyes fluttering as if she was trying to stay awake. At once, she beheld Ryan and remembered him. “Hey… you’re the boy from the tea ceremony.”

“That’s right.” He took out the golden chicken bone again and waved it at her hopefully.

She snorted and unhooked a Poké Ball from her belt. “You were quite sure of yourself before. Let’s see how well you do in a battle. Tangela, I choose you!”

“Aegon, win this one for me!”

The Charizard and Tangela materialized in front of their trainers, ready to square off.

“Tangela, the Vine Pokémon. Its identity is obscured by masses of thick, blue vines. The vines are said to never stop growing,” good, faithful Dexy droned.

“Thanks, but I don’t think those vines are gonna save it,” Ryan boasted, ignoring his Charizard’s poisoned state. “Fire Blast, buddy!”

Aegon obeyed, bathing the little mess of blue vines in his super effective fire. Suffice to say, fire beats grass any day, and soon Tangela was charred as black as spinach anytime Ryan tried to cook it.

Erika yawned noisily. “Impressive. Your Charizard knows a good move. Now go, Weepinbell!”

Aegon let out a cry of pain as the poison ravaged his body. Ryan grit his teeth. Just a little more, he urged his Pokémon. Just have to beat two more and I’ll take you to the Pokémon Center, I promise. Out of the ball came Erika’s Weepinbell, another grass Pokémon, another one destined to be destroyed by Aegon’s flames.

Ryan was getting bored of using the same attack over and over again, though. He wasn’t a spammer, not like Robbie and Xiao Bao. So, abandoning reason for madness, Ryan shouted, “Hyper Beam! Show that Weepinbell your new move, buddy!”

“Rawr!” Aegon roared, taking to the sky as he charged up his attack.

“Wrap him when he returns,” Erika said calmly to her Weepinbell. “Do not let him escape.”

The Hyper Beam shone from Aegon’s nose like a flashlight. The fire Pokémon circled in the skies, charging up his new attack, before shooting at the Weepinbell like a bullet. Just before Aegon reached his quarry, he released his white energy, coving the poor grass Pokémon entirely. Triumphantly, Aegon landed in front of Ryan and crossed his arms in satisfaction.

But Weepinbell was not destroyed, even though it was very much injured. It limped out of the smoke and rushed at Aegon, taking him unaware. Though the Charizard struggled, he could not get out of the vine grip of the cursed grass Pokémon. It wrapped him once, and he screamed from the damage and the ravages of poison; again this happened; when the third wrap came, Aegon fainted after the poisonous damage rippled through his body. He collapsed, and Ryan returned him to his Poké Ball.

The boy reached for a Poké Ball and yelled, “Abra, it’s your turn!” But there was no Poké Ball that had an Abra inside it, he realized after he went searching through his bag. Abra is gone. Emotion came flooding to Ryan again, and he was briefly lost in thought. Trying to clear his thoughts, Ryan picked up the first Poké Ball he found and threw it. Out came NaVorro, the leal Tauros.

“Blizzard, buddy!” There was distress in the boy’s voice, a sense of fear that he tried to swallow away. NaVorro stamped his feet and covered the already-weakened Weepinbell in a frosty surprise, forcing Erika to recall it.

“Okay Gloom, it’s your turn,” the woman said in her dreamy voice. The Pokémon at her side squealed and jumped forward, ready to battle.

“Blizzard again!”

NaVorro wrapped the Gloom in a mess of ice spikes, snow, and foul winds. Gloom was a steadfast Pokémon though, stronger than Erika’s other two, and it weathered that storm. When the snow winds cleared, Gloom shook the ice off its leaves and ran at NaVorro. When it reached him, it shot a powder from its head-flower, which covered NaVorro and made him collapse, fast asleep.

“Sleep Powder,” Dex counseled. “Your Tauros has fallen asleep wise master.”

“Dang!” Ryan recalled NaVorro and threw another ball - this one contained the devious and tricksy Spectre, Ryan’s Haunter. “Thunderbolt, Spectre. Come on boy, don’t fail me this time!” You were supposed to win me my Marsh Badge, Ryan thought, and you failed. Now win me a Rainbow Badge to make up for last time.

“Haunter, haunt!”

“Sleep Powder again!” Erika commanded her Pokémon.

It was no use. Haunter was faster, as had been all of Ryan’s Pokémon. He knew what that meant. Mine are higher levels… and yet she still took out two of them, including a Charizard. She’s really good. Haunter bounced casually over to the Gloom, began to laugh maniacally as he looked down on the helpless plant Pokémon, and just when it tried to shoot its Sleep Powder at him, he conjured a Thunderbolt between his hands and effortlessly threw it at his foe. Gloom shrieked as it was electrocuted and singed, and a moment later, it fell over, defeated.

“Yeesssssssssssssss!!” Ryan screamed, punching the sky. “That’s seven!”

Erika yawned, bringing dancing red cranes to her mouth. She returned her Gloom to its ball and walked over to Ryan, taking something out of her pocket as she made the arduous journey. When she reached him, she presented a rainbow-colored Rainbow Badge to him in her palm. “I concede defeat. You are remarkably strong. I must confer you the Rainbow Badge,” she said, and Ryan took what he had won from her hand. “I wish you good fortune in the battles to come,” she said. “Your Pokémon use a variety of TMs, is that correct?”

Ryan nodded, not looking at her. He was enthralled by the beauty of his seventh badge.

“That is quite clever. You will do well in the Indigo League if you make it that far. Good luck.”

“Thanks!” Ryan beamed. He took out his little badge booklet and placed the Rainbow Badge just to the right of the Marsh Badge. He looked over the seven shiny pins he had won; it all looked remarkably cohesive. That was his entire journey right there, showing all that he had accomplished. But there was yet one open space, one badge he had not earned: Viridian City’s, he thought. And once again, Ryan was reminded of Kelly, and how long ago she had been in this position herself, when she had left the group. She’s been training her Pokémon for weeks. He gulped, thinking about the magnitude of her head start. He wouldn’t be getting his Earth Badge for a few more days at least. I’m months behind her, he thought glumly. If we fought today, she’d beat me as easily as a Zapdos would a Krabby.

Erika was still standing there, staring at Ryan, as if she had just said something. “Oh,” he said at last. “Sorry, I got distracted.”

“It’s okay,” she replied, yawning deeply. “The perfume… it has always made it difficult for me to concentrate.”

“Well I better get going,” Ryan told Erika. “I still have one more badge to get!”

“You better hurry,” she cautioned. “The Indigo League starts in ten days.”

“Ten days?!” Ryan’s heart nearly stopped. “Are you kidding?”

“Nope,” she smiled. “I’d run if I were you. The road back to Viridian City from here is long and treacherous.”

Ryan nodded, his eyes wide with fright, his forehead slick with sweat. Like a madman, he dashed out of the Celadon City Gym. There’s no time to spare. I have to get to Viridian City as soon as possible!


It was perhaps 5 o’clock when Ryan returned to the streets, where most of the fruit and vegetable venders were beginning to pack up and leave for the day. The crowds perusing the streets were not as large as they had been before. Thus, Ryan could get a good look down the streets, and that was how he found Logan, who was purchasing a few items from a food stand. When Ryan came upon him and tapped him on the shoulder, Logan jumped and dropped the fresh eggs he had bought, splattering them all over the cobbled streets.

He must’ve thought I was a ghost. Ryan grinned. Logan spun around yelling, “Hey, what’s the big idea…?!” Ryan hushed that sass mouth up real good when he showed the boy his new Rainbow Badge. “Wow, does that mean you have seven badges now?” Logan asked.

“Yep,” replied Ryan. “Just gotta go to Viridian City, and that’s it. The Indigo League’s in ten days, so we should get going. Are you ready?”

“Yeeeeeeah…” Logan said, stepping gingerly over the broken eggs. “Just let me get a few more things.”

“Why?”

“Fry!” Logan said with a sinister grin. “I’m going to make us scrambled eggs tomorrow morning!”

“Okay weirdo, but you do know that tomorrow we’re going back into the forest, right? Who eats scrambled eggs while camping?”

“I do!” Logan proclaimed. “Because I just saw Gordon Ramsay’s video on how to make them!”

“Oh okay. Well in that case, carry on.”

As Ryan watched Logan go crazy buying chives and butter and crème fraîche, something caught his eye. When he looked across the street, he couldn’t believe it. No way, he thought. That’s a human Snorlax if I ever saw one. Indeed it was: approaching Ryan, the boy could see, was the jovial Rahul, as large as Chris Christie (Rahul’s favorite politician in Ryan’s estimation), followed by Alex, the noblest trainer in all of Kanto, whose face was bowed and focused on the 3DS he held between his grubby little paws.

“Yo Ryan!” Rahul was smiling, and his goatee made him look much older than the 17 year old boy he actually was. He was as slick as a Seel on ice. “Long time no see.”

“Rahul!” Ryan went running over to him but didn’t hug him because that would be weird. “I thought we missed each other.”

“No way,” Rahul retorted. “We only got here yesterday. See?” He took out his own Rainbow Badge, and a quick ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ unfolded. Once it was over, Rahul said, “So I guess that means we’re going to Viridian now.”

“Yep,” said Ryan. “Erika told me we only have 10 days before the start of the Indigo League, so we better hurry.”

“Alright, and didja miss me?” spoke Alex in that deep voice of his. He didn’t even look up, so entransed with his game was he.

“Yeah, nice to see you again Alex.”

“He just got Fire Emblem: Fates. So he’s kind of busy, and by kind of, I mean all he does is play that game now,” Rahul told Ryan.

“Oh okay. So what have you guys been up to since we split up?”

Rahul looked at the sky, trying to remember. “Hmm… well, we stopped by a friend’s house to play Halo.”

“We usually do that when we’re together,” Alex explained.

“And you got the Soul Badge, right?”

“Oh yeah, Koga was a piece of cake,” Rahul said, licking his lips. And to think once upon a time, long ago, I struggled so much with that gym.

“Cool, so are you guys ready to leave?”

“No way,” Rahul said calmly, slapping his belly and stroking his goatee.

“Why not?”

“Derny Sandcastle’s giving a speech here tomorrow. I want to watch it.”

Ryan was more than a little confused. “Uh… who?”

“He’s running for president,” Alex muttered.

“Yeah, he’s the best! #Feelthesandbetweenyourlegs,” Rahul smiled. He took out his phone and pointed at the screen. “He’s the best. Look, I’ve posted 419 emotional documentaries about him on my Facebook wall!”

“I’m sure that would be very annoying to anyone who’s friends with you.”

Rahul shrugged. “I’m just speaking the #truth! If we don’t elect Derny Sandcastle, the world is just going to stay as corrupt as it always is! Hilaryous Rodhammius is just another corrupt politician. We can’t let her become the president of Kanto!” Rahul raised his sonic screwdriver to the sky. “I swear by the old gods and the new that I will never be cruel, nor cowardly, never give up, and never give in. We have to support Derny Sandcastle! He is the #1 My Little Ponyta fan! He promised me not only free rainbows and free tuition for Smogon University, but he swore he's going to give everyone a free Meowth once he's elected! Think about all the money you’ll get, Ryan… from now on those big corporations won’t be able to treat you like a slave anymore! Down with capitalism! Up with Marxism-Leninism! None of this is fantasy; Derny’s making my fantasies real!”

“I’ve always wanted a Meowth!” Ryan said carelessly. “How you like me now?!”

“He’s going to take all of the Meowths from Silph Co. and other big businesses and give them to all the poor and hardworking people, because it’s time this country took care of its poor and its downtrodden and no more Wall Street corruption! Pay Days for everyone!” Rahul screamed like Howard of House Dean.

“Alright, that’ll do,” Ryan said. “I get that you like that guy but no one else cares.”

“How dare you?!” Rahul yelled dramatically. “Derny Sandcastle is the future for Kanto! Without him we’re doomed! Either you’re with me or you’re my enemy!”

“Oh my sweet summer child…” Ryan said, shaking his head and folding his arms. “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Alex played his game, perhaps oblivious to Rahul’s diatribe, perhaps not. He didn’t give off any sort of opinion either way.

“Look Rahul, it’s time we blow this joint. You gonna join us or not?”

Rahul was glued to his phone. “I just posted two more emotional documentaries about how Derny’s journey is as inspirational as a 1000 year old horoscope. It’s so moving. I cry everytime. Oh and I also had to post a new status for every city he’s lost, because clearly he can only lose when there’s voter fraud.”

If Rahul really was a commie, he’d share those rolls of blubber he has with the rest of us, not to mention his goatee. I want a goatee like that.

At that moment, Logan, his hands full of groceries from the farmer’s market, came running over. “Hey, what’s going on Ryan?”

“Oh yeah,” Ryan said, grabbing Logan’s shoulder and jerking him forward, into the group (and nearly making him drop his eggs again, but thankfully he didn’t otherwise this chapter would be even longer). “So this is Logan. He’s been traveling with me for a little more than a week now.”

“Are you another trainer?” Alex asked, briefly looking up from the game he was playing.

“Um no… not really. Well I was at first, but I wasn’t very good at being one!” Logan laughed nervously. “So I decided that instead I want to be a Pokémon Breeder!”

“Aaaaawesome!” Rahul said with that cheeky smirk of his that is so common on a Facebook photo of this guy. What a guy. “Derny needs plenty of breeders in his government to help redistribute more Pokémon to all people! Join him and vote for Derny Sandcastle this coming Tuesday!” Rahul said like a well-oiled drone (although that’s kind of overselling his abilities).

“That’s enough,” Ryan growled. “I don’t care about this Derny Sandcastle dude or the four hundred Facebook posts you make about him. Just shut up!!”

Out from his Poké Ball came Spectre with such suddenness that Rahul did not have time to react. “Use Hypnosis on him,” Ryan ordered. “I don’t want him to say another thing about ol’ Derny for the rest of our journey!”

“Haunter haunt!”

A moment later, Rahul fell like a sack of pennies, look at him go!

“Great,” Alex sighed. “Now who’s going to carry him?”

“I have just the Pokémon!” Ryan smiled, taking another ball out of his bag.

And so, as the day wore on and evening fast approached, the four trainers left Celadon City, making their way towards Viridian City. The only road back would lead them back through Saffron City and Pewter City, but there wasn’t time for that. If I look back, I am lost, Ryan knew, so forward he went. And, consequently, that meant that the group would be taking their shortcut to Viridian City through the deep and dark and mysterious and perhaps dangerous Viridian Forest once again. I hope we don’t see Dr. Kaku and his Growlithe again…

On they went, Ryan leading them, Logan just behind, rambling on about the restaurant-quality scrambled eggs he was going to make in the morning. Then came Alex, his face an inch from his 3DS as he played Fire Emblem: Fates as if there was no tomorrow. Ryan was happy that Alex at least had a hobby in his life now. And finally, snoring loudly from atop the back of NaVorro, was Rahul. Ryan liked him this way. There was no jive talk, no Doctor Who references, and no politics, because those kinds of discussions just make everyone uncomfortable. I’m glad we avoided that kind of stuff in this chapter so far.

But most of all, Ryan was happy because once, long ago, Rahul had complained that Tauros was not a useful Pokémon. He didn’t use the one that Ash had given him as a gift. Well what do have to say about that now? NaVorro was the only one capable of carrying such a load; without him, the sleeping Rahul would have been surely left in the street where he lay, inevitably to cause traffic for days to come until someone appeared with a Poké Flute to wake the sleeping beast. But Rahul won’t know that NaVorro saved him, Ryan thought sadly.

As they continued on, Ryan couldn’t help but think about how annoying Rahul had become. He hoped Rahul wouldn’t be like this when he woke up in the morning; he hoped Rahul wouldn’t act like such a fool anymore, to borrow a term from Alex’s vocabulary. Rahul’s favorite movie is Pacific Rim, Ryan reflected. I guess it’s no surprise that he’s fallen in love with Derny Sandcastle after all. But hopefully we won’t have to hear anymore about that.

Episode 29: The Great Khan

The sun was up, the sky was blue, and it was as hot as a Magmar’s summer home. Just my luck, Ryan thought miserably. The group trudged through the wild plains separating routes 16 and 2, feasting on Ryan’s jackfruit haul from the farmer’s market in Celadon City. Everyone got their hands sticky, but no one more so than Logan, who seemed to like the jackfruit more than even Ryan (and that’s saying something since Ryan thought jackfruit is the sixth best fruit all-time). Rahul had assured them he knew where he was going, but if there was one thing Ryan knew about Rahul, it was that the big man liked FemShep the best. Around them, Fearow and Spearow flew; bands of feral Pikachus scurried through the sparse oak trees, and Diglett holes were scattered everywhere like it was a warzone. So many Diglett… Ryan glanced about at the hundreds of holes popping up from below the weeds and the yellow grass. I wonder if they have a cave nearby.

Indeed they might have, but Ryan will never go there because that cave is one of the worst things in Pokémon Yellow.

“It’s, uh… this way!” Rahul said, fumbling with a map and pointing at a distant forest. Good to see him acting like his normal self again. That Hypnosis really did the trick.

“Are you sure?” Logan asked.

“Yeah, well like 90% sure, but still…”

Ryan shrugged. “That should be right. The Viridian Forest surrounds Viridian City, so if that’s the forest, it means we’re almost there! Besides, I’m dying to get in the shade. It’s so hot out here!”

Alex followed them, all whilst playing the heck out of Fire Emblem: Fates. The kid was almost as obsessed as Ryan had been one summer when he had beat Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando thirty-three times in the span of two weeks because there’s nothing else to do in North Carolina (but that is a story for another chapter).

When they reached the forest, Rahul licked his index finger and raised it to the sky before deciding which direction to take the group. This sorcery was akin to how Tauros can reproduce when there are only male members of the species. Ryan just hoped that the big man knew what he was doing, because if not, they were going to get lost in Viridian Forest again. And this time there’s no Michio Kaku to lead us out.

Inside the forest, the heat diminished, though the air was still unbearably humid. It smelled of pine needles and blackberry jam, giving the forest a pleasant, welcoming feeling. Ryan trained his Pokémon on random wild Pokés, while Rahul and Logan debated which doctor was the best (the 10th doctor is, for those wondering - Rahul and Logan almost went to blows over that, since Rahul really loves the 12th doctor).

It was not long afterwards that the group came upon a Bug Catcher, as Pokémon trainers are wont to do in Viridian Forest. He was a child of perhaps six years, sprinting about with a bug net. Too bad it wasn’t big enough to catch a Butterfree. The child was a portly fellow, and his body jiggled like jello on a hot afternoon when he ran and sang about a girl named Prudence (or perhaps it was the name of his Pokémon).

The boy eventually spotted the four travelers, though they were quite unhappy that he had. Better we don’t waste any time with this kid. The boy ran over to them, waving his bug net (which was quite empty) before skidding to a stop just in front of the group. From his pocket, he took out a half-eaten slice of custard tart and engorged himself upon it.

“Hey,” the kid said, his mouth full of pastry and cream. “Who are you? I’m Bug Catcher III, esquire. Wanna battle?”

“Not really,” Logan muttered.

Rahul was singing the theme song to Psych.

Ryan shook his head lazily.

“Yay, whoop!” the kid screamed, spittle running down his mouth. “New Pokémon, I choose you!”

The child threw three Pokémon balls, and out from each came a Kakuna. Curses. Now I have to battle him. If I want to be a real Pokémon Master, I can’t run from this challenge.

“Look what I caught,” Bug Catcher III, esquire boasted. “My first Pokémon!”

“That’s pretty sad if your first Pokémon is a Kakuna,” replied the teal-haired trainer. He stepped forward and took a Poké Ball from his pocket. Logan, Alex, and Rahul just stood there like logs in the mud, watching with various degrees of interest. “Go, Myrrah. Use Blizzard!”

If there’s one thing Pokémon battles had taught Ryan, it was that nothing was certain in life. He watched, in disbelief, as Myrrah’s Blizzard went screaming over the three unmoving Kakunas and sailed away into the cloudless azure sky above the treeline. 90% accuracy may as well mean 50%, for all my luck.

“Harden, Kakunas! Form a protective shield!”

“Blizzard again.”

This time, Blizzard did not miss, much to Ryan’s surprise, and the three Kakunas fainted. No worries, thought Ryan. Everything works out in the end. Myrrah screeched a cry of victory before returning to her ball, leaving Ryan face-to-face with the young Bug Catcher and his fainted Kakunas.

“Aw, no fair! I had three Pokémon.”

“Yeah kid, but they were awful Pokémon. Kakunas are pretty much immobile, and only have the attacks they had as Weedles. You should’ve tried Poison Sting or Bug Bite or something…”

The boy wasn’t listening. He was running in circles with his bug net. Doesn’t he know that Pokémon won’t just appear inside? He has to chase one down. He has to find one, see one… There were clearly no wild Pokémon anywhere nearby.

“I’ll trade you,” the kid whined when he ran of breath.

“Trade what?”

“My egg for your cool snot-rock Pokémon thing!”

Bug Catcher III, esquire produced a blue-green egg with yellow three-pronged spots coating it.

“Where did you get that?” asked Alex, looking up from his game for the briefest of moments.

“I found it somewhere.”

“Oh okay.”

“So what do you say?” the kid asked Ryan, eagerly.

“I’ve got a better idea,” Ryan replied, taking something out of his pocket to show the kid. “How about I trade you this for that egg?”

In his hand was the golden chicken bone, shining in the light of the afternoon.

“Aw, that’s not a Pokémon!” the kid complained. “No fair, I want a Pokémon!! A Pokémon, eyo ahh!”

Ryan wiggling the bone in front of the kid’s face. “It’s made of real gold. Just think, with this, you could buy any Pokémon you wanted. You’ll be rich! You could buy yourself a thousand Kakunas!”

There was wonder in the boy’s eyes. “A… thousand?!”

“Uh yeah, but don’t do that. That would be a serious waste of money. Buy yourself a Scyther or a Gengar or something cool.”

“Buy a Golem!” Alex shouted suddenly. “That was my favorite Pokémon when I was your age.”

The Bug Catcher reached for the bone, but Ryan pulled it back, just out of the shorter boy’s reach. “Nuh uh. First you have to agree to the deal. Do you want to trade the egg for the gold?” The Bug Catcher nodded vigorously. “Alright, let’s shake on it.”

Once the transaction was complete, the shirtless, lumpy boy beat his chest, screamed incoherently, and disappeared into the bushes, waving the golden chicken bone above his head like a club.

Ryan held the egg in his hand, feeling its weight. “What Pokémon is inside, Dex?”

“Scanning… no known Pokémon egg signature detected.”

“What?! Seriously? Come on you stupid machine. Your whole point is to be able to tell me about the Pokémon I find!”

“My apologies, kind and gentle master, but it appears Professor Oak did not program me with information on this species. It is either a new species of Pokémon or a species from a different region of the world.”

“Whoa… so this isn’t one of the Kanto type Pokémon?”

“That’s what I just said master. I can repeat myself again if you need me to.”

Ryan frowned and pocketed the Pokédex with the mouth of sass.

Walking over to Ryan, Alex said, “Was that real gold you gave the kid?”

“I dunno. I mean it was shiny and looked expensive. Could’ve just been gold paint for all I know.” I wouldn’t put it past that weird Colonel Sanders wannabe. “Hey Alex, you wouldn’t happen to know what Pokémon’s in here, would you?”

“Nope. But it better be a rare and powerful one if you want to break even in the trade.”

“I’m sure-”

At once, the bushes in front of the group began to rustle. Rahul, who had been playing with sticks in the dirt, stood up and scratched his goatee in puzzlement. Logan ran behind everyone else. Like there’d be any ghosts out here. Yet, when Ryan heard the bellow that followed the rustling, he too began to shake, and the thought of some spooky monster bursting out from the foliage seemed more likely than me ever finishing this story.

There it came, a hulking brute, dark-skinned, bruised, dirty, its eyes bloodshot, its pouch empty. The stuff of nightmares it was - as beautiful as a girl Ryan had once seen chasing a Dragonair, this beast looked thirsty enough to drink all of their blood.

“Kangaskhan, the Parent Pokémon,” Dex told the group. “Raises its young in its belly pouch. Won't run from any fight to keep its young protected.”

Logan’s voice came first. “Huh?! What’s a Kangaskhan doing this far away from the Safari Zone?”

“Its child is missing,” Alex observed stoically. “It’s probably looking for it.”

Rahul stepped forward and cleared his throat. “Sup, Kangaskhan, whaddya say you become my new Pokémon?”

The Kangaskhan thundered a searing response and charged the big man. He doesn’t look so big compared to that beast. Then Ryan, Alex, and Logan got to see Rahul fly; a ragdoll was he, screaming and spinning wildly and flying! And then he hit a tree and sunk into the bushes. Well that went about as poorly as it could have.

“Oh no!” Ryan’s heart was in his throat. He wondered which Pokémon would be the best counter to this raging beast. NaVorro? No, Thurnax! No, Aegon! I don’t know!!

Struck with indecision and terror, Ryan didn’t have enough time to take out a Poké Ball before a new challenger appeared to face the Kangaskhan. From the bushes to the left of the group came another hulking giant, though this one was not nearly as imposing. With its back to Ryan and the others, it seemed to be sent to protect the boys. Ryan instantly recognized what Pokémon it was, and he nearly laughed at the irony when Dex spoke:

“Snorlax, the Sleeping Pokémon. Will eat anything, even if the food happens to be a little moldy. It never gets an upset stomach.”

“Where did that come from?” Alex spoke.

Logan was wailing. “From the trees! Help, there’s Pokémon everywhere! I don’t want to be in the forest anymore! I want to go home! Aah!”

“Snorlax, use Body Slam,” came a voice from behind the group.

With lethargy, the Snorlax growled and rumbled forward, jumping into the air and slamming its massive tummy down upon the head of the charging Kangaskhan. The Kangaskhan screamed in pain and fury, causing nearby Spearow and Pidgeys to take flight from the trees. The Kangaskhan won’t get up if it’s hit again.

