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  1. #16
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    First of all, thank you both so much giving me your thoughts! I certainly appreciate any comments telling me what you may be thinking, and I'm humbled that others are enjoying my little tale here! It really cheers me up, and I am thrilled to have you two along for Sam's ride.

    With that said, here's the next chapter!

    Chapter 10

    Sam had nothing. He had no words or thoughts or actions. His brain was preoccupied with processing what the President of the Phoenix Shipping Corporation had just said. Just when it seemed like he was on the verge of accepting it, something inside him replied “No. No, that can’t be right” and forced him to reconsider it. Barry having had the lake guardians all this time? It was inconceivable. Implausible, even.

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Barry answered Mr. Alonzo’s claim. And he couldn’t have known. There was just no way he had the legends. None.

    “He doesn’t know,” Sam agreed, but his voice was so tiny, he wasn’t sure if Barry or Mr. Alonzo even heard him.

    “Mr. West,” Henrique smiled softly, “my company and my people and I have been here in Sinnoh for months. We’ve examined every inch of those lakes. We’re relatively sure the legends aren’t there. The only reason we’ve still been excavating the areas is to look for signs of their current whereabouts. But when we realized they were missing, we started digging in a different fashion: we asked around. Most people...well, most people still don’t even believe the legends are real. They think that they are just a nice fairytale to tell their children at bedtime; a simple tale of powerful, benevolent pokemon who’ve inspired the human race. But some people do believe in them. And some of those people started telling us rumors they’d heard.”

    Barry was unflinching. “Well, rumors. I guess if you’ve heard some rumors then there’s no way you could be refuted--”

    “We started hearing about the Church of Cyrus.”

    Barry’s left eye twitched, and he suddenly lost the ability to response to what Mr. Alonzo had said. Sam thought he heard a grunt coming from Barry’s clenched mouth.

    “Yes, that. We know about that. And, what’s more, Mr. West, we know that after that affair, you and Professor Rowan hid the legends to protect them. Now, I would never blame you for that, son.” Mr. Alonzo placed an arm around Barry’s shoulders; Barry’s face recoiled at the act, but he did not physically resist it. Sam wished he knew--he needed to know--what Barry was thinking. “You and Professor Rowan did an admirable thing then. But I’m not them. I’m not those men. I just told you why I want the legends. It’s not even that I ‘want’ them--I shouldn’t have said it like that--I think the world needs them. I think the world is owed them. There is so much good that they can do.”

    “And I told you,” Barry finally replied, his voice throatier than Sam had heard it before, “that they don’t belong to humanity.”

    Wait, what? That didn’t make any sense to Sam; why wasn’t Barry shooting down the rumors about this Cyrus church thing? Why had his argument regressed to being about who the legends do or do not belong to? This guy had just accused Barry and the professor of some massive conspiracy, and Barry was letting it go. Barry and Mr. Alonzo were still debating just feet from Sam, but his ears weren’t processing the sound of their words. There was no reason for Barry to ignore the more important accusation there. Unless...

    “You son of a bitch.”

    Henrique and Barry both froze mid-sentence and turned towards Sam. Their widened eyes showed that each man thought Sam’s quiet accusation was referring to him. Sam’s sense of reason fled him, and he charged Barry. As his shoulder drove into the young assistant’s stomach and crashed them both through the door to his cabin, Sam thought he heard Mr. Alonzo let out an exclamation of shock. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was what Barry knew. His legs continued driving himself and Barry several feet from the door before finally slamming Barry down to the snow-covered ground. He dug his fingers into Barry’s wild blonde hair to hold him in place.

    “Son of a bitch!” Sam was much louder this time. “You knew the whole time!”

    “Sam! My head! Stop--”

    “Do you know? Tell me the truth!”

    Barry cried out in pain again. “I know! I know, okay! Let me go, and we can talk--”

    Sam’s rage deepened at Barry’s confession, and he moved his hands down to Barry’s face, grabbing at the skin around his eyes and nose and mouth. “You saved my life! You pulled me out of that lake! And for what? So you could lie to me some more? So you could keep me from them?” His fingernails dug into Barry’s skin.

    Sam felt Barry’s hand moving around down by both of their legs and realized the young man was going for one of his pokemon to help remove him from the situation. Sam let Barry grab onto one of his pokeballs just so he could swat it out of Barry’s hand and helplessly into the snow.

    “No!” Sam shouted. “This is about us, not them! You damn liar! You saved my life; for what? So I can go back to my brother and tell him I can’t help him? So I can tell him I let him down? So I can say those words and know he can’t even hear them? Is that why you saved me? You should have just let me die!”

    Sam was shocked by the words that came out of his mouth. He had been yelling on instinct and adrenaline, and that’s what spilled forth. He felt the tears on his cheeks and couldn’t even remember when he’d started crying. “You should have just let me die,” he repeated as the strength left his body and he rolled off of Barry. As he lay face-up in the cushiony snow, all he could think about was Tommy. Lifeless Tommy was stuck in his hospital bed with no one there to be with him, and Sam had been continents away, running around and trying to solve other peoples’ problems. And those other people had no intention of helping Sam; they were using him and feeding off of his need to help his brother. Leeches, that was all they were. He put his hands over his face to wipe away the tears.

    “Gentlemen! Mr. West! Mr. Stark! Are you both okay? This...this is not what I wanted. Do I need to call for help? Is anyone hurt?”

    “I think...I think I fractured my spleen. But I should be okay. I think. It hurts clear through to my soul, though. Ow.” Barry’s voice seemed to be coming from above Sam, and Sam figured that must have meant Barry had pulled himself up to his feet. So Barry must not have sustained any serious injury when Sam tackled him. A voice in his brain asked why he cared about that, and Sam had no answer for it. He opened his eyes and saw Barry standing over him, extending an open hand. “Come on, I’ll help you up.”

    No, Sam thought. He would not accept any more “help” from this kid. He reached up and slapped Barry’s hand away before regaining enough composure to put himself back upright.

    “Mr. Stark? Are you all right?”

    Sam ignored Mr. Alonzo; he had nothing to say to him at the moment. He instead walked a few feet away and plucked Barry’s pokeball out of the snow.

    “Thanks, I guess. Sam, we can talk about this.”

    Sam shoved the ball into Barry’s chest. “Let it out.”

    “What? Why?”

    “Let them all out.” Sam pulled his own Nest, Dusk, and Luxury balls from his pocket.

    “What is this?”

    Sam looked over to Mr. Alonzo and decided to answer his question this time. “This is my wanting to kick his teeth down his throat but knowing he’s not even a legal adult yet.” He squeezed Bree’s ball once with his right hand and did likewise to the balls of Vlam and Chispa in his left, bringing all three of them out into the snow. “Do it!” he shouted to Barry.

    “Man, Sam...I didn’t mean to trick you.”

    “Oh?” Sam laughed openly, “please, tell me how you tricked me by accident then, Barry.”

    Barry winced at those words and must have realized that was a stupid thing to say. He shook his head and raised his arms to release Monferno, Torterra, and Empleon. The new Empleon was an impressive sight to Sam. It was at least three feet taller than Prinplup had been, and the yellow crests that had previously wrapped back across its head now extended up in the air from its forehead, forming a vicious trident. Its once blue body was now black, and it seemed to shine when it shifted its weight under the sun as if it was covered in a light metal. As a Prinplup, this pokemon had been powerful enough to flip a cargo ship, and Sam knew he would not wise to underestimate it now.

    “Are you battling with Chispa?” Barry asked him as Sam studied Emploeon. “I thought you said you weren’t ever going to do that.”

    The words reignited the rage he’d felt moments ago. “You’re going to talk to me about honesty and integrity? You? Now?” While Chispa bounced contentedly in the snow, Vlam and Bree turned to Sam, perhaps upset at the fire in his voice. Bree hummed softly, but Sam ignored it. He could tell them what Barry had done later.

    “What’s the point of this, Sam? What we are even accomplishing here?”

    “You’ll see when I’m done.”

    “Yeah? Well, life is full of disappointments.”

    The words stuck in Sam’s ear and reminded him of something someone told him fairly recently. “Your professor once told me that life is full of changes in plans. Right before he sent me out to look for something that he knew wasn’t even there. Like an idiot! While my brother,” Sam’s fists balled as the full meaning of what Rowan told him washed over him, “is drooling on himself and dying! So you tell me...the fact that you won’t help me save him, is that a bigger disappointment or change of plan?”

    “Damn it, Sam.”

    Sam looked over his friends. Vlam and Bree had turned their attention back to Barry’s team; he saw Vlam’s muscles tensing under her fur and recognized the purpose with which Bree beat her wings. Chispa was burying her head in the snow and shaking it roughly to move the snow about, clearly unconcerned with the goings-on around her. “Bree, up in the air! Vlam, quick attack Monferno!”

    Vlam’s quick attack was usually just short of a blur to the eye, but for some reason--perhaps the thick snow up to her knees; perhaps concern for Sam’s attitude and temper--she was a beat slower than usual. As she came upon Monferno, this slowed reaction allowed the fire ape to catch her and flip into the snow with a judo throw. Vlam tried to get up, but Monferno was on quickly on top of her and holding her in place.

    “Empoleon, hit the Ninetales with a hydro pump!”

    “Bree, you have to come down and free Vlam! Use a psychic attack on Monerno!”

    Bree began zipping out of the sky to help her sister, but she was interrupted by a flurry of leaves slicing through the air in front of her. Torterra had summoned a razor leaf attack to cut off her progress, and while she was able to avoid contact by flying up and away from the blade-like leaves, she was incapable of getting to Vlam’s aid. It was apparent to Sam that while the fight was essentially three-against-two, he was in trouble. Just feet from where Vlam was pinned, a geyser of water erupted, spraying water, snow, and mud all around. Just as it had previously done on the ship with the seawater, Empoleon was manipulating water pressure around it, this time from underground run-off. It was an extremely powerful burst of water, but seemingly hard to control. Still, Sam knew it was unlikely that Empoleon would miss a second time. He needed to get Chispa involved somehow.

    “Chispa! Can you hit that Empoleon with a spark attack for me, girl?”

    The Shinx lifted her head out of a snow pile she had built and rubbed the excess flakes off of her nose with a paw. She yipped in apparent delight at Sam’s decision to use her and charged through the snow towards her target with her tail shooting off tiny bursts of electricity. As she closed in on Barry’s water-type, she flipped sideways and smacked her tail into Empoleon’s leg; it let out a noise that seemed more annoyed than pained. Chispa darted to the space between Emploeon and Vlam and spread its feet wide as it yelped repeatedly at the large penguin, warning it away from her friend. Even Empoleon seemed shocked by the heart of the young pokemon. In an instant, however, Chispa’s yelping ended, and she began looking around as if something were wrong. Something had gotten her attention, but Sam couldn’t figure out what it could have been.

    “Oh no, damn it. Monferno, save the Shinx, buddy!”

    Sam had no idea what Barry was talking about, but Monferno bounced off of Vlam and pushed Chispa from the spot she had claimed. As Chispa rolled in the snow, another hydro pump erupted from underneath Monferno, knocking him several yards into the air. He crashed back to the ground with a thud.

    “Monferno, sorry. Come on back.” Barry recalled the fire-type into his pokeball.

    What was that supposed to be, Sam thought. Was Sam supposed to be thankful now because Barry had saved Chispa? Was that supposed to somehow make up for the fact that he had doomed Tommy? Not even close. The mere thought of it incensed Sam; did that kid really think that Sam would call the battle off if he saved Sam’s friend?

    Chispa struggled to her feet--seemingly more confused than actually hurt--and Sam withdrew her as Barry had done to Monferno. The battle was even again at two each, and it just made sense; Chispa was clearly out of her weight class, anyway. Sam saw Bree still dodging razor leaves in the air and decided to go on the offensive.

    “Bree, use your stun spores on Torterra!”

    “Sam, are we really keeping this up? You beat one of mine already. Let’s just call it.”

    Sam felt a twitching in the back of his neck. Was beating one of Barry’s friends in battle going to bring Tommy back? Of course not. “Ignore him and do it, Bree!”

    In the air, Bree backflipped away from another flurry of leaves and began vibrating her wings at high speed. A fine layer of scales broke free from her wings as she did so and floated to the ground beneath her.

    “Torterra, disrupt that spore with more razor leaves!” Barry ordered, sounding clearly frustrated. On command, Torterra unleashed another attack of precision leaves from the tree sprouting on its back right into the heart of the stun spore; the leaves knocked the shedded scales helplessly into the breeze. Fortunately, Torterra taking its eyes off of Bree was exactly what Sam had wanted all along.

    “It lost you, Bree! Bug buzz!”

    Bree, who used the momentary distraction of the stun spore to sneak in close to Torterra, zipped frantically around the large tortoise’s head. While flying in a crazed pattern, she shrieked a high-frequency pitch. Something about the sound did seem to be causing Torterra great agony; it lowered its head and tried in vain to cover its ears with its massive, yet unwieldy, legs. Frustrated and in agony from its failure to protect itself from the Butterfree’s assault, it let out a pitiful roar. Bree seemed to have the situation well in-hand until a fast-moving dart of water crashed into her wings, sending her crashing to the ground.

    Sam glanced over; he had been so engaged in Bree and Torterra that he had temporarily forgotten Vlam and Empoleon. “Vlam!" he called out to his brother's closest friend, “tackle Empoleon!"

    “Aqua jet!"

    Vlam charged, but she was caught by a similar dart of water from Empoleon's beak and easily tossed back to the ground. Sam bit his lower lip and cursed; he knew Vlam was in trouble due to Empoleon's being water-based. Bree would have to help out against it. “Bree..."

    Sam began issuing a command, but when he turned to see Bree, he saw that Torterra was pinning it to the ground with its powerful front leg. The same legs that had been so useless at blocking out Bree’s bug buzz were much more potent when it came to holding the significantly smaller butterfly pokemon in place.

    Barry was saying something--probably offering Sam a chance to surrender or calm down--but Sam was already analyzing the situation and had his voice shut out almost entirely. With both Empoleon's pure power and type advantage over Vlam and Torterra's positioning over Bree, both battles seemed all-but over. Sam knew that there was always an opening if he just looked hard enough; Vlam and Bree were too good to be completely overpowered. What would he have done during his days in the WPL? What would Tommy do in this situation?

    Two aspects of the situation jumped out to him so abruptly, he wanted to smack his head for not seeing them before. Torterra had Bree grounded and pinned, but in doing so, its head was perilously close to Bree's. And while Empoleon may have been water-based, but its body had that metallic shimmer to it now; it had evolved into a steel coating. In most situations, that would be beneficial and protective, but against Vlam, it was a huge chink in the literal armor.

    “Bree, supersonic!”

    Sam’s friend let out another strange shriek, this one even higher in pitch than the buzz attack had been. Torterra stumbled back from the noise and started shaking its head. With its third step backwards, it fell over onto its knees; Bree’s supersonic cry had been so loud at their closed-distance that it probably did some kind of inner-ear damage to the Torterra. It clearly could not regain its bearings as Bree lifted itself back off the ground.

    “Empoleon, aqua jet the Butterfree again!”

    Sam waited until Empoleon turned all the way around and positioned its weight to launch the water dart. He had it where Vlam wanted it.

    “Vlam, fire blast!”

    Vlam’s tilted her head back, then stretched it forward in a shot. An orb of fire flared from her mouth, gaining size and power as it combusted with the oxygen in the air. Despite the fireball’s intensity, it was possible that Empoleon would have been able to neutralize it with a water attack, but now that it was turned away from Vlam, it would have no chance to get the leverage it needed to launch an attack powerful enough to do so. The fire attack collided with Empoleon’s side, and the water bird squawked in pain. The flames were heating up its metal exterior, no doubt causing great agony. Barry recognized this immediately and summoned it back into its pokeball.

