28th July 2009, 12:01 AM #1
Imma chew on yo gibblies
Because Bulbagarden truly lacks pretentious, overwrought horseshit parading about as fanfiction:
Sometimes Fate brings together legendary heroes to accomplish extraordinary things.
Sometimes Fate brings together a motley array of unlikely heroes to accomplish incredible things.
And sometimes Fate can't be bothered to go through all the work and goes shopping at the Dollar Store instead.
Many people tend to have romantic notions of the wild. They sit in their cubicles day in and day out, envisioning that one day they might magically become a Pokemon and roam the world, going where they choose and answering to no one. The irony that most people fail to realize, however, is that for many Pokemon such a life is largely regimented and proscribed anyway.
On a typical Pokemon’s daily to-do list:
1. Wake up
2. Find food
2.b. avoid becoming food (as applicable)
So in other words, a Pokemon’s daily routine is much like a human’s daily routine, with fewer asshole coworkers and more random violent death. It is no surprise then on this typical day in a typical forest in a typical part of northern California that a certain Pokemon would soon be stirring to begin yet another typical day. Still half-asleep, the creature carefully poked its head out of its burrow, checking its surroundings. Same pond surrounded by the same trees with the same wild birds chirping the same incessant songs, the same as every other day. Content that everything was in its place, the Pokemon clambered out of its burrow in preparation for the daily cleansing and drinking ritual.
The Pokemon was a Raticate, in the sense that at one point in time it may in fact have been a Raticate. It was larger, with elongated forelimbs and stubby rear legs that gave it an almost ape-like gait. Each toe on each limb was host to a wicked-looking claw, capable of slashing Pokemon as easily as they could move dirt. Its long tail swished easily as it walked, showing a flexibility that would have made an Aipom jealous. Coal-black hair was peppered with gray hair around the eyes and muzzle. Arriving at the edge of the water, it regarded its reflection the same way it had regarded it yesterday, the day before yesterday, and the many days before those days, the novelty of its unique appearance having lost its curiosity long ago. The creature bent down for a drink.
And much like how toast will always land butter side down and a window will take a baseball in order to protect the drywall surrounding it, the break in routine happened at the worst possible time.
The Pokemon’s ears twitched as it heard something stumble noisily through the forest, right towards its secluded glen. With remarkable speed the Pokemon turned, bared its claws and assumed a low fighting stance. There had been many Pokemon who thought themselves powerful enough to bully the rat-like creature around: many of them learned quickly not to repeat the mistake. So prepared it was to fight another Pokemon, the rat Pokemon soon found itself taken aback as a human stumbled into its territory. It had been years since the Pokemon had seen a human being, and seldom-used parts of its brain found themselves frantically dusting off the cobwebs, searching through their mental archives for information about the intruder. Moments later, an electrical pulse came bearing valuable information about the human: he appeared to be what humans called a “teenager”, and looked to be about halfway through that period. And…that was it.
The Pokemon groaned inwardly.
The lanky dark-haired youth started at the Pokemon. He appeared to be just as confused, until something clicked and caused him to toss down his backpack and frantically search through it. The Pokemon watched with part caution, part detached interest.
The youth grinned as he found what he was looking for, and produced a half-red, half-white spherical object.
The Pokemon groaned inwardly again.
The concept of Fate is hotly debated amongst humans. Some feel that Fate is rigid and that everyone is predestined from birth to a certain destiny in order to balance out some grand cosmic equation, preferably one with lots of variables so that scientists get to feel good about constructing ridiculously large supercomputers in order to solve it. Others feel that Fate is like a rubber band, and many adherents to this theory soon find themselves metaphorically rubbing their injured hands because they decided to see how far it would stretch. Still others feel that Fate involves butterflies, thus making the insects the most insidiously powerful beings on the planet as well as proving that God has an odd sense of humor.
Regardless of whether Fate is a one-way highway or the world’s largest rubber band ball or an irate swallowtail taking out its frustrations on the world at large, it is generally agreed that Fate works in mysterious ways. In this case Fate had chosen a rough-hewn, disheveled man and his Houndoom as her agents. The pair quietly crept through the forest, hot on the trail of a youth who had moved through the underbrush with all the subtlety and grace of a pink Donphan on a drinking binge. The man’s associates had taken off to pursue another traveler, leaving him and his Houndoom to the task. In the man’s mind, it was still gross overkill: the kid apparently didn’t have any Pokemon with him, and in case Houndoom’s fiery breath wasn’t enough the man still had his trusty rifle, showing its years of use in the wilderness but still capable of ending life when needed.