That was why, it appeared, the Kangaskhan decided at that moment to let out one last bellow before retreating into the thick forest. The Snorlax remained standing between the boys and the forest, waiting for its foe to return for another smackdown. The three trainers spun around in unison to see who had been commanding the Snorlax.

No way… all the way out here? What’s he doing in the middle of the forest? Ryan was beaming. “Sup Quinny,” he said, walking forward, his arms outstretched to either side, as if wanting to hug his best friend (but he had no plans on actually doing that).

Quinny had curly reddish brown hair, large brown eyes, stood a few inches taller than Ryan, and wore a blue shirt and black dress pants. He was smiling coyly. “Sorry about that,” he said at last. “That’s Shelby, or as I like to call her, Mama Kanga. She’s been on a rampage ever since her child went missing. Someone took it, and now she fears all people. That’s why she attacked you.”

“Do you have any idea who stole the baby Kangaskhan?” Logan’s voice was full of despair.

“Yep. I’ve been trying to rescue her child for more than a week, but the guy who has it… let’s just say it’ll take more than one person to break into his castle and get past his defenses. Trust me, I know. Come on, my place isn’t far from here. Let’s regroup, and I’ll tell you what I know. I assume you guys want to help me with this problem?”

“We do,” Ryan insisted. “We’ll find that baby Kangaskhan, yeah!”

“Alright. Let’s go.”

And off they went, Quinny leading them the opposite way the Kangaskhan ran, into the deep forest. And no one even remembered that Rahul still lay in the bushes, probably dazed or unconscious. Oh well.


“Why are you out here? Last time I saw you, you were still living in Acapulco with your parents and your sister.”

Quinny shrugged. “I got into gardening.”

“That’s random.”

“Anyways, I moved out here and bought a greenhouse, and I’ve been growing peppers and jackfruit ever since.”

Quinny was of course Ryan’s best friend, the guy Ryan grew up with in his hometown of Acapulco. I haven’t seen him since before I started my Pokémon journey. I guess a lot has changed since then. Quinny led them up onto a hill where a sprawling greenhouse stood, surrounded by jackfruit trees (many of them were quite young, but a few were just beginning to grow their famously sweet, spiky fruit. The sugary fragrance of jackfruit drifted through the sweltering air, mixing with the sharper scents of the various strains of hot peppers.

Around Quinny’s greenhouse were stacks of cardboard boxes from Amazon.com. There must’ve been a thousand of them. That’s just like Quinny. He’s always buying himself treats. I don’t think he can go even one day without getting himself another gift.

“Look at this,” Quinny told the group as they passed by one of his pepper beds. “Got a ghost pepper! Pretty sweet, huh?”

“Are you gonna try to eat that?” Ryan asked.

“I’m going to extract the flesh, since the seeds are where the real heat is,” lil ol’ Quinny explained, “and then put that into a salsa mix.”

“Okay, whatever floats your boat, man.”

“Look at this,” Quinny said, taking out a yellow canister that had a skull and bones on it. “Roach spray. I made it myself. I’m at war with them. Those little buggers are everywhere. I can’t sleep at night; they’re climbing up the walls!”

“I think your fear of cockroaches is irrational, but okay.”

“You don’t get it. They’re the most disgusting creatures ever! I’m going to get rid of them all with my newly-created Quinny Special!”

“What’s in it?”

“Well, there’s some lavender and some napalm.”

“Are you serious?” Quinny nodded, as if napalm was something completely natural for him to put in bug spray. “You are a silly goose, my good sir. You are amongst the silliest of gooses.”

Quinny ignored Ryan’s jabs. “And I’ve been researching thermite too. That might be better against the roaches.”

Ryan’s face lit up. “You could try super thermite paint!”

Quinny looked at Ryan as if he was a retired conspiracy nut who was also a former fighter, governor, and Navy SEAL. The sun was bearing down on them, and Ryan was coated in sweat. I need to get out of this heat. A nap sure would be nice. The two decided to get some water from inside the greenhouse and admire all of Quinny’s plants (Ryan found that he was a little less than half-interested in Quinny’s sudden turn to being a master gardener. Being a Pokémon Master seemed so much more thrilling, so much more interesting, but he didn’t bring that up to his best friend.).

While Alex and Logan had peeled away like leaves from a kale plant, perhaps to inspect Quinny’s pepper beds or to harvest some jackfruit, Quinny poured himself a Red Bull and sat down in a lounge chair under the shade of his tallest jackfruit tree to decompress.

“You don’t even have electricity out here,” Ryan complained. “How are you surviving?”

“I know,” replied Quinny with sudden hebetude. “Remember back in the day, we’d spend five hours trying to beat Regret or Great Journey on Legendary?”

Ryan smiled. “You dare to interrupt my sermon?!” he wheezed in his oldest of old men voices.

“Your very existence offends me, demon,” Quinny spoke coolly, sipping on his much-needed caffeine. “Speaking of which, you never told me why your nickname was ‘Sour’, back in the day.”

“Oh yeah.” Ryan racked his brain, trying to remember. “I think… well, it’s probably because I like sweet and sour sauce a whole lot.”

“I thought it was because you were a pessimist.”

“That’s true too,” Ryan replied. “I don’t believe any of your jackfruit trees will live long enough to fruit.”

“Nice. Some of them already have, so…”

Ryan brushed off that comment as he would a common mosquito. “Well, if you’re going to ask me about my nickname, where did yours come from? Is there a really cool story about it?”

“Not really. My parents called me ‘Peanut’ when I was little, so that’s what I used. The adventures of Peanut and Sour…” murmured poor tired Quinny. He sat back in his chair and drained his drink. “Those were the days.”

The two continued to reminisce about the old days until Alex returned. Evidently, his 3DS was out of power, for he seemed serious now. “When are we going to find that guy who stole the baby Kangaskhan?”

“Oh yeah, him.” Quinny sighed and leaned back further in his chair, closing his eyes. “I call him King Roach. He lives up on Melancholy Hill. Y’know, the one with a plastic tree? There’s a fortified castle on top of the hill, and tons of mines and booby traps surrounding it. It’s impossible to get inside, trust me. He has cameras and a whole army of Pokémon to do his bidding. He’s a poacher, and he’s been working around these parts for years. I’ve tried to stop him, but it hasn’t been working out too well… King Roach is a smart little bugger, and he’s got some really powerful Pokémon.”

“Well come on, let’s go see the place,” Ryan said. “If we’re going to break in, we need to do some recon first!”

Quinny sighed again and cracked open a second Red Bull. “I’m tired, but you guys can go. The hill’s that way,” he said, pointing east. “You can’t miss it. There aren’t any real trees around it.”

That’s just like Quinny. His energy gets sapped faster than Alex’s 3DS when a new Fire Emblem comes out. “Very well, Quinny. We’ll see what we can do,” Ryan said gravely. “Make sure you drink lots of Red Bull to recover your energy. You’ve had a hard day already.”

And so off they went, Ryan, Alex, and Logan. Indeed, it did not take them long to find Melancholy Hill. The hill was so far removed from the rest of the surroundings that it seemed like someone had torn away a section of the forest and thrown down a medieval castle in its place. Around the castle, at the base of the hill, a barbed wire fence wrapped around the entire place in a circle, aside from the front where a barred gate stood. On the fence posts were ‘Do Not Enter’ signs and, paradoxically, ‘Enter at Your Own Risk’ signs, along with lightning bolt insignias below them. I wonder who King Roach really is.

Logan threw a rock at the fence, and at once, a mine exploded at the exact spot where the rock hit the ground. “Wow, this poacher guy’s serious!”

Ryan looked up at the imposing castle, noticing how so many of the walls were covered in cameras. There’s no way we’re getting inside there without him knowing. We can’t sneak up on King Roach.

“This place is heavily fortified,” said Alex whilst eating dumplings with his chopsticks and leaning up against a tree. Ryan thought he looked so cool. If he keeps acting like that, I’ll start calling him Big Green.

“Yeah, I don’t know how we’re supposed to get inside.”

Ryan smirked, taking out a Poké Ball. I’m about to call in the submarines. “Don’t worry. I’ve got an idea. Go, Spectre!”

Out came Ryan’s Haunter from his ball. “Haunter, haunt!” he wheezed enthusiastically.

“そうですね, buddy. Now I have a mission for you, and it’s super important.”

“Haunter.”

“I want you to sneak into that castle up there and find the poacher who took the baby Kangaskhan. See if you can rescue the poor baby Pokémon and bring it back here. Can you do that?”

“Haunt!” Spectre barked before turning invisible and floating off towards Melancholy Hill.

A lonely plastic tree stood next to the castle. I wonder what that’s for. Why doesn’t the poacher like trees? From a nearby loudspeaker, low, communist-style music was playing at an upbeat tempo. Ryan thought the tune was kind of catchy. While the three boys waited for Haunter to return, they reveled in the sweltering heat, even under the shade of the nearest tree (which was quite a ways away from the hill). A warm wind blew. A Spearow squawked and took flight. Ryan could taste habanero in the air.

“May Pagan’s light shine upon you all!” came a warm female voice from the nearest loudspeaker.

“Huh, what was that?”

“Pagan Kim,” Alex observed. “I knew him. He used to work at Smogon University. But he went rogue and disappeared, and no one’s seen him in years. He was an expert in Pokémon breeding habits and habitats. I don’t know if it’s the same guy out here, or why he became a poacher if it is him.”

The boys waited for many a minute, all of them arguing over who is the second best fire Pokémon aside from Charizard. Ryan thought it was Rapidash; Logan thought it was Flareon; and Alex thought it had to be Ninetails (in fact, he even though Ninetails was stronger than Charizard). The discussion almost became as heated as the Doctor Who one had when the door to the castle swung open and a man in a sparkling pink suit and dyed blond-gelled hair came running out, shrieking at the top of his lungs. He looked like an airdancer with some mad moves.

He ran all the way down the hill, past a manatee statue (Ryan named the beast Hugh, in his mind), and fumbled at the gate with a keychain before bolting out across the barren mine-field. The man began to wail as mines blew up around him, covering his precious head as he ran towards the treeline.

“That’s him.” Alex drew a Poké Ball. Ryan and Logan followed his lead.

When Pagan Kim came to the forest, the three boys were waiting for him. Alex let out his Jolteon; Ryan brought out Aegon; and Logan released his Chansey. The three Pokémon rushed towards the man in the pristine pink suit, but he jumped over them, by like five feet, as if he were an Olympic hurdler. What the heck is up with this guy?! Mr. Kim looked like a god, sparkling in his semi-effeminate elegance as he sailed through the air.

Pagan Kim landed gracefully and faced the Pokémon trainers and their Pokémon with his back to the forest. Beside Ryan, Haunter materialized, cackling and grinning and having a swell old time. He must’ve scared the Pokéheck out of Mr. Kim over there.

“Boys, boys, what’s the meaning of this?” Pagan asked calmly, his voice deep and soothing. He ran a hand through his hair. “Don’t tell me you wanted to break into my home? That would be so… unfortunate, if that was the case. Come on, speak up!”

“You stole a baby Kangaskhan,” Alex spoke. “Give it back to its mother and stop poaching the other Pokémon in this forest, and we’ll leave you alone.”

Pagan Kim laughed and dusted off his suit. “Really now, that’s it? Alright, okay, okay. You want the baby Kangaskhan; I get it. But it’s quite extraordinary… you went to all this trouble over a little baby Pokémon?” The man made a face, mocking the three, and then took a Poké Ball out of a pocket from the inside of his suit. “That’s cute. Funny, really. I didn’t think anyone out here cared. You want this Kangaskhan back?” he asked, waving the Poké Ball, “then come and get it. But I warn you, I have a legendary Zapdos here in my other Poké Ball,” he said, pulling out another ball - its top half was colored purple with pink bubbles on either side of a large ‘M’ printed on the middle of the purple backdrop. “And you wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.”

He’s bluffing, Ryan thought. “I don’t believe you! And besides, even if you do have a legendary Pokémon, we outnumber you!”

“Numbers aren’t everything, boy!” The man’s face lit up with a cheeky grin.

“We’ll attack him all at once. That way his Zapdos won’t be able to hit all of our Pokémon before we knock it out,” Alex whispered.

“Alright, sounds like a good idea.”

“Fools!” Pagan Kim spat, holding the ball with Zapdos in it in his left hand and the Kangaskhan’s Poké Ball in his right. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourselves into-”

From behind, in the foliage, came a scream. Pagan Kim did not even have time to turn around to see what it was when Mama Kanga came sprinting out from the bushes and hit him so hard with her Mega Punch attack that she sent him flying high (as a kite) into the air. Ryan heard the man scream like a little girl, his voice rising to a triple falsetto as he flew off into the distance, towards the burning summer sun, before disappearing in an expected twinkle. Man, that was brutal.

There, riding on the mother Kangaskhan’s back was Rahul, the big man, the glorious fourth member of Ryan’s crew. He dismounted from her neck and ran over to where Pagan had been standing. In the man’s place was now a regular Poké Ball - he must’ve dropped it when the Kangaskhan hit him with her vicious attack. Rahul picked it up and let the baby Kangaskhan out of the ball, allowing the scared creature to reunite with its mother. It was a nice, cute scene - the mother and her baby Kangaskhan reuniting - and they cawed and cooed and cried, but Ryan couldn’t focus on that, since Rahul used exactly that moment to shout:

“Are you serious?!” He stroked his goatee like an annoyed Meowth. “You guys just left me in the forest like that?!”

Alex folded his arms. “I guess we forgot about you.”

“Come on, Alex, seriously?!”

“Don’t worry Rahul, everything worked out in the end,” Ryan said, trying to console his fellow trainer. “And besides, you helped take out that poacher guy.”

“Ugh, you guys are hopeless,” Rahul said, shaking his head. He looked away from his friends and off towards the Kangaskhan and her child. The mother was singing sweetly to her youngling, holding it in her arms, tears running down both of their faces. Ryan couldn’t help but feel moved seeing them back together, even though he didn’t know much about these Pokémon. “See how much you like it if you’re the one that gets left behind next time!”

That incendiary remark broke the teal-haired boy out of his thoughts. “I’ll never be left behind because I’m the protagonist,” Ryan reminded Rahul, and Rahul had nothing he could say about that.


As the sun began to set, Ryan and the others returned to Quinny’s estate, where far too many peppers grew. He picked some cilantro he saw growing in one of the beds and ate it, wondering why it didn’t taste soapy to him. The others told Quinny about Pagan and what had happened, and Quinny promised to go to the castle in the morning and let all of the Pokémon free that Pagan Kim had poached (if there were any left in there).

“Pewter City’s like half a mile north,” Quinny said. “You should stop by there and then take Route 2 down to Viridian. That’ll be faster than traveling through the wild forest. I know Route 2 is also surrounded by the forest, but it’s a heckuva lot easier to navigate, and there’s a real path to follow.”

“Alright, see ya Quinny,” Ryan said. The others said their goodbyes too; then, they began to walk north to Pewter City, but Ryan himself stayed put, not yet joining them.

“Yeah… nice seeing you man. So you’re going to become a Pokémon trainer? I thought your dad didn’t want you to.”

“Well, he didn’t,” Ryan admitted. That had been the only reason the boy hadn’t been allowed to become a trainer at the usual age of 10. “I think that’s because of his own experience. I heard him tell my mom once that he wished he had become a businessman instead of a trainer. I think he’s just disappointed that he only won a single tournament match.”

“Well good luck. If you make it into the tournament, I’ll see if I can get up there to watch you battle.”

“I will,” Ryan promised. “I just need one more badge and I’ll be in. But I only have nine days to get it.”

“You better hurry then.”

“Yeah. Well, see you around, dude.”

“See ya.”

And off Ryan went, leaving his best friend behind. The sun would soon sink behind the horizon; they had very little daylight left. We should get to Pewter at least, before nightfall. I don’t want to sleep in a tent again. The day was becoming cooler again, much to Ryan’s delight. He thought over what they had accomplished that day, and thought that he’d done pretty well. That Haunter idea sure paid off. I wonder if that Pagan dude was bluffing or if he really did have a legendary Pokémon. The thought reminded Ryan of the Mew Team Rocket had captured. His nails dug into his palms as he remembered the look that Pokémon had given him as it was being carted away. I have to find it. I have to set it free. Team Rocket won’t get away with this. Just like Pagan, they’ll feel my wrath in due time.

“It’s okay, Rahul,” Logan was saying, breaking Ryan out of his thoughts. “You did everything you could.”

“Yeah, but I really wanted a Kangaskhan. They look awesome. I thought since I helped, y’know… helped her find her baby…”

“You saved her baby, but the Kangaskhan did not want to be caught. She’d rather live out here in the wild,” Alex observed. “Some Pokémon are just like that.”

Yeah, Ryan thought, thinking of the Scyther he had met in Pallet Town. I wish I could meet him again so that maybe I could convince him to join my team…

“Cheer up, Rahul,” Ryan began, “we’re almost to Viridian City, and we’re going to make great time even with you getting us lost!”

Rahul’s face contorted into a frown. “Really, Ryan? I didn’t get us lost.”

“We were supposed to be going to Viridian, not Pewter. You led us way too far north.”

“I did not!”

“Easy, you two,” Alex said. “Look, I can see Pewter City in the distance!”

Indeed, there it was: Ryan could make out the shape of the roof of the famous Pewter City museum just above the treeline. They would be there soon. And I’ll get my last badge soon, he promised himself. At once, Ryan felt immensely tired, like a bout of Quinny’s fatigue had hit him hard as a mama Kangaskhan. He wanted nothing more than to collapse on a bed and drift back into the dream world.

A twig snapped to the left of them, where the Viridian Forest spilled out of Route 2. Ryan paused for a moment, looking over at where he had heard the sound. He swore, for a moment, that he saw a pair of eyes watching him. I’ve seen those eyes before, he realized, and a cold shiver rippled down his spine. But where?

“H-hello?!” Ryan’s voice was timid, but loud enough to cause the others to stop walking and look over at him. The eyes vanished, yet Ryan stood there for a few more minutes, still as a statue, trying to find any other sign of the creature that had locked eyes with him. When he was sure it had gone, he turned to the others and shook his head.

“It’s nothing. Let’s go.”

In the distance, as the sun kissed the horizon, a Growlithe could be heard howling, its lonesome call carrying across the plains like a ghost on the wind.

Episode 30: Scyther No Scything

He put on his fake mustache and Aegon’s monocle and strode into the Pokémon Center calm as a cucumber. Easy laddie, he told himself, this is a foolproof plan. Inside, a ginger-affro’d man was playing the game of coin at the nearest ATM. A few Chanseys strode about, performing menial tasks. A blonde-haired girl with rosy cheeks and a white-and-green dress was standing at a nearby counter, paying for some things he couldn’t see. I’ve seen her before, he thought. But I can’t remember from where. Across the hall, behind the most beautiful cash register in the world, Nurse Joy stood beaming. The light seemed to radiate from her body. Ryan’s palms began to sweat.

He tip-toed up to the counter like a mischievous Haunter and cleared his throat. “Ahem…”

“May I help you, sir?” Nurse Joy said sweetly.

“Uh, yeah, you can. I’m the radical and real Jesse Ventura, and I do believe you have my poor Sandslash in your possession.”

“Oh, that’s you, is it?” The nurse put her hands on her cheeks in a low-key sign of shock. “We received that Pokémon weeks ago! What… what do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Ventura?!”

“Sorry ‘bout that,” Ryan said in his roughest, gruffiest tone (his gruff was the stuff of legend). “I’m here now! Haha, well, I guess that’s all that matters.”

“How do I know you’re really Jesse Ventura, and this is your Pokémon, hmmm?” Nurse Joy asked, producing a Poké Ball from thin air.

“I… uh, well, uh…” Ryan’s mind went blank. His little heart was going like a Raticate feasting on rare candy. “O-oh, I’m a fighter, a mayor, and a gravy Seel!”

“Oh, it is you, marvelous!” this Nurse Joy hummed. A few moments later, she finished with Sandslash’s paperwork and handed his Poké Ball to Ryan. The boy took it quickly, thanked the beautiful lady, and speed-walked outta there. Once he was outside, he ran over to the edge of town, where the paved streets turned to dirt paths and more rugged terrain, sharper rocks, and taller trees (they looked like sentinels, tall and lonely, in Ryan’s estimation), and let the Sandslash out of its ball.

Confused, the creature cowered, its claws raised over its face to shield it from the bright light of day. “Hey buddy!” Ryan said enthusiastically, crouching down next to the beast. The Sandslash squealed and ran away, behind a nearby bush. He doesn’t trust me. He remembers.

“Sandslash!” Ryan called, moving slowly towards the bushes. “I know you know who I am. I’m the one who saved you, remember? Your old master abandoned you.”

“Slash…!” the animal hissed.

“He ran off into the jungle! He didn’t care about you at all. We got you to the Pokémon Center all healed up and left you there for Jesse, but he never came back.”

From between curled green-and-brown leaves, thin as paper, the Pokémon said, “Sand… slash, sand, slash slash!”

“You’ve been in that Pokémon Center for weeks! He’s never coming back for you. I took you because… well, because I thought you would get bored spending all of your life in a Poké Ball! You can join my team or relax at my parents’ home with my other extra Pokémon. It’s your choice really. I just wanted to make sure you were free again.”

“S-slash?!” The Sandslash jumped out of the bushes, coming within a few inches of Ryan. For a moment, he thought it might attack him. And then its posture lowered. “Sandslash.” Its voice came defiant that time.

“Ye-yeah…” the boy said with little confidence. “So do you want to fight with me or go to the retirement home?”

“Slash.” Pure determination. I like that.

“Very good, buddy,” Ryan smiled. “Welcome to the Dream Team.”

“Sandslash!”

“I’ll have to show you to the others! They’ll be waking up soon. But first, I need to give you a name.”

“Sand?”

“Jesse never gave you a name, I suspect.”

“Sandslash, sand.”

“All of my other Pokémon have names,” Ryan explained. “You gotta have one too. It’s just a part of this whole story and stuff.”

The Sandslash sighed. “Slash…!” He’s a bit frustrated, but he’ll allow it. He knows I’m his new master. He won’t backsass me anymore.

“Alright, Dexy baby!” Ryan said cheerfully, taking out his little pocket monster, “Are you ready for my new Sandslash’s name?”

“As ready as I will ever be, kind and gentle master.”

“Excellent. You’re a fierce-looking beast. Sleek, lethal, quick,” Ryan mused, pacing around the Sandslash. “And you have some mean claws on ya, whooo mama! I think I know what I’ll call you.”

“Slash?!” the Pokémon muttered in uncertainty.

“You can be Wallabi Cornrow McGee,” Ryan said mildly.

“Sandslash!” He’s a little angry now. Good.

“Easy boy,” Ryan said coolly, walking up to his Sandslash. Kneeling and (lightly) petting the beast’s quills, he whispered. “That’s not your real name buddy, don’t worry. Your real name is Skorge. Now go catch me a wild Pokémon.”

With a bark, Skorge took to all fours and ran off into the tall grass to the side. Out there, an older trainer, a gentleman clearly past fifty (he would surely not live much longer; fifty years is a really long time; it would be a mercy if he could get it all over with quite soon), was struggling against a crowd of wild Pokémon. “Don’t go into the tall grass!” he was wailing, his voice hoarse and broken. “Don’t go into the tall grass! Don’t go into the tall grass!!”

But into the tall grass, Skorge went, fearless as a Pidgeot in flight. A tussle broke out in that grass, as loud and vicious as Ryan had ever beheld. A moment later, a bruised and dirt-covered Pikachu came scrambling out of the grass and dashed down the dirt path in a panicked cloud of dust towards Ryan. It never looked at him, but was huffing and puffing and stealing glances over its back for its assailant. And soon did Skorge appear, bursting out of the grass with energy that had been pent-up for weeks. He chased down the Pikachu like a crazed, hungry beast until he jumped into the air and came down on the little yellow rodent, stopping them a few feet away from Ryan.

He’s good. He’s very good. Jesse had a high-level Pokémon on his hands. Shame he was a terrible person. This little guy deserved better. “Well done, Skorge!” Ryan beamed, pulling out a spare Poké Ball. “And welcome to the club, Gumi!” Ryan called after the exhausted and semi-lucid Pikachu, who still lay in the middle of the dusty road. I hope Dex is keeping track, he thought, but Ryan was too lazy to take the Pokédex out of his pocket and point it at the Pikachu. “I’ll see what you’ve got after the Indigo League.” No time to test out my new buddies before then. I need to focus on the team I have. Of course, Ryan had a slot missing - the slot for my Abra, he thought angrily. Now I don’t know who should go there. Reek? Swirlie Whirlie? Maybe Skorge. That’s what he meant to find out, anyways. So far, the teal-haired boy was impressed with his newest Pokémon.

The Sandslash was sitting loyally, staring at his new master. “Return, Skorge,” Ryan said calmly, and the Pokémon leapt into his ball eagerly. This is good, he thought.

Coming to the edge of Viridian City, Ryan found the path down Route 2, which led through the claustrophobic, overgrown Viridian Forest. And beyond, my last test… before the real tests. Gulping, Ryan began to pace. He felt jittery and lightheaded. It could happen today. I could get my eighth badge today, if we make good time. Looking around, Ryan saw no sign of Alex, Logan, or Rahul, let alone any other people. Route 2 was empty. It is pretty early.

So it came as a surprise when an elderly man stumbled out from the grass nearby the entrance to Pewter City. He looked like a zombie, all covered in dirt and scabs, and Ryan felt unease when he looked upon the man.

“Frodo dobo?” the man asked Ryan hopefully.

The boy’s heart loosened, and he sighed internally. “Obi dobo,” he said promptly.