    All that was left was the debilitated Torterra, and Sam felt a part of himself ache at the pain he just caused the Empoleon; it wasn’t these pokemons’ fault for what Barry had done, so it was not fair to take the rage Sam felt inside himself out on them. He held out an open hand, palm down, and waved twice in the air. Recognizing their symbol, Bree positioned herself over the grass-based turtle and let off another dusting of scales from its wings. The scales covered Torterra’s body and head, and within seconds, it was asleep from Bree’s sleep powder.

    “All right, did you get that out of your system then?” Barry asked, withdrawing Torterra from the snow.

    Sam, moving quickly towards Barry, had no intention of dignifying that question with answer. All he knew was that with every word Barry had said, the inside of his head felt hotter and hotter. He knocked the pokeballs out of Barry’s hands and picked them up from the snow while his former partner issued a cry in protest.

    “How does it feel to have something you love taken from you?”

    “You’re just--”

    “Yeah. I am.” Sam pressed his chest against Barry‘s and glared into his eyes.

    Barry was as unblinking as he was. “Sam, I know you’re pissed at me, but you gotta just talk this out with me. You’re really on the wrong side of this one.”

    “Gentlemen, are you both done? I truly didn’t mean for anything like this to happen.”

    Until Mr. Alonzo’s voice cut into Sam’s ears, Sam had completely forgotten he was even there. He had tunnel-visioned in on Barry and the deception of which he’d been a victim, and the rest of the world had vanished. Mr. Alonzo saw the whole thing; anybody else in eyeshot of the cabin did, too. Sam noticed a handful of skiers paused on the slope and looking down on the scene, and he gave Barry one more look of disgust before pocketing the taken pokeballs. “I’m done. I’m done. I’m....I guess I’m sorry about the door. I hope that it’s nothing too bad for you.”

    Mr. Alonzo looked back to the cabin’s busted door. “I am sure I can cover that. But what happens now?”

    Sam looked from Mr. Alonzo to Barry and then back to Mr. Alonzo. “Do you really think you can use the legends to help people?”

    “Man, Sam, don’t...”

    “I do, Mr. Stark. You heard what I said, and I meant that. There are pokemon in the world that can fix so much of what’s wrong with the human condition.”

    Sam saw Barry shaking his head but no longer refuting anything Henrique Alonzo was saying. When Barry realized that Sam’s eyes were on him, he looked down at the snow. He never stopped shaking his head. Sam didn’t personally care about the “human condition”, as Mr. Alonzo called it. But Tommy? He cared very much for Tommy, and if this man from Hoenn could help him bring Tommy back, that was all that mattered.

    “Get him home,” Sam said, pointing to Barry. “He lives in Twinleaf Town. Just see that he gets home from here.”

    Mr. Alonzo looked over at Barry and scrunched his lips. “I suppose I can do that, yes.” Barry was still shaking his head, but he did not look up. “What are you going to do now?”

    Sam sighed. “I’m not sure yet. But I know that for as mad as I am at him, Barry’s just a kid...just an assistant. So there’s somebody else who owes me some real answers before I make my next move.”


    Brothers' Bond: The story how far one man will go--and what he'll do--to save the most important person in his life.

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  2. #17
    Poet Laureate AiedailEclipsed's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    No grammar errors (or such) that stood out to me. This chapter was good. As for the content... I can't help but not empathize with Sam at all. I mean, I can empathize with his motivations, of course; however, did he really, truly, honestly expect them to just go along with his plan to utilize legendary Pokemon's power to help his brother? I mean, does he not realize the door that opens? Everybody and their mother would come out of the woodworks wanting their cancer cured or what-have-you. So yeah. Great chapter and I look forward to the next installment!
    Currently looking for help with a web project. If interested in more details, please feel free to PM me!

    "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it."
    -- Narrator, Pokemon: Jirachi Wish Maker
    "You can't change the world without getting your hands dirty."
    -- Lelouch Lamperouge, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
    "Do I have a stamp on my forehead that says, 'The National Spokesperson for the Plight of Black People'? How the hell should I know the black perspective on The Color Purple? That's it, if I don't change classes, I'm gonna hurt this fool. Teachers treat me like I'm some kind of Rosetta stone for African-Americans. What? Black people learn how to read, and we all miraculously come to the same conclusion?"
    -- Victoria, Freedom Writers
    "N's heart is pure and innocent. But there is nothing more beautiful and terrifying than innocence."
    -- Concordia, Pokémon Black/White 2

  3. #18
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    Chapter 11: 5 Years Ago

    “Hey! Buddy! Are you supposed to be in charge of this craphole? I was at the Rooftop Cafe, and the vending machine ate my money. You owe me a drink.”

    Tommy must have recognized his brother’s voice, because all he did was shrug and continue counting inventory of weight belts. “Good to know the new Rip-off Idiots feature is working then.” Tommy put his scanning gun down on the counter and finally turned to face Sam. The brothers embraced, with Tommy slapping Sam hard on the back as usual, before he continued, “Don’t you have Advanced Theories of Pokemon Psychology tonight? What are you doing here?”

    “Coach T. said he spoke with Professor Nelson about my being excused from class so I can train for my qualifying match tomorrow.”

    Tommy nodded. “Well, coming to my work and pestering me is pretty strenuous training. I’m certain you have this one all wrapped up.”

    “Man can not survive on pokemon training alone.”

    “That’s cute. Did you learn that in class?”

    “Probably. Let’s go with ‘yes’. Anyway, I was thirsty so I came out here; the machine upstairs really did eat my money.”

    “We really did install a feature to rip-off idiots.” Tommy moved back behind his counter on the fourth floor of the Goldenrod Department Store and began rooting around for something. Tommy had been department manager of that floor--hardware and sporting goods--for a few months now and was expecting a promotion any day now based on the glowing quarterly report he’d just had from his supervisor. Sam knew Tommy secretly wanted to be put in charge of the sixth and seventh floors--pokemon goods, food, and supplies--even if he wouldn’t come right out and say it. Sam had been considering calling Tommy’s boss one of these days and reminding her of all the overtime and hard work Tommy had been putting in, but he also didn’t want to embarrass his sibling or speak out of turn. As Sam mulled over the possibility of calling her some more, Tommy emerged from behind his counter with a bottle of iced tea.

    “Isn’t that yours? That’s the kind we have at home that you pack for lunch.”

    “You know me. If I don’t work through lunch, it’ll be a miracle. Better you have it than I waste it. What with all the vigorous standing around you’re doing in preparation for tomorrow, I’m sure you are working up quite the thirst.”

    Sam bobbed his head slowly, eyes down. “Yeah yeah. I’ll be working on it when I get home. I think some of my teammates are coming over to work on our training in a group.”

    Tommy’s face shined with mock amusement. “Oh, really? I love when you give me no notice whatsoever that I’ll be cooking for a dozen people.”

    “Ha! I told them to eat before they come. See? I was thinking of you.”

    “First time for everything. Hey, can you have Alison save me a seat tomorrow at the stadium? I’ll probably be running late. Opening shift. So you’re on your own for pre-match breakfast.”

    Sam flinched. He felt bad that he hadn’t told his brother yet, but due to Tommy’s heavy schedule at the department store and Sam’s own classload and involvement in the NCPA, it had just never come up until this point. “Oh. Yeah. We broke up. I’m not...we’re not seeing each other anymore.”

    “Wow, you’d been together since last semester.”

    “Yeah, it just kind of--”

    “That’s a long time for her to have just seen you naked for the first time.”

    Sam sputtered a few sounds, but nothing of consequence. Tommy was laughing so hard his eyes were wet. “I hate you,” Sam finally said.

    “I know. And I probably deserve it.” Tommy was still laughing. “So what happened?” Sam shrugged in response, causing Tommy to tilt his head. “Really, a shrug? Did you just turn fourteen again? Use your words.”

    “She thought it’d be easier to date someone who lived on campus.”

    Tommy clapped his hands together and then pointed at Sam. “Didn’t I tell you to live on campus this year? Why doesn’t anyone listen to me? I am full of unused wisdom.”

    “It’s no big deal.”

    “It is a big deal. It’s a big deal. You don’t break up with someone you dated for months and have it not be a big deal. I vaguely remember having relationships. It’s a big deal.”

    Sam was beginning to regret coming to the store after all; Tommy was making him feel worse. It had only been a week since he and Alison had broken up. Tommy was right, even if Sam was trying to downplay it. They’d been together for half of a year, and just like that, she dropped him over what Sam thought was a pretty stupid reason. Tommy may have seen that etched in his brother’s face because he suddenly shifted gears. “How many people are coming over tonight?”

    Sam did the counting in his head and came up with the answer. “Maybe eight?”

    “Are you going to clean up after yourselves?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Yeah, but really?”

    “Really!” Sam shot back. ”We‘ll take care of it.”

    “Thank god, because college-aged boys left to their own devices...I shudder to think of it,” Tommy said with a smile.

    An elbow in his side knocked Sam from his memory. As he glanced around the bus, he was unsure whether he had been sleeping or merely thinking about that day. Most likely, he imagined, he was somewhere between the conscious world and the land of his dreams. Regardless, he hadn’t thought about Alison in quite some time.

    The man next to Sam on the Arcanine Line bus across Sinnoh removed his elbow from Sam’s diaphragm, rolled back over to the opposite side of the seat, and continued his sleep. Sam looked out of the window and saw the beach of Sandgem Town in the distance; he’d finally made it. It had taken two days worth of bus rides, transfers, and waiting around in bus stations--the Oreburgh City stop was not in the most pleasant area of town, and Sam would be happy never to have to spend five hours waiting there again with rough-looking men trying to get him to wager on a card game in the corner of the building--but he’d be at Rowan’s lab in virtually no time at all. He made a mental note to never ride a bus again in his life if he could help it. Bus stations that seemed to be one sideways glance away from erupting in gang violence, cramped seats on the busses themselves that got you either elbowed by a sleeping neighbor or pestered about the health benefits of eating whole garlic by a chatty one, and air conditioning and heating that were spotty at best did not combine for convenient travel. Sam figured next time he’d just hitchhike. It couldn’t possibly be any worse.

    Whether the memory of Tommy had been a dream or just a recollection, his mind drifted back to the day that followed. Sam remembered that he’d lost his match that day, but what he most recalled was that Tommy did end up getting a seat next to Alison Parker. Apparently they chatted about her breakup with Sam and what Tommy would have to do to get her to take him back. When Sam finished his match and left the Whitney Williams Stadium to find his brother, he saw him standing with her, and the two of them were laughing at some joke he had told. Sam was a little befuddled at it all since Alison had been avoiding him since they broke up, but after whatever Tommy and she had spoken about, she kissed Sam on the cheek and assured him that they’d still be friends and that she’d still help him with Johto Agricultural History class (Sam had been having trouble staying awake, much less excelling, in that one). With that, she grabbed the university shuttle back to her dorms and stopped avoiding Sam when he saw her on campus.

    Sam jerked his head upward in attempt to make sure he did not doze off; missing his stop and spending a minute longer than he had to on this bus was the worst torture of which he could dream. He imagined a man being released from a prisoner of war camp and told he could be free if he took a bus back to his home and family across the country; the man would undoubtedly turn around and beg to be allowed back inside the camp.

    The electric sign at the front of the bus flashed “Seventh Avenue”, and Sam got to his feet and prepared to get off the bus. His feet kissed the concrete of the sidewalk, the bus behind him pulled away, and his stomach fluttered about in his chest. Two days since the incident in Snowpoint, and he still had no idea how he would react to Professor Rowan once they were face-to-face. Flipping out on Barry in the heat of the moment was one thing--and Sam was already regretting his behavior there--but confronting the professor was another entirely. Rowan knew Sam and Tommy personally, yet he deceived Sam regardless. Still, Sam knew there was a world of difference between attacking a fit young man in the heat of the moment versus doing so to an older scholar after having time to digest his rage. He walked absent-mindedly down the street, having not even decided how he would respond to the answering of Rowan’s office door when he found himself outside it. Sam shook his head and knocked.

    Rowan answered, his fingers fumbling to open the wrapper of a piece of hard candy as he saw Sam at his doorstep. “Sam Stark! How are you, son? How may I assist you?”

    Sam’s mouth curled, but he still didn’t have any idea what to say. His brain finally relented that at least he should step inside before saying anything. “Mind if I come in, professor?”

    Rowan motioned for Sam to enter as he popped the candy into his mouth. Sam walked past him into the lobby with the plant. Rowan offered a piece of the candy to Sam, but he declined. “Is Barry with you? Will he be joining us?” Sam noticed Rowan was holding the door open and glancing outside for his assistant.

    “Tell me about the Church of Cyrus.”

    Rowan’s head stopped craning to look outside, and he slowly shut his office’s front door. “I expect Barry will not be coming after all,” he said.

    “Not quite.”

    Rowan rolled his eyes slowly. “Sam, Sam. What you must think of me...”

    Sam lifted his hands. “Stop. Don’t want your pity party. Want to know why you lied to me.”

    Rowan appeared ready to scold Sam, but his face dropped and his shoulders heaved. Sam couldn’t tell if it was guilt or not, but the professor seemed to forego whatever was coming and instead began the story of the Church of Cyrus.

    “It was almost a decade ago, Sam, that a man named Cyrus first appeared. It was absolutely nothing at first; he was just some street looney who wandered from town to town with signs about it being the end times. He would stand on street corners and talk to passers-by about the coming end of the world. It got the point where he was just kind of...a thing. News stations would humorously cover where the crazy guy with the sandwich board was today. ‘He’s outside the Hearthome Contest Hall, he’s at the Floaroma Gardens, he’s in Pastoria’s Great Marsh Park’, that kind of thing. He was more of Sinnoh’s adorable mascot than anything else.

    “Then people started listening to him. He’d be in one city, and he’d have followers set up in other locations to help spread his word. His signs became pamphlets which later became small books. People weren’t just listening to him and helping him spread his word; some started donating him money. Even then, it was just a joke. ‘The Church of Cyrus’. All these people who started following around the loudmouth.”

    Rowan tugged on the end of his tie. “Like a lot of people, it was around then that I actually started listening to what Cyrus was saying. It wasn’t some doomsaying prophecy of the world’s end; he was calling for a bringing about of the end! His belief was that there was too much hatred in the world. Our entire human race had succumbed to racism and greed and pride. We as a people, according to him, could never reach our full potential, and those ‘in charge’ (whatever that was supposed to mean) were promoting disdain between the hemispheres so that they could keep all the money and power to themselves. His message was actually that the system was so corrupted from the top down, that the only solution was to literally bring about the end of the world and let our species start over. A World Without Corrupt Emotion. That was what his first book was called. It’ actually what he wanted.”

    Rowan stopped for a moment as if to grant Sam a chance to ask any questions. Sam had none; the story was mildly interesting at best, but all he wanted was for Rowan to get the part where using the legends to cure his brother’s sickness was unacceptable.

    “Yes, so. Cyrus’ plan was to use two of the historical legendary pokemon, Dialga and Palkia, to destroy the world and recreate it in his own image. Now, on this I am telling you the truth: no one has ever seen these two. I honestly have no idea if they exist or not. But Cyrus claimed they spoke to him, that they somehow whispered to him. That should tell you the caliber of man we were dealing with; he was hearing voices and attributing them to mythological pokemon. He claimed that with the power of the guardians of the lakes, he would be able to summon Dialga and Palkia. It was at this point that the Prime Minister contacted me and told me that my Department and I were charged with stopping Cyrus. So I called upon some of the most talented trainers I knew. Two of them were Barry’s parents.

    “Unfortunately,” Rowan rubbed his nose at the word, “I underestimated just how fervent Cyrus’ supporters were. There was a riot when news broke that the government had declared him a threat to national security, and... well, Barry’s parents did not make it back with us. We were able to apprehend Cyrus; he’s been remanded to the care of a psychiatric institution in Veilstone. Barry, meanwhile, I took him in with the assistance of a friend in Twinleaf. I thought I’d never have to use someone close to me in these matters before, but when Barry saw those men at Verity, I think some part of him wanted to live up to his parents’ legacy.”