Of course, one of the downsides of working for Fate is that she rarely deigns to tell you that you’re in her employ.
The youth threw his Pokeball for the third time.
The rat Pokemon caught the ball for the third time, careful to not trigger the capture mechanism. He tossed it back.
Returning his property without damage apparently angered the youth a great deal, and the boy quickly began throwing every Pokeball he had at the rat.
The rat decided to demonstrate his ability to juggle. For some reason this only made the youth angrier, so the Pokemon decided to return the balls again, “accidentally” aiming for the face this time.
The boy sat down a few bruisers richer, glaring at the Pokemon. The Pokemon sat down on its haunches, enjoying the sight of the frustrated youth and the Houndoom about to pounce on him, ready to tear the boy’s throat out.
In the time it took for the rat’s conscious mind to register the thought wait a minute… his unconscious mind had propelled him forward at blinding speed, up into the air, and right at the Houndoom, claws ready to rend flesh. The dark Pokemon howled in surprise as claw met muzzle and soon found itself on the receiving end of an unepected thrashing. The rat Pokemon punctuated its slashing and biting with a violent headbutt, slamming hard on the Houndoom’s muzzle and causing the Pokemon to stagger backwards, surprised and disoriented by the rat Pokemon’s violent attack as blood began to trickle from open wounds and a broken nose.
His foe temporarily out of the way, the rat spared a gaze to check on his newfound ward. The boy’s face betrayed both utter surprise and the utter desire to wet himself, with more of the latter as raw instinct propelled the rat forward once again, tackling the youth and dragging him into the underbrush as bullets tore through the space the pair had been occupying moments ago. The two wound up in a heap, the rat on top of the human and the former looked down on the latter, who appeared to be trying to disappear underground solely through force of will. The rat Pokemon leaned down until he was near the boy’s ear, and felt the youth struggle as fang accidentally scraped earlobe.
“Stay down.” He felt the boy suddenly jerk, recognizing that the Pokemon was speaking in the human tongue, the accent rough but comprehensible. “Let me handle this.” Somehow, despite having gone from discovering a new species to nearly being murdered in the space of five minutes, a talking Pokemon was apparently the most unusual thing that had happened to the boy this morning.
“You talk!?” the boy asked, both with incredulity and at a volume that was perfect for attracting unwanted attention, which caused the source of a constant stream of invectives and curses to start coming closer to the pair’s hiding spot. The youth heard a grunt—exasperation or confirmation, the boy couldn’t say—and the sudden sensation of a large weight being taken off his body.
Howls of pain and the sound of gunfire followed moments later. The boy risked a look out of cover.
The Houndoom thrashed about, howling bloody murder as the rat sunk its fangs deeper into the back of its neck. The rat’s forelimbs alternated between pinning the body to the ground and keeping the dark Pokemon’s head and fiery breath pointed in a direction in which they could do little harm, and the Houndoom’s eyes were alight with a feral desperation. A man in camouflage with the telltale signs of one who has lived off the land for longer than was comfortable cursed as he moved to reload his rifle.
Looking back, the boy couldn’t say whether it was fear or adrenaline that caused his legs to act, but they were soon propelling him towards the camouflaged man at seemingly breakneck speeds. Distracted from watching his Houndoom get the worst of it, the man reacted too late: a satisfying grunt of pain followed the shoulder to the gut, and the two humans soon found themselves on the ground in a heap. The sharp sensation of a rifle butt to the forehead soon followed that, and the boy found himself on the ground, clutching at his temple in pain as the man climbed to his feet, breathing heavily.
The sound of the rifle cocking was like the voice of Death himself.
And the rat’s incoherent battle cry was like the whole of the Heavenly chorus. The man’s shot went wide as the Pokemon fell upon him, clawing and biting with berserker madness. The man’s legs buckled underneath him even as he desperately tried to deflect the attack, his efforts in vain. His screams faded to a weak gurgle.