“Ah, obi dobo and mercedes dobo,” the man said cheerfully. “Now trade me your Abra for my Mr. Mime,” he scowled, producing a tiny, undernourished Mr. Mime like a puppet. He was holding the Mr. Mime as if to show it what a man could do. That thing looks like it’s from the Original Child Clown Outlet.

“No thanks,” Ryan replied. “I don’t have an Abra.”

“Oh. Obi dobo Franz Mchobo.”

And I wouldn’t trade my Abra to you even if I did still have him. The boy walked away from the crazed elder and took up a seat on the wooden wall snaking around the outskirts of Pewter City, low and made of old, rotting pine. He wondered what Abra was up to now, and how things might’ve been different with his first Pokémon back on his team. I’d be stronger with him.

Sighing, the teal-haired trainer turned his gaze to the looming Viridian Forest ahead. It looked thick enough to swallow him whole. And if he got lost in there again… no one will find me or know what happened to me, or know what I have accomplished so far. He thought of his mother’s disappointment, and his father’s anger. “He should never have become a trainer,” his father would say at that, Ryan knew, “he was never meant to be one! He wasn’t ready!” And don’t forget that I’m too old. And not smart enough, and too distracted…

A light flush spread across the boy’s face. He took out his Pokédex and said, “Hey Dexy, what’s the type specialty of the next gym?”

“Searching… gym found in range,” the Pokédex droned. “Viridian Gym. Flying Gym. Gym Leader: Dylan, a famed young trainer from Kanto who won the Indigo League, but lost to the Elite 4 five years ago.”

“Elite 4?”

“The Elite 4 and their leader, known as the Indigo League Champion, are five experienced Pokémon Masters whom the League Winner must challenge to battle immediately after winning the Indigo League tournament. Each member of the Elite 4 specializes in a single Pokémon type and fights with five Pokémon. All of them must be challenged in a row, without switching out Pokémon or using healing items. The Champion fights with six Pokémon and represents Kanto as the region’s greatest Pokémon Master.”

“Huh.” Ryan’s breath frosted in front of his face. “Never knew that.”

“It’s okay wise master, you are young and noble, and you haven’t yet had time to learn all there is to know in the world.”

“You’re a passive-aggressive little robutt aren’t you?” the boy asked, annoyance in his voice. “But I s’pose you aren’t wrong…”

The wannabe Pokémon Master scowled and stared off into the distance, where the sun was just beginning to rise from behind a soot-black horizon into a sky of pale gold and rippling sapphire. This is gonna be a long day.


This time Rahul brought a map. It’s a mistake making him the navigator again, Ryan knew, but he didn’t say anything. Behind them, Alex and Logan were locked in deep conversation already.

“But that doesn’t explain why you’re so afraid of ghosts,” Alex observed.

“They just freak me out, okay?”

“Oh, okay.” Alex’s face was stern and like stone.

Logan’s voice rose in anger. “Hey, why are you so interested in my story anyways?”

Alex shrugged emotionlessly. “Some things don’t add up.”

Ahead, Rahul was studying the map like a studious individual. When he walked, a sloshing sound came from him, most likely from around his midsection. He was holding the map real close to his face, as if he could see nothing and knew nothing. And he’s probably going to be my opponent in the last round of the tournament… if I make it that far. The big man led them up a hill, off the path, and soon they were trekking through the tall grass like a group of four pioneers. It was horrible. Good thing we bought loads of Diet Repel at the Pokémon Center, otherwise this would take forever. But forever this must not take, for I have a lot more that I need to get into in this chapter.

When they reached the crest of the hill, Ryan could hear a thick voice coming from the distance, like bug spray on the wind. The forest thinned around the hills, and more light was getting in around there. And that was when Ryan saw him: a big man, and round, bronze-skinned and covered in muscles. His hair was drawn up in a spiky black mohawk; his face was painted with queer symbols; his suit consisted of white shorts, orange flip-flops, and a fancy button shirt with palm trees and fish.

It was, surprisingly, not that man that interested Ryan. When he saw the man, he also saw the green blurs behind him. Scythers. A swarm of ‘em. The boy could see three Scythers from his position. What’s that pineapple doing with them?

“You sucka like die, den go dead, come, come, join me!” the man boomed, his voice shaking with his thick Hawaiian accent.

The man’s Pokémon shot forward leally to attack some unknown enemy. “Let’s go!” Ryan said to the others. “I wanna see what’s going on!”

The four quickened their pace, running up to the larger man a few moments later. By that time, his three Scythers had returned to him, unharmed. Down the grassy hill behind them, their defeated foes lay, but Ryan couldn’t quite see who they were… even when he tried standing on his tip-toes!!

“Who goes dere?!” the man grunted, turning to face them.

“My name’s Ryan, and these are the people who follow me around!”

“Hello, Ryan, and secondary characters,” the man mumbled. “Dey call me Jun Baba-o.”

“Oh.”

“You gotta problem wit’ dat, ey sucka?” the man said aggressively.

“No sir, not me,” Ryan assured him. Great, he’s crazy, just like every other adult I’ve ever met. “So what are you and your Scythers doing in the middle of the forest?”

“Dese not my Scythers,” the man said gravely. “A man cannot own a Pokémon. A Pokémon is as smart as any person. Dey belong to no one, like people. I give respect to Pokémon and treat dem as I would treat any person.”

“Right, okay, you don’t own them. But they’re fighting for you…”

“Yah brah, I got some dat fight for me when dey want. Dese Scythers been helpin’ me clear out all da Team Rocket suckas I come across. Dey understand da fight we wagin’, brah.”

“Team Rocket?!”

“Da very same.” Jun Baba-o wiped his brow and took out some barbeque pork ribs from his jacket and feasted on them like a starved Mankey, getting the grease and sauce all over his face and clothes and hands. “Dey just started appearin’! Dunno why.”

“Have you seen a blue Mew with any of them?” the young trainer asked hopefully.

“Blue Mew?” Jun Baba-o gave Ryan a strange look. “Dere ain’t no blue Mew, far as I know brah.”

“Right, and you would know.”

“Sucka please.”

“Right, okay. In that case,” Ryan looked over to Rahul, who was munching on a chicken kabob and dripping its dark sauce all over the dirt path, “can you please let us get past you so we can make our way to Viridian City? We have urgent business there.”

“Be my guest, brah, but see for yourself, eh? They blockin’ the path. Why dontcha help me clear ‘em out first, eh?”

That they were, the mad tricksy devils. Now he could see the two unconscious men in dark clothes with those unmistakable huge ‘R’ signs plastered on their torsos, red as blood. And across the path, from the tall grass, from behind trees and bushes and rocks and streams, more Team Rocket grunts slouched out and came forward to challenge those who stood on the hill.

Team Rocket’s the worst, and also I hate them. “Alright, Aegon, Thurnax, NaVorro, Spectre, Myrrah, and Skorge… come on out!” And so Ryan’s six Pokémon showed themselves. “Go destroy those Team Rocket hooligans for me, alright?”

“Cloyster!”

“Slash!!”

“Brawawasawa!”

“Nieieaeeaalahahalaha!”

“Brrrrrrrmppph!!”

“Haunter haunt. Haunter, haunter haunter haunter, haunter haunt. Haunter haunter haunter, haunter haunter haunter haunter haunter,” Spectre bellowed, with the passion of a boy playing Ophelia in 1605.

“Go get ‘em boys… and girl rock snot… thing.”

Before Ryan was the twisting path through the next part of the forest, and on it, around it, standing in the bushes and tall grass and hanging from the trees, were the Team Rocket trainers. Lackeys and captains and officers and grunts were they, all attired in black-and-white slick outfits with those big red ‘R’s emblazoned on their chests. Five dozen of them, if not more, awaited Ryan and the others, and he realized that his side was outnumbered.

“No way…” Alex breathed, upon running up to Ryan to get a better view.

“This is insane!” Rahul chortled. “There’s so many of them.”

“My dad named a turkey man his god, and maybe right now I should start praying!” Logan moaned, shivering and shaking and sweating like a boy about to die.

“Time to join the fray!” Ryan shouted at them, pointing to his own Pokémon, swarming around the nearest Team Rocket foes, who were just beginning to take out their Raticates, Wheezings, and Golbats in defense. Come on guys, I know you’re strong enough to beat those crummy Pokémon.

Rahul’s Dragonair, Rhyhorn, Kadabra, Charizard, Lapras, and Magneton rushed forward to join Ryan’s warriors. So too did Alex’s Starmie, Tauros, Exeggutor, Golem, Charmeleon, and Jolteon. Even Logan’s two Eevees, Ditto, Squirtle, Scyther, and Chansey were out, ready to fight. Then came the three Scythers loyal to Jun. That one Scyther in the middle looks familiar, Ryan decided. There was a scar going down his face, along his left eye, and there was a scruff of fur around its neck, giving it a fearless, feral appearance. The Scyther I knew didn’t have that scar… and I never noticed his fur like that before… but, this one looks like him…

“Help us fight, and we’ll help ya fight, brah,” Jun promised. “Awweeeeieieieieoooooaaah!!!” he screamed like a madman, the painted symbols on his face contorting with his frown and seeming to dance with life across his flesh; his Scythers charged off to battle, Logan’s Pokémon chasing behind them. Jun did a little somersault and rolled down the grassy hill in celebration before getting tangled in the unconscious bodies of a couple of knocked-out Team Rocket scouts.

They were 27 against maybe 200. What are so many Team Rocket members doing out here in the forest? Don’t they have better things to do? The battling unfolded before their eyes, savage and automatic. His Pokémon knew what he wanted from them. They all knew which moves would be best against the standard types that Team Rocket employed. Ryan wondered if the other trainers had such a bond with their Pokémon, or if it was all just luck going on out there. Either way, it looked like his side was winning.

“Dang, Team Rocket,” Jun Baba-o complained, clawing his way up onto a rock and taking out a bit of barbequed chicken and pineapple to munch on noisily (and messily). “Dey just came ta town, juss like dat, eh!” He licked the grease from his fingers. “Big battle goin’ down in Viridian City, I bet.”

“Really?” Alex asked.

“Why else dey come here, eh? Why else?!”

“I don’t know,” the Asian boy admitted.

“Dat doesn’t matter!” Jun told them. “We just gotta beat ‘em.”

As Ryan watched the battles unfold, he noticed his Pokémon were starting to take more and more damage. They need me, he knew. And so he was out there running for his buddies, and he didn’t know if any of the other four trainers were chasing after him. In the chaos of battle, Ryan found Aegon and began shouting commands to his Charizard. The fire Pokémon pushed back the Team Rocket members in front of him, frying their Pokémon and even some of them who got too close to the flames. Further ahead, Ryan came upon Thurnax, engaged in combat with an Arbok and a Weezing. After giving her a few pointers, Ryan moved on to Myrrah and Skorge, who were battling a few Raticates and Drowzees. Dispassionately, the boy helped his two outnumbered Pokémon overcome their weaker foes. NaVorro was stampeding through the undergrowth ahead, crashing through bushes and trees as he zigzagged across the dirt path, sending Pokémon and Team Rocket grunts scrambling. Finally, Ryan ran over to where Spectre was, hoping that his Haunter was still in good shape. Luckily, he found the beast engaged with a Fearow, playing with the squawking beast like it was a piece of food. Ryan made sure Spectre KO’d that Pokémon quickly and knew that he was not to mess around anymore.

So there they were, in the dust and jungle, the humidity of the forest wrapped around them like a noose. He saw Rahul’s and Alex’s and Jun’s and Logan’s Pokémon fighting. Some of them fell, knocked out or too weak to go on. Some Ryan’s did too, as the battling went on - Skorge and Myrrah and NaVorro collapsed after taking a little too much damage. There’s still too many of them left, Ryan knew, as he raced from Aegon to Thurnax to Spectre over and over again, his throat aching with how hoarse it had grown. And when Aegon finally fainted, Ryan knew it was over. We can’t beat this many of them. They’ll make us their prisoners and steal our Pokémon, he realized with horror. We must try to escape. Turning back to look at the others, Ryan found them to be too spread apart, too isolated. His own fallen Pokémon were lost somewhere amongst the piles of collapsed Pokémon and foliage. It’ll take too long to find them. I can’t run.

“Thurnax!” he shouted desperately. “Please, don’t let them hurt you!”

The noble dragon Pokémon roared, “Heieieieaaaaah!” and charged a Machamp. A second later, the four-armed freak fell to the dirt, swirly eyes covering its flat face. She used Surf to push her way through Grimers, Zubats, and Cubones. She felled a Persian with a single Hyper Beam, took out a Rhydon with Wrap, and Surfed through an obese Hypno. After all of that, Thurnax stopped and fell forward panting. That was when the Hyper Beam hit her, and she fainted. A Team Rocket grunt stood cackling, his Persian at his side. There’re just too many of them… Ryan thought numbly.

Everything looked lost. Even Alex’s and Rahul’s Pokémon were collapsing. The Scythers were gone. Ryan only had Spectre left. For a single moment, amidst all the shouting and smoke and screaming, Ryan’s eyes locked with Alex’s, and he saw the worry in them.

In the next moment, the sound of trees falling could be heard. Everyone stopped battling and turned to face this new threat. It was coming from behind the Team Rocket members. As old, ancient, beautiful trees fell, the dark figure of a person riding a Pokémon could be seen. From so far away, Ryan could only tell that the person riding the Pokémon wore a white shirt and had short brown hair and pale skin. It was his mount - a large Porygon - that truly gave him away, however. Charlie. Found you again. Ryan thought of the bounty for Charlie back on Cinnabar Island and wondered if it was still worth it to try to catch the boy. It’s not like I could catch him even if I wanted to. Five of my Pokémon are knocked out.

Standing there, unsure of what was going on or what Charlie was trying to do, Ryan beheld a most peculiar sight: a young boy without a care in the world, cheeky as anyone Ryan had ever seen, casually approaching the Team Rocket army. And when he came upon them, he turned into a man with the head of a Porygon and did to those grunts what the spring does to the cherry tree.

Ryan had never seen a person propagate so much carnage single-handedly. Nuclear proliferation, Ryan thought with awe, I wish I knew more about him. With just his Porygon, Charlie managed to defeat the remaining Team Rocket members, forcing them to scatter like breadcrumbs in a hailstorm after he felled their Pokémon. Confidently, Charlie rode up to the five remaining trainers and grinned.

“Sup whiny-face. Long time no see.”

“Yeah, okay, hello,” Alex said in that monotone voice of his.

“Marth is better than Falco!” Ryan shouted uncertainly.

“Sure, buddy,” replied Charlie. “Anyways, if you ever need saving again, just call me,” he smiled knowingly and turned his mount around. Porygon moved like a robot - no emotions, no personality. “I’ll be around. And good luck with your journey, dude. I’m sure you’ll do really good.” I think I detect some malice in that tone of his. A little sass too, and maybe a touch of paprika.

With that, Charlie disappeared into the bushes, where Ryan (and poor Merrett, rest his soul) prayed he would never have to set foot again.

“Dat’s not natural,” Jun Baba-o spoke.

Logan agreed. “Yeah, what’s going on?”

“His Porygon must be on steroids,” Ryan put forth.

“That, or he’s just really good,” Alex said. That can’t be it.

“Psst, got any more food?” Rahul asked Jun, his mouth watering like a Growlithe at a water park. “I’m starving!”

“You suckas ain’t stealin’ from me, no way brah! Thanks for your help, ya. But I ain’t feedin’ ya!” Jun ran his hand through his mohawk. He looked like a refrigerator. Now even Ryan was feeling a tad peckish. Sensing their unease, Jun said, “It’s getting late brahs. Easy brahs, slow brahs. You helped me, and I helped you. We even now, ok? Viridian City is just ahead… keep going, ya?”

“We’re hungry!” Rahul complained “Feed us!” And he kicked and punched the air like a petulant child, magnificent for a man of Rahul’s stature. It’s like when he tried to do good in Halo 5 but never did.

“Love your Pokémon, bruddahs, and don’t forget dey’re people too, just like you. Now I must go, my people need me!”

With that, Jun Baba-o, the First of His Name, rolled off into the bushes, like some predator of the night. Two of his Scythers howled, taking to the air and buzzing off after him. The scarred one with the scruff of fur around his neck stayed put.

Around Ryan, the others were looking for their fainted or wounded Pokémon. The forest was quiet, all the wild Pokémon spectators long fled. He alone stood to face the Scyther. A golden beam of sunlight was stretched diagonally across the warrior’s lime green face. Pulled back was his body, taut and unleashed, like a samurai warrior frozen in carbonite, like a tsunami about to break across the shore.

“Scyther,” Ryan said happily. “Nice to see you again.”

“Scyther, scythe!” the creature retorted coolly.

“You remember me, don’t you? I’m Ryan. You helped me save Pallet Town from a herd of rampaging Tauros.”

“Scyyyyyyy!!”

“I’ve missed you,” the boy said. I’ve thought about this Scyther more than I should have, ever since we left Pallet. “I-if you want… you c-could join my team…” he offered lamely.

“Scyther,” the Pokémon replied, sliding its white scythe hands against each other, as if to sharpen the blades.

“I know you don’t want to be out here, Scyther. Who would? Come on, Viridian Forest is boring and lonely. You won’t get to fight many cool battles out here… if you join me, I’ll take you around the world to battle all sorts of Pokémon!”

“Scyther,” the Mantis Pokémon said sadly. He belongs to Jun, Ryan thought suddenly. Even though Facepaint McGee didn’t want to admit he owns any Pokémon, I can see it in Scyther’s eyes. He doesn’t want to leave that man. He’s too loyal.

“It’s Jun, isn’t it?”

“Scyther.” The word came lonely as the night, stiff and short.

Ryan sighed. “Don’t worry about it, Scyther. It was nice seeing you. Maybe one day, we’ll meet again.”

“Scyther!” the bright green bug ‘mon shouted, and in the next breath, he was in the air, flying over the tree line, away from Ryan and the others. But I know we won’t. An emptiness blanketed Ryan as he gathered his defeated Pokémon and regrouped with the others. I wanted that Scyther so bad. First Abra, then the Mew, and now Scyther… Bowing his head, Ryan focused on the holes in the shade, coming from the pockets in the tree line above him. Patches of the dirt road were covered in sunlight, hot to the touch, while others remained cool and dark. He wondered what Jessica had done to that Mew since that terrible night in Lavender Town. If she even touched it, I’ll…

“Ryan.” The voice of Alex wafted across the forest path like a summer breeze. The boys locked eyes again. “We need to go. Four of my Pokémon are KO’d, and it’s the same for the others. We’re vulnerable, and we need to get to a Pokémon Center as soon as possible. I have potions, but I don’t want to use them if I don’t have to.”

Ryan said, “Fine, let’s go. I’m just waiting for you guys anyways.”

And so off they went, deeper into the forest. The air was growing hotter, and Rahul and Logan were arguing again about if ghosts were real. Ryan’s only conscious Pokémon, his jokester of a ghost, drifted after them, while Alex, now with Rahul’s map, led the way. Just a few more hours, Ryan told himself, and I’ll have eight badges. Just like Kelly… just like dad.


It was a calamity, as Ryan always knew it would be. Alex can be so oblivious sometimes, he observed, watching Alex try to lead them to Viridian City, as his brothers kept calling him on his phone to talk about their lives and school and smash. Needless to say, Alex stretched himself too thin, as he was wont to do, and didn’t see the forest for the trees. The big picture eludes him like a salad eludes Rahul.

They came to the end of the road, where the forest squeezed inward and a rocky wall swallowed the path whole. Grey rocks, like chipped ice cubes, lay half-sunk in the mud. On one of them, a Spearow sat. When it saw the four boys approach, it faced them and gave them the stink eye. Ryan picked up a pebble and almost threw it at the beast, only restraining himself at the last second. It’s nothing. That Spearow means nothing to me.

“Make sure you spam Meta Knight’s tornado attack,” Alex urged his youngest brother, Xiao Bao, the most notorious spammer of them all. It did not surprise Ryan in the slightest that the eldest son was giving such advice to the youngest son. Upon hanging up, Alex shook his head and spun the map around a few times before flinging it at the bushes half-heartedly. “Well, we’re lost. I followed the map, and the map lied.”

“Told you,” Rahul grinned, stroking his dark beard. “It wasn’t me.”

“No. The road earlier was pretty straightforward. All you needed to do was follow it,” Alex responded, motioning to the rock wall. “The map did not show this. Where does something like that even come from? How does a mountain pop up out of nowhere and break up the trail?”

“Luckily, we have someone who can walk through mountains,” Ryan said, clicking his fingers. With that, Spectre lurched forward and sped right at the rock. It still looked odd and made Ryan a little queasy to watch his Haunter fly at a wall with such speed only to vanish into it… like a ghost.

“What’s he going to find on the other side, Viridian City?” Alex asked.

“I hope so.”

“And how does that help us?”

“It’ll let us know we’re close,” Ryan assured the angry Asian boy. “Trust me, I have seven badges.”

Alex’s phone rang again. This time he didn’t pick up for his brothers. That made Ryan gasp audibly. “We already know how close we are. It says so on the map. The problem is that there’s no way to get to there from here. The trail’s being blocked!”

A bird screeched, its thin, piercing voice ringing through the air like pure energy. The bird eclipsed the sun, causing everyone to look up. Pidgeot. If ever there was such a thing as grace personified, it was that bird, Ryan thought. It was huge for a Pidgeot, and arrogant in how it flew. Its loops and artful spiraling arcs were all for show. It knows we’re watching. When it performed a diving, twirling flip only to pull up at the last second, Rahul whooped and probably thought of Pacific Rim 2: The Return.

Out from the mess of bushes and trees behind them, a rustling sound came. Then came a leg, an arm, and a person. He was light-skinned, wore black skinny jeans, a grey long-sleeved shirt, a light white-and-red jacket, and a backwards black-and-red baseball cap. His eyes were blue, dark as the ocean, and his hair was a chaotic brown mess. He was about as tall as Ryan, and a little shorter than Rahul.

“I thought I heard people,” the boy said, brushing a branch out of his face. “You guys were making a lot of noise.”

“We’re lost,” Logan explained.

“I can tell. You guys talk too much. Are you trying to get to Viridian or Pewter?”

“Viridian,” Ryan said at once.

“Nice! I know how to get there. I don’t know what I would have done if you had said the other city,” he laughed. “My name’s Dylan, by the way,” he continued, bowing nimbly “I’m the Gym Leader from Viridian. It’s a pleasure make all of your acquaintances.”

The others introduced themselves to the youthful Gym Leader… all save for Ryan, who stood there frozen. When everyone else finished, and the attention shifted to him (it would be most rude for him to not introduce himself, after all), Ryan shouted, “I challenge you to a Gym Battle!”

“So you must be the one with seven badges,” Dylan said shrewdly. Behind, his Pidgeot landed hard in the grass. “Alright, kid, I’ll fight you. Just… let’s get back to the gym first, okay? I’d rather fight there. It’s official and all, you know…?”

Ryan nodded a little too emphatically. Dylan can’t know the Team Rocket trainers knocked out my other five Pokémon. That wouldn’t be fair; he’ll think I’m a joke and he might refuse to battle me. Hopefully the others won’t say anything about it. As Dylan led the others into the wild forest, with the promise of safe passage to Viridian City, Ryan stood and stared at the Pidgeot, not saying a word. Then, his Haunter reappeared and gave him a breathless report on what he had seen in the heart of the mountain. Ryan raised his hand to silence the ghost, still staring at the narrowed eyes of the Pidgeot.

He’s a flying trainer. Well, flying/normal, I suppose… I guess I picked up the worst new Pokémon for this battle, he thought, thinking of Skorge. But if I beat him with a Ground type Pokémon… maybe everyone’ll see just how good a Pokémon trainer I really am! It would be a gamble, he knew. But I have to try.

Smirking, Ryan broke the gaze with the Pidgeot and followed the others into the thick forest. His leg caught on a bramble. He felt a thorn poke his toe through his shoe. He tasted mud and dying leaves on the air as sweat poured down his neck and back in the humid heat. Dylan doesn’t know I use TMs. He doesn’t know that I know he’s a flying specialist. He’ll try to trap me, especially if he sees Skorge. That’s good. So long as he thinks he’s laying a trap, I’ll have an advantage. He may have won the Indigo League a few years ago, but in this battle I’ll be one step ahead of him.

I’ll get that badge, he promised himself. If Kelly could get it, if Rahul is going to get it, if all those other kids who qualified managed to get this badge… so will I. My father beat the Viridian City Gym Leader four times. If they can do it, so can I. He wanted to believe - he really did. In his mind and dreams, Ryan was a Pokémon Master.

But the real world is not made of dreams and fantasies. Things never end up how you want them to… not unless you make them.

Episode 31: This One's For Several of the Marbles

She was putting on her gloves when he came for her. Spotless. Good. “Uh… Jessica, everyone’s ready…”

“Good,” she whispered, closing her eyes to savor the moment. “Gilly, you will lead the attack.”

Studying herself in her most faithful mirror, Jessica thought she looked like a true ganglord. They’ll not soon forget this day. Team Rocket is back. Her clothes were dark and shining, the red ‘R’ shimmering like a blood ruby on her chest. The only things I’m missing are a cape and a gold cane, she thought.

“Bring me the prisoner,” Jessica told the boy, and he yelped before scurrying off to get the man. Turning around in her small hotel room, crammed with boxes and crates of supplies, low-lit from her desk light, she studied the blue Mew hovering in the corner. “I am your master now, Mew,” she said, walking up to it and snatching something off her desk. There were mats all around its neck. The wounds are scabbing, she noticed, bringing her glove to the Mew’s fur. Good. “You will obey me,” she told it. “Or I will make you.”