    Sam crossed his arms. “And you couldn’t have told me all of this when I first came to you?”

    “With the look in your eyes and your determination? Would you have believed me? Would you have cared what I said?”

    “No.” Sam’s statement was unabashedly plain.

    “That’s why. So I figured it was safer to have you go look for yourself and figure that the legends didn’t even exist anymore.”

    Sam tightened his jaw so hard, he felt a sharp pain shoot through his molars from being ground together. “So I came to you for help, and you led me around like a dog on a leash because you think I’m no different than a psychopath who,” Sam laughed at his final words--they were just too ridiculous, “wanted to destroy the world?”

    “Sam--”

    “Oh, until Barry and I saw something strange, and then I was more than good enough to get sent out to do your dirty work.”

    “Sam, listen--”

    “So you sent me and Barry out to die just like you did his parents. I was good enough--”

    Rowan’s fist slammed down hard on his desk, knocking down pictures that had been sitting there of Rowan with various children, shaking hands with colleagues, and with his arm around a woman. “Mr. Stark! Whatever you may think of me, you will not speak to me that way in my office. I will not stand for it.”

    “Righteous indignation doesn’t fit you very well, professor. Not right now.”

    Rowan did not back down; he simply glared into Sam’s eyes. “I would never knowingly put Barry at risk. Never.”

    “Just my brother, right?”

    Rowan sighed. “And what happens with the guardians after you bring him back?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Just what I said. Say you found them and brought them back to Johto. And say they could even cure your brother. Then what?”

    Sam paused; he had not considered this before. He rubbed his hands together as he thought about what he would do then; he had not realized how sweaty his palms had gotten since his arrival at Rowan’s office. He meant what he told Rowan earlier when they met the first time; he had no interest in the legends. He didn’t want them for himself. “I would let them go. Either let them leave them as they want or bring them back here so they’d be home.”

    “Do you honestly think it would work like that?”

    Sam narrowed his eyes. What was the professor getting at?

    “Once you’ve brought them into society and gave the world irrefutable, visual proof that they exist, do you think they could ever just go on with their lives? Everyone would want them. Crazies like Cyrus would be just the start. Every ambitious trainer in the world would be after them. Even well-meaning folks like yourself. All of you, trifling with forces mankind was never meant to control, for your own personal gain. The legends are able to keep the forces of nature in balance because they are free to do so. Without that peace, who knows what would come of things?”

    “But my brother’d be--”

    Rowan slammed his hand down again. “There is more to life than your brother, Mr. Stark!”

    Sam pursed his lips and gritted his teeth again. This conversation was clearly going nowhere, and Sam knew at that moment what he had to do next anyway. “Not to me, there isn’t”. Before Rowan could issue another word of protest, Sam walked out the front door.

    He had gotten several yards away from Rowan’s laboratory before he felt secure that the professor was not going to follow him and try to continue their discussion. Most likely, he was as exhausted from it as Sam was. Sam couldn’t help but wonder why Barry and Rowan couldn’t see how much Sam needed this. Why were they being so selfish and uncaring? There was a life at stake, and it was apparent that they would do anything in their power not to help save it. If that was the case, Sam would simply get in touch with those he knew would be on his side. As soon as he found a place to stop, he’d make a call to the Phoenix Shipping Corporation. Mr. Alonzo would have to take his call since Sam suddenly knew where to start looking for the guardians.


    Brothers' Bond: The story how far one man will go--and what he'll do--to save the most important person in his life.

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  4. #19

    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    sorry for the late response BAMF but I'm still reading this

    I like your depiction of Rowan, it fits the games IMO. He's a hardass but for a good reason you know? Serious dude, serious job

    interesting backstory you've made with Cyrus/Team Galactic, and I'm really wondering how far Sam will go, but idk how far he'll get with a ninetales and butterfree in Sinnoh

  5. #20
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    Chapter 12

    Sam rubbed the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb. Apparently, it was nearly impossible to call the offices of a worldwide corporation and just speak directly to the President. Receptionists were hesitant to put a call through to his phone, if they even had that ability at all. It was fast becoming Sam’s experience that they would be more than happy to transfer him. First there was another, equally-unhelpful, receptionist, then the disinterested floor manager, and then, most recently, some idiot in an office with a nonsense job title.

    “This is Alberto Rivera, Secretary of Domestic Relations and Image. How can I help you this afternoon, sir?”

    Sam sighed audibly. “Mr. Alonzo. I want to speak to Henrique Alonzo.”

    “I’m sure I can help you out, sir. Why don’t you go ahead and tell me who you are and what your concerns are with the Phoenix Shipping Corporation today?”

    I think I know where the guardians of the Sinnoh lakes are, and I was hoping Mr. Alonzo and I could go check it out so that we can save my sick brother and possibly countless other individuals all across the world, Sam thought but did not say. Instead, he suppressed a grumble in his throat. “Look, I don’t even know what 'domestic relations and image’ is. My name is Sam Stark. If you just get a hold of his cell phone and let him know I need to speak to him, that will--”

    “I’m sure Mr. Alonzo would be pleased to speak to you, sir, but he is regrettably unavailable. In the meantime, I really think I can help you out. Why don’t you go ahead and tell me what your concerns are. Did we lose a package of yours?”

    Sam smacked the receiver end of his cell phone off his forehead three times before closing his eyes and reminding himself to try to remain calm. “No, you did not lose a package,” Sam spoke very slowly, picturing Mr. Rivera as a small child who couldn’t grasp large, intricate ideas. “Mr. Alonzo knows me. We are acquaintances. He is probably even expecting my call.”

    “I’m sure he is,” Alberto Rivera replied. Sam could somehow hear the Secretary of Domestic Relations and Image rolling his eyes. “But, as I said, I can not contact him at the moment. If you feel I can not accommodate your needs in a satisfactory manner, I’ll tell you what I can do...”

    “NO!--”

    “...I will just transfer...”

    “DON’T YOU--”

    “...you down the hall to...”

    “I don’t want to be transferred again!”

    “...the head of our Communications department...”

    Sam let out a very primal yell as he pressed the End Call button on his phone as vengefully as he could. He rued modern technology for taking away the old-fashioned ability to slam a handset down into its cradle.

    Having wasted almost half an hour on the phone call to nowhere, Sam pondered his next move. His rental car was probably still parked at the ferry station across the strait from Canalave, but Sam could barely stand the idea of retrieving it. Rowan had gotten the car for him, and that last thing Sam wanted now was to depend on anything having to do with that man. It had been a few days since Snowpoint by this time, and Sam had no idea if Henrique was still there. Still, it was the only lead he had left. Sam turned his phone back on and searched for the number for Snowpoint Resort. He pressed the number when it showed on his phone’s screen.

    “Is Henrique Alonzo still available?” Sam asked the lady who answered his call. She placed Sam on hold; with any luck, Mr. Alonzo was still there. If not, Sam’s next best idea was camp out in the middle of the Phoenix Corporation office floor in Canalave until someone put him in touch with their president.

    “This is Mr. Alonzo,” the voice on the other end responded. Sam recognized it and was immediately both relieved and frustrated. He was relieved, of course, that he had gotten through; he was frustrated that he wasted so much time trying to navigate the maze of Mr. Alonzo’s employees before calling the resort.

    “Mr. Alonzo, thank goodness you are still at the resort. This is Sam, Sam Stark.”

    “Yes, Mr. Stark. Good to hear from you. And, yes, I am afraid the resort has asked me to stay until after my suite’s front door has been repaired. To make sure my security deposit covers the damages.”

    Sam swallowed and decided it best to steer the conversation away from that topic. No good could come of acknowledging that. “Yeah, hm. I was wondering if you would be able to meet me at the World Pokemon League stadium in Canalave City. There’s a match there this weekend.”

    There was a pause on the other end of the line, then finally, “I am certain I could, yes. But why would you want to meet with me there? Or even at all?”

    “I have information you might want. I think I know where the legends could be.”

    ---

    Three days later, Sam found himself getting more invested in a WPL match than he had been in over a year. On the field, a young man named Alabaster was readying his Kadabra for battle against a World Pokemon League veteran named Cornelius and his Rhydon. Both men were down to their last friend, and the battle had already been raging for over thirty minutes. Sam figured that Alabaster’s Kadabra’s psychic abilities would enable to stay out of range of the upright rhinoceros’ brutal attacks, but he also knew Rhydon probably only needed to get lucky once for the match to be over.

    Sam had long forgotten how much he enjoyed the WPL--both watching it and participating in it. Over the course of the last year, his entire life had been dedicated to caring for Tommy and finding a doctor who could offer a more promising prognosis. Sam must have forfeited dozens of matches in that time, and he certainly did not have it in him to sit down and watch a battle and let it remind him of what he was missing. This day was different, though; Sam was as close to the end of this tunnel as he had been since he began his undertaking. Nothing was set in stone, no, but he finally had a solid lead. He knew that he had been hopeful before, but that was when he was being deceived by others. This time, he had started figuring things out on his own. He just needed resources and manpower.

    That was where Henrique Alonzo came in. If anyone had not only the resources that Sam required but also the drive to help Sam achieve his goal, it was the president of the Phoenix Corporation. Sam had been feeling so giddy over the possibility that he even agreed to buy Mr. Alonzo a ticket to the matches and leave it at will-call so they would have seats together. The match between Alabaster and Cornelius was the first of the afternoon, so there was still plenty of time for Mr. Alonzo to show up. Confident in this, Sam allowed himself to keep enjoying the match.

    On the field, the orange-and-brown humanoid Kadabra twirled its spoon around in his clawed hand. It had thus far seemed content to hang back and force the gray, rock-skinned Rhydon to initiate combat. Cornelius seemed too clever for this tactic, though, and had Rhydon steadily waiting rather than attacking half-cocked. Despite the excitement of the opening minutes of the match, the crowd was growing restless at the timidity both pokemon were displaying. Sam knew firsthand that a vocal and unhappy crowd could really affect an inexperienced trainer’s concentration and ability to stay on-point. He focused his attention on Alabaster to check him for any signs of wilting under the pressure of the audience, and, sure enough, the younger trainer was wrinkling his nose and sweating hard. He was, perhaps, getting as annoyed at the crowd as they were at him. Conversely, Cornelius’ face betrayed no signs of frustration as he kept his eyes focused on the Kadabra’s movements. Sam heard Alabaster call out to Kadabra to try a psybeam attack, and Cornelius yelled back for Rhydon to dig a hole underneath its own feet. Kadabra closed its eyes in concentration and thrust out its palms while Rhydon smashed its thick fist into the ground beneath it. The battlefield beneath Rhydon erupted in a cloud of debris, dust, and rubble as the audience, Alabaster, and Kadabra all lost sight of it. As the dust faded, there was a large hole in the ground where the rhinoceros had previously been standing, and Rhydon was nowhere to be seen.

    “Oh man. Sucker,” Sam chuckled aloud.

    “Do you suppose so?”

    Sam glanced to the voice from over his right shoulder and saw Henrique standing there. Figuring it would be the proper thing to do, Sam stood and shook the man’s hand. It couldn‘t hurt to butter him up a bit.

    “Good to see you got the ticket I left you.”

    “Yes, this is interesting. I haven’t sat in the crowd in ages. I usually get box seats when I come to these.”

    “Oh,” Sam said while nodding. He felt an odd mixture of embarrassment and anger that someone would so flippantly imply the seats were not up to his usual standards, but Sam decided to swallow those feelings. He motioned back to the arena. “Do you not suppose the Kadabra just fell into the Rhydon’s trap?”

    “I think that trying to hide from a psychic is a foolish idea.”

    Sam couldn’t help but agree that it made sense, but it also came down to just how effective the psychic was. From the battlefield, Sam heard Alabaster call out for a telekinesis attack from Kadabra. The ground rumbled for several seconds before the hidden Rhydon was pulled up just feet away from Kadabra. As Rhydon emerged from the ground and was lifted into the air, it seemed to struggle against an unseen force moving it against its will. Rhydon hovered above the broken ground for a moment and then was slammed chest first into the battlefield by the invisible power. The battle was far from over, but both Sam and Cornelius had learned not to underestimate the fresh-faced trainer and his Kadabra.

    “As much as I enjoy a good pokemon league match, I do believe you called me here with,” Mr. Alonzo smacked his lips, “somewhat more pressing matters.”

    “Yeah, and I figured we should meet in public this time.”

    “Fewer doors for you to destroy?”

    “I’m sure I could find some if that would make you feel better.” Sam would let Mr. Alonzo think the meeting was public for whatever reason he wanted; Sam knew it was because he was not yet sure if he could trust Henrique.

    “I think we will have to pass on that. To the point, I am curious how you suddenly have information on where...,” Henrique looked around at the crowd. As engrossed in the match as they were, he seemed to want to ensure no one around understood the subject at hand, “...where they could be.”

    “Simple deduction, really,” Sam answered as the crowd let out a unanimous gasp around them. Rhydon had just barely missed Kadabra with a horn attack. “Rowan is incredibly forceful about protecting them, especially since the whole Cyrus thing. So he took them and hid them away, right?”

    “I already know this, Mr. Stark.”

    “But follow along here. The trio themselves... they don’t really know any better. They are just pokemon, after all. Their base instinct is always going to be to return to the lakes. That’s their homes; it’s all they know. But, as you’ve already found out, they aren’t there.”

    “So the professor put them elsewhere; I already know this.”

    “But why haven’t they returned, is what I’m saying. It’s because he had to leave them with someone. Someone who would guard them and convince them to stay. And for him to do that...”

    “It would have to be someone the professor trusts. Someone close to him.”

    Sam snapped his fingers. “That’s right. It dawned on me when I was at his office and saw his desk. There were pictures of him with his nieces and nephews and with some friends and possibly with a...,” Sam stopped as he thought about the next word. Girlfriend? Sounds immature for a man of Rowan’s stature. Lover? Sam shuddered at that thought. Finally, he came up with an alternative. “A paramour.”

    A roar erupted from the crowd, and Sam looked down at the battle to see Rhydon had finally connected with some attack; Kadabra was down on all fours and wincing in obvious agony.

    Mr. Alonzo was apparently oblivious to this excitement. “How is this helpful? We don’t know where these people are.”

    “The family shouldn’t be that hard to find. Professor Rowan is a public figure, so someone’s got to know where his sisters live. His friends, well okay; that will be a bit harder, but still workable. The ladyfriend of his, though, she’s got to live at a higher elevation. There was fog in the background of the picture, and I think I saw a pretty obvious mountainside view.”

    “Celestic Town,” Mr. Alonzo mused.

    Sam shrugged his shoulders. “If you say so. I haven’t studied the whole region.”

    “So why are you telling me this? You certainly have not seemed like my biggest fan up until now. Now that you know what I stand for, do you see I have everyone’s best interests at heart?”

    “Your ‘best interests’ can go blow,” Sam stated, shaking his head. “I came to you because you have the resources and the desire to help me meet the trio. We get their help, first thing is first, and that’s that I help my brother.” Sam was not sure Mr. Alonzo even knew anything about Tommy other than from the fit Sam had on Barry back in Snowpoint. “After that, I don’t care if you bring them back home or making everyone happy all the time or dress them up in doll clothes. Doesn’t matter to me.”

    Sam stared expectantly at Mr. Alonzo who seemed in no hurry to respond. Sam, feeling particularly proud of the posturing he had just done, turned his attention back to the field. Rhydon was shaking its head in either frustration or agony; the Kadabra was recovered and back on its feet several yards away. Sam assumed a full-on psychic attack was being executed from across the distance and wished Bree had the mental prowess to be able to unleash her psychic attack from so far away. Cornelius yelled out for Rhydon to attempt an earthquake attack, and the large, grey pokemon responded by jumping as far off the ground as it could and slamming both of its feet into the battlefield. The resulting shockwaves knocked Alabaster’s Kadabra from its feet. Sam thought that perhaps distance was overrated after all.