And then it was over. What had once been a Houndoom laid in a bloody heap not ten yards away from his master, who had apparently felt that if he was going to the afterlife he would try to one-up his Pokemon in the sorry state of his corpse.
The boy—too numb from the adrenaline rush to fully comprehend what had just happened—watched as the rat Pokemon walked over to the water and began to wash himself. The water turned red where the Pokemon dipped his claws. Somewhere along the line the boy’s backpack found its way back into his possession, although he could not remember picking it up.
More gunshots rang out through the forest. The rat’s claws stopped in mid dip as he turned towards the source of the sound. The boy’s gaze followed his, and moments later their eyes met.
The two quickly began dashing through the underbrush towards the source.
For Chuck, it was a very good day.
Granted, Chuck wasn’t his given name. Hell, his given name wasn’t even “Charles” or any other name starting with a C that could reasonably be shortened to Chuck. His fellow bandits had given him the nickname simply because he embodied the very essence of Chuck-ness, a man whose picture would appear by the word “Chuck” in the dictionary if anyone could ever sit down and agree exactly on what Chuck (with the capital C) meant.
Nomenclature aside, Chuck was in high spirits on this particular day. He and four other bandits had finally managed to corner their quarry, a female Pokemon trainer and her Gardevoir. They had managed to herd the pair into a clearing, where the group had proceeded to surround them, maneuvering to ensure that the Gardevoir would never be able to teleport in any direction safely without earning a third eye for her troubles. At the moment the duo were desperately trying to figure out how to escape the noose set for them, but with five armed bandits and just as many Houndoom in between them and freedom their chances were growing increasingly dim.
A female trainer and a Gardevoir: in bandit terms it was the proverbial Christmas-come-early. A predatory smile began to form on Chuck’s face.
In the throes of triumph it is a characteristically human trait to become blind to certain warning signs. Under normal circumstances an experienced outdoorsman would probably be wary of the sound of something charging through the forest towards him, especially after a lengthy and noisy chase that would cause most animals to run away from the ruckus instead. Indeed at some level Chuck’s mind desperately tried to alert him that something was amiss, but found itself stymied by Chuck’s rather active imagination regarding the fruits of the hunt.
So when a black mass of fur and claws came screaming out of the forest and right on top of Frankie, the left brain being able to say “I told you so” turned out to be cold comfort. The bandit howled as the creature began to lay into him, bellowing challenge as the other bandits moved to help their comrade. Being the farthest away from the newcomer Chuck and his Houndoom found themselves struck dumb as to whether to aid their comrade or focus on the girl instead, who seemed to be just as confused as the bandits were. He watched as the Gardevoir suddenly turned towards him, her trainer following her lead almost instantaneously and without any obvious communication between the two. To Chuck it seemed that the decision had been made for him, and he leveled his rifle.
Of course the Gardevoir hadn’t been looking at him, but rather the thing rapidly approaching from behind him.
The wind went out of Chuck’s lungs as the force of over a hundred pounds of teenage male was focused on his spine. The rifle clattered out of his hands, landing precious yards away as the pair tumbled in the dirt, wrestling for the upper hand. Chuck’s Houndoom turned in surprise as it watched its master fall to the attack from behind and prepared to leap in to his master’s defense. A large rock to the skull ended Houndoom’s ambitions.
Flying in the air at a trajectory impossible under most physical models, the rock made a 180 degree turn and aimed itself at Chuck’s head, the bandit having managed to recover from the attack and having pinned the boy to the ground, ready to deliver severe cranial trauma via clenched fists to the unfortunate youth. The boy watched with surprised relief as the bandit’s head jerked, blood flowing from the wound where rock had met head as the bandit tumbled off him to the ground. Pushing the unmoving bandit off him, the boy clambered to his feet to the sight of a girl and Gardevoir regarding him with caution, the psychic uncertain if she would have to use the rock on this one as well.
The boy saluted the pair in order to assuage their fears. A long moment passed before the Pokemon responded, and he felt a sensation in his mind signaling that the creature had given him her tentative approval. Suddenly her head jerked, turning towards another bandit who had decided to focus on the girl rather than confront the violent whirling mass of teeth and claws. He lifted his rifle. For the boy the entire sequence seemed to pass by in slow motion.
The bucking of the rifle as the shot exited the barrel.
The Gardevoir disappearing.
The Gardevoir reappearing mere feet away, between her trainer and the bandit.