Bringing the electric collar up to the Mew’s neck, Jessica locked it in place, not daring to meet the Pokémon’s eyes. It doesn’t want to listen to me. Its nature is not to be a servant. She stepped away from the animal and pocketed the remote control. Sighing heavily, she waited for Gilly to return to her. That Mew helped me destroy the Painted Dragons’ lairs in Saffron, Celadon, and Fuschia. All it needs is a little shock every now and then. She glanced up at the blue-furred beast, which was eyeing her cautiously. There is no one in Kanto who can stand against me and my Mew.

A few moments later, the door opened again, and Gilly came waddling in, Mrs. Supreme Extreme in one hand, a rope leading a blindfolded, bound man in the other.

“Gillford Matilda Gooseman,” Jessica said coolly. “Well done.” The boy handed her the rope. “The next time I see you will be in the Painted Dragons’ underground base.” Pacing around the boy, the rope now in her hand, Jessica stopped just behind him and whispered into his ear, “I should not have to tell you what the price of failure is.”

“Of course Jessica!” Gillford saluted awkwardly and tried to levitate, but he fell over and messed up his preschool-style hair. “I won’t fail you!”

If you do, you will go the way of Giovanni, Jessica thought. “Leave me.” Her voice was cold, authoritative. A chill spread across Jessica’s body when the boy shut the door behind him. She stepped up to the prisoner and took his blindfold off. He was a sweaty, middle-aged man with short black hair, thin-rimmed glasses, and a clean-shaven face. “Hello, Underboss Toriyama,” Jessica said through the teeth. “Do you remember me?”

He looked away from her and spat at the floor.

“You’re going to take me to the Painted Dragons’ base in Viridian City,” she said, tugging lightly on his rope. “The secret entrance. I want to meet your leader.” The man never looked at her and never opened his mouth. His weak attempts at resistance annoyed the purple-haired girl. She slapped him across the face. “I wasn’t asking.”

“I-I… I’m not telling you anything!” Toriyama stammered.

“That’s where you’re wrong, man.” Jessica stepped around the man as she had done with Gilly, stopping just behind him. Taking out her remote control, she pointed it at Mew. “You are such a stupid man,” Jessica said to the Painted Dragons Underboss. “You’ve faced my Mew once before; you know how this will end. Stop prolonging the inevitable and tell me where the secret entrance to your base is!”

“I’ll never tell!” The man’s voice was grating to Jessica’s ears. She pressed the second button on her remote, and the blue Mew drifted forward slowly. “N-no….! No, no, no!! Nooooooooooooooo!!!” Underboss Toriyama screamed as he fell to his knees, covered in purple energy. He looked like a tree set aflame. The Mew’s eyes burned aqua in the near darkness ahead.

Jessica tugged at the Painted Dragon’s leash. “Good?” The man was breathing hard on the floor, moaning slightly. She jerked his leash harder. “Are you ready to tell me what I need to know?”

“Ah… ahh… ah…” the man panted. He’s stubborn, she thought angrily. I’ll have to try something else. “W-wait… stop!” he cried hoarsely just as Jessica began walking towards the Mew. Toriyama’s head was bowed in shame, and he spoke lightly and slowly. “I-I’ll… I’ll take you there. Please. No more. No more…”

Jessica bit her lip to prevent the man from seeing her smile. “That’s more like it.”

It was the late afternoon by the time they came to the Painted Dragons’ building. That’s Gilly’s fault, she knew. I wanted to attack first thing in the morning, but he took forever to organize the troops. Maybe I should find a replacement for that nitwit… The building was, outwardly, a Pokémon food store. A front. Three stories high it rose, like a giant’s tooth, but she knew there were at least twice as many floors below ground, spread out as wide as a spider’s web. The largest Painted Dragons base in Kanto. If I crush them here, we will have beaten them once and for all.

Jessica entered with the man, passing calmly by customers and employees to a far elevator. Inside the elevator, the man pressed a dozen buttons in a flurry, as if he were typing a password. Eventually, a little camera sprung out of the speaker hole and scanned Underboss Toriyama’s retinas. Satisfied, the camera popped back into the speaker, and a moment later, they were shooting down into the depths of the base.

In the room at the end of the hall, she found them. The three of them were sitting around a table, the air thick with cigar smoke. Jessica couldn’t tell if they were playing poker or drinking orange juice, but hate flushed in her cheeks the moment she laid eyes on them.

“Hey!” she shouted, kicking her hostage at the three. At once, the men got to their feet and shouted in surprise.

“What are you doing down here?!” the one in a fancy burgundy bathrobe asked. Jessica could see water Pokémon painted across his forearms, and a group of Poliwags swimming upstream had been tattooed on his throat. That’s Ganglord Tajira… the man in charge of the Painted Dragons. He looked nothing like Giovanni to her.

To his right, a man with a grey-black beard and short-cut black hair stood in a simple ash-grey suit with a red tie and black-rimmed glasses. His tattoos covered almost all of his exposed flesh; Jessica saw dozens of Pokémon painted on his pale skin - and none of them were duplicates. This one has to be Lieutenant Sugimori. I bet he has one of every Pokémon tattooed somewhere on his body. The thought made her shudder.

To Ganglord Tajira’s left was another man, standing stoically, wearing black robes and dark sunglasses. His thick black hair was gelled and spiky, and his face was clean-shaven. There were no visible tattoos on that man, but Jessica knew who he was anyways: Lieutenant Ohba.

“Who are you?!” Ganglord Tajira roared. “How’d you get down here?”

“My name’s Jessica,” the purple-haired girl smirked, taking out her Poké Ball. “I’m the leader of Team Rocket. I think you know why I’m here.”

The three men glanced at the sweating Underboss Toriyama. “We heard rumors…” Lieutenant Sugimori said, “from Cerulean to Saffron… but… but we didn’t know it was just a little girl, ha! You mean nothing to us, girl. Leave.”

“I’ll crush you,” Lieutenant Ohba boasted. “I’ll make you rue the day you decided to cross us.”

The girl shrugged. “You can try.”

In a flash of light, the three Painted Dragons threw their Poké Balls. Out came a Poliwrath for Tajira, a Gengar for Sugimori, and a Blastoise for Ohba. This is too easy. With a flick of her wrist, the girl’s Mew came shooting out of its ball to hover in front of its three opponents. Three against one. And they don’t have a chance. Pity. “Today is the last day the Painted Dragons operate in Kanto,” Jessica told them calmly. “Let me show you why.”

In her other hand, the remote buzzed. Now is the time, Jessica thought fiercely. And maybe once this is over, mom and dad will finally be proud of me.


“I heard you won the Indigo League five years ago.”

“Was it that long ago? Sheesh, time flies.” Dylan dismounted from his Pidgeot and cracked his neck.

On the other side of the Viridian City Gym, Ryan stood battle-ready, a Poké Ball in his hand. “You must be really skilled to have won the league!” Ryan shouted.

Dylan shook his head. “Someone wins every year. Besides, I lost when I challenged the Elite 4. I didn’t even get to face the Champion. That’s the real goal… being champion. Not many achieve that honor.”

“I will!” Ryan said, determined.

Dylan drew a Poké Ball too. “You have to get past me first.”

“Hey, did you face a girl named Kelly a few weeks back?” Ryan asked suddenly.

“Might have.”

“She had pink hair and fought with a shiny Raichu…”

“Oh yeah…” Dylan’s eyes narrowed in thought. “I remember her.”

“Did she beat you the first time you fought?”

“I don’t remember.”

Ryan breathed out in frustration. “Oh come on, you have to remember!!”

“Tons of people battle me, especially nowadays. Gym season’s almost over. Tournament’s about to start. That means I’m going up against a lot of trainers desperate to get their last badge. Sometimes I fight a dozen people a day. Now, are you here to fight or do you want to talk some more about people who already have their Earth Badge?”

So Kelly did beat him. I bet she beat him in one go, too. “Fine, let’s do this.”

Dylan nodded curtly and threw his Poké Ball. Ryan threw his as well. Out from one came a Doduo; out from the other came Spectre.

“Doduo, the Twin Bird Pokémon. Its short wings make flying difficult. Instead, this Pokémon runs at high speed on developed legs.” Dex told Ryan.

It’s normal and flying type, Ryan thought. Perfect. “Spectre, use Thunderbolt!”

“Drill Peck, Dodou,” Dylan told his Pokémon.

The bird and ghost charged at once another. Just before Dodou reached Spectre, the Haunter released a torrent of electricity from his claws, bathing his foe in super effective damage. The Doduo shrieked and stumbled, but kept running. Seconds later, the two-headed bird slammed into Spectre, poking him savagely with its Drill Peck attack. Spectre groaned and fell back.

“Mega Drain,” Ryan shouted at his Pokémon, and Spectre proceeded to drain the remainder of Doduo’s health from it, restoring a bit of his own. The Doduo, which had been ordered to perform another Drill Peck, collapsed on the dirt stage in mid-charge.

“Doduo, return. Go Pidgeotto! Hit that Haunter with a Wing Attack!”

“Thunderbolt it outta here, brah!” Ryan urged his Haunter.

Once again, two Pokémon charged at one another, flying as fast as the winds, and once again, Spectre arrived first, if only barely. His Thunderbolt rattled the Pidgeotto, causing it to squawk and have its feathers go everywhere. From behind, Logan cheered Ryan, the only one of Ryan’s party to come watch him battle. Rahul and Alex couldn’t make it cuz they needed to get some stuff from the Poké Mart. Oh well, they’re missing a great show.

Then came Pidgeotto, like a wind demon, and it slapped Spectre across the face with its wing, sending Spectre flying back. Ryan knew that his Haunter would have fainted if not for the Mega Drain earlier.

“Thunderbolt again!” Ryan urged his Pokémon, and Spectre obeyed.

Once again, Spectre’s attack went first, on account of him being faster than the Pidgeotto, and this time, the bird Pokémon could not withstand the shock. It fell smoking to the ground, forcing its owner to recall it.

“Pretty good, huh?” Ryan laughed carelessly. “My Haunter has TMs!”

“You talk too much,” Dylan replied, frowning slightly, more to himself than at Ryan. He doesn’t know how to defeat Spectre.

From Dylan’s next Poké Ball came a Fearow. “Man, I hate Fearows!” Ryan shouted. “They’re as ugly as my Grand Auntie Paprika!”

Dylan shook his head at Ryan and said, “Sky Attack, Fearow.”

“Give ‘em another Thunderbolt, buddy.”

It happened fast as light, quick enough to take the breath away. The Fearow took to the sky, glowing and flying high. Spectre’s Thunderbolt sailed right past it. Before Ryan could tell his Pokémon its next attack, the Fearow came down in a dive bomb, crashing into Spectre and knocking him unconscious.

“Aw…” Guess looks aren’t everything. Ryan returned Spectre and readied his next Poké Ball. “Go, NaVorro! Take Down attack now!”

“Sky Attack!” Dylan ordered his Fearow.

The Fearow once again began to glow and took to the sky. Tauros flung himself recklessly at the bird, but missed, landing hard and rolling several times before coming to a stop. “Blizzard!” Ryan urged his Pokémon.

But just as the Tauros got to his feet, the Fearow came crashing down upon his head, knocking NaVorro savagely to the dirt floor. NaVorro let out a grunt of pain. At once, Ryan’s heart began to beat faster. I have to win this battle. I can’t let Dylan regain the momentum. “Come on, NaVorro, don’t give up! You can do it! You can beat that ugly Fearow!”

NaVorro snorted and got to his feet, scanning the skies for his quarry. Upon finding it soaring over by Dylan, NaVorro let out a bellow and created a Blizzard attack around the entire gym room. The Fearow squeaked and cawed and tried to dodge the attack, but it couldn’t. Ryan felt the tempest winds cover his body, felt snow against his skin. He started shivering. Maybe having NaVorro use Blizzard wasn’t such a good idea…

When the wind and light cleared, Ryan found the entire place to be covered in snow. Behind him, Logan had been turned into a snowman. Even Dylan and Pidgeot were brushing snow off themselves like they were driveways in the middle of December. Ahead, hovering in the air like a UFO, Dylan’s Fearow remained. But it was encased in ice. When NaVorro stamped his foot from below and prepared a Hyper Beam attack to finish off Fearow, the bird fell from the sky like an ornament from a Pokémas tree. Sinking into the snow like a crumbling statue of Ramses the Not-So-Great, Fearow did not move. Dylan recalled his Pokémon immediately.

“Alright, Farfetch’d, it’s your turn!”

“Farfetch’d, really?” Ryan put his hands on his hips. “I thought you said you won the Indigo League! How could someone as good as you use a Pokémon like that?”

Dylan didn’t respond; he didn’t even look at Ryan.

“Freeze it like the last one!” Ryan ordered. All of his Pokémon are normal and flying types. That means they’re all weak to ice attacks.

“Body Slam the Tauros, Farfetch’d!”

NaVorro once again created a Blizzard, and Ryan regretted not bringing his hoodie to the party. Just when Logan burst out of the snowman he had been encased inside of, another Blizzard covered the room, and he was blanketed mercilessly by snow. That’s a shame.

But through the Blizzard, the Farfetch’d ran, damaged though it was. It flung itself recklessly at Tauros, its pathetic Body Slam landing right on the Tauros’ face. NaVorro stumbled back, grunting in pain. He looked back at Ryan, breathing hard, and fell over. NaVorro had fainted.

“No way! There’s no freakin’ way a Farfetch’d could do so much damage to my Tauros!” Ryan complained. “I call hacks!”

Dylan shrugged. “He’s a high-level Pokémon. If you want to stop whining, we can continue…”

“Fine!” Ryan shouted back, grabbing Myrrah’s Poké Ball. If he wants to play, I’ll show him a thing or two. NaVorro isn’t my only Pokémon with super effective attacks against flying types…

Without warning, the ceiling began to shake. A few trails of dust and dirt fell from the upper rafters, landing in the snow. “What was that?” Ryan asked.

“I don’t know. Probably nothing.” Dylan folded his arms. “Bring out your next Pokémon, or forfeit. I don’t have all day, kid.”

Kid? Dylan’s barely older than me! Ryan looked back at Logan, who had once again broken free from his snowman cage and was now waving golden pom-poms and cheering for Ryan like a proper schoolgirl. The teal-haired boy grit his teeth and returned his focus to the battle. “Go Myrrah! Blizzard attack!”

I’m turning into a spammer, Ryan realized. But my Pokémon don’t have any other ice moves! Suffice to say, Farfetch’d could not survive two Blizzard attacks from two high-level Pokémon. It collapsed, icicles hanging from its nose and leek, and Dylan was forced to recall it.

Ryan knew he had a chance now - a very good chance of winning. Just two more… I still have four Pokémon. He eyed the huge Pidgeot perched loyally next to Dylan on a bed of snow. I wonder if he’s saving the best for last. It won’t matter, Ryan thought, I’ll beat him either way.

The roof was shaking again, and so were the walls. Pockets of snow flew into the air or collapsed inwards. Logan fell face-first into the snow. Ryan looked all around, confused. This isn’t normal. It doesn’t even feel like an earthquake. Returning his eyes to the Pokémon, Ryan was about to speak when he saw the willowy form of a Dodrio materialize in front of Myrrah.

“Hyper Beam!” Dylan urged his leal Pokémon.

Ryan punched the sky. “Blizzard, Myrrah! Finish this battle with style!”

As the two Pokémon charged up their attacks and rushed towards one another, the far door swung open, blowing warm, dusty air into the frigid gym. A girl with mousy brown hair and heavy, dark eyeliner was waving her arms at them from the entrance, silhouetted by the bright light of mid-afternoon.

“Dylan, Dylan, come quick!” she yelled. “Dylaaaaaan! Hurry!!”

“I’m busy,” the teenager shouted back. “I’m in the middle of a Gym Battle. It won’t take much longer.” He eyed Ryan suspiciously.

What’s that supposed to mean? He’s losing. He has no chance. My Myrrah’s super effective against both his Dodrio and his Pidgeot…

“It’s the Painted Dragons, Dylan! They’re fighting some kind of gang war! I think they’re fighting Team Rocket, but I’m not sure!”

Dylan eased his Dodrio into its Poké Ball, stopping its Hyper Beam from charging up completely. “Show me,” he said, running through the snow, past Ryan. “Sorry,” he said to the teal-haired boy, “I have to see what’s going on. Stay here; I’ll be back soon.”

“No,” Ryan replied, looking to the girl. “You said it’s Team Rocket they’re fighting, right? Well, I have a score to settle with them!”

Dylan shrugged and said, “As you wish. Let’s go!”

“I-I-I-I’m c-c-c-coming t-t-too…!!” Logan declared, his teeth chattering as he hugged himself. He can’t deal with the cold very well, Ryan noted. Like me.

“Did you see a purple-haired girl with a blue Mew?!” Ryan asked the girl with extensive make-up standing in the entranceway.

She shook her head. I know that girl’s here. And if she brought the Mew with her… Ryan could feel the beating in his chest, the anticipation coursing through his veins and making his palms sweat. She won’t leave this place with that Mew, he promised himself.

So the four ran out the door, into the light of day, to the battle that awaited them. If only they hadn’t already fought most of a Gym Battle, maybe Ryan and Dylan would have had more Pokémon to fight against Team Rocket with. Oh well…


Pandemonium ravaged the streets, like a bull through the hall. There were Painted Dragons everywhere, and standing against them, Ryan noticed the familiar uniforms of Team Rocket - black or grey suits with gigantic ‘R’ signs plastered on their chests. They were impossible to miss. The Painted Dragons wore more menacing clothes, and looked like angry bikers, though their tattoos gave away just who they were. I wonder why they’re fighting here… and now of all times.

People were running in and out of the Pokémon food store just ahead of the gym. “That’s the Painted Dragons’ base,” Dylan told the others as they ran. “I always knew they were troublemakers!”

Zubats and Butterfree soared through the skies. In the middle of the street, a Rhyhorn was chasing a Growlithe. A spire of flames screamed past them; several men were shouting, pain thick in their voices. There were dozens of Team Rocket and Painted Dragon members, their Pokémon clogging the streets. From the Pokémon Center on the left, Alex and Rahul came running out.

“What’s going on?” asked Alex.

“Team Rocket and the Painted Dragon are fighting! We have to stop them!” Logan replied.

“Yo Ryan, be my wingman!” Rahul grinned, stroking his goatee. “Come on Ryyyyyyyyyyan! Let’s do this!”

“Alright.”

“Sweeeet!”

“Just follow me, okay?”

“Yeah, sure, whatever.” There was an unnaturally high level of obliviousness in Rahul’s tone.

As the two split off from the rest of the group, Ryan dodged fighting Pokémon and gang members as he tried to explain to Rahul what was going on. “We’re looking for a purple-haired girl with a blue Mew.”

“Aaaalright…” Rahul said without a care in the world.

“You remember her? She attacked us in the snow near Pewter City. She was the one who stole all of the fossils…”

“Oh, yeah!”

Alex and Logan already had their Pokémon out, battling back the tide of lackeys and minions like a couple of Hashshashins. I can’t do that. I only have four left… well not even, really. Skorge is new, and he’s not a very high level yet, and Myrrah is injured from the Gym Battle… Ryan knew he had to save his Pokémon for Jessica. She’s not getting away from me again.

Pushing their way into the store, Ryan went up to the cowering staff members that he could find, asking them if they had seen a purple-haired girl with a floating blue-skinned Pokémon. Most didn’t even respond to Ryan, but those who did said they hadn’t seen her.

Around a corner, a Meowth came running, being chased by a Mankey who crashed into an isle, spilling Pokémon food all over the floor. The staff member Ryan was talking to shrieked and ran out the door.

“It’s hopeless!” Ryan wailed. “I don’t know where she is!!”

“Maybe she’s not here,” Rahul said knowingly.

“No, that’s not it. Keep asking.”

Rahul went up to the girl behind the counter, all smooth like usual. She was a pale, freckled girl with fire-scorched hair and wet jade eyes, delicate as a winter flower. When Ryan looked at her, he felt a tingling in his stomach. “Hey…” he said casually, poking his Sonic Screwdriver out of his shirt pocket and waving it at her playfully. “I’m Doctor Rahul Kanojia, and I’m on a serious mission! If you’ve seen a girl come through here with purple hair… you need to tell me where she went, right now! The fate of the universe is at stake! I’m the doctor after all!” he roared proudly, thrusting his Sonic Screwdriver into the air.

A Painted Dragon spotted Ryan and threw a Poké Ball at the boy. A lethargic Gloom popped out of it. The man smiled a brown-toothed smile and bid Ryan attack him.

“Fire Blast, Aegon!” Ryan commanded, letting his fire Pokémon out. “And quickly, come on!”

Aegon spit his dragonflame, and the Painted Dragon screamed and ran. No one else dared bother Ryan in that food store.

Rahul came hobbling over, his forehead glossy with sweat. “I found her!” he breathed. “Rose’s gonna help us!” Rahul gestured at the red-headed girl next to him. She wore a company uniform of green-and-grey with pictures of Pikachus and Squirtles smiling all over the shirt, and her name tag confirmed that she was indeed Rose. “She saw the girl with the purple hair go in the elevator.”

Rose bit her lip. I like it when she does that. “She caused this, I know she did. And that means she could have only gone to one place,” the woman said, leading the other two into the elevator, past the fighting. Rose pressed a couple of buttons, causing the button pad to light up and a little camera device to spring out from the speaker port. It scanned her eyes, beeped, and a moment later, they were shooting downwards into the bowels of the Earth.

“She has a blue Mew,” Ryan warned Rahul again. “Be careful. It’s a legendary.”

“Seriously?! I know Mew’s a legendary!” Rahul grunted. “Who do you think I am, Xiao Bao?!”

“Okay, don’t ever tell Alex that one, because he won’t appreciate it.”

Rahul sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, yeah…”

They reached the bottom floor not long after; Rose stayed behind, guarding the elevator. “This won’t take long, will it? I’m on break soon…”

“No idea,” replied the teal-haired boy awkwardly. “Uuuuh… why don’t you play a game of seppuku or something, while you wait?”

She gave Ryan a dark look. “All this fighting’s bad for business. If you guys make it stop, I’ll give you 50% off any Pokémon food you want,” Rose said hopefully. Ryan’s cheeks flushed and he grinned, in spite of himself.

Well, in that case… Ryan exchanged a look with Rahul. They had their Poké Balls in their hands. And then they were running, running down the hall, paintings of old and older men on all sides of them, blurring grey and pink. The hallways smelled of smoke and cinnamon and dust.

Ryan’s palms were slick with sweat again. I wasn’t this nervous against Dylan. They could hear a struggle coming from up ahead, behind the last door at the end of the hallway. The door was tall and made of red wood, a golden dragon medallion carved into its face. Rahul kicked down the door as if it weren’t a work of art. The grandiose gesture reminded Ryan of Pacific Rim.

Inside, the two were met by a wall of cigar smoke, causing Ryan to lean forward and cough violently. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he looked up and saw her. Jessica. Amongst a veil of smoke, she seemed to float. She’s beautiful, like new-fallen snow. Too bad she’s evil. Beyond Jessica, three well-dressed men were huddled. They looked like a man Ryan had once crossed paths with in Cerulean City. In front of them, their Pokémon lay collapsed on the floor - a Blastoise, a Gengar, and a Poliwrath. Across from them, the Mew sat in the air unmoving.

In Jessica’s hand was a lighter, the flame dancing small and orange.

“Whoa, hey! What are you doing?!” Rahul yelled, causing Jessica to spin around.

Jessica’s pale emerald eyes went wide. “You?! What are you doing here?!”

“I told you you wouldn’t get away with this!” Ryan sneered, throwing Aegon’s ball to the ground. Rahul followed suit by letting his Magneton out. “Let it go and there won’t be any problems, okay?”

“Let it go?” Jessica was confused at first. Then she glanced at her Mew and giggled. “Oh, I see what you mean. Funny, I thought I caught this Pokémon. I thought it was mine to do with as I pleased.”

“You tricked it.”

Jessica’s face contorted into an ireful frown. “By what right do you think you can tell me how to catch my Pokémon?!”

“You’re evil. What you’re doing’s evil. Team Rocket’s evil. I’m not going to let you get away with abducting that poor Pokémon! And beside,” Ryan fumed, his voice rising higher and higher, “I can see how you’re treating that Mew, and it’s not right.” The collar around its neck was locked tight. Even from this distance, the teal-haired trainer could spot the scabs along its bright blue fur, not to mention the matted hair and that sullen look on the Mew’s face. It’s suffering. She doesn’t understand what it means to be a Pokémon trainer.

Jessica raised the remote control in her hand and pointed it at Ryan and Rahul. “Exterminate those two, Mew. I’m tired of looking at them.”

“Mew…!” the Pokémon squeaked, high-pitched and fearful. It gave Jessica a timid look before floating over to face the two trainers and their Pokémon.

That look in its eyes… Mew’s not evil like her. It doesn’t want to follow her orders, but it has to. Ryan knew what he had to do. “Don’t attack it, Rahul,” he whispered. “I’ve got an idea.” The boy slipped a hand into his bag, reaching for another Poké Ball. He made sure Jessica didn’t see what he was doing. Taking a deep breath, Ryan’s fingers brushed across the ball he knew he wanted. Easy now. Gotta go slow, or I’ll blow my cover.

It was for just a moment, but when Ryan’s eyes met the Mew’s, he understood the pain and devastation it was feeling. Just like that night in Lavender Town, he knew. I won’t let you down, Mew.

Episode 32: I'm a Rocket Man

The reek of gasoline pervaded the room like corruption. Jessica flicked the lighter off and on and off again. Across the crimson shag carpet floors to the other side of the room, the blue-haired boy and his large companion drew their Poké Balls and threw all of them. The dark-skinned blubber boy had a Dragonair, a Charizard, a Rhyhorn, a Magneton, a Lapras, and a Kadabra. The blue haired boy - Ryan was his name, she recalled - had only three Pokémon: a Dragonite, a Charizard, and a Cloyster. Where his others were, she did not know.