    “So what do you think we should do from here?”

    “Well, if you think the one place was Celestic Town, let’s start there. Set me up with one of your little excavation crews. We’ll get a sense of whether they’re there or not--hopefully with 100% less blowing-crap-up than your men have enjoyed in the past--and get in touch with you on how to proceed if they are. If they aren’t, we’ll move on to the next place he might have stashed them. While we’re searching, you can use your contacts to figure out where that next place might be.”

    Mr. Alonzo nodded. He seemed as if he were about to reply when the crowd burst out in cheers. After a hard-fought battle, Kadabra was declared by the judges to be unable to continue battling. Cornelius won the battle. Mr. Alonzo smiled at the result and turned to Sam. “A good lesson, I think. No matter how young, enthusiastic, and driven a competitor is, he’ll always lose out when he challenges someone older with more experience.”

    Sam wrinkled his nose and said nothing.

    “Come to my building tomorrow, Mr. Stark. We’ll set you up with a team and get you on your way to Celestic.” Mr. Alonzo bowed pulled himself out of the seat and bowed his head. “Have a good evening until then.”


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  6. #21
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    Of course it had to be Sideburns.

    His name was apparently, as it turned out, not actually “Sideburns”; it was Carlos. And he had been sitting next to Sam for several hours as they navigated the mountainous route 210. The route was unpleasant enough by itself--much of the road crawled around the exterior of Mount Coronet and was protected with guardrails that looked as though they would surrender to the force of a speeding bicycle--but the fog was an absolute nightmare. What fog he had noticed in the background of the picture on Rowan’s desk was merely the malnourished little sister of this mist on the mountainside. This haze around the road up the mountain was very proactive in its enveloping of the truck Carlos was driving; it clung tightly to the hood of their vehicle and gave up little more than a few feet of visibility at best. With every overcorrection of the steering wheel that Carlos had to make to ensure they rounded a curve that they could barely see coming, Sam felt his head grow lighter and lighter.

    Carlos (Sam was still struggling not to call him Sideburns, even in his own head) seemed as annoyed to be with Sam as Sam was to be with him. Still, it was less awkward than it would have been if Sam had been forced to travel with anyone that had been on the cargo ship. Sam probably had not helped the situation when, upon seeing a sign on the merge ramp to the highway instructing them to yield to traffic, he asked Carlos, “Do you yield? At this sign, I mean?" and then giggled at his own joke. Carlos had barely said a word to Sam, and he seemed to be just pouting in his seat. Sam felt like reminding him of the time Bree kicked his Hariyama’s butt, but it did not seem wise to instigate further than he already had. Carlos was a foreman on the Phoenix Corporation crew, and that was probably why he had been one of the few to learn Kantoan. Almost no one else on the crew that Sam had been sent to Celestic with spoke a word of it, and it made Sam really uncomfortable when they were all around him speaking a language he could not understand while occasionally shooting glances his way. For all Sam knew, they were planning what the best way to cook him was (Sam immediately scolded himself for the potentially racist thought that all Hoennese were barbaric cannibals; still, he could not help but think they were discussing things that had to do with him, even if he knew that was just paranoia). Sam could understand Carlos’ frustration, though; Sam knew he would not enjoy it if he were a supervisor of a crew and was then told by his boss to take some non-employee along and do whatever he says. Armed with that thought, he’d previously tried to make conversation with his new truckmate, but to little avail.

    So it was that they rode the foggy, narrow path to Celestic Town in relative silence until Sam’s cell phone rang out from his pocket. Sam fumbled to retrieve the phone as his seatbelt resisted him; the call had to come from Mr. Alonzo since no one back home in Johto knew this number. While Sam was stuck waiting on customs in Jubilife, he picked up a disposable cell phone just for calls he might need to make in Sinnoh due to the international rate on his regular service being so astronomical. He finally managed to defeat his seatbelt and pull out the phone to see the screen flashing the caller’s identity. Professor Rowan. Sam pounded the “Ignore” button with his thumb and stuffed the phone back into his pocket.

    “You are not to answer that?” Carlos asked, looking over at Sam. Perhaps, for as little as he seemed to want to talk to Sam, he wanted some voice to break the silence. Or perhaps he just liked eavesdropping on phone calls.

    “No, I am not. Keep your eyes on the road.” If he had taken a moment to compose himself, he’d not have been so sour to the man he was now working with, but seeing that Rowan was attempting to contact him had hampered his mood. It was possible that Rowan figured out what Sam was up to and was calling to dissuade him, but it was too late now; the crew would be in Celestic shortly. Sam tried to allow himself to get excited at the prospect, but the triple beeps from his phone alerting him to a new voicemail gloomed his spirits anew.

    Carlos twisted the steering wheel to make it around another mountain curve he barely saw coming through the fog, and Sam felt the remnants of an egg and bagel sandwich he’d eaten two hours ago at a truck stop lurch in his stomach. Convenience store food was never a wise choice on its own, but to combine it with essentially riding a roller coaster seemed to bode ill for Sam. He tried to repeating in his head that at least it wasn’t a boat, but he really wanted little else than to get out of that truck. That was when he saw the marker sign: two more miles to Celestic Town.

    “Hey, did you see that? Two more miles.”

    Carlos nodded without speaking (perhaps he was upset that Sam had scolded him) and pressed the red button on the walkie-talkie affixed to the dashboard. He spoke into it with Sam still incapable of deciphering what he was saying and then turned the device off. Most likely he was telling the crew in the other trucks behind them what Sam had just seen in case they missed it, but it still frustrated Sam to feel so excluded.

    As the fog started to thin out, Sam could make out a few buildings in the distance. They certainly did not seem to be much, just a few houses and maybe a storefront or two, but it was still a good thought that he’d be free of the terror of route 210 soon. From what Sam saw at the distance, to even call Celestic a town might have been an exaggeration. It was, at best in Sam’s view, a simple rural mountain community.

    “Whoa, hold up. Stop the truck, stop the truck.”

    Carlos lifted an eyebrow at Sam, but did as he was told and brought the truck to a halt about a quarter of a mile from the town. “What is this?”

    “What is this? I can tell you what it’s not. Stealthy. We’re just--” More foreign words came with a burst of static from the dashboard walkie-talkie. Sam reached over and pressed the button. “The adults are having a discussion. Sit quietly and think about what you’ve done for a while.” Sam flipped the device to off and returned his attention to Carlos. “We’re just going to roll up into their town with six flatbed trucks and a bunch of heavy equipment? You think that won’t get attention?”

    “You can to deal with this attention.”

    “What? No! I can not to deal with this attention! Think about it. If the trio is here and the town sees us coming, they’re going to try to save them somehow before we even have an idea where in the town they’re hidden. Not only would we be going in blind, but we’d be flashing our arrival as extremely suspect. At best.”

    “There is a cave in the back of the town. If the pokemon are here, they are probably to be hiding in it.”

    “What? A cave? I didn’t know about that.”

    Carlos grinned and started the truck back up. “We know about it.”

    Sam cursed under his breath; why hadn’t he been told about this? “Fine, you know about it, great. We’re still playing this my way. Mr. Alonzo said I’m in charge, so keep the truck turned off and radio the rest of the crew. We’re walking in from here.”

    “What about our equipment?”

    “Leave it here in our little pull-off. If we need it, we come back and get it. But how about instead of going in and dynamiting the hell out of everything, we start off with some old fashioned looking around?”

    Carlos huffed and turned the truck back off. As Sam undid his seatbelt and opened the passenger door, he heard Carlos barking angrily into the walkie talkie. No doubt the rest of the crew would not have liked this tactic, either, but Sam just figured that was too bad. He was put in charge of this search, and they were just the hired muscle. It was only a quarter of a mile to Celestic, so that could be covered in a few minutes on foot, but it should also provide security for their vehicles. They were not so close to civilization that people would start messing with them. As Sam predicted, the rest of the crew did not look thrilled to be exiting their trucks. He wanted to say something to them that would reassure them, but then he realized he’d forgotten most of their names. Instead, he just turned to Carlos.

    “Everybody ready? Let’s go.”

    Celestic Town was no more impressive up close than it had been at a distance. It seemed as though someone had once wanted to build a settlement, but thought that clearing trees or establishing infrastructure was too much work. Route 210 cut through town, but it was the only thing Sam would really call a road; the homes that were not right on the main route were only accessible by barely-paved, one-lane paths. The storefront that Sam had seen from the distance was just a market and the only business he noticed until he caught site of a medical center closer to the middle of town. Those two were apparently it for Celestic commerce. Sam’s decision to leave the trucks and equipment behind was beginning to seem like a terrible idea; this was clearly not a place that received many visitors, and every eye in town seemed to be on Sam and the crew from the minute they entered. He’d seen enough horror movies growing up to immediately think that this was the kind of place where strangers got chained up in leaky basements and tortured by people who made boots out of human flesh.

    “Before I soil myself, please tell me you guys know where the cave is,” Sam whispered to Carlos. Yes, because clearly the place we want to be is a dark mystery cave in the middle of Jason Vorhees-ville, his own brain mocked him.

    “It is in back of the town,” Carlos answered as he glanced back and forth before pointing to his right. “North. It should to be that direction.”

    Sam nodded. “Well let’s to be going there then.”

    As Sam and the crew cut into a cross-town path that headed in the direction Carlos thought the cave would be, Sam noticed several members of town pulling out cell phones and either sending messages or making calls. This only served to heighten his already prevalent fear of the town even as he wondered how such a backwater village had cell service. Luckily, none of these people approached his group; Sam thought maybe they were as primitive as bears and were as scared of him as he was of them. With that thought, he straightened his back to add to his posture since he read once that if confronted by a bear, you are supposed to make yourself look larger.

    As they followed the road to the north past the houses that made up the bulk of Celestic Town, the path became less of a street and more of a lackadaisical, weed-covered guideline of where to go. Sam was growing less convinced by the moment that Carlos had picked the right direction. He started thinking that maybe it was not the residents of Celestic Town he should be afraid of; maybe good old Sideburns was luring him into the woods for a revenge beating. Sam bent over to fidget with his already-tied shoes just to let the Phoenix crew all get ahead of him so that no one was at his back when he started walking again.

    “Celestic Ruins.”

    Sam had been so involved in looking around for danger, he had not been looking ahead, and sure enough, Carlos was pointing to an opening in the hillside.

    “So that’s the cave,” Sam said rhetorically as he scratched his chin. “All right. We’ve got our pokemon with us, and we’ve got lamps. I guess we should--”

    “Excuse me!”

    Sam turned around at the stranger’s voice to see a pair of people coming down the path behind them on an all-terrain vehicle. Sam, Carlos, and the crew exchanged confused glances as the couple pulled their ATV up to them and came to a stop. They removed their helmets, and Sam recognized one of them immediately: it was the lady Professor Rowan had been holding close to him in the photo. She was older, right around Rowan’s age, and had straight, gray hair that did not quite reach her shoulders and wrinkles marking her face. She was certainly spry for her age, however, especially given that she had been driving the ATV, and now that she was on her feet, she moved quickly and steadily. She had not been dressed for her vehicle; she was clothed in a white lab coat and khakis. Her partner was significantly younger, and Sam found her to be one of the most attractive young women he had ever laid eyes on. Her wavy blonde hair hung just below her waist, and she was dressed in all black: black pants, a black blouse, and a black, fur-rimmed jacket. Her features were soft, and she was probably right around Sam’s age, if not maybe a year or two younger. Sam found that seeing her before him was the most pleasant thing Sinnoh had given him yet.

    “I’m sorry, but the Celestic Ruins are quite dangerous and are off-limits to everyone,” the older lady stated. It was her voice that had yelled out to them moments before.

    Sam heard grumbling behind him from the crew, but he quickly held up his hand to silence them. Situations like this were why he was with them, after all. “I appreciate your concern, Ms...?” He left the word dangling in the air as an invitation for her to fill in the blank.

    “Professor, not Ms. And it is Professor Carolina, young man.”

    Sam took slow steps towards her and extended his hand. “I apologize then. And it’s a pleasure to meet you, professor. My name is Samuel Stark.” He found himself hoping the young woman with Professor Carolina was noting his gentlemanly nature. “We appreciate the hazards of these ruins, of course; it’s actually why we’re here. We are studying ancient areas of Sinnoh. My compatriots here are from the south, and we’re doing research on how the northern regions’ geology varies from that of the southern regions.”

    The blonde whose name Sam did not yet know spoke up. “That may be--”

    “Hogwash,” Professor Carolina interrupted. “What are you really doing here?”

    “I just said, we’re here for research. Honestly.” It was honest, even if what they were there to research was the legendary guardians.

    “Young man, we will stop you from entering that cave if we have to.”

    “Gram, we don’t know yet--”

    “You know why they’re here, Cynthia. Don’t defend them.”

    Sam enjoyed briefly imagining that she was defending him from the lady who must have been her grandmother because she thought he was charming, but he realized it was a wasted thought. She probably would not be too impressed with him shortly. “Carlos,” he said, turning to his reluctant partner but keeping one eye of Carolina, “get going. You know what you need to find.”

    “I told you, Cynthia.”

    “We’re not here to hurt anybody or anything. It’s just research. I certainly don’t want to be upsetting anyone.”

    “Mr. Stark, we really can’t have anyone in that cave.”

    “I understand that, Cynthia, but we really need to get in there.”

    “Cynthia, there’s no more time for talk! Those men are in the cave already!”

    Cynthia frowned and pulled a ball from inside her coat. Sam recognized it as an Ultra Ball from its yellow-and-black design. “Please stand aside and allow us to get those gentlemen out of the cave, Samuel. It is imperative.”

    Sam chewed the inside of his lip in frustration and pulled Chispa’s Friend Ball from his pocket. “I can’t do that. I’m sorry.” He squeezed the Friend Ball, and crimson energy shot forth from the ball’s outlet, releasing the blue-and-black cub onto the grassy floor of the Celestic woods. As usual, sparks danced off of her yellow, star-like tail in her own personal display of happiness to be out. The rest of the world outside her ball was seemingly irrelevant to her as she intertwined Sam’s legs, rubbing her head on his shins. If Sam had any designs on intimidating Cynthia and Professor Carolina into submission, those were clearly just nixed.

    Cynthia’s Ultra Ball released a burst of concentrated energy, as well. Sam braced himself for the appearance of her friend; he had no idea what it could be or what it was capable of. The energy coalesced on the ground and formed a rock. It did not appear to be a rock-typed pokemon--at least not one Sam had ever heard of living in the Sinnoh region--it was merely a cone-like, gray rock with a crack in its top. Sam waited a few seconds that felt significantly longer for the stone to do something, but it did not.

    “What is this?” He asked.

    “This is your last chance. I don’t want to have to do this, Samuel.”

    Sam really wanted to ask her to call him Sam, but this did not seem the time or place. “Neither do I.”

    Cynthia shook her head slowly, as if in pity, it occurred to Sam. Still, the rock just sat there, and she did not give it an order. Sam continued studying it, but he could not discern anything of note. It was a rock, and much more than he would describe a Geodude as a rock. It was a blank, cracked stone. It didn’t move. Still, it was impossible to just catch a plain rock in a pokeball, so it had to be some kind of pokemon. Sam nudged Chispa out from between his legs. “Be careful, but investigate that for me, Chispa. Can you investigate the rock for me?”

    Chispa yipped back in happy reply, her tongue sticking out the side of her smiling mouth. She sneaked up on the rock, but given that neither she nor Sam could know where its eyes--if it even had any--were, it seemed futile. The earnest Shinx got within mere feet of the stone, and it still had not moved.

    “Shadow ball!” Cynthia cried out, causing Chispa to flinch when the trainer’s words broke her silent concentration.