It doesn’t matter. Mew can beat them all. The three men behind her cowered and trembled, their Pokémon already defeated. The best the Painted Dragons had to offer. Soon, they’ll burn like all the rest.

“I’m warning you,” the boy named Ryan said darkly, “stop this right now, or we’ll make you! You’re outnumbered.”

He’s so dumb. How has such a stupid boy managed to trouble me this much?! “No one in the world can hurt my Mew,” she said. “Look behind me, fools. Those are the leaders of the Painted Dragons. They could not stand against me! What hope could you - two dumb boys - possibly have?”

“I beat you before,” the pale boy countered. “You don’t scare me!”

That made Jessica smirk. “That was luck. Besides, I didn’t have my legendary Mew with me back then. Now that I do, I’m invincible. You cannot touch me!”

“We’ll see about that!” said Ryan’s companion.

“Mew, Psychic attack!” Jessica commanded.

The poor blue-furred beast groaned and gave her a look, but it began charging up its purple energy attack anyways. At once, all nine of the other Pokémon rushed forward. Jessica clicked the lighter on and off again and made her way over to the three Painted Dragons.

“Ganglord Tajira,” she said pleasantly as Pokémon fought behind her, “sorry for the delay.”

“What are you doing?!” he asked through his gold teeth.

“I’m making sure the Painted Dragons never return to Kanto.” She walked up to the man’s safe, which lay open, and started pulling money out of it. Laying the fat stacks on their poker table, sweeping away glasses of orange juice and worn playing cards, she produced the lighter once again.

“N-no…!” Lieutenant Sugimori pleaded. “Please!”

Jessica didn’t listen to that ingrate. “Shut your fat mouth. I already won. I decide what happens now.” And so she brought the lonely flame to the edge of the piles of Poké Dollars and felt the heat take the paper. A burst of warmness rippled against her face and she stepped back, watching the fire spread across the table. I have to be careful, she reminded herself, I already poured gasoline around the entire room. It’s not yet time to burn this place down.

The men cried like Pidgeys for her to stay her madness, but she didn’t listen. Reaching into the safe, which she had forced Tajira to open not long ago, she took the Poké Balls from inside. “I wonder what’s in these?” she asked playfully. “These Pokémon were locked up… so they must be pretty dangerous… or powerful.” Her eyes met Sugimori’s. The man looked away, scowling. I won’t need these ones, not now that I have Mew. Maybe I’ll give them to Gilly or the others, or send them back to the boss. Giovanni would be so proud. Her heart began to flutter thinking of Giovanni. She still felt something for the man. He’s dying, but he was like a father to me, for all his faults. She had been raised by that man, for better or worse. But now it’s my turn to lead us… to restore the legacy of Team Rocket. The boss is too weak, too old. If we are to survive, it will be through me, and me alone.

Turning back to the fight going on between her Mew and those other Pokémon, Jessica noticed that the Rhyhorn, Lapras, Cloyster, and both Charizards had already fainted. Mew flew about, dodging attacks or absorbing them, not taking much damage. “Soft-boiled, now!” she ordered her Pokémon, and it obeyed, restoring half of its health. These stupid boys. They have no chance… and no idea that they’ve already lost. Every time Mew takes a little bit of damage, all I need to do is make it use Soft-boiled, and its health will be restored. Suddenly, Jessica burst out laughing. She felt the adrenaline coursing through her veins. I’ve waited so long for this moment…

“Finish them, Mew!” And usher in the new era of Team Rocket. In one fell swoop, she would take out her two most annoying foes and stand at the threshold of utter domination of Kanto. It was so perfect. Ahead, the Dragonite flew at Mew, charging up a Hyper Beam, but Mew’s Blizzard attack quickly silenced that beast. Dragons are not so fearsome in the cold. Even so, Jessica was growing impatient. She wanted to warm things up, to burn away all that the Painted Dragons held dear. Their computers, their paperwork, their secret information was all in this base. One click would be all that was required to wipe the Painted Dragons out of existence.

Mew performed an Earthquake, shattering the ground and making the portraits of former Painted Dragons leaders fall from the walls and shatter on the splitting carpet. The Dragonair collapsed; then came the Kadabra to stand against Mew. A hopeless fight. Mew will wipe the floor with that lesser Psychic Pokémon. Jessica folded her arms, savoring the taste of victory. Just two more…

A breath of air, quiet as death, moved past Jessica, causing her pants to shake so slightly, it was almost imperceptible. What was that?! Turning around, she saw nothing, just the broken ground, carpet and concrete poking up from the floor like a shattered mouth of teeth. Must’ve been nothing.

Returning her gaze ahead, Jessica saw that Mew and Kadabra were locked in an eternal struggle of Psychics, two purple beams clashing in the air, causing sparks to fall and a huge white light to emanate from where the two attacks were pushing against one another. Jessica raised her hand to block the light from hitting her eyes. Squinting, blinking away tears, she tried to see who held the advantage, if her Mew was going to beat that mustached freak. “Psychic, Psychic, Psychic!” she was bellowing, urging her Mew to use all its power to dominate its much-weaker foe. With her other hand, Jessica raised the remote controller and prepared to give her legendary Pokémon a good shock.

That was when the explosion went off - so loud it caused Jessica’s ears to ring, and so bright that, no matter how much she blinked, she could see nothing but endless white.


Kadabra was losing. He would not last another minute. “Rahul, do something!” Ryan whispered. His eyes stayed on Jessica, who stood behind her Mew. He kept looking for an opening, but saw none. “We have to distract her completely!”

“Don’t worry Ryan, I have an idea!”

Ryan coughed the cigar smoke out of his lungs and shook his head. “I don’t like the sound of that…”

“Haha, don’t worry, I’m the doctor!”

Rahul jumped forward, his Sonic Screwdriver in his hand, and shouted, “Magneton, Thunderbolt!”

The electric charge went flying from the floating mass of magnets straight at the Mew. The legendary Pokémon was already engaged with the Kadabra, their Psychics forming a beam struggle of brightening purple light. And when the lightning attack was added to fray, snaking elegantly up Kadabra’s beam towards the other Psychic…

Ryan was thrown back, as was Rahul. He never heard the explosion, just high-pitched ringing in his ears. They rolled across the broken carpet to the far wall, crashing with hard thuds. Opening his eyes, Ryan saw only white. He tasted iron and smelled smoke - this time not cigar smoke, but real smoke. Something’s burning. Ryan’s eyes widened in shock. Oh crap, the gas!

“Fluttershy is best pony…” Rahul murmured, sitting up. He was rubbing his head. That was when Ryan realized he could see again.

Whipping his head back around, Ryan saw the Mew still hovering, the Kadabra on the floor, fainted, and the Magneton crumpled up next to him, also rendered unconscious. We’re all out of Pokémon… at least as far as she thinks. Around the room, the walls, carpet, desks, boxes, couches, and ceiling were aflame. There wasn’t much time now.

Her teeth bared like a wolf’s, Jessica stepped forward triumphantly. “That’s it! Now finish them, Mew!”

“Mew!” Mew whined, giving its owner a distressed look.

“I wasn’t asking, Mew!” Jessica yelled, raising her hand. But in her hand was nothing. Got you. “Huh?! Where’s my remote?!” Jessica’s eyes grew large with uncertainty and confusion.

Now it was Ryan’s turn to smile. Getting to his feet, he said, “Destroy it, Skorge!”

Behind Jessica was Ryan’s Sandslash, the Team Rocket girl’s remote control in its claws. With a single snap, it ripped the little slab of metal in half.

“Noooooo!!!” Jessica screamed wildly. “You idiots! Do you realize what you’ve done?!”

“Not exactly,” Ryan replied, “but I don’t care. Skorge, capture her!”

Jessica seethed and bared her teeth again, but as soon as the Sandslash charged at her, she went running off, back towards the elevator. A coward to the end. “Go after her!” Ryan shouted at Rahul.

“But I don’t have any Pokémon left!” Dang it all!

Ryan was about to run after her when he saw the Mew again, hovering amongst the smoke and ash as the room started to burn around it. From behind, the three Painted Dragons gathered their things and ran off in the other direction, towards a door leading further into the bunker. Though the fires were rising, Ryan felt suddenly at peace. His eyes met the Mew’s in that burning world, and the smoke seemed to part.

“Go,” he said to it, “leave, quick! Get out of here before she comes back! Go!” The Mew didn’t move, instead cocking its head to study Ryan curiously. “Don’t you get it?! You’re free, so get out of here! Please, before she gets back!” Ryan raised his hands and unlocked the electric collar around the Pokémon’s neck. The metal device fell from it and landed on the carpet with a dull clang. “You’re free now, Mew. Go back to where you came from.”

“Mew…!”

“I’m sorry she was mean to you,” Ryan said, reaching up his hand to run it through the Mew’s fur, past its scabs and mats. “I swear, not all of us are like that…”

“Mew.” The Mew’s eyes glimmered a light shade of blue. It moved back, and in a flash, the legendary Pokémon disappeared, leaving Ryan alone, his hand extended in surprise, in that burning room. Bye Mew. I hope you can return to your old life and find happiness again.

He found Rose at the elevator, leaning up against a wall, picking at her fingernails. “That girl you were looking for came by here,” she said, not looking up. “Took the elevator back to ground level. I couldn’t stop her. Rahul went after her.”

“Let’s go,” Ryan said. “There’s no time!”

And so they went, like glass onions floating down the Styx. When they reached the surface, Ryan immediately sprinted out of the elevator. Leaving Rose behind, he pushed his way past the people in the Pokémon food store and stumbled outside, where the Painted Dragons and Team Rocket members were still fighting. Skorge is my only Pokémon left. I have to be careful. I can’t let Jessica get away.

He would have never found her in that dusty chaos if not for her hair. In the distance, he spotted her long purple hair, pulled back and wrapped up, bounding away. It didn’t take him long to run her down. On down the far street of Viridian City, past most of the fighting, where the Viridian Forest crept up against civilization, Jessica raced.

“Yeaaaaaah Skorge, get ‘em!”

Ryan’s Sandslash appeared in a burst of light in front of Jessica, standing between her and the forest. The girl stopped running and spun around to face her pursuer.

Breathing hard and smiling, she panted, “I have to hand it to you, kid. You don’t know when to give up. I like that. Why don’t you join Team Rocket and become my new right hand man?”

“Thanks, but no way!” Ryan shouted. “I don’t want anything to do with that crummy organization!”

Jessica’s smile turned to a scowl. She grabbed a Poké Ball of her own and threw it, producing her Haunter. “Take that back, kid.”

“Never.”

Jessica took out another Poké Ball and threw it, this time bringing out her Slowbro. “Fool. You have made a serious mistake provoking my wrath! I’ll hurt you for that.”

Ryan gulped. Skorge has no chance against two Pokémon! Outwardly, he didn’t let his fear show. “Your words mean nothing to me, Jessica! If this is how it’s going to be, I’ll just beat you again!” He unshouldered his backpack, knelt down, and pulled out a beige 24-faced polyhedron. “I hate you, you know that?! You’re gonna make me use a really expensive potion!” Holding the Max Revive in his hand, Ryan wondered which Pokémon he should revive. Thurnax is my strongest Pokémon… but if she has an ice attack…

Ryan had settled on reviving NaVorro when, out of nowhere, a shadow fell across his face. Looking over his shoulder, the boy noticed Dylan standing there, coated in dirt and sweat. He was frowning at Jessica. “Recall your Pokémon, Ryan.”

“But why-”

“Just do it!”

You don’t have to yell, man. Ryan sighed and obeyed Dylan, and his Skorge returned to him.

“Two versus one? That doesn’t seem fair,” Jessica mused, eyeing the boys.

“You didn’t seem to care about those odds before,” Ryan pointed out.

Jessica gave him a hateful look. Yeah, do that all you want. It won’t bring back Mew. You’re never getting that Pokémon back.

“You’re the one who caused all the problems in this town, aren’t you?” Dylan asked her.

Jessica raised her chin and folded her arms. “That’s none of your business, kid.”

“All this fighting between Team Rocket and the Painted Dragons is because of you,” Dylan continued. “You’ve brought chaos to Viridian.”

“I don’t care.”

“I bet you don’t.” Dylan looked to the sky and whistled. A second later, a shadow appeared, stretching across the ground as large as a house. Pidgeot! Wow! Ryan’s fingers were trembling. “Pidgeot” Dylan shouted at his flying Pokémon, “send this rotten girl as far away from here as you can!” Turning his focus back to Jessica, Dylan spoke calmly, “I don’t want to ever see you in my town again. If I do, I’ll have you arrested… for a very long time.”

Jessica looked none too pleased. “Haunty, Hypnosis attack now!”

“Pidgeooooooooot!” Dylan’s Pokémon screeched nobly. At once, it lowered to just in front of Jessica, her Haunter, and her Slowbro. Flapping its wings furiously, the Pidgeot conjured up a vortex of air, spinning it towards Jessica. At the last moment, the purple-haired girl screamed. And then, she was thrust into the air with her Pokémon, howling and cursing the boys below her, until she faded to a twinkle in the empty azure sky.


By evening, peace had been restored to Viridian City. Most of the Painted Dragons and Team Rocket members had been arrested by Officer Jennys (due to the crisis, Officer Jennys from miles around had come to help in the administration of justice) or had fled into the forest. Ryan watched Mr. Mimes patrolling the streets, sweeping up the dust and broken glass and other refuse that had spread across the streets and sidewalks during the battle. Glancing over his shoulder, he looked for Nurse Joy, but she was not there behind the counter. She’ll return as soon as all of my Pokémon are healed. Then I can go back to the gym for another showdown with Dylan…

“You did really good today Skorge,” Ryan said, patting his only remaining Pokémon on the head. “Nice work buddy.”

“Slash, sand, sand!” Ryan thought it was good to see his Sandslash full of such vigor. He’s so quiet all the time. Hopefully he starts trusting me more now that we’ve battled a few times together. I’m not like Jesse… but that should be a good thing.

Up ahead, in the corner of the Pokémon Center, on couches, Logan and Rahul had collapsed to watch some Doctor Who. Alex was in the food court in the far corner of the building, probably ordering another cucumber to go with his rice and dumplings.

“Hey Ryan.” That voice sounds familiar.

Standing up, Ryan faced the Viridian City Gym Leader. “Dylan? What are you doing here?”

“Giving you this,” the other boy said, holding out his hand, palm up. On it was a tiny green charm, shaped like a type of plant Ryan did not know. The badge seemed to shimmer and sparkle in the dwindling rust-red light of evening.

“B-but… I didn’t beat you,” Ryan replied, his eyes wide. “Our fight was interrupted, remember?”

“I know. But it was pretty clear you were going to win that battle,” Dylan said. “So here, take it.”

There were tears in Ryan’s eyes when he did. “Thank you…! You don’t know how much this means to me!”

Dylan turned to leave. A sly smile formed on his lips. “Trust me… I do. But you earned it, Ryan. And you helped us fight off Team Rocket and the Painted Dragons. We couldn’t have done it without you. For that you have my thanks.”

“I’ll be back one day,” Ryan assured the other boy. “I still wanna test my Pokémon against that Pidgeot of yours.”

“Mmm. I’ll be waiting, dude. Good luck in the tournament. You have seven days before it begins.”

And with that, Dylan walked away, leaving Ryan there with his badge and his thoughts and his single Pokémon. This is what I set out to do, the boy thought. When I left home with nothing but an Abra, my goal was to get all eight Gym Badges to compete in the Indigo League like my father before me. Now he had the eight badges. But Abra’s gone, and dad doesn’t approve of me being a Pokémon trainer…

Ryan sighed, trying to clear his thoughts. In his chest, something was rising. Was it happiness or relief? He did not know. Either way, Ryan walked back over to the couches to watch some Doctor Who with the others. We’ll have to stay long enough for Rahul to get his Earth Badge too. But otherwise, Ryan was now free to train for the Indigo League, to prepare for his stiffest opposition yet. I have seven days.

Kelly’s been training her Pokémon for weeks… maybe months… just for this tournament. And I only have a week. The boy didn’t like his prospects. Well, maybe I won’t win it all, but hopefully I can at least win a match or two and then I can cheer Kelly on the rest of the way, he thought to himself.

I’ll see her again soon, Ryan knew. Perhaps I’ll find her somewhere on Victory Road, or if not, at the tournament itself. He looked down at his hands and saw that they were trembling again in his lap. I’m not ready. But when have I ever been?


Ryan spent the next morning training his Pokébuddies on wild Arboks, Fearows, and Pinsirs in the Viridian Forest. When it was time to go watch Rahul try his luck in the normal/flying gym, Ryan gathered up his balls and trekked back into the city. That was when he beheld a most curious sight.

There was a man, an old man, a crusty man, a hobo clutching a gherkin, lying in the road, collapsed like a sleeping Snorlax. He had a long brown beard braided into several ponytails, wore a black-and-grey fedora, and had a pair of cheap plastic sunglasses shielding his eyes. He was, unfortunately, blocking the path. Ryan just couldn’t find a way around the man, be it by walking around him or jumping over him. Such mechanics don’t exist in the Pokémon games, alas.

“Yo man, you’re in the road!” Ryan said forcefully, waking the old wispy hobo.

“Ahhh… what?!”

“You’re blocking my way!”

“Why don’t we do it in the road?!” the man yelped suddenly, his voice like broken glass on a desolate highway in the desert. “Why don’t we do it in the road?! Why don’t we doooooooooooo iiiiiiiiiiit in the road?” he sang angrily. Sitting up, rubbing his eyes, he looked at Ryan and said, “Oh.”

This man, like all other adults I’ve ever met, is insane. “Do what?”

Yawning, the man said, “Uh, can you get me a coffee, kid? I really need one.” The hobo picked at something in his beard and ate it. “It’s my coffee for the day, go get it!”

“Yeah, I’m not doing that. Even if I wanted to, you’re blocking the way back into the city.”

“Ah… that blows.” He furrowed his brow, thinking for several moments. Without warning, the hobo grumbled, “Go to Pewter and get me some coffee from there, okay? And run all the way back. I want it nice and hot.”

“No way man.”

“If you do that, I’ll teach you how to catch your first Pokémon, kid.” The hobo’s face was ruddy and dirty, but it lit up when he said that.

“Yeah… no thanks. I already have eight gym badges, so I think I’m good.”

“Curse you and the Rapidash you rode in on!” the hobo complained. “I need my coffee!”

“Then go get it, man.”

“Nah, I’m good…” The old man leaned back, putting his hands behind his head, and started nodding back off to sleep.

Unbelievable. Doesn’t he understand the physics of this universe? “Hey?! Are you gonna move or what?”

“Are you gonna get me my coffee?” the man asked without opening his eyes.

“No.”

“There’s your answer.”

“That’s it, I challenge you to a Pokémon battle! NaVorro, get rid of this faker!” Ryan shouted, choosing his Tauros for this fight. NaVorro is a rock. He’s cool, collected, and never gives up. He’ll beat that hobo all the way back to Timbuktu.

The man yawned and pulled a Poké Ball out of his pants’ pocket. The Pokémon that shot out of his ball was none other than a Lickitung.

“Huh, a Lickitung? That’s random!” Ryan said, taking out his Pokédex. “Yo Dex, tell me the goods on this one.”

“Of course my man, my main man, Ryan the Great, a master who is way past cool and so forth. Lickitung, the Licking Pokémon. Its tongue spans almost 7 feet and moves more freely than its forelegs. Its licks can cause paralysis.”

“Gross,” Ryan said. “Okay, NaVorro, use Earthquake!”

NaVorro, ever the stoic, leal warrior, did just that. The ground shook, a nearby tree fell over, and the dirt road cracked and split. The hobo rolled like a cucumber a few feet down the path towards Viridian City to avoid the attack. Lickitung absorbed the blow poorly, shrieking and flailing its tongue all over the place (Ryan had to jump over the wild tongue as if it were a jump rope to avoid getting licked).

“Lick that bull, yeah!” The hobo’s voice was cracked and old, but Ryan could detect some glee in it. I wonder if I’ll get like that when I’m that old.

“Licki!!” The tub of pink lard darted forward like a praying mantis, but stopped just short of NaVorro. Then, delicately, it opened its mouth and unraveled its tongue. The bull Pokémon stamped its foot impatiently. That won’t hurt NaVorro, Ryan thought confidently. He’s not so weak.

It came as a pink blur, reminding Ryan of Celadon City. The tongue unfurled like a banner and dragged itself across NaVorro’s face. Then, NaVorro collapsed.

“NaVorro the Tauros has been paralyzed my most magnificent master!”

“Seriously?!” Ryan felt his face growing hot with rage. Just my luck.

“Tackle it, Lickitung, eh?” the hobo grunted, and his Pokémon was happy to obey.

One Tackle was all it took for NaVorro to go down. He’s tired from fighting all those wild Pokémon, but that’s no excuse to lose to some random old man like that… this is terrible! My worst loss ever!

“I challenge you to a rematch!” Ryan declared, returning his Tauros. “This time, you’ll face my Dragonite!”

“Oh wow, no way man. That’s not cool. I gotta split. I gotta fly. Catch ya later, cretin!”

And so the man ran off, the dust puffing up behind him, towards the rising sun.

“Wow… that was uncalled for.” Ryan stood there, his mouth agape, unsure of what had just taken place.

“I agree master, he was a bad man, a horrible man, a no-good rotten human, and I hate him, etc.” Dex said.

“That’ll do, Dexy boy, that’ll do.”

Ryan was about to walk back towards the city when he saw a white canister rolling down the road. That hobo must’ve dropped it. He was about to call after the running man, but then he remembered the names that guy had called him. Plus, he only beat me with cheap tricks.

The boy leaned down, picking up the canister. Inspecting its cap, he read the words ‘Body Slam’ stamped on it in thick Arial font. Just what I need. Yeah. That’s karma for you, man. Making sure no Officer Jenny was eavesdropping from behind a tree or something, Ryan grinned cheekily and pocketed the TM. Now I only need to find Explosion, and I’ll have every TM for my Pokémon team, he thought with glee.

Feeling a sudden burst of energy and excitement, Ryan ran down the path, back towards Viridian City, where one of his best friends in the whole wide world was about get his eighth badge. Even if he wasn’t there to watch me get mine, I’ll be there for him.

Episode 33: Marmalade Skies

Fresh off his most recent victory, Rahul led the gang west from Viridian City towards Victory Road and the Indigo League. They spent much of the morning training their Pokémon teams on wild Pokémon on Route 22; and by noon, the four boys could spot a large building in the distance, poking up over the trees, with a massive onyx-and-gold gate.

“That must be the entrance to the Indigo League!” Ryan said excitedly. “Come on!”

They picked up their pace and avoided the rest of the tall grass. Coming to a bend in the road just before the gate, Ryan heard a strange groaning sound emanating from a nearby tree, followed by a rustling of leaves and the snapping of several branches. Must be a big Pokémon up there, he guessed.

Stopping after just telling the others to pick up the pace, Ryan approached the twisted oak to get a better look at the fearsome Pokémon he knew was lurking inside. I bet it’s a Pidgeot… or maybe a Moltres! “Alright, Pokémon! Get ready, I’m going to catch you!”

“You have got to be kidding me!” came her voice from behind a veil of viridian leaves.

Jessica? “Huh? What are you doing here?”

“Leave me alone. Go away,” the Team Rocket girl grumbled from the tree.

Ryan stepped forward and noticed that she was stuck in the tree, flipped upside down, her purple hair unwound and splayed everywhere like seafoam. She gave him a particularly nasty scowl when she saw him. Her two Pokémon - Haunter and Slowbro - were tangled in the branches and leaves higher up in the tree, like stuck Tepig. At the base of the tree, partially obscured by dead foxtails, was Jessica’s bag, which held her other Poké Balls.

“Nice tree.”

“Shut up.”

Ryan beamed. Getting on his tiptoes, he reached a finger up to the girl, poking her lightly on the cheek.

“H-hey?! What was that for?!” Jessica’s voice was raw and guarded.

“Yesterday you said I couldn’t touch you,” Ryan told the girl. “I guess that was another lie.”

The girl’s face went purple. “W-why… you!!”

“Seeya around, Jessica.” Ryan walked off waving, but did not look back. Behind him, the other three boys, who had been watching this exchange with muted awe, came running up to follow him. Man, she’s gonna be so mad when she gets out of that tree, Ryan thought, chuckling. Hopefully that’s not for a long time.

Logan and Alex were discussing Logan’s backstory behind Ryan (Alex was grilling the other boy like it was a police investigation), but the teal-haired boy didn’t care enough to listen in. He had just won his eighth Gym Badge. He was invincible. No one can touch me. Rahul walked on Ryan’s left, humming something Alex would need to utilize falsetto to properly sing.

“I’m going to win the Indigo League.” Ryan’s voice was defiant.

“Yeah, sure Ryan. I have a stronger team, more experience, and better hair,” Rahul replied, running his fingers through his hair dramatically. “I’m going to win.”

“Well, both of us can’t win.”

“That’s because I’m going to beat you.”

“Oh yeah?!” Ryan raised his fist. “How about we settle this right now?”

Rahul grinned, his goatee looking as handsome as ever. “Seriously, Ryan?! You get distracted so easily.”

“Chicken,” Ryan replied, narrowing his eyes.

“What did you call me?”

“You heard me, Ponyta-lover.”

Rahul frowned, reaching for a Poké Ball. Ryan’s was already in his hand. It’s time he was reminded of how good I am. They stopped in the middle of the road, staring down one another like this was a punchup at a wedding. This is serious business.

Yet, before they could throw their Poké Balls, a woman’s voice came calling to them from across the road. “Hello trainers! Over here! This way!”

Puzzled, Ryan peered over towards the massive gate. From there, a middle-aged woman was striding towards them. She wore a red undershirt, a blue coat, a dark, short skirt, black high heels, and a wide pair of glasses. Her hair was red and pulled back, as were her eyes, Ryan realized, when the woman got closer. Nice bod. He looked her up and down (but mostly up) and felt his ears going red by the time the woman reached the group of boys.