    From out of the crack in the stone emerged something Sam could only describe as a colorful, jaggedly round shadow. It was mostly a deep violet, but there were lightning-like flashes of green energy inside it. While most of the flashes swirled about in the shadowy body, two remained steadily in place. They were crescent-shaped and floated in the middle of the strange form like the crooked eyes of a jack-o-lantern. Sam recognized it immediately as a pokemon he’d heard of but thought was only an urban legend.

    “A Spiritomb?” He cried in alarm. “Chispa, get out of the way!”

    An orb of violet energy split off from the ethereal body of the Spiritomb and propelled towards Sam’s Shinx. She barely managed to roll out of the way of the spiritual attack. The ball of energy dissipated as it hit the ground where she had stood, and it left no sign that it had ever been there at all.

    Sam was stunned; he still never imagined he’d see a pokemon as fantastic as a Spiritomb. He knew he had no choice but to shake himself out of his awe, however; Chispa was counting on him to guide her through this battle.

    “Chispa,” Sam called out before sputtering. He was not even sure what would work against that thing. “Use a spark attack!”

    In the space between Cynthia and Sam, Chispa growled her agreement. Her tail, radiating more brightly than Sam had seen it glow before, began shooting off sparks of electricity, and Chispa charged her shadowy foe. Spiritomb--perhaps because it thought it had nothing to fear; perhaps because it was anchored motionlessly to its rock--held its ground. With the distance between them closed, Chispa jumped towards the Spiritomb and twisted her body mid-leap to smack it with her tail. It passed harmlessly through Spiritomb’s cloud-like body, and the Shinx landed on her side, though she easily rolled through onto her paws. The Spiritomb seemed to be completely unaffected.

    Sam was undaunted; somehow, Chispa had to have just missed the attack. It was the only thing that made sense. “Bite it, Chispa!”

    Chispa shook her head as if to clear out the cobwebs from her confusion at missing the Spiritomb before lunging again. This time she dove straight into the heart of the creature with her mouth wide, but as before, she passed harmlessly through its incorporeal body as her jaws snapped shut. She landed on her feet after this attempt, but was still as befuddled as she had been after her first failed strike. Sam, however, started putting it together; if Spiritomb’s body was barely physical to begin with, physical attacks were not going to work particularly well on it. He needed to come up with a different strategy.

    Cynthia took advantage of the time it was taking Sam to come up with a plan against her pokemon. “Use your shadow sneak, Mouri!”

    Mouri--apparently, Sam realized, the name of her Spiritomb--hissed in reply to her command; its green flashes started popping more rapidly and then began erupting with energy inside the Spiritomb’s spiritual form. With a rush of unexpected speed, its body stretched out as far as it could while still anchored to its rock home. Chispa screeched in pain as Mouri’s body overtook her.

    “Chispa, come back,” Sam said, wincing at his friend’s agony as her held up her Friend Ball and squeezed it twice. The ball made an electronic humming sound as Chispa reverted to her kinetic energy transport form and was absorbed back to safety. If physical attacks were not going to cut it against Spiritomb, he’d try another path. He grabbed another of the balls in his pocket and released Vlam.

    “Mr. Stark, my granddaughter defeated your Shinx fair and square! Stand aside and let us into the cave to get your friends out of there.”

    “I’m not defeated yet,” Sam replied. “Vlam, use your flamethrower!”

    “Mouri, withdraw from it,” Cynthia said to her Spiritomb in response to Sam’s command. She did not seem interested in backing up her grandmother’s request that he give up; perhaps she was as into the battle as Sam found himself.

    Vlam’s mouth opened, and an uninterrupted stream of fire burst forth from it. Sam was eager to see if Vlam’s attack was any more effective than Chispa’s physical assault had been. The instant before the flaming attack could hit, however, Mouri vanished. The flamethrower passed through the air where the Spiritomb had previously been floating. When Vlam’s attack subsided, there was simply the odd stone on the ground with no sign of Mouri.

    “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Sam mumbled. Mouri even had a way around non-physical attacks.

    “You can’t hurt Mouri, Sam. Please let us pass.”

    Sam ignored Cynthia’s plea. Carlos and his men had been in the cave for several minutes now; he just needed to buy them a little more time. “All right, Vlam. If it wants to hide in the rock, we’ll just knock it clear out of the forest. Use a double kick on it!” Vlam rushed forward. Sam may not have been able to hurt the Spiritomb, but as long as it was bound to the rock, he could at least get rid of it.

    “Shadow sneak!”

    As Vlam approached, Mouri emerged from its crack and shot its anchored, spiritual body towards her. As with Chispa earlier, the crackling energy that made up the Spiritomb caused Vlam great agony as it enveloped her. Sam considered taking her out of the battle, too, but she was much more durable than the little Shinx and was able to fight her way out of Mouri’s attack. Free from the shadow sneak, she carefully backed away from Mouri’s range; Sam noticed she was shivering slightly as she did so, but she still appeared to have some fight in her. He also noticed she was still much closer to the Spiritomb than she had been when he first brought her into the battle.

    “Flamethrower!” He called out. Again, she shot a stream of fire towards her enemy. Sam heard Cynthia cry for Mouri to withdraw, but this time it was too close, and the defensive order came too late. The flames tore through the shadowy body, and Mouri let out a piercing, echoing shriek. The sound was so inhuman and loud, Sam instinctively cupped his hands over his ears. “Keep it up, Vlam!” He yelled over the wail. “You’ve got it on the ropes!”

    Vlam continued her onslaught of fire, but Mouri must have regained its composure from the initial pain of the attack because it did finally withdraw itself into its stone. Sam cursed; while Mouri had the option of retreat, he and his friends were at its mercy. It could attack when it wanted to attack and hide when it wanted to hide. He was going to have to find a way to work in the windows Cynthia gave him. If he tried an attack in close while it was withdrawn, he risked putting Vlam in line for another shadow sneak.

    “Mouri, use your psybeam now,” Cynthia ordered. Mouri again revealed itself and this time released an invisible psychic attack. Vlam yelped and howled, shaking her head violently. Sam knew he had no choice but to bring her out of battle like he had with Chispa. He held out her Dusk Ball and squeezed it twice.

    “I’m sorry, Vlam,” he said as she was absorbed safely into the ball, “I thought you could do it.” He had only one option left, but this time he also had a plan. “I know you can, though.” With a squeeze of the Nest Ball, Bree appeared in the clearing. Sam expected another demand of surrender from Carolina, but none ever came. Perhaps she was acquiescing to her daughter’s apparent desire for the match to continue, or perhaps she just thought Sam did not have a chance and was not worth bothering with. That was fine by Sam; people had been underestimating Bree his entire life.

    Cynthia seemed hesitant; she did not call out any attacks or instructions at all. Sam thought about the cave for a moment and what Carlos and the crew were doing in there, but he knew he could not allow himself the mental distraction.

    “Bree, I want you to use your bug buzz attack on that Spiritomb. All right?” Bree bobbed in the air in reply and beat her wings so she could zip towards her foe. As she closed the gap between them, she began vibrating her wings rapidly and letting out a disorienting buzzing sound. As she had done with the larger, less mobile Torterra previously, she would begin circling around Mouri too fast for it strike back, and then...

    “Mouri, withdraw again until the moment is right.”

    “Jackpot,” Sam whispered to himself. Before Bree even really got to begin her bug buzz, the Spiritomb pulled away into its protective rock, just as Sam had wanted.

    “Bree, that’s what we needed, girl. I want you to cover that rock in sleep powder now!” In the air above Mouri’s stone, Bree shook her wings fervently. Powder-fine scales broke loose and fell to the area below. With nothing to interrupt her, Bree let the scales fall for several seconds until everything below was covered in them. “That’s good, Bree. Come back over to me.” Sam looked across the field and saw Cynthia grimacing; she must have figured it out. “That’s right. Your Spiritomb’s protective home just became its prison. Bring it out now, and it’s going to absorb all the sleep powder.”

    “Well played then, Mr. Stark. But enough fooling around, I suppose.” Cynthia withdrew Mouri back into is ball and placed it inside her coat. As her hand went in with one ball, it returned with another. “Your turn, Perang,” she said calmly.

    Sam felt every muscle in his body tense. That Spiritomb had been dynamite, and it was just what she used to feel him out. Cynthia was clearly a very capable and experienced trainer. There was no telling what else she might have, but Sam already doubted Bree’s ability to handle it alone. He looked back towards the entrance to the Celestic Ruins; all he had to do was keep buying time. What was taking Carlos so long?

    He was shocked back to attention on the battle by a roar that made the blood in his veins feel chilled. Before Cynthia was standing a creature several feet taller than she or Sam. It was a dull purple on most of its body except for its underbelly which was half yellow and half red. On either side of its shark-like head were two appendages that looked to Sam like mini torpedoes. Its forearms ended as pectoral fins, and its upper arms and thighs were lined with bony spikes. Behind its stout legs and clawed feet was a tail that ended with a caudal fin. It was a monstrosity Sam recognized as a Garchomp, an extremely powerful, and equally as rare, dragon-type pokemon. Sam and his butterfly pokemon were both in awe.

    “Last chance, Mr. Stark,” Cynthia offered. There was an edge to her voice that Sam had not picked up on before. Maybe she really was just fooling around at first. “Give up and let us go get those gentlemen.”

    Sam continued looking at the Garchomp. Almost as if on cue to emphasize its trainer’s point, the dragon licked its lips. Sam swallowed and turned his gaze to Bree. “Well, girl. You ready to really see what you can do?”

    Bree did a forward somersault in the air and buzzed intently. She was, as ever in the face of a challenge, undaunted. Sam knew that Cynthia could put five Garchomps on the field, and Bree would still be dead certain she could win. He silently hoped that after this fight, that was the only kind of dead she would be. Sam dug his feet into the ground and thought of what he’d need to do just for her to survive this.

    “Bree, go--”

    An explosion behind him stole the rest of his command. The concussive force of the blast barreled out the opening of the cave and knocked Sam off of his feet. He rolled over onto his back to steal a glance upwards; thankfully, Bree was still aloft, albeit shakily. For her own safety, he quickly withdrew her back into her ball. Looking over, he saw that Cynthia had grabbed her grandmother to hold her up, but both were still on their feet due to being further from the opening than Sam had been. Other than an obnoxious humming in his ears and a pair of bloody forearms from impact with the ground, everyone appeared to be all right.

    “What was that?” He found himself shouting in unison with Cynthia. The look on her face revealed she must have been surprised that he did not already know.

    “They weren’t supposed to do anything like that!” Sam shouted over the squeal in his eardrums. “I promise, this wasn’t my intention at all!”

    Cynthia began rushing to the entrance of the cave, and Sam instinctively decided to follow her. He had no idea what had just happened; he did not even think anybody on the crew brought anything capable of such a blast. They were just as reckless and foolhardy as they had been at Verity lakefront and on the cargo ship. Before Sam and Cynthia could enter the cave, they were stunned to see three small figures exit it in a blur. They stopped for just a second as they met the sunlight before shooting upwards into the sky.

    They were the legendary guardians of the lake.

    Sam only got a full view of them for a moment, but he’d immediately recognized them from the sketches he’d studied. They were small, none of the three could possibly have been much more than a foot tall, and from the neck-down, they were identical: gray bodies with proportional arms and tiny nubs for legs and twin, three-pronged tails. It was their heads that distinguished the trio; they each had a unique crest on their head, and while Mesprit and Azelf had large, yellow eyes, Uxie’s eyes were closed. Uxie, the Being of Knowledge, also had a thick, yellow crest that rounded back around its skull like a bicycle helmet with vertical ridges. Azelf, the Being of Willpower, had a blue crest protruding upwards from its head like a soft pyramid. Mesprit, the Being of Emotion, had a light purple crest that hung down from its head in the form of four tendril-like appendages. Sam did not care how tiny they were in person, at that moment, they were the most brilliant pokemon he’d ever seen in his life.

    From near him, he heard Cynthia give an order. “Perang, Kelaparan, block the entrance to the cave so the guardians can escape!

    A new pokemon stood next to Cynthia’s Garchomp, and it was one that Sam had seen back home near Johto. The Snorlax was huge--about as tall as Garchomp, but much more rotund--green with a white underbelly, and had pointed, feline ears. It partnered with the dragon to guard the cavern hole and keep the crew from following the legends. Sam did not care; all that he knew is now that he finally found them, they were using their immense telekinetic power to soar away.

    “Please!” He called out them, just hoping they’d hear him. “Please, I won’t let them hurt you, I promise! I need you! I’ve come so far, and without you, my brother will die! Please don’t leave now! He needs you. I need you.”

    In the distance of the sky, one of them came to a halt. Sam could faintly make out the crest that marked it as Mesprit. Perhaps something in his voice got through to the small guardian. “Please, I will do anything--anything--for my brother! I would never hurt you or try to catch you, but he means everything to me and nothing will stop me from saving him. Please come back!” With those words, he saw a second stop; this time it was Azelf. As Azelf floated down to its brother Mesprit, Uxie also came to a stop, if only due to curiosity as to what had gotten the attention of the other two. They hovered in the air far from Sam and stared at him. “Please...,” Sam muttered, as he fell to his knees. “Help me.”

    Much slower and more cautiously than the trio had flown into the sky, they began coming back down. Above the ruckus from the entryway to the ruins where the crew must have been trying to get past the Garchomp and Snorlax, Sam heard Professor Carolina let out a startled gasp; she obviously did not expect the guardians to stop their flight to freedom. Sam felt her approach his side, but he did not care. All that mattered was convincing the guardians that he meant what he said. The professor put a hand on Sam’s shoulders, but there was no anger in her grip. She was merely lightly comforting him.

    Mesprit reached Sam first, and it had gotten much closer than Sam thought it would. He could have reached out and touched it if he wanted, but he refused to entertain the thought. He needed them to trust him not fear him; it was Tommy’s only chance. The red gem in the middle of Mesprit’s head shone, and Sam could not tell whether it was reflecting the noon sun or if it was Mesprit’s own doing. The spritely pokemon bobbed in the air from right to left, but never took its eye off of Sam. It made a short, songlike hum that seemed to cue Azelf and Uxie, their gems sparkling as well, to come nearer to him. Uxie simply hovered in place, its eyes still tightly closed, but Azelf zipped around Sam’s head and hummed in a low grumble. Mesprit cooed in reply to its brother’s grouchy tone, and Azelf quieted down and settled into one spot in the air across from Sam and along with Mesprit and Uxie.

    “Do you know I’m telling the truth?”

    Mesprit looked to its left at Uxie, and the Being of Knowledge squeaked; Mesprit then glanced to Azelf, who simply huffed. Mesprit let out a sound Sam could only interpret as a giggle and then turned back to Sam. Mesprit’s large, amber eyes locked onto his, and the legendary guardian nodded slowly. It trusted him!

    The din of mayhem disturbed the moment, and Sam turned to see that a gang of pokemon--led by Carlos’ Hariyama--had battled their way past Cynthia’s Garchomp and Snorlax and had cleared the way of the ruins’ entrance. Carlos himself was right behind the pokemon, and he pointed at the legends and yelled something in Hoennese back to the crew.

    “No!” Sam yelled. He knew they would ruin everything, but it was too late. The battle spilling outside the cave, the frantic yelling of the Phoenix workers, and the sight of them charging towards Sam were all too much for the legends. They took back off into the sky as swiftly as they had fled the cave. Well before Carlos and the others reached Sam, the guardians were out of sight.


    Brothers' Bond: The story how far one man will go--and what he'll do--to save the most important person in his life.

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  7. #22
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    Chapter 14


    Sam was determined to make the trip back to Canalave City as miserable as he could for Carlos. It was not even a small percentage of payback for what Carlos had cost him, but it was the only way Sam could stop himself from putting his own fist through the windshield in frustration.

    “First of all, I have no idea why you went in there and decided to set off explosives. That had to be the dumbest damn idea I can imagine. You think you’ll find three skittish, hiding pokemon, and your genius solution is to try and blow up half the cave. You’re a god damn idiot. Then--then!--when you get out of the cave after we were actively trying to keep you inside so you could maybe not ruin everything ever, you charge ahead like raging Tauroses and scare them away a second time. And that time, for good. So yes, now they’re gone, and we have no idea what our next move is. Congratulations, Sideburns! You’re the worst person in history.”

    Carlos snorted. “We thought they was attacking you.”

    “Oh, you’re about five seconds away from seeing what an attack looks like so next time you’ll know.”

    Carlos pumped hard on the breaks, jerking Sam forward into his seat. The seatbelt jammed into Sam’s sternum, pushing the air out of his lungs and bruising his chest. Sam realized that Carlos did it out of aggressive frustration--some kind of manly posturing to show Sam he couldn’t be spoken to that way--so Sam reached into his pocket as a threat.

    “Do it. Come on, Sideburns. I’ll give you a hint, we already played this game, and--spoiler alert--you lost. But go ahead and threaten me. I could use a big, dumb idiot to bang my pokemon against for a few minutes. Let’s go.”

    Carlos, who was breathing heavily and audibly, glared at Sam for a few seconds before simply clearing his throat and turning back to the wheel. Sam was quietly thankful; he was more angry than he could ever recall being before, but once Carlos’ crew realized their foreman was being attacked and came to back him up, Sam would really not have liked the way that confrontation ended. For the moment, though, he had successfully alpha male’d Carlos, and that would have to do.

    “God, I can’t wait to tell Mr. Alonzo how this went down. I hand him the guardians’ location on a silver-freakin’-platter, and then it all goes to pot. Everything’s screwed up, and I--” Sam felt an air pocket in his throat and knew he needed to redirect his emotions before he showed weakness in front of Carlos. “Damn it!" He slammed a fist down onto his side of the dashboard so hard, it knocked their walkie talkie free. Not wanting to acknowledge his outburst, Sam scooped it off of the ground without a word and placed it back.

    Sam turned to stare out the window at the feeble guardrail and the valley below. He would not be in Canalave for several hours at best, and the last thing he wanted was to be once again cooped up in that truck with Carlos. He had been so close; the trio had been right in front of him, and they seemed to be willing to help him out. Over a year of searching had brought a solution to his fingertips, and it was gone again to who-knows-where over the bumbling of some idiots with whom Sam had been stuck. Sam rubbed his eyes so hard that when he pulled his fingers away, black spots danced in front of him. The construction crew made Barry look like a baron of foresight and careful planning; when Sam got back to the Phoenix Shipping Corporation offices, he was going to insist on a new group of men to work with, or he was going back on his own. The choice might have been out of his hands anyway since he no longer had anything to offer Mr. Alonzo in exchange for their help (help of course being a term used extremely loosely in their case). Now that the guardians were on their own, Sam had no insight into where they could possibly be.

    His mind flashed to the girl and her grandmother. Who were they? Cynthia’s Spiritomb was amazingly strong, and the strategies she used were nearly flawless. On top of that, she had wrecking balls like a Garchomp and a Snorlax? Crazy, he thought. Sam wondered if she was in the Sinnoh division of the WPL, and, if so, if that was how hard the championship tiers were. He knew Bree would be disappointed that she did not get to battle, even against a monstrosity like that Garchomp. She hated not getting to be involved, and the next time he released her, he knew she was going to be high-strung and still battle-ready. He felt the multitude of pokeballs bulging in his pocket and wondered if any of Barry’s pokemon would have fought for him should it have come to that. He suspected the high-energy, affectionate Monferno might have, but Empoleon and Torterra were bigger x-factors. It was probably for the best to keep them all contained for the moment. Eventually Sam knew he’d have to make his way to Twinleaf Town and drop the three of them off. At the moment, he could not bring himself to think of facing Barry, though.

    Sam remembered the empathetic feel of Professor Carolina’s hand on his shoulder. It was not just the guardians that felt Sam’s anguish and came to trust him in his moment of pleading. The lady who had just moments before been so forceful and aggressive with Sam felt something, too. He took a look at Carlos, his face full of sideburns and a scour. Sam could not help but think he had made the wrong choice leaving Celestic with the crew with which he came. But no...he could not have stayed behind with Carolina and Cynthia; no matter whether they were sympathetic to him or not, they were firmly entrenched with Rowan’s belief that the legends were to be protected from humanity. They would never help him find them again. Mr. Alonzo was still the only real avenue Sam could pursue. He would have liked to have depended on the professor and her lovely granddaughter, but they would surely only seek to dissuade Sam from his purpose. Just like Rowan.

    Sam’s head felt full, and the fog going back down the mountain hid the sun successfully enough that it felt much later to him than it was. His eyes rebelled against his attempts to keep them open, even as he considered how unwise it might be to doze off with Carlos around. The world of thinking about how close he’d been to getting the trio and whether going back with Carlos to Canalave was the right idea just seemed too arduous at the moment, though, and he let his eyes win.

    When they opened again, the first thing Sam noticed was the large cranes. He thought he’d somehow slept all the way to Canalave and its piers, but he also knew he could not have been that tired. When he looked over to Carlos for a clue, he saw that traffic on the other side of the road was a string of dump trucks. A look out his passenger side window showed him a large, rocky hillside with what seemed to be a covered waterslide jutting out of it. The tube was propped up on the outside of the hillside by reinforced pillars and disappeared off in the distance behind the tree line. Sam’s sleep-adled brain finally recognized it as a coal pipeline. They must have been in the coal-mining town of Oreburgh. Sam surrendered himself to a yawn as he tried to regain his bearings after the uncomfortable truck nap that left him feeling worse than he did before.

    “I thought you would sleep all day,” the man next to him said.

    “It felt like I did,” Sam responded, his anger from earlier feeling less important while his mind continued trying to find its focus. “Oreburgh?”

    “Yes.”

    “So we’re close to the strait then,” Sam noted rhetorically. It was going to be a chore getting all of the Phoenix Corporation equipment back onto a cargo ship just to get across to Canalave, but it was hardly his concern; Carlos and his men would handle that. Sam briefly wondered if they resented him for that but discounted the thought. It was probably fine with them that he did not touch anymore of their stuff. They tended to end up in fissures or at the bottom of the sea when he did.

    Sam’s eyes wandered back out his side window. They stared up past the nearby mills’ smokestacks that rose into the Oreburgh sky. He resented the steam and smoke they released as he looked to the clouds. The odds were slim that he would see the guardians here (and he knew even calling the odds “slim” gave them far too much credit), but he knew he had to look. They were somewhere, after all... why not right above his convoy? With no conversation to be had from Carlos, Sam lost track of how many minutes he’d watched the sky. Occasionally he’d catch sight of a Starly or some other bird and think it was one of the trio before realizing his folly. Sam sighed as he lost sight of the world above him because the truck entered the Oreburgh Gate Tunnel; how long would it be before he saw them again? Would he see them again? These were pokemon that only a handful of people had seen in the last several centuries, and Sam was hoping to find them twice in his life. He knew it was unlikely, but what other choice did he have? He’d given up too much to quit now. The hope that he’d find them was almost all he had left.

    Sam’s phone rang when the truck was mere feet inside the tunnel; it was Rowan’s name on his display again. Sam thought it over--Rowan did not seem the sort to call just to mock him for failing to get the legends. Maybe Professor Carolina told Rowan about Sam’s encounter and what she witnessed; maybe Rowan knew now that Sam’s heart was in the right place. He decided to answer.

    “Professor?”

    “Sam? Sam, you answered. Thank goodness. Sam, we need to talk.”

    “Is this about Celestic Town? Do you know what happened?”

    “Celes-- --No, I-- --were even there--.”

    “Professor? Can you hear me?” Sam began speaking more loudly into his phone. This caused Carlos to give him an annoyed look. “I’m in the Oreburgh Gate, and I’m losing you. Can you hear me?”

    “Yes, I-- --you. Is something-- --hear me?”

    “I’m in the Gate! Oreburgh Gate! I can barely hear you!”

    “Well I’ll-- --then. I-- --voicemail and I need-- --Barry-- --home. He-- --and I-- --is. I don’t think-- --with it-- --Phoenix--”

    “Professor Rowan, I have no idea what you’re saying. I--damn it.” Sam put a hand over the transmitter end of his cell phone. He was going to ask Carlos if they were almost through the tunnel, but then it occurred to him: Professor Rowan was not calling about how Sam had gained the trio’s trust at all. He was talking about Barry and the Phoenix Corporation. He was just calling to talk Sam out of this again. No faith. No trust. Just another lecture. “Are you still there, Professor?”

    He heard Rowan still talking right through the question. Rowan must not have been able to hear Sam any longer, either. “--please, I-- --help and-- --care for-- --doesn’t deserve--” Finally, Sam’s phone emitted a beep, and he knew the call was lost entirely.

    He growled as he pocketed his phone again. If the professor was not going to be helpful, why couldn’t he just leave Sam alone? Sam looked out ahead of the truck; the tunnel seemed to stretch for miles.

    “You lost your call?”

    Sam nodded, though he was initially shocked at Carlos’ words. He could not tell whether Carlos was mocking him or simply asking a question. He decided it was not worth challenging him. “Yeah. Didn’t matter, though. Whatever.”

    The tunnel did eventually end, of course, but Sam never got the return call he was expecting. He briefly considered calling Rowan back, but he figured it was not worth the hassle to put himself in position for the likely scolding. Without any more calls, the ride continued in silence as they passed through the crowded streets of Jubilife City. Ever since he had arrived at Jubilife Airport weeks ago, he’d only felt more and more hopeful with every passing day. It had been a roller coaster climb of anticipation he had been on, and the pinnacle of it was Celestic Town. Unfortunately, when he reached the top of the track, he found that there was no station in sight where the roller coaster would end. There was only another rapid descent with his heart in his throat. Sam tried his best to ignore the city and continue looking upwards and around the skyscrapers for any sign of the legends.

    When the route west through Jubilife City was halted by a broken down city transit bus, Sam began wondering what bus deity out there resided in Sinnoh, and why he hated Sam so much. Carlos sighed angrily and repeatedly sounded the horn from his truck. Angry foreign voices shouted through the walkie talkie, and Carlos responded to them in kind. For all Sam knew, they were exchanging pie recipes; everything in their native language sounded harsh and bitter. Getting a headache from their roaring voices, he opened the passenger side door.

    “Where do you go?”

    Sam waved his arm ahead of them to the stalled bus and the Jubilife police officers arriving on the scene. “Who knows how long we’re going to be stuck here, but I’m kind of over the whole sitting-in-a-truck thing. I’m just stretching, Sideburns; don’t worry. I shouldn’t be far.”

    Sam distanced himself from the crowd on 8th Avenue that had gathered to gawk at the bus and the mayhem of traffic it was causing. He pulled his three pokeballs from his pocket; Vlam and Chispa should have been healed enough by being in their energy stasis, but Sam wanted to make sure. He could always buy them medicine now that he had time to kill. With three squeezes, his friends emerged to the street. Bree cut rapidly through the air in a zig-zag pattern; just as Sam expected, she still had plenty of energy to burn, despite having been in stasis, since she had been so psyched up to battle the Garchomp. Vlam’s legs and tails were stiff, and she sniffed the air with determination. Sam felt guilty that the last few times she’d been free from her ball were to battle, and now she was apparently beginning to expect it. He promised to himself to give them all more time free to relax. Chispa was, as usual, nonplussed by anything that had previously happened to her, and immediately began assailing a pebble she found on the sidewalk. She swatted it a few feet away and then wriggled her rear end and pounced onto it.

    “Are you girls okay?”

    Chispa’s attention was grabbed first; she immediately forgot about her enemy pebble and rushed to Sam’s legs, winding herself between them. Bree chirped a response in the air, though the sudden, darting movements of her antennae told Sam she still thought the Garchomp was around. Vlam let out a huff of air and did a circle on the sidewalk before lying down.

    “It’s okay, Bree. You’re okay. No one is here. It’s just us, okay?”

    Bree tilted her head and hummed abruptly. Apparently settled somewhat, she flittered towards Sam and settled on his shoulder. He coughed as a smattering of her spores invaded his sinuses. He flicked her wing gently to get her attention. “You’ve got to be careful with those things, little girl.” He wiped away water that was welling in his eyes as a reaction to her scales, and she rubbed her round head against his in a form of apology.

    Chispa nipped at his ankle, probably upset at the lack of attention from him. He leaned down, careful not to shift his weight so much that Bree fell from his shoulder, and scratched the back of her neck. Doing so increased the pace at which she was intertwining his legs. Chispa and Bree seemed contented enough, but there was something off about Vlam. She lay inattentively on the sidewalk, moving only enough to look from left to right and let out a yawn.

    “All right, what’s the matter with you?”

    Vlam dodged Sam’s attempt at getting into her line of sight by turning away from him. He moved over to where she shifted her head, but the fox pokemon turned to face the other direction. She was clearly giving him the silent treatment. “Oh, whatever it is, I’m sorry,” Sam sighed. “Just let me know, okay?”

    Vlam slowly pushed up to her feet and butted the crown of her head into Sam’s left pocket. He felt Barry’s pokeballs bobble there. “Is that what it is? You want to see Barry’s friends?” Vlam continued staring intently at him. Sam shrugged. “All right, fine.” He reached in his pocket with mild trepidation; he had no idea how Barry’s pokemon would react to him. Still, it was not as if he was gambling on their battling for him, so they should be safe to just let free for a bit. With a gentle squeeze to each red-and-white sphere, he released them.

    Monferno emerged much like Bree had, with his head shooting from left-to-right and obviously wound up. He seemed disoriented at first, but upon noticing Sam, that faded. He leapt upwards, causing Sam to have to catch the fire-type in his arms to avoid a collision. Monferno grunted in a high voice and patted Sam’s face. Bree, seemingly perturbed by Monferno’s playfulness, flew off of her trainer’s shoulder. Barry’s Empoleon and Torterra were apparently less excited to be with Sam. They each stood stoically next to the other shooting Sam looks that he could only discern as unpleasant disdain.

    “So... hi there.” Sam rubbed Monferno’s chin more for the benefit of Empoleon and Torterra than for Monferno. He wanted them to see that he was not an enemy. “Sorry that you haven’t been out for a while.” Empoleon replied with a throaty cackle that didn’t sound happy and caused some of the on-lookers to turn their heads to them.

    Sam contemplated saying something else, but before he could, he felt a paw swiping at his leg. He looked down to find Vlam staring up at him. “Be my guest,” Sam said to her and moved his hand towards Empoleon and Torterra. Vlam walked over to Barry’s pokemon and barked softly. They were unfazed. She tried again, this time brushing her tails gently against Torterra’s leg, but again was given no visible reply. A third attempt to communicate something to them was met with a loud growl from the immense tortoise, and Sam decided that was enough. He recalled Torterra and Empoleon into their balls.

    “Sorry, Vlam. I know you were trying, but they clearly weren’t buying what you were selling.” Vlam cooed in response and wiped her muzzle with a paw. Monferno, at least, was not swayed by his family’s reaction; he continued crawling around Sam’s shoulders and trying to find a comfortable position. “I’m going to get you guys back home, I promise,” Sam pointed out to the fiery monkey, “I just need to find the opportunity. I’m not sure Barry would love seeing me right now.” Monferno grinned and clapped his hands together, and Sam could only assume he was just happy to hear his trainer’s name.

    A few yards ahead of him, he could see that the bus was finally mobile again and was getting pulled off the road. He promised the four friends around him that when he was out of the stuffy truck, he’d let them free again and recalled them into stasis. With that, he rushed to the truck before Carlos could leave without him.


    Brothers' Bond: The story how far one man will go--and what he'll do--to save the most important person in his life.

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  8. #23
    Less cute in person Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    Well, I've only had time to read a couple of chapters tonight, but I like your writing style. The idea of squeezing a Pokeball to release and recall is pretty neat, mind if I use it?