“Helloooo…” Ryan said warmly to her.

The woman ignored his comment and spoke, “Are you boys here for the Indigo League sign-ups?” Ryan and Rahul nodded sheepishly. “I’ll need to see your badges.” They took out their booklets and flashed the woman their eight badges apiece. She’s gotta like that. I have all eight badges. I’m a great Pokémon Master! But the woman looked the badges over with indifference, as if she had seen 254 other such booklets. Then, she reached for two Poké Balls from her belt. “Alright, everything seems to be in order. Are those two with you?” she asked, focusing her eyes on Alex and Logan.

“Oh yeah, they’re our friends,” Rahul said carelessly.

“Very well. To get into the Indigo League, you have to beat me in a Pokémon battle,” she told the other two. “I’ll battle both of you at once. Each of you may use only one Pokémon. Do you understand?”

Ryan already had a ball in his hand. She’s gonna fall for me when she sees how strong my Dragonite is. “Let’s do this!” he said confidently.

“I’m the doctor!!” declared Rahul. “So basically… run.”

She didn’t listen to a word Rahul said. “Please state your names before we get underway so I may properly catalogue your performances.”

“I’m Ryan. I’m a great Pokémon Mast-”

“I’m Rahul,” Rahul interrupted, “you already know me as the doctor.”

“I see. My name is Prima. I am a member of the Kanto Elite 4,” she spoke calmly. Wow… Elite 4?! Ryan vaguely remembered Dex telling him something about the Elite 4. They’re some of the best fighters in all of Kanto! His ears were burning now. Prima cracked her neck and whipped her hair back and forth. “No one can best me when it comes to icy Pokémon! Freezing moves are powerful! Your Pokémon will be at my mercy when they are frozen solid! Hahaha! Are you ready?”

The two boys nodded, and four Poké Balls were thrown into the air. Thurnax and Rahul’s Charizard appeared on one side; a Dewgong and a Cloyster appeared on the other. Man, her Cloyster’s huge! It’s twice the size of Myrrah! The Pokémon took their places - Thurnax was put up against the Dewgong, while Rahul’s Charizard was set to duel the Cloyster.

“Dewgong, Aurora Beam. Cloyster, Clamp attack!” Prima ordered her Pokémon.

“Fire Blast, Charizard!” Rahul shouted.

“Wrap that Dewgong up, Thurnax!”

And thus they were off. To Ryan’s left, Charizard’s flame attack went roaring by, while the Cloyster attempted to close the gap and clamp its hard shell down upon its foe. Ahead, Thurnax soared through the air before landing in front of Dewgong. The Dragonite spun around, wrapping its tail around the Sea Lion Pokémon before it could unleash its Aurora Beam.

“Squeeze that sucker, yeah!” Ryan cried shrilly.

Thurnax did just that; its Wrap squeezed once, then twice, then three times, and then a fourth time before the Dewgong broke free, sending Thurnax flying back into the dirt. As the Dragonite tried to stand, she was hit in the chest by the ice beam. Thurnax let out a cry and fell over again.

That’s not good, Ryan thought. Ice attacks do ridiculous damage to Dragonites… Thurnax got to her feet again, though she was breathing hard and covered in bruises. I don’t think she can take another hit! “Alright, Thurnax! Time for the big finale! Hyper Beam!”

“Rrraaahh!” Thurnax bellowed, flapping her wings and taking to the sky once again. A glowing white beam of energy formed around her mouth.

Prima glanced over at Ryan and Thurnax. “One more Aurora Beam to finish that Dragonite off. Do it, Dewgong!”

“Gong, gong!” the Pokémon wheezed, preparing a shimmering opalescent beam of its own. Thurnax is faster, Ryan knew. Her attack hit first last time. He clenched his fists and prayed that she wouldn’t miss. Hyper Beam was pretty reliable, but it was not totally reliable, and if there was one thing Ryan had learned on his quest to become a Pokémon Master, it was that bad luck followed him around like a brilliant Asian boy who had at least three younger brothers.

“Come on, Thurnax, come on!” he was whispering to himself when the Dragon Pokémon unleashed her attack. The whole route seemed to burst with blinding white light; Ryan couldn’t see a thing. To his left, he felt the warmth of another Fire Blast leave Charizard’s mouth. Rahul’s got it in the bag. Fire attacks destroy Ice Pokémon.

When the light cleared, Thurnax slammed into the ground, landing on two feet. In front of her, the Dewgong remained where it had been before, a dazed look on its face, the Aurora Beam charging up still. Dang. The Hyper Beam wasn’t powerful enough. Ryan winced, preparing for the worst.

Dewgong fell over, and its beam shot uselessly into the sky. The Sea Lion Pokémon did not get up.

To the left, Cloyster had also collapsed, its hard shell smoking and charred.

“We… we did it!” Ryan yelled, almost in disbelief.

“Return Cloyster. Return Dewgong.” Prima studied the two boys. “I’ll let you through to Route 23 now. The tunnel to Victory Road is at the end of that route. Most of the other tournament contestants are spending their time training their Pokémon either on Route 23 or in Victory Road. I suggest you do the same. The wild Pokémon that inhabit those places are the strongest in Kanto.”

Rahul turned around to the peanut gallery, who hadn’t even been watching the fight. I wonder why they’re arguing about Logan’s past. Why does Alex care so much? “Come on Alex, let’s go.”

“Alright,” Alex said coolly, stepping away from Logan and following the other two boys (who were following Prima) past the gate, where Route 23 branched off north from Route 22. Ryan was at Prima’s heels, following her like a loyal Growlithe. Man she’s fine. When I win the Indigo League… Ryan shook his head. I gotta stay focused. I have one week to train my Pokémon…

Back in school, a week had always seemed like an eternity - five days of boring classes and all that homework. But now, Ryan would have killed to have an extra month or two. It’s not fair. I should get as much time to train my Pokémon as everyone else. He sighed. But the world’s not fair.

The five of them marched past the gate, into the Indigo League headquarters, where guards, trainers, and passersby were milling about. Prima entered Ryan’s and Rahul’s information into a computer, took their pictures, printed a picture ID card for each of them to wear around their necks (Ryan tried his best not to look too grateful when he took his), and led them to the other side of the building, where another gate stood. Blinding white-yellow light was seeping in through the cracks between the metal bars.

“This is it,” the woman said. “Route 23. Head north past Victory Road and you’ll find the Indigo Plateau. Your IDs will tell you which rooms you’re staying in.”

“Wait, what do you mean?” Ryan asked.

“Oh, as a reward for getting all eight Kanto badges, you and Rahul will be given free rooms to stay in plus free meals for the duration of the tournament.”

“Now we’re talkin’!” Rahul grunted.

“Yeaaaah!” Ryan agreed. “But what about Alex and Logan?”

Prima shrugged. “They can stay with you if you want. Or they can rent their own hotel rooms.”

“What about free meals?”

“Nope.”

“Dang. Oh well,” Ryan glanced back at Alex and Logan and shook his head. Turning back to Rahul, he said, “Alright, let’s go!”

And without waiting to hear what Rahul had to say, Ryan raced forward, thrusting open the gates to Route 23 as he ran.


On Route 23, the gang split up. Alex told the others he had some business to attend to, while Logan disappeared like gossamer on the wind. Rahul thought it would be best if he and Ryan trained by themselves, at least for the first few days. Thus, the teal-haired boy was left all alone. Around him, trainers battled wild Pokémon by the dozens. There’re so many… A cold sweat ran down his spine. He had thought he was unique having won all eight badges. Looks like getting those badges is easier than I thought.

Fearow circled in the skies. Blastoise, Poliwrath, Hitmonlee, Nidoking and Nidoqueen, Rhydon, and countless other Pokémon wandered the grounds, fighting one another or wild Pokémon in the tall grass. Ryan had never seen this many Pokémon before. The sight of it all took his breath away.

“Hey, wanna battle?” a dark-skinned boy with blond, spiky hair asked, running up to Ryan.

The boy shrugged. “Sure.”

“Go Venusaur!”

“Myrrah, I choose you!”

“A Cloyster, huh?” The other boy scratched his chin. “Alright Venu, try a Razor Leaf!”

“Blizzard, Cloyster!”

It was over in an instant. Coated in frost, snow, and a few crooked icicles, the Venusaur moaned before collapsing. “Wow, your Cloyster’s very powerful!” the other boy said. “I’m Ronny, by the way. It was nice battling you.”

“Ryan,” our protagonist replied, shaking Ronny’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Maybe we’ll see each other in the tournament, huh?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Well, I gotta go train some more, see ya!” And with that, Ronny sprinted off under an archway and disappeared around a corner.

I beat another person in the tournament. It had been a 1v1, but that was a good sign. These people aren’t invincible. Moving on under archways, across a pool of water, and through tall grass, Ryan battled a slew of wild Pokémon and other trainers, racking up victories and defeats too numerous to count. He felt like, by the end of it, he had won more than he had lost, but every one of his Pokémon aside from Aegon had fainted in the process. That’s what happens when you battle a lot. He’d have to get to a Pokémon Center.

But until then, he had Aegon, as fresh as summer cilantro. “Go, buddy!” he shouted, letting out his last conscious Pokéwarrior. In truth, he had potions to revive the others, but those were really expensive, and he didn’t like using them unless he had to. Locating a Pokémon Center in the distance, past two more archways, tucked away in a corner next to a cave, he knew he wouldn’t have to use his revives. I’ll be going there soon. But not yet.

From above, a Fearow howled, casting its shadow over Ryan. He ignored that ugly bird and began trekking through a patch of tall grass. A moment later, he tripped over a sleeping Primeape, and a battle was upon the boy and his Charizard.

“Primeaaaaaaaaaaaape!” it shouted furiously, beating its chest and charging at the Charizard.

“Easy Aegon… use Earthquake!”

“Graaahahaha!” the Fire Pokémon bellowed, stomping the ground and shaking it violently. The Primeape fell back, swirly eyes covering its face. Ryan’s stomach rumbled. I could go for a croissant right about now… with extra cream… The Primeape was not done, though. It looked rather angry now, its eyes bloodshot and wide. Screaming, the beast charged again.

“Another Earthquake!” Ryan didn’t want to risk using a less accurate attack on this beast, and he knew that another Earthquake would be enough to finish it off.

That was when Ryan felt something crash against his back and throw him forward into the grass. The ground cracked and rumbled beneath him; he flipped over to find what had hit him. Who did that?! Only a coward attacks from behind!

“Hey!” Ryan shouted wildly, stumbling to his feet. The Primeape collapsed, fainting right in front of the boy. “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of a battle?! Wait your turn!”

But there was no one there - no trainer, no Pokémon… just the Fearow circling overhead. Come to think of it, that Fearow’s been following me the entire time, hasn’t it? He looked around, finding other Fearow, but none were circling over trainers or chasing them around. Most were soaring through the bright blue sky or perched in trees, relaxed, but watchful. The one above Ryan was furiously cawing over and over again. There’s something wrong with that one.

Shaking his head, Ryan walked a few more paces in the tall grass until he stumbled upon an Arbok.

“Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabakkku!!” it hissed at him.

“Earthquake,” Ryan ordered his Charizard. The Arbok shrieked and collapsed from the super effective damage. “Great work buddy, you’re doing really good!” he said, patting his Fire Pokémon on the shoulder. “You’re gonna be really powerful once we-”

Again, Ryan felt something hit him in the back, and he fell forward, spinning into the grass. Aegon roared and shot a Fire Blast at something. Spitting up dirt, the teal-haired trainer rubbed the sore spot on his shoulder and looked around for the culprit. What’s going on?! I don’t get it… Once again, there was no one nearby. The closest people were two boys battling their Gyarados in a crystal blue pool to the west. Ryan thought he saw Rahul strolling through the trimmed grass in the distance, a twelve-scoop ice cream cone in either hand melting down his broad forearms.

For a moment, Ryan was distracted. In that moment, he was thrust to the ground again. This time, he felt the flapping of wings against his neck, and a single hideous brown feather drifted down from the air to land right in front of his face in the grass. Ryan knew what kind of Pokémon had those feathers. The worst kind in the world.

“Whoa, look out!” A girl’s voice, high-pitched and firm, drifted across the grass. For one mad moment, Ryan thought it was Kelly, and then he saw her. Blonde-haired was she, tall and willowy and rosy-cheeked, and she wore a frilled dress of pink-and-white. “Watch it, duck!”

Ryan did so, and a moment later, the Fearow came screaming at him, missing by inches.

“Fire Blast it, Ninetails,” the girl commanded. At her side was a white fox Pokémon. It opened its mouth and spit a raging inferno at the flying Fearow.

The Beak Pokémon was hit in the wing by the Fire Blast. It let out a shrill cry before falling, smoking and twirling, into the trees beyond the path, to the east. Wow, her Ninetails is amazing.

“Thanks,” Ryan muttered when the girl reached him.

“That was weird, wasn’t it? Why was that Fearow attacking you? It didn’t even go after your Charizard, just you… it’s like it had it out for you. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Yeah, I have no idea what was going on in that dumb bird’s mind.”

“I’m Julia by the way,” the girl said, holding out her hand.

I’ve shaken a hundred hands today, and I remember almost none of their names. But Ryan knew he would remember this girl’s name, for obvious reasons. “Nice to meet you. My name’s Ryan,” he said for the thousandth time. “Cool Ninetails.”

She giggled at that. “I’ve raised him since I was a little girl. I hope he can help me win the tournament!” Everyone wants to win, Ryan thought glumly. Why can’t they all just be happy to have made it this far? I’d rather fight disinterested trainers. He realized she was still talking and nodded his head, as if to agree with whatever she was saying. Chicks dig that. “So how about it, do you wanna?” she asked.

I have no idea what she’s asking me. But Ryan couldn’t exactly tell Julia that he hadn’t been paying attention to her blabbering, so he said, “Yeah, sure.”

“Ninetails, here boy!” she shouted suddenly, slapping her thigh. Her Fox Pokémon, which had begun wandering off to sniff the nearby tall grass, came galloping back over to her side. “Don’t go too hard on me,” she said, smiling. “I don’t want Tails to get hurt.”

Oh, we’re battling. Okay then. “Not a problem.”

Once they were lined up, the fight began. At first, Julia ordered her Ninetails to use Confuse Ray. Ryan ordered his Charizard to use Earthquake, but alas Aegon was all out of PP for that move. Ryan didn’t know what PP was, but it seemed pretty serious, so instead, he had his Fire Pokémon use Fire Blast.

The Fire Blast hit the Ninetails, but it didn’t do that much damage. That’s bound to happen when two Fire Pokémon battle. A moment later, the Ninetails leapt forward, shooting a Confuse Ray at Aegon. It him in the neck, causing the Charizard to shriek in dismay.

“Oh no my most melon-brained master, Aegon the Charizard has become confused!” Dex droned.

Curses. Ninetails’ next attack was a Body Slam, while Aegon merely hurt himself in his confusion. Ryan was tempted to remove the Confusion with a Full Heal, but thought better of it. Those potions cost a fortune. My pride is not worth so much. So it went on for a few more turns, Ninetails using Body Slam and Fire Blast while Aegon hurt himself a few times in his confusion. His Fire Blasts that did get through did some decent damage though. By the time the Confusion wore off, it looked like Aegon and Tails were each one hit from fainting.

“Fire Blast, Aegon!”

“Fire Blast, Tails!”

One attack hit, and the other missed. Just my luck, Ryan thought miserably as he watched Aegon collapse in the grass, unconscious. The Ninetails barked triumphantly, waving its many tails around. Julia jumped in the air, shouting with glee, thanked Ryan, and ran off. If it weren’t for luck…

Feeling a little peeved, Ryan gathered his Poké Balls and marched off towards the Pokémon Center. He didn’t shake one more person’s hand or even acknowledge anyone else when they introduced themselves to him. He just made a beeline for the Pokémon Center. Why me? Why does it always have to be my Pokémon who misses? No one else ever misses that much. It’s not fair!

When he came to the Pokémon Center, Ryan reached for the door, to pull it open. It opened on its own, and a trainer stepped out into the light of day. “Oh. Ryan. So you finally made it,” she said, a sly look on her face.

Ryan’s lips went numb, and it took all of his strength to not just stand there in shock. He said, “H-hey… Kelly. How are you?”

“Well enough,” the pink-haired girl said, stepping away from the door. Ryan noticed she had a Poké Ball in her hand. “And you?”

“Good.”

“It took you long enough,” the older girl said sharply. “I thought you weren’t going to make it.”

“Hey!” Ryan’s face went red. “I only had three badges when you got your eighth! I got the other five really fast, too. I bet I got them faster than you!”

“Psh,” Kelly breathed, shaking her head. “So you’re just as clueless and arrogant as before.”

Inside the cage in his chest, Ryan’s heart fell. “Aw… come on, Kelly!”

“Do you want to battle?”

“I can’t. All my Pokémon fainted.”

“Typical.” Kelly flicked a strand of hair out of her eyes. “Well, when you get your team healed up, I’ll be waiting. My own team’s changed since I last saw you. It’s much stronger now.”

“Do you think you’re gonna win?”

“I’m going to win,” Kelly repeated. There’s fire in her eyes. She really wants this. “I have trained too hard and for too long to lose. Most of the kids in the tournament are ten years old. I like my chances.”

“Not me.” I’m nearly a man grown.

She looked him over and laughed humorlessly. “You may not be ten, but you act like it. Sorry,” she said quickly, seeing Ryan’s crestfallen look, “I’m just a little anxious… you know, the tournament and all. I have to win, Ryan. I have to.”

“I know,” the boy replied. “I wanna win too.”

“You’ll do good,” Kelly assured Ryan, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I’ve seen you battle, kid. You have a lot of heart.” Kid? Is that all I am to you?

“Th-thanks.”

“Anyways, I better get back to training,” Kelly said, holding up her Poké Ball. “The tournament’s in a week. Not much time left.”

“Yeah… not much time left.”

Ryan watched her trek off towards the tall grass in the distance. She’s so serious, he thought. I didn’t think the Indigo League meant that much to her. He thought of his father, and how he had spent four years trying to win a second match in the league. He didn’t even want to win the whole thing. He just wanted to win another battle… and he couldn’t even manage that.

Ryan sighed and opened the door to the Pokémon Center. I’ll be more like Kelly, he decided, not like dad. I’ll set my goals a little higher. He had never thought he could win the tournament. There were too many experienced trainers, he knew. But does it really hurt to hope? If I try to win the whole thing, maybe I’ll push myself and my Pokémon a little harder, and maybe we’ll do a little better.

He had boasted openly about winning the tournament before, but in his heart, Ryan had never believed he had a chance. There’s not much time left, but I guess I’ll start believing now. And maybe something will come of it.


They sure are fast, Ryan thought, bemused. The door with his name on it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in the past hour. The one to the left of his had ‘Rahul’ written on it, and the door at the far end of the hall had ‘Kelly’ scrawled upon it. That was good. They were on the third floor of the Indigo Plateau hotel. Ryan had looked for Kelly’s room before his own, and he had been rather pleased to find that they were on the same floor, even if their rooms weren’t that close.

Opening the door with his picture ID, Ryan found Logan asleep in his bed, tucked in and cozy. He was snoring softly. Are you kidding me?! This is my room! That’s my bed! Next to the bed was a cot with a blanket and a single pillow. That’s his. He knew it was, and he took my bed anyways.

Silently fuming, Ryan walked over to the hotel room’s phone and dialed the number he had dialed a hundred times before. Don’t pick up, he hoped. Please, just this once.

The call went to the answering machine, causing Ryan to breathe a sigh of relief. “Hey mom,” he said after the beep, “it’s me. Just letting you know that I got into the Indigo League. The tournament starts a week from today, so if you want… I mean, you and dad can come watch me if you want. I’d like that,” he said earnestly. “I-if you can’t make it, don’t worry. It’s okay. I don’t think I’ll get that far in the tournament. Anyways, I hope everyone is well, and please let my Pokémon know that I’m thinking of them, if you can. Thanks. Have a good night, mom.” He didn’t know what else to say, so Ryan hung up awkwardly.

Sighing again, Ryan stretched his back, feeling the soreness in his muscles expand and burn through his body. That stupid Fearow. Why did it attack me? He stole another glance at the sleeping Logan and had half a mind to just go over to him, pull him from the bed, and shove him on the cot.

Sometimes he wished he had the courage of his father.

Walking into the bathroom, Ryan wondered what he could say to Kelly to make her like him… or even respect me a little more. She looks down on me, just like everyone else. There was a breeze in the bathroom, so unnatural that the boy immediately noticed. He found the bathroom window open and was going to shut it when his mind began to wander again. What if she came in through the bathroom window, he wondered hopefully. He didn’t even know who she was - Olivia, Prima, Julia, Nurse Joy, Sydney… They all blurred into one woman in his mind, faceless, formless, without warmth. They aren’t Kelly.

I love you, she had said that night on Cinnabar Island after drinking too much orange juice. Was that the juice talking, or her real feelings? He would never ask her. Ryan exhaled violently and looked up at the mirror to stare into the eyes of a craven. That was when he saw him.

(cue Tears, After the Cloudy Weather)

It can’t be! “Abra? I-is that you?”

Ryan spun around, his heart pounding so hard it felt like it was going to break through his ribs. His eyes were glossed over with tears, but he could see the little Psi Pokémon standing in the open window, as clear as a dream. His head was spinning, his face was numb again, and he could hardly breathe.

“Rah,” came the reply, low and cautious.

Ryan didn’t remember running for Abra or grabbing the little Psychic Pokémon, but in the next moment, Abra was in his arms. “I’ve missed you,” he cried, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I’ve missed you so much, buddy.”

“Abra, ra. Abra.”

“H-h-how did you get away? Dad said you were staying with him from now on…”

“Abra, abra, abra!” Abra muttered ferociously. “Abra ra abra abra rah abra.”

“I can’t understand a word you’re saying!” Ryan laughed, wiping away the tears.

“Abra.”

He ran away from home because he wanted to be with me, the boy realized. He disobeyed my dad because he wants me to be his master. Ryan sniffled and scratched Abra behind the ear lightly, “Well buddy… we did it. I got the rest of the badges since, y’know…” Ryan gulped. “I’m going to compete in the Indigo League.”

“Rah.”

“Do you want to help? I need you, Abra, if I’m going to win the tournament… I need you by my side.”

“Abra,” the Abra yawned.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“Rah.” This time it was Ryan’s turn to yawn.

This is like a dream… it’s so surreal. Is this really happening? It can’t be. He felt Abra’s warmth against his chest, as real as anything Ryan had ever known. Dad is going to be so mad. He’s going to hate me… and I just invited him to come watch me compete in the tournament. Ryan shuddered. Well I can’t do anything about that now. Abra chose to come here. He wanted me, not my dad… not that dad will like that excuse any more than another, but still.

Despite that, he was smiling uncontrollably. Ryan couldn’t help himself. He opened the bathroom door, walked over to the cot, and pulled back the blanket. He didn’t even care that Logan had stolen his bed anymore. I have my Abra back, he thought, hugging the little guy tightly. I don’t care if he was my dad’s Pokémon a long time ago. He’s mine now. I’m never letting him go again.

Episode 34: If I Had A Shot Glass... (It's Tournament Time)

When Ryan stepped up to the counter, his heart started to beat faster. “Identification, please,” the blue-haired female worker in a pretty sky-and-cloud dress said robotically. The boy handed her his Pokédex. “Ryan… Morgan?” the woman asked, her voice rising.

“That’s me.”

“Okay, you’re all set to go. Here,” she said warmly, handing him back ol’ Dexy. “Now it’s time for you to choose your first stage to battle on!” The woman pointed to what looked like a little bell on the edge of the counter. Above it, on a video screen, the four preliminary tourney stages were arranged on a square with a blinking white light moving slowly around them. “Hit that button to see which stage you get randomly assigned, Ryan!”

Water, grass, rock, and ice, the boy mused, looking up at the screen. I’m probably weakest on a water stage. He pressed the button, sending the blinking white light racing around the four stage icons. Finally, it slowed, settling right on the Water Stage. I knew it. The boy’s heart began to beat faster, even though he didn’t want it to.

“You have the second match on the Water Stage, Ryan Morgan,” the woman informed him. “Be ready to battle in thirty minutes. Remember, these preliminary rounds are all three-on-three matches. Choose your Pokémon carefully, Ryan, and don’t forget to take each stage’s element into account!”

He nodded sheepishly and walked out of the check-in station, leaving the of people in lines behind him. Thirty minutes. He gulped, trying to calm himself, but it was no good. I’m at the tournament. I’m finally here. This is really happening. The more he tried to convince himself that he was finally here, finally at the place his father had once been, the more lightheaded he got. My father’s greatest achievement was winning an Indigo League match. What if I can’t even win one?

He paced around outside the Water Stadium, crowds of spectators and other trainers moving around him like water down a glass window. Abra was asleep in his backpack, and Ryan was holding Aegon’s ball. Who am I supposed to use on a water stage? Aegon will be no good if my opponent chooses a water Pokémon… and NaVorro and Myrrah can’t navigate the stage. That left him with Abra, Spectre, and Thurnax. Will they be enough?

On a nearby television screen on a hanging wall, Ryan noticed Kelly was fighting on the rock stage. Her Arcanine was at her side, tall and magnificent, his fur shining with fire. He watched her send her ‘mon against a Victreebel and smoke it like it was a Sunday barbeque. Soon after, she felled a Pidgeotto with her Nidoqueen, and shocked her opponent’s Parasect with her shiny Raichu. The crowd went nuts. Kelly was beaming on the screen, waving at the crowd, her pink hair fluttering in the wind. Ryan’s throat swelled with emotion. She’s gonna do really good.

He was smiling uncontrollably, for the first time in a long time. And then, the loudspeakers crackled: “Ryan Morgan, please report to the Water Stage.”

Oh crap. It’s time. His heart was beating so fast now he felt short of breath. Ryan entered the stage, showed the guards his ID card, and was ushered into the green side under the stadium, the entrance to the outer stage at the far wall. He could hear the crowd cheering, could feel the rumbling of their euphoria shake the ground. Ryan’s hands were shaking. He tried to stop them, but he couldn’t. What if I’m not ready? What if I’m no good?

They called for him, the referee shouting his name with such vibrancy that Ryan shuddered. He sucked in his breath sharply, stepped forward down the concrete path to the bright door, and came out into the stadium.

It was a feeling of numbness, almost, that washed over him. There were hundreds of them, perhaps thousands. People came from all over Kanto to watch these battles. They wanna see a show… well, I’ll give them one, he thought with sudden wildness. The stage was a gigantic pool in the middle of the Water Stadium, with a few white platforms floating in it. Exhaling, the boy peered at his opponent, who stood cloaked in the brightness of day for a few moments until the teal-haired trainer’s eyes adjusted to the light.

She was a young girl, perhaps of bug-catcher repute, though she wore a dress of peach-and-emerald, and she wore a yellow flower in her hair. Is she even ten? A Poké Ball was in her hand.

The two stared at one another. The referee blew his whistle and raised both the red and green flags. On a huge screen at the far end of the stage, Ryan’s and the girl’s faces were shown next to each other, with three lights beneath them (Ryan’s were green, the girl’s were red), signifying how many Pokémon they had left. Let’s see how good she is.

“Go, Abra!” Ryan shouted, pointing ahead to the stage.

“Go, Nidorina!” shouted the girl.

Her Nidorina came flying out to land on one of the white floating platforms. Abra remained in Ryan’s backpack, snoring softly. “Hey, Abra! Wake up! I need you!”

“R-rah?!” the Psi Pokémon yawned, annoyance in his tired voice.

“It’s your battle, buddy, go get ‘em!”

“Abra ra…” Abra sighed before jumping out of Ryan’s bag and waddling forward. He landed on a floating platform across from the Nidorina. Stretching out, the lanky lil’ Poké yawned again and looked back to Ryan for guidance.

“An Abra, really?” the girl squeaked from across the stage. “Abra doesn’t know any attacks!”

Mine does. A smile almost crept onto the boy’s face. “Psychic, Abra!”

“Nidorina, use Double Kick!” the girl yelled across the water.

“Rah!!” Abra jumped into the air, charging a purple beam between his claws. Front flipping forward onto a closer platform to his prey, he unleashed the beam of psychic energy. Nidorina was flying in the air herself, trying to pound Abra with a savage Double Kick, but when the Psychic hit her directly in the face, the Nidorina whimpered and fell like an iron anchor into the water.

“Nidorina, return!”

Ryan punched the sky. For an instant, his fear was gone, and he felt like his old self again, battling with his favorite Pokébuddy. “Great work, Abra. Keep it up!”

“Rah.”

“Weedle, it’s your turn.” The girl threw her second ball, and out from it came the aforementioned Weedle. A Weedle… really?! That’s her Pokémon of choice in the biggest battle of her life? How did she manage to get all eight badges if all she has is a Nidorina and a Weedle anyways?

Perplexed at his opponent’s lack of quality Pokémon, Ryan told his Abra, “Hit ‘em with another Psychic.”

“Rah!”

The second battle went much as the first had. Unsurprisingly, the Weedle was a low level Pokémon, and it was defeated after absorbing a single attack. Abra landed one platform closer, completely undamaged. The little girl threw her last Poké Ball, and across from Abra appeared a Bellsprout. This is crazy. Her Pokémon are so weak… how did she even get into the Indigo League?!

One more Psychic finished Ryan’s opponent off. All three red lights had faded from the scoreboard overhead, and the referee shouted, “And that’s the match! Missy has no more Pokémon able to battle! Ryan wins!”

The crowds roared. Ryan’s face was numb; his hands were shaking at his side. Abra was running back across the floating platforms to his master. I wonder if mom and dad are up there. Did they watch the battle? Did dad see Abra? He shuddered, thinking what his father would say about that.

The feeling of being the object of their adoration was strange. On the one hand, it made Ryan’s chest feel light and made his anxiety fade; on the other, he still knew this was only one match. It could’ve been luck I faced such a weak trainer. And they’ll only get harder the farther I get in the tournament.

Abra jumped into his arms; Ryan scratched the little guy behind the ears. “Great work, Abra. We did it! We won a match!”

“Abra.”

“We’re gonna win this thing, Abra. I know we are.”

“Ra.”

He looked at all the people cheering his name, and a chill fell down his spine. I want it, he knew. I want to win the whole dang thing. Abra’s been in five tournaments before this one, and he only won one match. All of my Pokémon deserve better. I’ll try my best for them… and for mom and dad and all my friends. I’ll show them all that I’m a real Pokémon master!


They all passed the first round, even Rahul. That night, they went out into the village to feast and celebrate. Alex played Fire Emblem while Rahul boasted recklessly about the skill he had shown in his own battle, while Kelly, ever cool and collected, sipped orange juice and teased Ryan for beating a Nidorina, a Bellsprout, and a Weedle. Alex told Ryan that he had seen Rahul’s battle from the visitor’s box, which was a group of seats right behind the each competitor, reserved for their friends and family. No one had watched Ryan win his first match from that box, but he invited them all to his remaining battles, and everyone - even Kelly - said they would come.

In the morning, after getting assigned to his second match (which would take place on the Rock Stage), Ryan phoned his mother again and told her his schedule and that she should come to his visitor’s box for the upcoming battle. I hope they’re there, he thought, even though he knew he would have to face his father’s fury. Please let them show up.

At 1 pm, Ryan was called to face his second foe on the Rock Stage. When he came into huge stadium and passed underneath the rows of stands overhead, up to the door that would lead out onto the stage, he found a group of people waiting for him. My friends. My supporters.

The two other Pokémon trainers were the first he beheld in that low-lit room: Kelly had already won her second match that day, while Rahul had yet to fight his. She’s doing awesome. I hope she gets at least to the semi-finals. And Rahul too. It’d be so awesome if all three of us could take the top three spots.

Beyond them were Alex and Logan, who were arguing about something, and an older woman who had her back to him. When the others noticed Ryan approaching, she turned, her long brown hair swaying, rays of light from the far entrance gleaming off her shoulders. Mom.

He ran up to her and hugged her tightly. “I heard you won your first match, Ryan!” she said, slightly muffled as he hugged her tight. “I’m so proud of you!”

“Did dad get to see it too?”

“Your father knows you won your first match, but he didn’t watch it on tv with me. He’s busy with work, you know. He said he would come to watch you if you made it to the finals, though.” The top 16, Ryan thought. I’d have to win three more matches for that to happen. He thought he could do it, but winning four matches was far beyond the boy’s realistic hope, even though he wanted to win it all.

“Well, I hope I can win this match,” Ryan said to them, laughing nervously and scratching the back of his head. “I don’t want to disappoint you guys!”

His mother went to speak when the referee boomed from the loudspeakers: “Competitors Ryan and Anthony please step forward! The match will commence at once!”

He wasn’t shaking so much this time, as he stepped through the veil of light out onto the stage. Around him, boulders and spires of rocks dotted the stage, which was set on a floor of cracked dirt and dried mud. Across from him, an older boy with a black mohawk and a leather jacket stood, his arms crossed.

“Retuning for this battle is Anthony, a semi-finalist from last year, and a favorite to take home the trophy this year!” The referee’s last word was instantly drowned out by a roar from the crowd. Ryan thought most of the shouts were coming from the female spectators.

“And here to face him in this second-round match is Ryan, a trainer from Acapulco. This is his first year competing in the Indigo League, but he already has one victory, and he’s looking to add another!” They cheered for him too, just not as enthusiastically. Ryan stared around at them meekly, wondering what so many of them had against him. Why do they like this Anthony guy anyways?

“Very well, trainers, take your mark!” the referee said, and the two boys stepped up onto their trainer platforms. Behind Ryan, his friends and mom took their seats, eager to watch the battle unfold.

“Come on Ryan, do it for Carrot Top!” Logan screamed.

“I believe in you Ryan!” came his mother’s voice.

“Remember the type advantages and disadvantages,” Alex called out helpfully.

“Woo… you better not screw this up, Ryan!” Rahul said carelessly.

I’ll try, he thought. He wanted to feel a little confident, but his last victory meant nothing to him now. Here he was, against a much older (and surely), much more experienced trainer. This is my first real test, he knew. Come on, I can’t let everyone down!

The referee waved his red and green flags, and the fight commenced. The noise of the crowd was deafening. Ryan could hardly think. He threw his Poké Ball, and out came NaVorro. His opponent unleashed a Hitmonchan to face his Tauros. Lucky break. Ryan knew fighting type Pokémon were super effective against normal type Pokémon like NaVorro.

“Blizzard, NaVorro!”

“Use Submission, Channy,” Anthony said calmly.

NaVorro was indeed faster. He stampeded over to the Hitmonchan, running around it in a circle, causing a flurry of snow and ice to rise in the air, entrapping the Hitmonchan. When NaVorro stepped back, out of the thick circular path he had created in the snow around the Hitmonchan, everyone gasped. He’s encased in ice. Gotcha! Ryan smiled proudly.

“Okay, NaVorro, this time use Body Slam!”

“Shhhhhrraaah!” the Bull Pokémon snorted loyally, charging ahead to ram into his opponent.

Just before NaVorro reached the Hitmonchan, the Punching Pokémon broke out of its hiemal prison, shattering the ice. Before NaVorro could reach him, the Hitmonchan sprinted forward, jumped into the air, and slammed down on the Tauros’ head with its Submission attack. NaVorro groaned loudly, stepped uncertainly to the side, and then collapsed.

Above, the first green light went out under Ryan’s name. Though he was breathing hard, Ryan said nothing. He returned NaVorro in silence and prepared his next Poké Ball: Aegon. The Charizard spit fire into the air as he soared into the Rock Stage, landing triumphantly across from the Hitmonchan. Aegon beat his chest and screamed, tendrils of flames licking at the sky. I like his enthusiasm. I could use a little of that myself. Indeed, Ryan felt nothing except for some low-burning anxiety in his stomach. A drop of sweat rolled down the boy’s forehead, falling to the ground at his feet.

“Swords Dance, Aegon!” Ryan shouted. If I can get him set up… maybe he’ll have a chance to sweep Anthony’s whole team. It was a bit of a gamble, especially considering Ryan had only one more Pokémon in reserve. But he knew it was his best shot.

“Body Slam it, Channy!” Anthony yelled, and his Pokémon thrust itself forward as Aegon was twirling around, raising his attack or something.

The Charizard skidded back across the dirt, howling in pain, but he didn’t seem to be too damaged. He’s faster, too. “Now, use Hyper Beam!”

“Submission!”

Aegon soared into the air, creating a white energy beam around his mouth. As he bore down towards the Hitmonchan, Anthony’s Pokémon rushed up to meet him, preparing another of his NaVorro-destroying Submissions. Charizard was faster, though. Everyone already knew that. His white energy released and covered the Hitmonchan like a blanket, and the Punching Pokémon fell over, fainted. Above, on the big screen, a red dot faded from under Anthony’s portrait, and it was 2v2 again.

“Not bad, kid! But your luck’s run out!” Anthony grinned, throwing his second ball. “I’ve got that Charizard covered!”

“Oh, no!” Ryan whispered in dismay upon seeing the Blastoise materialize across the stage. He glanced back at the group behind him, searching for any hints they could give him, but no one said anything. He met eyes with Kelly for but a moment and thought, she wouldn’t give up. She’d always have a plan to win.

Ryan knew that Anthony’s Pokémon were either the same level as his, or slightly stronger. That meant he couldn’t defeat this Blastoise with one attack. But two… maybe that would be possible. So long as Aegon could withstand one inevitable water attack, there was a chance. Aegon’s already done a Swords Dance. His attacks will be stronger than usual.

“Earthquake, Aegon!”

“Aararrraaaahhh!!” the wannabe dragon screeched, stomping on the ground, shaking it violently.

The Blastoise stumbled and fell over, crying out in pain. It retreated into its turtle shell and shook around like a broken maraca. When the Earthquake subsided, it got to its feet and surfed a wave of water over to Ryan’s Charizard, slamming into the fire Pokémon with a huge crash of foaming water. Ryan winced. Please don’t be knocked out. Aegon, I’m counting on you.

When the water washed away, Blastoise could be seen standing over the crumpled figure of Aegon. The crowd was going wild. Ryan didn’t hear them; he could only see their pandemonium, their hunger, their certainty that Anthony, the most beloved trainer in the tournament apparently, would move on to round 3. Ryan shook his head and thought that they were right.

And then Aegon stood up. He was battered and bruised, and the flame on his tail had dimmed, but he wasn’t done yet. That’s it, boy. Come on, come on, come on!! Ryan felt a pounding in his chest, felt short of breath. “Hyper Beam it, Aegon!” He thought of that day on Cinnabar Island when he had caught Aegon under the volcano. He thought of all the training he had put that Charmeleon through, the moment he had evolved into a Charizard during the gym battle against Sabrina. We’ve been through so much together. You can do it, Aegon!

“I think that Charizard needs to get another Surf, don’t you Blastoise?!” Anthony sneered.

“Stoise!” the giant turtle Pokémon grumbled. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned this episode, it’s that speed is a major factor in who wins a battle. After all, you can’t get hurt if you knock out your opponent before they can attack.

That was Ryan’s exact plan. He was betting everything on this Hyper Beam causing the Blastoise to faint. White energy was blooming in Aegon’s mouth again, even as the Blastoise was conjuring up another wave of water. The boy’s fingernails dug into his palms, and his veins were running hot with anxiety. Aegon turned his head and shot his energy at the Blastoise.

Blastoise is a slow Pokémon, a veritable turtle in the mud. So it should come as no surprise when it failed to dodge the attack. The Hyper Beam struck the Blastoise in the underbelly of its shell, causing it to fly off its wave and crash against a spire of rocks, which cracked and fell all over the Blastoise.

“Blastoise is unable to continue battling!” the referee declared a moment later, after stepping forward to get a better look at Anthony’s Pokémon.

Ryan swallowed. He heard no noise, no cheering, no jeering… nothing Anthony was speaking. And indeed, the other boy was saying something rather incendiary to Ryan, for he was pointing and shouting. It’s okay. He’s just scared. It was like Ryan was in a dream; he was drifting through this battle in a daze, in some respects completely oblivious to what was going on, and in others, hyper-focused on what needed to be done.

Anthony’s last Pokémon was a Victreebel. “Fire Blast!” Ryan urged Aegon, who was standing there panting, his head bowed. He looked really tired. Just a little more, Aegon. You can do it. I know you can!

“Wrap it up, Vic!” Anthony’s voice came high and thin, wavering across the stage. Ryan could detect the uncertainty in it. He doesn’t think he can win any more.

Aegon was already in the air, shooting up towards the sun. In his mouth, orange-and-yellow flames were bursting from between his teeth. For a moment, the fire Pokémon was lost in the brightness of the sun, and then with a whoosh of air, he returned to Earth, flying like a wind demon towards his quarry. The Victreebel stood still, its gaping mouth vibrating with anticipation of wrapping up the Charizard.

Aegon spit dragonflame across the barren stage. Victreebel went up in flames, crying and smoking. A moment later, when the fires subsided, the plant Pokémon fell over, swirly eyes on its wide face. Its body was charred black, and smoke continued to rise from it.

The referee was saying something; a happy look was on his face as he stole glances at Ryan. The people in the stands were cheering for him - some of them were, anyways. Some of them looked rather sad that Anthony had lost. He was lost in their warmth. Two, he thought. Maybe I can do this. Anthony was really good. He got into the semis last year… he’s definitely one of the most skilled trainers I’ve ever faced. And yet Ryan had beat him, losing only one Pokémon in the process. He had beat a Blastoise with a Charizard. He’d done something right, he knew, but he didn’t feel happy. He felt a little numb, and a little shocked, and rather lightheaded.

When he jumped down from the trainer platform, the others swarmed around him, heaping praise and congratulations upon Ryan’s shoulders. His mother told him how proud she was of him, kissing him on the forehead and shaking him like a voodoo doll. For a moment, amidst the chaos, Ryan’s eyes met Kelly’s again.

“Nice match, kid,” he heard her say. Her lips curled into a tiny smile that lasted for less than a heartbeat. Then, she looked away, embarrassed.

Ryan felt a tingly feeling in his stomach and grinned triumphantly. Maybe I do know what I’m doing. Maybe I am one of the best trainers in Kanto. But when he caught sight of his mom again, he was reminded of his dad, and he wondered what his father would think now that Ryan had won more Indigo League matches than him.


“I haven’t been able to find it anywhere,” Ryan muttered to Alex, showing him the old napkin with all the moves for his Pokémon. Alex had written that for Ryan way back in Cerulean City, weeks ago. And ever since then, Ryan had been gathering TMs and leveling up his Pokémon in hopes of completing that list. He’d gotten everything on the list aside from Explosion. The problem was that both Myrrah and Spectre were meant to have that move. Ryan just hadn’t been able to find it anywhere.

“That’s fine,” Alex replied, slurping up his noodles noisily.

Just like last night, they were out partying in one of the restaurants. Dozens of other trainers were packed in the other tables around the restaurant, celebrating too. Rahul had smashed his opponent in round two, sweeping their Starmie, Growlithe, and Venomoth with his Magneton, and he was proclaiming boldly that Magneton was a far better ‘mon than Tauros. Kelly had also won her battle decisively, though Ryan thought that today, he had faced the hardest opponent out of the three of them. That’s okay. I faced the easiest opponent yesterday.

Logan had Ryan sign an autograph for him, obnoxiously declaring, “This’ll be worth big Poké Dollars someday! Ryan’s gonna be the champion!”

“No way, I’m going to win,” Rahul complained like the petulant child he was. “Ryan’s always got his head in the clouds. I’m the doctor. This is my year. When you stand alone at the edge of destiny and look into the great abyss beyond…” Rahul leaned back in his chair and nearly fell over. Stroking his goatee fiercely, he bellowed, “Basically… run. Nobody will stand in my way. I’m the black sheep in this group.”

“Well, either way, I think we should raise a toast to our three wonderful trainers who have made it into the top 64 of the Indigo League!” Ryan’s mom said, raising her glass. Everyone else raised theirs and (in the case of the ever-obnoxious Logan) banged the table or murmured ‘here here’. They all have orange juice, except for Alex, he thought, eyeing Kelly in particular, watching her gulp down her entire glass in mere seconds. I wonder if she’s gonna say something again. Ryan only had a cup of water. He didn’t like orange juice much. He wondered how everyone else could stand it.

When the dinner was over, and as everyone was getting up, preparing to return to their hotel rooms, Ryan felt someone bump into him. Spinning around, the teal-haired boy noticed a red-haired boy standing a few feet away from him, a nasty scowl on his face. He wore a bright red-white-black-and-grey jacket, and he wore eyeliner which was more than a little weird in Ryan’s opinion. Behind him were about six or seven of his friends, all of whom were dressed extravagantly in bright, fashionable colors.

“What’s the deal, bro?!” the red-haired boy asked sharply. “Why’d you run into me?”

“You ran into me. I was just getting up from my chair,” Ryan explained.

“No, no, no way, bro. You ran into me.” The dark-skinned boy slammed a finger into his own chest angrily. “I seen it myself.”

“Oh yeah?!” Ryan replied, anger rising in his voice.

“Ryan!” his mother called. “Stop it!”

“Come on Carlton, let’s go,” said one of the red-haired boy’s friends. “It ain’t worth it.”

“Nah, it is. This creep thinks he can walk into me and start crap.”

Ryan sighed. “Look dude, I’m not-”

“Dude? Dude?!” Carlton’s eyes got bright and bloodshot. “I’m not your friend, bro. Don’t call me that.”

But you can call me whatever you want, right? Exchanging a look with his mom, Ryan said to the other boy, “I don’t have time to deal with your nonsense, so I’m leaving.”

“Alright, coward.”

You idiot. I’ll make you pay for that. Ryan’s cheeks flushed with a heated rage. He couldn’t do anything here, not with his mom watching. And he was really tired anyways. Ryan yawned as he followed the others out of the restaurant into the cold night air. You haven’t seen the last of me, Carlton Fancypants-McGee, the boy thought with ire.

Outside, the others began a lively conversation, and Ryan tapped his mother on the shoulder, pulling her away from the group.

“What is it Ryan?”

The boy felt his ears going red. Come on, I shouldn’t be ashamed of this. “I… well, I don’t know if you watched my first battle, but I have Abra again.”

“Oh.” His mother’s face became emotionless, like polished stone. “I guess I should have expected that. He ran away about a week ago.”

“He chose me to be his master,” Ryan said earnestly. “Please mom, you have to tell dad… I didn’t steal him…”

“I think he already knows, or suspects what has happened,” she sighed. “I don’t think he’ll take it well.”

“I’m sorry.” Ryan bowed his head. “But I can’t give up Abra again.”

“That’s between you and your father.”

“I guess…” Ryan yawned.

His mother shook her head in mock disgust. “Ryan, Ryan, Ryan. It’s well past your bedtime. You need to get your sleep. You need to be on top of your game in the tournament. You have another match tomorrow.”

“I know,” the boy said.

She gave him another hug and then bade the others goodbye. The kids soon walked off towards the hotel, while Ryan’s mom went back to the village, where her own room was.

“What’s that song that goes na na na na na na, na na na, na na na…?” Logan sang, skipping along around the others as they walked down the bright-lit sidewalk towards the hotel.

“Darude, Sandstorm,” Alex replied instantly, causing Logan to moan in awe for some reason.

Rahul began to ramble on about how great and noble of a man he was, all the pain he had suffered (and still was suffering), and all the sacrifices he had made for humankind. Ryan found Rahul’s ramblings of late to be a little more than tedious, so he hadn’t listened to much that boy had said in weeks. It was great.

Coming up to Kelly, who was walking on the left side of the group, Ryan said, “Thanks.”

“For what?” She didn’t look at him.

“For what you said earlier.” They came to the hotel, and Ryan opened the door for Kelly and the others.

Inside they went, stepping into the elevator almost at once. The room smelled of lavender and fresh mango, and there was no one else around - not even a receptionist.

“What did I say?”

“After the match…” Ryan replied, trying to direct her memory.

“Oh. That?” She laughed incredulously. When Ryan didn’t say anything, she continued, “Well, I guess you’re welcome, Ryan. You know what I always say, though. It’s only luck.”

“Yep. I could say the same about you.”

The elevator sounded a ding when they reached the group’s floor, and everyone shuffled out. The smell of fresh carpet greeted them in the abandoned hallway, with dozens of doors lined on either side. Again, no one else (outside of their group) was around; the hallway was eerily quiet.

“Pshh… not a chance. You and I aren’t even in the same class, no offense.” Of course, none was taken. “You have surprised me though. I didn’t expect you to win more than you lost this year.”

“Thanks.”

They had come to her door. Kelly stopped, turned to face Ryan, and ruffled his hair. The boy’s heart beat furiously, and he nearly gasped. That was… unexpected. Standing under the light to the left of her door, Kelly looked pale and sweaty, and Ryan thought she was more than a little inebriated.

He nearly leaned in to kiss her goodnight, but the others were around. He couldn’t risk such a move in their presence. So there they left Kelly, the four boys, marching off to their rooms like a gaggle of Slowpoke. What do I have to do? What do I have to do to impress her?

It wasn’t long before they reached Ryan’s room, and Logan opened it with Ryan’s ID card (which he’d apparently swiped from the teal-haired boy’s neck at some point). Ryan stumbled into the room, not bothering to take off his clothes or turn on the lights. Right up to the bed - his rightful bed (he’d since demoted Logan to the cot on the left side of the bed) - he walked, and when he reached it, the boy collapsed in exhaustion, pulled off his backpack, which held the warm, snoring Abra, and closed his eyes. Two more, he thought, and I’ll have to face dad.

Luckily, Ryan didn’t have to think that distressing thought for long, for a few moments later, he was out cold, snoring twice as loud as Abra.


Standing in line to get his random draw for the third preliminary round, Ryan swung his backpack off his shoulders to get a better look at Abra. Around him, the lines of people had grown short, and the whole check-in station was a good deal less busy than it had been two days ago. I guess that’s not surprising. 75% of the competitors are already out of the tourney. It made him feel good to have outlasted so many quality trainers.

“Hey Abra, I need you to do something for me.”

“Ra? Ra ra abra bra abra abra bra rah.”

“When it’s my turn to get an opponent, I want you to use your psychic powers to make sure I’m matched against the guy named Carlton.”

“Rah?”

“That’s right. Abra ra abra abra, or whatever,” Ryan said, swinging his arms around like a madman.

“Rahhh… abra.” Abra’s voice was deep and emotional like a Meowth prowling in the night.

After a few more boring moments that we are going to skip past, Ryan stepped up to the counter and pressed the button to find out that his next match would be on the Ice Stage. Abra’s body buzzed in his backpack. I can feel it. He’s matching me against Carlton. The screen flashed with the cheeky smug grin of the red-haired boy, who stood as pompous as a baby bonsai tree.

“Alright, yeah baby!” Ryan shouted with glee before running outta there like a gravy robber. Carlton, you’re mine. He left the check-in lady back there, bewildered as a wild bee. This was the first match Ryan was looking forward to.

He didn’t even know if he could beat that jerk. But nobody named Carlton insults me, Ryan decided. And if this is my last match, so be it. I’ll wipe that stupid smirk off his face one way or another.