  9. #24
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    Chapter 15

    Sam, for as displeased as he was to have been back on the sea once again, was at least happy he’d made it through the ferry ride to Canalave without Barry’s Monferno tossing anybody overboard.

    The ferry had a prominently posted notice asking riders to keep their pokemon contained (“for their own safety and the safety of the rest of our guests”, the sign told Sam), but he found that he barely cared. Really, what were they going to do to him, he wondered; stop the ferry and insist he get off in the middle of the strait? As it was, Monferno and his own friends had been promised they’d get more time to relax, and Sam had no intention of taking any such time away from them. He heard some of the other passengers complain about their freedom when they thought Sam was out of earshot; he hardly cared about their annoyance. Sam thought of the words on the sign. Safety? He was not some child with his first friend and no idea how to manage it. He was a grown man who had been with pokemon his whole life. He’d just been deemed worthy by the legendary lake guardians. He’d stood up to Professor Rowan, Henrique Alonzo, and an army of doctors who told him there was nothing that could be done for his brother; the last thing he was going to do was let some damn sign on a boat boss him around.

    Carlos and the Phoenix Corporation crew were on the far end of the ferry. They refused to leave the cargo holding area because they did not trust the Sinnohans not to mess with their machinery. That was fine with Sam since any moment away from Sideburns was a minor victory in his book. Before Sam had ventured to the more scenic area of the ferry, he noticed that Carlos and his workers managed to look like a fine gang and not at all suspicious by surrounding their equipment and standing in front of it with their arms crossed.

    Upon deboarding, Sam found a bench in front of the ferry station and parked himself so that Carlos and the others could bark orders at the ferry workers on how to properly unload their equipment. Sam intended to just walk to the Phoenix Shipping Corporation building without the lot of them, but he was still feeling the effects of the ocean even after being back on solid ground, and he needed the moment to regain his composure. Obviously, having been tossed into the sea and almost drowning one of the last times he had been on a boat had done little for his seasickness. That was the more private and selfish reason he had no intention of stowing away his friends while on board; they provided him with at least a little distraction from the waves and the rocking of the boat.

    If any of his friends shared his displeasure of travel by water, there was no sign of it. Monferno was as chipper and energetic as every other time Sam had seen him; he panted in joy and bounded around Sam’s shoulders like the trainer was personal jungle gym. Bree seemed to be more resentful of Monferno’s keeping her from resting on her trainer than anything. She tried to buzz close to whichever side of Sam Monferno was not hogging, but as soon as Barry’s pokemon swung over to that side, she let out a sharp hum and fluttered away. Chispa had discovered rapture in watching the swaying of Vlam’s tails, and the eldest friend of the group seemed quietly content to amuse the cub with them. Sam breathed deep to help steady himself as he watched Chispa raise a jittery paw, unsure whether or not to swat at Vlam’s tail. A clubbing sensation to the back of the head knocked Sam forward and almost off of his bench; he turned to see Monferno waving an angry fist at his Butterfree.

    “Can’t you two calm down?” At Sam’s words, Monferno and Bree turned their attention to him. “You’re gonna concuss me if you don’t stop acting so jealous over each other.” Bree buzzed and stiffened her antennae out in Monferno’s direction. “I don’t care whose fault it was. I just don’t want to get banged in the head anymore. Behave!”

    Monferno hopped from the back of the bench to return to Sam’s shoulders where he began patting the back of the trainer’s head. Bree let out high-pitched hum and zipped over to her sisters. She settled onto Vlam's back and turned so that Sam could no longer see her face.

    “Seriously?”

    “Seriously what?”

    Sam’s head turned to follow the sound of the voice to his right and saw Carlos standing there. Sam rolled his eyes; he had hoped he was done with that guy for at least a while longer. “You guys got done fast enough.”

    “Not done. It should to be take a while for now. I came back to go with you to see Mr. Alonzo. He should know what happened.”

    Sam stood up from the bench, causing Vlam to rise to her feet next to him. This, in turn, caused a new annoyance for Bree as she tumbled on the Ninetales’ back before getting airborne. “Can’t wait.”

    Sam and Carlos walked together in the same manner as how they drove together: with barely a word between them. Carlos’ gait was slightly more determined than Sam’s was, which--when Sam thought about it--made little sense. Carlos should not have been in any more of a hurry to see Henrique than he was. If anything, he should have been dreading it more than Sam. He was the one who chased the trio away when they were so close. Perhaps Carlos just wanted to get it all over with, Sam thought. What was the worst that Mr. Alonzo could do? Fire Carlos, sure, but to Sam? He wasn’t sure. The worst case scenario seemed to be that he’d end up back at square one with no one to help him and no idea what to do.

    The Phoenix Shipping Corporation Sinnoh Division building was across the street from a gothic structure with large, stone monuments in front of it. One monument was simply a round globe. Another was of the mythical pokemon Mew. A third was of a rabbit-like character Sam remembered from a children’s book his mother read him. This was apparently the Canalave Library, Sinnoh’s national library. Sam could not help but wonder if this was coincidence or not. How long had the corporation had a headquarters in Sinnoh? Was it ordered here by Mr. Alonzo? If so, was it located here so that he’d have easy access to all the reference material he’d need on Sinnoh? Perhaps that was how he’d known so much about Celestic Town just from the brief description Sam gave him of a picture he’d seen, or even how he knew so much about the guardians to begin with. But to think that the president of an international company would erect a building across from a library just for research... Sam could not help but think that was a reach. Wasn’t it?

    “Are you coming?”

    Sam shook his head to rouse himself. He hadn’t realized he had gotten lost in his own mind while staring across the street at the Canalave Library. He nodded in affirmation to Carlos’ question and followed him through the glass revolving doors. He was careful to hold the doors in place as he and his friends entered and exited them; others trying to leave the building at that moment gave him a dirty look for upsetting the momentum of the doors, but the last thing Sam wanted was for Vlam to lose a tail in there.

    There was a corridor to the left of the receptionist’s desk that led to the elevators, according to a sign hung from the ceiling. Sam briefly considered giving the young, blonde, bespectacled clerk at the reception desk a sarcastic thanks for helping him reach Henrique earlier, but he immediately thought better of it. To the right of the reception area was a set of double glass doors that led to a conjoining café; the etching on the doors told Sam that it was called The Canalave Bistro. Carlos headed towards the elevators while digging in his right pants pocket, and Sam began following.

    As they passed a plain, metallic, grey door, Monferno bounced off of Sam’s back. The pokemon rushed to the door and began pawing at it.

    “What’s going on, buddy?” Sam asked as he approached the ape pokemon. Monferno turned to face him, but only momentarily; his attention was heavily focused on the door. Sam noticed a placard in the wall next to it that told him it was the stairs. “You really want some exercise, huh? I guess I did have you cooped up in your ball for a while. I don’t know if I have the energy to follow you up however many floors it is to Mr. Alonzo’s office.”

    Monferno ignored Sam and continued scratching at the door. In his insistence to get in, he was leaving scrapes in the paint.

    “All right, all right! Jeez. I’ll check, hold on.” Sam called out to Carlos, who was standing in the corridor and waiting for an elevator, “Hey, the monkey here really wants to run around on the stairs. Can we take these up to Mr. Alonzo’s office?”

    Carlos held out a tiny green stick. “No. We to need this key in a elevator to access the office.”

    Sam shrugged at Monferno. “Sorry, pal. I promise to run with you for a bit after we’re done here, okay? Get some of that energy out.”

    Monferno glanced towards the stairwell door again and let out a whimper. Seemingly very reluctant, he reached up a paw to take Sam’s hand. Despite his agreement to leave the stairs behind, the monkey huffed and whined as he walked with Sam to the elevator. Chispa seemed to be saddened by Monferno’s mood, and she rubbed her head against him as they walked. Bree, conversely, probably couldn’t have been happier; she bounced in the air next to Sam’s head and hummed cheerfully.

    Monferno’s head was still downturned as Sam watched the elevator doors close and Carlos slide his key into the control panel. After flipping the key to the right, he pressed the buttons for both the nineteenth and twentieth floors. Sam shook his head and crunched his brow.

    “Did you forget which floor your own boss is on?”

    “There is a floor between nineteen and twenty. It can not be to access without this key turning and pressing both of the buttons.” Carlos said it as simply as if he’d been reading a traffic report.

    “Your boss is on the nineteen-and-a-halfth floor?” Sam mused. “Yeah, that’s not shady at all. Tell me, is his doorknob also a skull?”

    “We can not let his office be accessible to anyone. Obviously. He likes to be in the middle of the building. He says it putting him in the middle of the business.”

    The elevator lurched upward, and Sam said nothing in return. It made sense, he imagined, but it still seemed weird. He turned his attention to his friends behind him. Vlam was trying to appear aloof by lying down and turning her head away, but he noticed she was wagging her tails near Monferno, most likely in an attempt to cheer him up. It didn’t seem to be having any effect, however; the ape continued standing still and looking down. The only sign of life from him was an occasional snort of breath. He was clearly having a child-like temper-tantrum.

    As the elevator passed the nineteenth floor, Sam felt his stomach rise in his gut; they were clearly slowing down suddenly. The control panel beeped three times, and the elevator stopped with both the lights for floors nineteen and twenty illuminated. The doors parted to reveal a completely mundane hallway that was not at all lined with torchlight and filled with laser security beams such as what Sam had fancied when he thought of the hidden floor. At the end of the short hall, he saw Mr. Henrique Alonzo through an open office door. He sat at a desk that was not made of Donphan ivory and wrote on paperwork with a pen that was apparently not a quill dipped in blood.

    “Mr. Stark, please come in.”

    Sam nodded; there was no more time to think about how the meeting would go. It was about to happen. He and Carlos passed through the open doorway, and each took one of the seats on the near side of Mr. Alonzo’s desk. Sam could not help but look beneath his seat; there did not appear to be a trap door. Sam almost could not help but feel disappointed at the nineteen-and-a-halfth floor’s lack of mystique.

    “I understand we had something of a mishap in Celestic, and the legends were lost to us.”

    Of course, Sam thought. There were more people there than just Carlos and himself. Anyone else in any of the other trucks could have called in the situation. Which meant that they got to put their own personal spin on it well before Sam had a chance to defend himself. He opened his mouth to do just that, but Henrque cut him off.

    “I was told that you were admirable in your efforts, but my crew got a little impetuous and frightened them off before you could finish.” Henrique rubbed his palms as if he were washing them. “Mr. Stark, I am exceedingly sorry about this. I promised you a crew to assist you, and instead, they impeded you. I understand if you’ll not be wanting to work with us going forward.”

    Sam choked out a noise through his gaping mouth. He had never imagined such a reaction from Henrique. It felt surreal. Perhaps there was yet some magic on the ninteen-and-a-halfth floor.

    “Your men did their best, Mr. Alonzo; I think they were just caught up in the heat of the moment and thought that I was about to be attacked.” Sam heard a sharp intake of breath from Carlos. “I don’t think anyone was really to blame.” He was not sure why he was defending those idiots when they had so terribly screwed everything up. Perhaps it was the thought that one of them took enough responsibility for his own actions that he reported the truth to his boss. Perhaps because he felt caught up in whatever kind of game Henrique Alonzo might have been playing. “I certainly don’t hold any of them accountable.”

    Carlos shifted in his seat and scratched his nose.

    “Were your men out-of-line, Mr. Morales?”

    “No, Mr. Alonzo. It is,” Carlos stammered for a second, “just as Mr. Stark say. Accidents. That is all. They are much sorry for what happened.”

    Carlos was clearly as disconcerted by the conversation as Sam had been. Served him right.

    “Do you have any ideas going forward, Samuel?”

    Sam rolled his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “The lakes. It’s the only thing I can think of. If they aren’t being kept somewhere--and they feel like they’ve just been attacked--I think they’d scatter to their homes. To what they think is safe.”

    Mr. Alonzo was nodding slowly and stretching back in his chair. Moments passed without any more words. Sam had nothing else to offer--the trio either went home, or he had no idea what they’d do--but Henrique seemed inclined to neither agree nor disagree. While the silence fogged the air, Sam noticed Bree had flown to the ceiling of the windowless office and was circling around the chandelier as the room’s main source of light.

    “Would you be willing to investigate the lakes? I can absolutely arrange for a new crew to work with you so that we won’t be encountering any more...,” Mr. Alonzo’s eyes moved to Carlos, “accidents.”

    Sam felt his own words burning in his chest. He had nothing left to offer, so why was Alonzo still so willing to work with him? It did not make any damn sense. Was it just because his crew had godawful people skills and he needed someone to face for them? Was it because he, unlike the Hoennese workers, was less likely to get harassed by locals? These reasons did not seem to matter when it came to the secluded lakes. Sam weighed the notion that Mr. Alonzo would even tell him the truth if he asked; he could feel a tangible game of cat-and-mouse being played, but he could not put his finger on which role he was filling.

    “Why?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I don’t work for you. I barely know you. Why are you so interested in having me involved?” Sam’s posture straightened and he felt bold as he spoke the words. He figured, cat or mouse, it was worth a shot to try getting ahead of this game.

    Mr. Alonzo placed his hands on his desk and pushed himself up. Sam stayed in his seat as the president answered him. “I am, I’m afraid, using you, Mr. Stark. Not maliciously or cruelly, but simply because I need you. Could I find the legends without you? And bring them in? Almost certainly, yes. I am, if little else, a man of means. But then what? Then I get painted as a villain by a society that respects and adores men like Professor Rowan. My stature and wealth are used against me to portray me as an elitist or a smuggler or an eccentric or just someone who scoffs at the law. But you? God, Sam, you bring legitimacy. You’re the man who has faced so much; the everyman who needs the legends to repair your fractured life. Society will see you and your brother on every television channel in the world, and they’ll know I’m right. That our world deserves better.”

    “Even if I don’t necessarily agree with your stance and I’m just doing this for myself?”

    Mr. Alonzo drew in his lower lip, and Sam realized he must have been biting it, even if just slightly. “Even then, yes. All I ask is that you tell your honest story to the media and let them know how willing I was to help out. You don’t have to like or agree with me. Just be honest about what happened and the role I played.”

    Sam tilted his head to his right. It seemed too easy, too little to expect in return. “Verity is the closest lake. I’m going there now; just have your boys call me when they arrive.” He knew better than to try to get anything else out of Mr. Alonzo. It was simpler to just let him play his own game while Sam ensured the safety of Tommy. After that was taken care of, he could deal with whatever Henrique had planned. After the president acknowledged his statement with a quick nod, Sam headed out the open door to the escalator. Carlos was right behind him.

    Sam wondered what Carlos was thinking. Was he embarrassed that one of his own men cut his legs out from under him? Was he happy to not have taken any more personal blame? Was he disappointed at the possibility of being replaced the rest of the way? Whatever it was, he wasn’t feeling any more like sharing than usual; he summoned the elevator and boarded after the pokemon and Sam without another word.

    The doors opened a few silent moments later on the ground floor, and Monferno shocked Sam by breaking free of his grip and darting through the elevator corridor. Sam reached out to grab him, but Barry’s friend was already well out of range. He charged directly to the stairwell door in which it had been so interested before.

    “Monferno, we’re done here. We’re not using--”

    Monferno balled a fist. A thunder-like crack came next as he smashed the door open.

    “No, Mon--damn it! No!”

    As Sam gave chase, he couldn’t help but imagine the next time he had to visit Mr. Alonzo, the Phoenix Corporation president might just have all doors removed from their hinges in advance to expedite the inevitable.

    Sam made it to the doorway, finding the door itself to be broken in half. Monferno was already out of sight, but Sam could hear him bounding downward, so that was the direction he took after him. Sam leaped over steps two-by-two in a frantic attempt to stop the monkey from destroying any more property. It was foolish to have let him out of the ball, Sam realized. He had no idea what the ape’s tendencies were. Of course he was as impetuous and instinctive as his trainer; of course!