The expansive area between the four stadiums was riddled with vendors, like burrowing Weedles, all trying to sell overpriced food or cheap Indigo League merchandise to grade-a suckers. Ryan avoided them like the plague, though he knew Rahul would be swimming in all this crap back in his hotel room. There were people walking the streets, but not so many trainers as before. And tonight, the number’ll be cut in half again.

He watched that girl named Julia (who had helped him against that mean Fearow) defeat another trainer on the Water Stage. Her Ninetails took out all three of her opponent’s Pokémon without breaking a sweat. Dang girl. You’re really good too. He wondered if Julia had what it took to get to the finals, but judging by how easily she had won her second battle, she had to be a sure bet.

He watched several more battles as he waited for the Ice Stage to be prepped for his bout with Carlton. There were so many good trainers - there were more lopsided victories than close ones. Usually, one trainer was far better than the other. Ryan had been far better than Missy, but he wasn’t sure if he had outsmarted Anthony, or if he had just been lucky. Kelly and Rahul never struggled in a match as much as I did against Anthony, he thought.

Watching a teenage boy named Danny fight a young girl named Lobelia, Ryan was impressed to see the girl sweep the boy’s team with nothing but a Tauros. That gave Ryan an idea. It’ll humiliate Carlton to get swept too. Unshouldering his pack and taking out his Poké Balls, Ryan wondered who amongst his fine warriors would be best suited for humiliating the red-haired boy.

It was not much longer until his name was called, and Ryan entered the Ice Gym. Waiting for him were his friends and mom, and they all patted him on the back and wished him good fortune in the wars to come (except for Rahul, who wished that Ryan would watch some My Little Ponyta with him, but that was neither here nor there). He stepped onto the trainer platform, which then raised itself up from the ground about twelve feet over the Ice Stage.

This time he was red; Carlton was green. How ironic. Around them, the stage was crafted from ice, with frozen pillars dotting the landscape. The referee was rambling passionately about how new Ryan was, and how fancy Carlton was. The man took a drink from a flask Ryan had a sneaking suspicion smelled of citrus.

Carlton was more shocked than Ryan. He couldn’t believe that he had been matched against the kid he’d made an enemy of last night. “What luck, right?” Ryan muttered to himself. He almost laughed.

The red-haired boy was clothed in a fancy white suit with a black bowtie and black-and-gold buttons and cuffs. He wore a sharp pair of sunglasses and white, dainty gloves. His dark hair was pulled back. In his left hand, there was a Poké Ball. He was poised like a prince, arrogant and aloof and full of contempt.

“Trainers, prepare your Pokémon!” the referee yelled. “On my mark!”

Ryan took the Poké Ball out of his pocket and held it up, out from his chest. I have to be calm. I have to be smart, he told himself. I can win. The referee blew the whistle. For a moment, the spectators held their breath as the two boys stood still as stone. Then, their Poké Balls were in the air… and out from one popped a Primeape; out from the other soared a Dragonite.

Derceyes raised you, but I’ve trained you for a long time. I know you’re my most powerful Pokémon, girl. You can beat this jackalope. “Agility!” he urged her. Ryan knew he’d need to get his Pokémon’s speed up if he wanted to beat all three of Carlton’s with just his Dragonite. Dragonite is a slow Pokémon by nature, but with a couple of Agilities… well, even Ryan knew what that meant.

“Perform a Focus Energy upon that plebeian, Maximillian!” Carlton’s voice shook with impatience.

The two Pokémon did exactly what they were told to do. Thurnax flew around until she had built up her speed. And the Primeape, which Ryan noticed wore gel in its hair and a fancy white-and-pink bowtie across its eyebrows, performed the Focus Energy attack to perfection (now, no one should know what that means since this move is glitched in the games). Thurnax was already faster, even before the Agility, Ryan observed. I expected him to use an attack. But since he didn’t…

“Another Agility, girl!”

Carlton’s voice echoed, “I want you to Body Slam that beast, Primeape!”

Thurnax built up her speed again before being knocked back by the Primeape’s vicious slam attack. Still, she didn’t seem to be hurt that much, so Ryan ordered her to fire a Hyper Beam at the Primeape.

Thurnax was a determined, professional Pokémon. She never let her anger get the best of her. Even though she had just been hit by the Primeape, she didn’t break her cool. Listening to Ryan, the Dragonite took to the sky and charged up a white energy beam in her mouth, much as Aegon had done the day before.

As Carlton was screaming for his Primeape to do something, Thurnax flew dispassionately over the crowds, causing them to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ for a while before she came back down upon the stage and suddenly unleashed her energy attack upon the poor witless Primeape. The Pig Monkey Pokémon was blown back, flying into the base of Carlton’s trainer platform, and slumped over, knocked out.

“Primeape is unable to continue battling!” the referee declared.

“Yo, bro, that’s not cool!” Carlton cried.

Ryan shrugged and focused on his opponent’s next Pokémon. I ain’t got time to listen to that jive turnkey. When the Snorlax appeared on the other end of the ice, skidding forward slightly as it struggled to stand, Ryan shouted, “Wrap that bad boy up!”

“Hyper Beam that monstrous fool!” Carlton declared elegantly.

Before the Snorlax could do what it was meant to do, Thurnax landed in front of it, knocked it to the ice, wrapped her tail around it, and began to squeeze. Snorlax groaned and grunted with all three squeezes before stumbling away from Ryan’s Pokémon. As it struggled to escape, Dragonite slammed her feet down on the Snorlax’s fat stomach again and wrapped him up real good.

“That’s it, now use Surf!” Ryan ordered Thurnax after she threw the Snorlax away again.

The Snorlax struggled to stand. The ice was so slippery, after all. Down the stage came Thurnax, riding on a wave she had made herself (she was a fine and proper young lady). When the burst of water hit the Snorlax, the Sleeping Pokémon tumbled back and glided across the icy floor, dazed and huffing out in pain. When Snorlax finally came to a slippery stop at the base of one of the ice spires, it did not get up.

The referee raised his flag and blew his whistle. Overhead, on the super-large scoreboard, Carlton’s second green dot vanished. How you like me now?!

“Finish him, Venusaur,” Carlton spoke softly, throwing his last Poké Ball with childlike strength. “Sleep Powder!”

“Quick, Hyper Beam!” Ryan screamed. Lame fool. He’s going for the sleep attack! Ryan knew what that meant. If the Sleep Powder hit Thurnax, she’d be out. It was in the rules of the tournament. You could only put one Pokémon to sleep all game long, but once that one Pokémon was asleep, they were considered knocked out. Thus, Ryan had no choice but to use his Dragonite’s strongest attack to preserve his sweep.

Thurnax soared through the air again, building up her momentum and power, as the Venusaur took center stage and thrust its back flower up at the clouds, preparing the Sleep Powder. Aw, it’s presenting. As Thurnax came screaming downwards, she spit out her attack, hitting the beast in the face. Venusaur started crying recklessly. A puff of purple-yellow powder spurted into the air, and Thurnax was moving too swiftly to avoid it. Smacking into the ground, the Dragon Pokémon hit one of the ice spires, and it collapsed around her.

Carlton was whooping, calling Ryan a bro, and making obscene gestures with his fingers. Ryan’s ears were burning. Venusaur grunted, looking around in a daze, and stepped forward. Its paw slipped on the ice; the Seed Pokémon crashed onto its stomach. Mumbling, “Venu… saur…”, the animal’s head drooped down, and it began to snore.

The referee was on the stage, flying about on a pair of ice skates. It was wild. The guy jumped in the air and did a twirl, prompting an ancient Russian woman from the front row to struggle to her feet and raise a sign that said ‘6.14’ before collapsing again into obscurity. “Venusaur is unable to battle…!” the man bellowed, causing the crowd to burst with energy in response. “Dragonite’s probably unable to battle too,” he noted, “but that doesn’t matter, eh?”

Up above, the third and final red dot signifying the last Pokémon of Carlton Fancypants-McGee, Esquire, vanished forever more. Ryan’s three dots remained shining; he knew the Indigo League staff were being rather generous.

Ol’ Fancypants-McGee fell to his knees, ripping at his hair, crying that Ryan had cheated, and cursing the sun and moon and stars. Ryan felt like laughing, but didn’t. Gotta be restrained and dignified, blah blah blah. That’s what the Indigo League competitor handbook had said, anyways.

They were chanting his name when he descended back to see the others. His face felt numb; his hands were throbbing. Everyone was beaming, heaping praise upon him. It’s not luck, Ryan thought, as Kelly patted him on the shoulder and showed just a hint of appreciation with that look in her eyes. I didn’t get this far because of luck.

Their warmth embraced Ryan. He had won his third match. He was in the top 32. Soon, Kelly, Rahul, and 29 others would join him. So many people have been eliminated. I just have to beat five more of ‘em. Somehow, that didn’t seem so hard anymore. Ryan’s anxiety was gone. He had eclipsed his own expectations already. Now he could go for his dream… to win the whole thing. And with his six Pokémon, with their strength and endurance and heart, he knew he had a shot.

Ryan wondered what his dad would say if he won the Indigo League. He wondered, would that be enough for him? He didn’t know. I’ll try anyways, he told himself. For Abra’s sake at least.

Episode 35: I Need You So Much Closer

The wind was howling that day - like an old man trying to send back soup on an airplane. At one end of the Grass Stage, on a raised platform, stood Ryan, his Abra asleep on his shoulder. On the other side, also on a raised platform, was the boy called Ronny. His blond, spiky hair seemed to glisten in the brightness of day.

I’ve met this guy before, Ryan knew. I fought his Venusaur and beat it with Myrrah. Behind him, his friends and mother sat. Win one more match, and I’ll see dad. One more and I’m in the finals. He gulped and threw his Cloyster’s Poké Ball. The referee below was waving his flags wildly like he was a proper flag waver.

“Go Lapras!”

The two Water Pokémon flung themselves onto the Grass Stage, which was a nice mixture of rolling hills and trees. “Blizzard it, Myrrah!” Ryan ordered his Pokémon.

“Thunderbolt, Lapras!” the dark-skinned trainer said calmly.

The two passed by one another, exchanging their attacks. The Blizzard did moderate damage to Lapras, but the Thunderbolt hurt more. Both Pokémon fell back, bruised and covered in grass. Dang, he’s using sneaky moves too. I’ll have to be careful. When Ryan had met this boy more than a week ago, he hadn’t expected them to end up facing off for a spot in the final 16. His Venusaur didn’t seem to be that strong. Guess a lot’s changed in a week!

“Explo… uh, Blizzard,” Ryan said. Man, if only I had gotten Explosion before the tournament started. He watched his Pokémon freeze the Lapras again, doing pitiful damage, and knew Myrrah was done.

Another Thunderbolt was all it took; Ryan’s Cloyster fainted, and he returned her. “Go, NaVorro! Do a Body Slam attack!”

“Vraahahahaaaaa!” the Tauros said enthusiastically. Running up to the the Lapras, the Bull Pokémon flung himself upon the Nessie wannabe. Lapras flew back, hitting a tree and splitting it in half. Ronny was shouting something. The crowd was roaring. Ryan’s hands were drawn into fists, his heart beating furiously. He wondered if anyone thought he would win. Does Alex think I still have a chance?

In the next moment, NaVorro was thrown back by Blizzard winds, his fur crusted with ice. It looked to be a critical hit. “Shake it off!” Ryan urged his Pokémon, who looked to be rather hurt. I can’t afford to lose you this early. We haven’t even taken down one of Ronny’s Pokémon! The Bull Pokémon grunted in frustration and exhaustion, shaking his fur, but he didn’t look any better. “Go, NaVorro! Hyper Beam! Defeat that stupid Lapras! Come on, I know you can!” he urged his Pokémon.

And off Tauros went, running back down the grassy stage to his foe. Lapras stood moderately damaged, but not as beat-up as NaVorro. Another Blizzard was just beginning to be conjured by that water beast when NaVorro became the third of Ryan’s Pokémon to use Hyper Beam. But he was the first who got STAB off it. And boy did NaVorro not waste that STAB.

His brought Lapras to his white light and took it onboard his beautiful ship, and the rest is history. Lapras fainted, NaVorro returned to his master, and a green dot burned out of existence on the scoreboard above. Now it was Ronny’s turn to sweat a lil. I won’t give up without a fight.

“Arbok, now it’s your turn!” the other boy said.

“Earthquake it, NaVorro!” Ryan urged.

The Tauros whimpered and shot off again. Ronny’s command came as mere noise to Ryan; he was too focused on what his Pokémon was doing. I don’t expect NaVorro will survive another hit. Not unless I’m lucky. NaVorro jumped into the air, slamming down upon the top of a hill, shattering the ground. Ahead, the Arbok slithered and slimed, but it couldn’t dodge the rumbling earth. That snake shook real good; it was like a man showing a woman who he was.

“Yeah, boy!” Ryan declared.

Ronny’s voice answered at once. “Now, Arbok, go!”

The Arbok slithered across the broken ground, coming up to a different hill. Sailing into the air, the snake came shooting back down into the ground, cracking it and burrowing the beast under the soil. The earth began to shake again, just as violently as before.

“Oh no, it’s doing Earthquake too!” Ryan realized.

And so it was; and so it did. When the Arbok was finished, it sprouted from the ground like parasitic grass, and NaVorro fell over, having fainted. The crowd was going crazy. Ryan felt heat behind his eyeballs. It’s over, he thought. I won’t win this match. He’s got two Pokémon left, and I only have one… He looked down to his hands. A Poké Ball was in each: one contained Aegon; the other contained Thurnax. Who should I pick?

The teal-haired trainer raised his right hand, preparing to throw the Poké Ball, when suddenly, he felt a rustling on his back, and a dark blur shot past his eyes. Onto the railing surrounding the raised trainer platform came Abra, as loose as Kelly after a few cups of orange juice. “Ra, ra, Abra,” he said, grasping the index finger of Ryan’s outstretched hand (which grasped the Poké Ball he had chosen to almost throw). “Abra abra abra. Ra bra Abra!” There was fire in Abra’s voice, Ryan could tell. Fire and heart. He wants this. If this is our last battle, he wants to go out fighting.

Ryan felt the tears coming to his eyes but blinked them away. “Go, boy,” he said quietly, almost laughing, almost crying. It’ll take a miracle for us to win. “Psychic attack!”

“Rah…” the little Psi Pokémon screamed before teleporting off the stage and entering the arena. Ryan had never seen Abra like this before. He’s a little warrior.

“An Abra, really?” Ronny’s voice was full of disbelief. “In the fourth round? Is this some kind of joke?”

“‘Fraid not,” Ryan admitted. “I’m going to win now!”

“Haha, yeah right!” replied the other boy, smiling boldly.

Abra appeared in front of the damaged Arbok, charging purple energy between his claws. With a determined, “Bra!”, he flung his Psychic at the snake. Arbok was still warming up its own attack, a dreaded Hyper Beam, when the purple energy washed over it.

A single cough of, “Bok…!” echoed through the stadium, and Arbok fell over.

“Yes, yes, yes!” Ryan whooped. “Great work buddy!”

“Abra, abra…” Abra panted, turning to face his trainer.

The second green dot faded from the screen overhead. It was now one Pokémon against one Pokémon - sudden death for the right to be a part of the Indigo League top 16. Ronny reached for something in his pocket, raised his arm, threw his Poké Ball, and when Ryan saw which Pokémon the other trainer had chosen, he felt a chill descend his spine like an old man trying to climb down a ladder. The crowd was buzzing like hungry dogs. They knew this would soon be over. They’re not wrong.

In front of the tiny, lanky Abra stood a rotund giant - a fearsome Gengar. “Gengar, the Shadow Pokémon,” Dex droned. “A Gengar is close by if you feel a sudden chill. It may be trying to lay a curse on you.”

“Wicked!” Ryan said, almost in admiration. But he wasn’t happy - not at all. In fact, the boy’s anxiety was pounding against his chest with so much force, he thought he might throw up. Gengar is a fully-evolved Pokémon. Abra has no chance.

“Hypnosis, Gengar!” Ronny urged his Pokémon.

“Gengar geng!” the huge ghost Pokémon chuckled.

Oh no. I know what that means. “Abra, dodge it and hit that Gengar with a Thunder Wave!”

“Raaah!” Abra hissed sinisterly.

The little Psi Pokémon scurried about, bouncing from the trees to the broken ground, using his speed to swiftly approach his foe. Gengar jumped forward, landing right in front of Abra and knocking him off a tree, and began to perform his hypnotizing attack. If that attack hits and Abra is put to sleep… “Dodge it, Abra! Go!”

Abra rolled to the side, averting his eyes from the Gengar and then seemed to teleport around the beast, landing behind him. Gengar’s attack missed. The crowd burst with laughter. From behind, Logan shouted something indistinct. Abra’s tendrils of lightning cascaded down his claws and onto the Gengar’s back, instantly paralyzing the opponent. Gengar fell over and lightly rolled down the hill he had been standing on until he came to a stop in a crater in the grass.

“Psychic!”

“Hypnosis!”

The purple energy hit the Gengar right in the face, causing it to cry out in pain. But it wasn’t damaged very much. To Ryan’s horror, it seemed like Psychic was only doing moderate damage - not good enough. Luckily, on the Gengar’s next turn, it was too paralyzed to move, so Abra was able to hit it with another Psychic. Now the Gengar looked to be a little hurt - but it would take two or three more Psychics to fell it, the boy knew. Those were rounds he didn’t have. He saw this plain enough when the Gengar then shot a Thunderbolt at Abra, causing the Psychic Pokémon to fall to his knees screaming. Abra can’t take another hit, but Gengar can take two more at least.

A lump welled in his throat. Ryan’s breaths came sharply. Abra stood up, preparing his next attack when he looked over at Ryan. It’s over, boy. We tried, but I couldn’t get us any further. I’m just like dad. I can’t lead you to victory. Abra was breathing hard now; his entire body was covered in scratches and dirt. He looked old and tired and ready to give up.

The fire’s still burning in his eyes, Ryan noted. He had rarely ever seen Abra’s eyes open, much less this determined. Abra looked away and approached his paralyzed quarry. He let out a long, feral cry, and a white light engulfed his fragile form. Abra was lost in the burning colorless energy. The crowd was going crazy. Behind him, his friends and family were on their feet, shouting and clapping their hands. What’s going on? “Huh? Where’s Abra? What happened?”

“Look!” That was Kelly’s voice. She was pointing back to the fight.

His eyes saw the light fading, heard the stadium’s noise increase so much that the ground began to shake. There, under the tree, stood not an Abra anymore, towering over the paralyzed Gengar. Th-that’s not right… no, it can’t be!

Dex’s voice sounded like it was coming at him as distantly as if from underwater. “Kadabra, the Psi Pokémon. Many odd things happen if this Pokémon is close by. For example, it makes clocks run backwards.”

“N-no… way…” Ryan fell to his knees, his face flushed in disbelief. “Buddy…”

Kadabra raised his spoons over his head, shouting, “Kadabraaaaaah!” as a purple energy beam formed between them in the air. The Gengar could do nothing but sit there and scream as the much-stronger Psychic slapped it across the face. Gengar rolled back a few feet before coming to a stop, belly up. His mouth was agape, and his eyes had gone all swirly.

“Gengar is no longer able to battle!” the referee with the flags decided. “Ryan, from Acapulco, is the winner!”

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssss!!” the boy screamed, falling to his knees again. There were tears in his eyes, in the bright blue sky. The crowd was clapping wildly for him, hundreds of cheers rising collectively like shadows in a fever dream. Onto the railing, Kadabra suddenly appeared. “Kadabra, kah!” Kadabra said proudly.

“Buddy… Abra - I mean, Kadabra - you did so good out there! You beat a Gengar! And an Arbok! You’re so strong! And now we’re into the finals!”

“Kadabra!”

Ryan stood up. “Y-you evolved… for me…” He put his hand on Kadabra’s shoulder. “Why?”

“Dabra kah!” Kadabra said loyally.

“Dabra kah?”

“Kah!”

“Oh okay. Well, thanks buddy. You know, I couldn’t have done this without you. You were awesome out there,” he murmured. “You’re the reason we’re in the finals.”

“Kadabra.”

Down they went, to the ground, where Alex, Rahul, Kelly, his mother, and Logan awaited him. Like the spectators overhead, their praises piled upon him like cotton candy, coating him in their warmth. He was beaming when his eyes met Kelly’s. How do you like that? I’m in the top 16. Her own lips curled in happiness too. In his euphoria, Ryan thrust his Kadabra forward, showing him to everyone. As they ‘ooh’d’ and ‘ahh’d’, he turned to Kelly, and nearly leaned in to kiss her. He stopped himself at the last moment, because he remembered this was real life, almost too late. Not until I’m champion, he decided. That way there’ll be no way she can resist.


Rahul’s last preliminary match went without incident. He smoked his opponent with a Charizard sweep, and they were out by noon. Kelly’s match came up next, so the group, in high spirits, trudged off to the Ice Stage to watch her win her way into the top 16. Come on, Kelly. I know you can do it.

His mother had bought him a new Indigo League shirt that was yellow and itched like a nest of Kakuna. Ryan had found that Kadabra did not fit so well in his backpack as Abra had, so the Psi Pokémon had been forced to walk with them if he wanted to remain outside of his Poké Ball. That didn’t seem to be what he liked though, so soon Kadabra returned to his ball to get some much-needed rest.

They licked at ice cream cones and sat on the bench in the shade as Kelly ascended to her final battle before the finals. In her hand was a Poké Ball, shining in the light of day. The referee was making smalltalk as the match was getting prepared, and the crowd was humming dully.

“Once this is over, we should go back to the sushi bar,” Logan declared. “I want all you can eat sushi for President Goodshow’s sake!”

“Calm down, kid. Go play with your Chansey or something,” Rahul grunted. “We’re going back to that Korean barbeque from two nights ago.”

“No, I’m sick of that place, Rahul! If I have to eat there one more time, I swear I’ll-”

Rahul was already licking his fingers in anticipation of having the grease and barbeque sauce running down his mouth and into his pristine goatee again. His belly was growling pretty loud too. The two nearly came to blows as Alex sat down between them, nibbling on a raw cucumber like a Nidorino at a salt lick. Ryan’s eyes returned to the battle going on ahead. Kelly’s shiny Raichu was already out, pacing around the slippery ice, whilst her opponent’s Wigglytuff stood poised like honey on a vine.

Ryan couldn’t see much of the opponent from his seat; her portrait on the overhead scoreboard was the best look he got of her. She was dressed in dark robed clothes, with medium-length black hair, and wore a crazy amount of makeup. She and Kelly exchanged commands as their Pokémon ran about the Ice Stage firing Thunderbolts and attempting Body Slams and riding Surfs and mustering up Blizzards until, finally, the tired ‘Aichu hit the tough Wiggly with a Thunderbolt, sending it skidding into an ice spire, which collapsed over it at once.

They all got to their feet and shouted in support of Kelly. Now we’re cooking. Now we’re cooking real good. Ryan held the egg he had traded for from that bug catcher tight to his chest, anxious as if he were up there fighting himself. He wondered what Kelly was thinking.

Next came her opponent’s Slowbro. ‘Aichu hit it with a fierce Thunderbolt that nearly made it faint. But the Raichu was the one who ended up fainting, for on the Slowbro’s first turn, it rode a wave of water over the Mouse Pokémon like a Psyduck on vacation. Kelly’s next Poké Ball revealed a Hypno. Kelly’s Hypno exchanged several volleys of Psychics with the opponent’s Slowbro, who continued using Surf. After about four or five turns of this, Slowbro collapsed and was recalled. Great work. Just one more. The crowd was pumped. They were all in for Kelly too, he knew.

From the opponent’s Poké Ball came a Clefable. Alright, that’s not too bad! Kelly should have this in the bag, Ryan knew. “Psychic!” Kelly ordered her Hypno, who then shot the opposing Clefable. Clefable screamed and flew into the air, landing on the ice with little grace before slipping over. For the briefest of moments, it looked like Kelly was going to win. And then, Clefable’s Hyper Beam came flying over, pale as fire, and knocked Hypno back, rendering him unconscious.

Kelly grimaced as the crowd went wild. “Alright, Tauros, you’re turn! Finish this Clefable!”

Ryan nodded eagerly. The spotted blue-green egg felt warm against his chest. Yeah, that’s it Kelly. Clefable stands no chance against Tauros.

“Body Slam!”

Across the stage, the other girl, whom Ryan thought the scoreboard said was named Ivy, shouted, “Sing, my Clefable! Put that angry bull to sleep!”

“Oh no!” Ryan yelled. “Kelly, get your Tauros out of the way. She’s trying to put him to sleep!”

But Kelly was shouting “Body Slam, Body Slam, Body Slam!”, and the noise coming from the crowd was overwhelming. She couldn’t hear him. Her Tauros charged ahead, oblivious to what was about to happen. It jumped into the air and slammed its form down on the small squishy-looking alien. Clefable shrieked and was left in a crater. Up got Tauros, who began to prance impatiently around the crater. For the second time, it looked as if Kelly had won.

And then, the Clefable stood up. “Clefable, clefable, clefaaaaaaaaaaable, clefable” it sang to the tune of Jigglypuff’s song. “Clefable, clefable clefaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaable!!”

Ryan averted his ears and eyes, as did most of the spectators. After a few moments, when everyone returned their gazes to the field, Tauros was on the ground, collapsed, fast asleep. Clefable yet stood. The referee with the two flags had fallen asleep, having gotten caught in the range of Clefable’s Sing. Suddenly, over the loudspeakers, a shuffling noise could be heard, and a very old man spoke, “H-hey… is this thing on? Dang nabbit, is this thing on or what?” The crowd roared in approval. “Heh, I guess it is! Okay, anyways, given that our referee has fallen asleep, it’s up to me, President Goodshow, to render a verdict in this match! Now that Clefable has used a Sing move and put Tauros to sleep, by the rules of the Indigo League - Section 3 subsection 24 - Tauros is no longer able to battle and is technically considered to be knocked out.” The last green dot