    A cream-colored blur shot by Sam as he rounded a turn in the stairwell. Vlam had caught up and was tracking down Monferno, too. Sam, in his haste to catch Monferno, had forgotten that his pokemon were all loose, too. Vlam was in front of him, and a look to his right showed him Bree, who was having a much easier time traversing stairs since she could fly. Chispa was nowhere in sight, but since he had stopped, he could hear her whimpering from several floors above him. Sam cursed to himself.

    “Bree, go keep an eye on Chispa, okay? Don’t let anything happen to her. Can you do that?”

    Bree bobbed in the air, then sped upwards to guard her little sister. Sam continued his rush down the stairs.

    Having finally reached the bottom of the steps, Sam found yet another decimated door. This one had been wooden, and it had ruptured into splinters from whatever Monferno had done to it. The room behind the door was full of plumbing and large water heaters; pipes both thick and thin criss-crossed the ceiling and ran down the walls into each heater; the room reminded Sam of the puzzle games he’d play as a child, trying to follow a string from one end to another through a jumble of other strings. But what he did not see was any sign of Monferno or Vlam.

    “Monferno! This is a boiler room, not a banana room! What are you doing here?”

    He heard Vlam bark in response. They were definitely still there somewhere. Sam walked carefully through the boiler room, careful not to bump any pipes or disturb anything that Monferno hadn’t already. He called out to Vlam, and she reacted again, allowing Sam to follow her voice to wherever Monferno was hiding. He was briefly startled as a small, purple, stinging pokemon known as Skorupi skittered out in front of him, but before he could do anything about it, it vanished under one of the water tanks. Sam just wanted to get out of the room. Carlos and security were probably on their way down the steps to deal with the mess Monferno had made; Chispa was upstairs, probably upset by how quickly Sam had ran off. He felt bad about it, but until he had a chance to give the pokemon back, he knew Monferno would have to stay in his ball from here-out.

    A last bark by Vlam directed Sam to a small broom closet doorway at the far end of the boiler room. The room appeared to be unlit, but as he approached, he could see sprites of flame dancing on the walls. The light from Monferno’s fiery tale, no doubt.

    “All right, so what’s the big idea--” Sam began as he entered the doorway, but what he saw stopped him dead in his tracks.


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  10. #25
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    Default Re: Brothers' Bond

    Chapter 16

    Floaroma Town was barely an outskirt of a suburb, a small stopover village nestled in the woods at the bottom of Mount Coronet. In comparison, Celestic Town may well have been a bustling center of trade. But where Celestic was surrounded by perpetual mountain haze, looming pine trees, and a jagged, knife-like terrain that combined to cause Sam to fear for his life at the movement of his own shadow, Floaroma Town was much more sleepy and calm. The village was literally alive with colors; flowers bloomed from the east end to the western highway out towards Eterna City, and roads and walkways were shaped windingly around their beds so as to molest them as little as possible. Despite the frantic nature in which Sam had arrived at Floaroma Town just hours before, he felt a sense of relaxation as he made his way to the Val-U-Stay motel where he’d rented a room. The peacefulness of the quiet village and the hypnotic sway of the floral scenery reminded Sam of a movie he’d seen as a child, but these flowers--unlike the ones in the film--did not seem to have the nefarious side effect of putting travelers to sleep at a witch’s command. A witch would have been the least of Sam’s concerns at the moment, anyway.

    There certainly was some effect from the flowers, though. Sam had been running all-but nonstop for two days as he tried to put as much distance between himself and Canalave City as possible. It was not until he’d reached Floaroma that the idea of catching his breath and figuring out his next move came to him. Maybe it was something about the easiness of the flowers that had calmed him down after all. The Val-U-Stay seemed to be the most anonymous place in town, so he settled on that despite the unimpressive boasting on its vacancy sign. “Beds. Cable TV. Private Rooms”. They weren’t the most fascinating amenities Sam could imagine, but it did certainly beat the alternative, which was apparently having a public room with no beds.

    Sam found himself mesmerized in place and admiring the intertwining of a bush of red flowers with another bush of yellow flowers (Sam was humbled by being incapable of naming the plants, but he realized he never claimed to be a botanist) when the proprietor of the Val-U-Stay emerged from the front office to sweep the sidewalk. The sight of her brought him back to reality; he pulled the brim of the ballcap he had lifted from a gas station outside Jubilife City down to cover as much of his face as possible and nodded at her as he hurried away up the stairwell to the second floor.

    Sam pushed open the door to room seventeen and was almost immediately tackled by Monferno, causing the bag of convenience store delicacies he had left the motel room for in the first place to scatter to the ground.

    “Damn it! I had soup in there!” Sam cried in frustration as Monferno rubbed his face on Sam’s chest. “Why is he even out of his ball?”

    “Well he’s hungry, too. And he doesn’t like being cooped up in his ball anymore than we like being cooped up in a motel room.”

    Monferno bounced from Sam’s body and began sniffing around the fallen bag. Sam saw the monkey begin licking at it and knew right away that the lid must have come free from the soup. So much for dinner, he thought. “Barry, you and this ape couldn’t spell ’subtlety’ if I tattooed it on each of your foreheads. What if he made so much noise that someone--”

    “Well of course we couldn’t.”

    Sam froze and narrowed his eyes. He took a deep breath before deciding to address whatever Barry was talking about. “Couldn’t what?”

    “Spell it. I mean, if you tattooed it on our heads. Because then it would be backwards.”

    Sam felt his eyes begin to water. “I--what now?”

    “If you tattooed it on our heads and we looked in the mirror to see how it was spelled, it’d be all backwards. Then there’s the fact that I’m pretty sure Monferno can’t spell words anyway--”

    There might have been more, and knowing Barry, there probably was. But Sam’s brain had deactivated as part of some kind of self-defense mechanism. All he could hear was the steady, high-pitched grunt building in the back of his throat. Sure enough, Barry’s mouth was still moving. Sam shuddered and turned to the fire pokemon; it was still licking the inside of the plastic bag.

    “Am I right?” Barry apparently concluded.

    “I--yes. That is--yes. Right. Okay. Sure. Backwards.” Sam’s brain was not offering up more than one word at a time. Disagreeing with Barry never seemed to net much gain.

    Barry nodded, possibly proud of himself for yet another deep thought, and the two of them stood facing each other as the seconds dawdled past. Monferno was still crouched on the ground and pawing at the bag of lost soup, and he was not being neat about it with broth and noodles slopping up the floor. It occurred to Sam that Barry had no interest in cleaning up after his friend, so if it was going to get done, he’d have to be the one to do it.

    “I guess I’ll get a towel to clean that up,” Sam said, letting his eyes linger on Barry for a few moments as he started towards the bathroom.

    Barry was undeterred, and only pressed his palms downwards. “I’ll hold everything down here,” he answered as if the duty were vitally important.

    Sam pulled a washrag off of the towel rack in the motel bathroom that was barely capable of holding a shower, a toilet, a sink, and a human being within its walls. They couldn’t stay in this motel for long, and he knew it. Sam was beginning to feel like he had nowhere left to turn. He could not possibly go back to the Phoenix Corporation, yet Professor Rowan was hardly any better of an option. And back home to Goldenrod City, empty-handed? That was simply out of the question. His brain pressed him, Where are you going, Sam?

    His eyes caught the light coming through the window, and Sam could not help but wonder who would put a window in a motel bathroom? His gaze settled back on the swaying colors outside. A burst of violet settled in amongst a sea of muted yellow, and Sam could see the movement of insects busily floating from blossom to blossom to collect their dinners. Sam leaned his neck to look up to the sky; he wondered if the flowers’ colors were arranged in such a way that they made an image to passing aircraft. Something simple, but pleasant enough to charm anyone passing by and hopefully let them forget about the stresses of their life until they reached their destination.

    “Hey, Sam?” Barry called from outside the bathroom. “Any idea why we would be on TV?”

    Sam’s attention was wrenched from the peacefulness of the window, and he rushed to Barry’s side in front the tiny motel television set. Sure enough, there were two photos of them in the corner of a news report. The shot of Barry was a simple stock photo--probably a school picture with the way he was mugging in the image--and the one of Sam looked to be a still picture from a security camera in Canalave. Sam would be lying if he claimed he had not thought this might happen, but he was counting on Mr. Alonzo’s secretive nature and distrust of Sinnohans to keep it from coming to this.

    “Turn it up,” he told Barry, though the words had to fight their way out of his mouth.

    “No word today to follow up yesterday’s report of a violent kidnapping in Canalave City. Samuel Stark of Johto, pictured right, was abducted from the Phoenix Shipping Corporation Building in Canalave by accused eco-terrorist Barry West, pictured left. In the middle of the afternoon business day--”

    “What the hell?” Sam squinted at the report as if he could see beyond it to something else.

    “Eco-terrorist?” Barry mused, his breath chortling out through his nose.

    “--witnesses have corroborated the story that Mr. West was trying to break into the building through the basement. When Mr. Stark allegedly caught him in the act, Mr. West took him hostage and fled the city, possibly aboard a ferry or cargo ship. If you see either of these men--”

    “Who corroborated that? Who possibly--” Sam’s words died with the dawning of a realization. “What the hell kind of game is Alonzo playing here?”

    “Eco terrorist! Ha!”

    “According to Phoenix Corporation President, Henrique Alonzo, Barry West is dangerous, possibly disturbed, and prone to violent, destructive outbursts. He is responsible for millions of dollars of damaged property, and he allegedly made an attempt on the lives of several Phoenix employees off the coast of Snowpoint City.”

    “Well, okay. Most of that one is true...”

    “I’m gonna terrorize all the ecos!”

    “--still awaiting official word from Sinnoh’s Secretary of Pokemon Affairs, Professor Rowan. Professor Rowan is the legal guardian of Barry West, and previous attempts to contact him have been politely declined, though Professor Rowan did state the accusations against Mr. West are absurd, and he’d be calling a press conference tomorrow morning to directly address the concerns.”

    Sam lowered his face down into his hands and rubbed his eyes until he saw sparks dancing in his eyelids. The news report had been, of course, untrue. Sam did not find Barry trying to break into the building; he found him there being held in the boiler room against his will. It had become apparent to Sam then that when Sam had left Barry in Snowpoint with Mr. Alonzo, the latter held onto Barry, labeling him as some kind of threat. It was another in a long line of mistakes Sam had made lately, but he immediately decided to make up for it by taking Barry as far from Henrique as possible. Since charging out of the Phoenix Corporation Building after rescuing Barry and gathering up their friends, Sam had been so frazzled he had not stopped to consider what would be best for Barry.

    “We’ve got to get you back to Sandgem Town. Now.”

    “Well, we could, but I can’t promise not to blow up a tree on the way. Because that’s what I do, you know?”

    “That’s not even what it--no, come on. We’re not that far off. We can get you back together with Rowan by tonight if we push it. Then you can go out there with him tomorrow and say what’s really going on. With you, with me, with Alonzo. The whole truth.”

    Barry scratched his cheek. “Yeah, that’d be pretty neat. You, me, and Rowan all at a podium together, being all like 'Mr. Alonzo is a dick’! Let’s see what he has to say in response to that, right?”

    “Right...,” Sam looked down at the carpet and saw the soup stain. The mess he still hadn’t cleaned up and now would never get to. “Look, I’m not staying if we go. I’ll get you to the lab, but that’s as far as I go. Alonzo might be crackerjacks, but Rowan... he’s not exactly on my Christmas card list, either.”

    Barry shrugged, but offered nothing else. Sam felt compelled to go on. “Look, I screwed up, and I got you hurt. That was really pathetic of me; I know it. But those two? Man, it was bad enough when they were both moving me like a pawn on a checkerboard. Now they’re going to make their little to-do public? Keep me out of it.”

    “Chessboard.”

    “What?”

    “You use a pawn on a chessboard, not a checkerboard.”

    Sam’s instant rebuttal was that they were the same thing, but he kept it to himself. Had Barry heard anything else he said, or was Sam basically just talking to the cold stain on the seafoam green carpet?

    “So where are you going? After dropping me off, that is.”

    Sam looked over his right shoulder as the answer sprang to him. “Lake Valor. Verity is too close to Canalave, and Acuity is too risky if Henrique ends up back at his little resort. I’m going to find Lake Valor and see if any of the guardians returned there. They’ll be willing to help me; I saw that in them. It’s what I have to do.”

    Barry nodded emphatically. He pulled one of his pokeballs from his pocket and recalled Monferno into it. “Lake Valor’s going to be a long trip. You better run back across the street before we leave and stock up on energy drinks. I get sleepy on busses and trains.”

    “Yeah, but no. Did you miss the part where I’m taking you back to Sandgem so you can clear your name?”

    “I did, but that was the boring part of the plan that I’m ignoring. So we’re going to Valor together instead. Besides, I’d be the worst kidnapper ever if I just let you wander off on your own. Mean, who does that?”

    “Barry, this is serious.”

    “I don’t do serious.”

    “I saw you arguing with Mr. Alonzo over the proper care of legendary pokemon.”

    Barry rolled his eyes as if the memory was damaging to his reputation. “Sometimes I do serious. Irregularly, at best.”

    “And what if we get caught by someone while you’re with me?”

    “Did you miss the part of the story where you’re my hapless victim? You can tell the police the truth if it came to that. Besides,” Barry slapped Sam’s shoulder, “do you really think the prof would let me rot in jail? That’s kind of the point of having powerful friends and family.”

    Barry was a hard kid to read, but especially so at that moment; Sam had no idea why he was turning up a chance to clear his own name. There was always the possibility that the impulsive youth simply wanted to go where there might be action. But maybe there was more, Sam thought. Maybe Barry was in tune to how much Sam felt he still needed to make up to him. It had, after all, only been a few days since he’d physically assaulted Barry, humiliated him, stole his friends, and left him at the mercy of someone like Henrique Alonzo. One little rescue hardly made up for that.

    Sam sighed, but did not say anything back. Barry nodded brightly in reply, and it appeared to be settled. The two gathered up what meager possessions they had with them at the motel. Sam might have missed the changes in clothes and belongings he had to leave with Carlos when he abruptly fled Canalave, but he had to admit that it made for abandoning a motel in a hurry much easier. Within minutes, wallets, pokeballs, and cell phones were gathered up, and the two were ready to leave.

    They pulled the door to room seventeen behind them just in time to see a police officer climbing the outer stairs of the motel right outside their room. He was bald, and his expansive forehead was wrinkled in a scowl.

    Sam froze, and his brain tried to process an ocean of possibilities. The motel manager must have recognized him and called the police in to investigate the room. Or someone at the convenience store saw him; maybe he was caught on the surveillance video there. Would he have to explain to the cop the situation and tell him the truth about Barry? There didn’t seem to be any way the officer would believe him. He’d probably just chalk it up to Stockholm Syndrome or something.

    The cop let out a fiery breath, and Sam immediately knew he wasn’t in a pleasant mood. Sam felt his hands ball up; would he have to use his friends to get past the guy? Maybe, but then what? He and Barry would be reduced to attacking an officer and then trying to run away on foot. How was it that between the two of them, they did not have a single pokemon that could fly them away? Sam’s hand began lagging towards his pocket...

    “Hello there, gentlemen. I tell you, I’d kill to be your age again. Concrete steps are a bitch on an artificial knee.” The cop finally let out a smile as he strode, limping slightly, past them down the second-floor corridor. “Have a good day.”

    Sam never turned to see the officer disappear behind a corner, but when he could no longer hear the off-tempo footsteps, he felt all the air rush out of his lungs, “Ffffuuuu--”

    “I totally thought we were about to beat a cop’s butt. That was almost so awesome. So close.”

    Sam regained himself by steadying on the railing. He looked out over a sea of lazy flowers lulling in the cool air. He wasn’t about to be tricked by them again.

    “Let’s please just get out of here before my heart explodes, okay?”


    Brothers' Bond: The story how far one man will go--and what he'll do--to save the most important person in his life.

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