A spray of red as the bullet made contact.
A scream of pain that was felt rather than heard.
The Gardevoir staggered as her trainer dashed to her side, catching the psychic Pokemon to stop her from falling. The boy felt himself paralyzed, only able to watch in horror as the man cocked his rifle, spent shells ejected from the weapon to the ground below as he readied the second shot. His second shot never came to be as the rat Pokemon made a timely entrance by landing on the bandit, claws at the ready. The man yelped pitifully as the Pokemon began its dirty work.
The rat didn’t even look at the trainers as it yelled “get out of here!” This seemed to break whatever spell had come over the boy, and moments later he soon found himself helping the girl carry her injured Gardevoir through the underbrush, the sounds of battle echoing behind them.
Some time later the pair would look back on the experience and realize that it was where Fate had chosen to set them on the road to their destinies. Both would have preferred it if Fate had made her decision known with a beam of light and booming voice from heaven and a lot less blood and screaming.
The sun was making its slow descent into the western horizon. Two trainers and an injured Gardevoir found themselves gathered around a small campfire, the flames occasionally licking at the cans of ravioli placed on a grated metal tray above the flames. The impromptu group had kept running until the sounds of battle had faded, and exhausted from the day’s events had settled on making a camp in order to rest and tend to the Gardevoir’s wounds. The pair had done their best with the meager first aid options available on their person, and several bloody bandages covered where the bullet had hit the psychic type in the side. She sat on a nearby log with her trainer clearly spent, half-open eyes staring at nothing in particular. No one talked: generally when people encounter each other in life-threatening situations the usual conversation starters like “how do you do” and “nice weather we’re having” seem inappropriate. Both humans pretended to find something intensely interesting in the flickering flames that required their undivided attention instead.
The rustling of underbrush broke both trainers out of their spell, and they turned to the noise. Almost on cue a strangely familiar voice called out.
“Relax. If I was going to do anything to you I would’ve done it already.”
The group remained tense as the rat Pokemon—bloody and bruised but otherwise apparently in high spirits--walked into camp, dragging a loaded backpack by the shoulder strap behind it. The Pokemon looked at three confused stares and sighed.
“It’s a bag of supplies,” he replied to the unasked question, “you know, the stuff you bring with you into the wilds because you’re too clueless to survive off the land like even the stupidest Pokemon alive can.”
The boy seemed to regain his bearings first. “You didn’t…” he began.
The rat gave him what could most accurately be described as a shrug. “’Kill ‘em all and take their stuff.’ They lived by it, might as well have ‘em die by it too. Besides, I didn’t hear you complain when I killed to save your scrawny ass.” The boy said nothing, so the girl decided to fill the silence instead.
“Thanks,” she ventured, and seeing the rat Pokemon nod slightly to no one in particular decided to continue. “But, why did you-“
“Would you take ‘they were a bunch of bastards and the world is better off without them’ as an answer?” the rat interrupted.
“I guess, but what are y-“
The rat cut in again. “I’ll tell you my name if you tell me yours. If we’re talking to each other I want to work with a little more than ‘hey, you’ or ‘hey, dumbass.’” The rat shot a glance at the boy, who pretended not to notice.
It occurred to the pair of trainers that they hadn’t gone over this part yet, and would have to anyway to make things slightly less awkward. Boy looked at girl with a look that said you first.
Girl shot back with no, you first. In the grand rock-paper-scissors game that is the battle of the sexes, the fairer sex often has access to the dreaded cruise missile hand sign, allowing them to win the game at will. The boy’s scissors withered in the face of such a brutal onslaught.
“Jonah,” the boy volunteered.
“Caroline,” the girl added, then gestured to her Pokemon. “And this is Syl.”
Greetings, Syl replied. No sound came from her lips, only words that spontaneously formed in the listener’s mind along with the sensation that a female had said them. Caroline saw the dumbfounded look on Jonah’s face twist into confused anger.
“I thought that Pokemon couldn’t talk,” he huffed, “could someone please tell me what the Hell is going on?”
“Well Syl can,” Caroline said, venturing the obvious. “I’ll explain later.” She ran a hand nervously through her waist-length blonde hair, held behind her by a red bandana that covered her head. Syl wore the same affectation as well, and had the situation not been so dire Jonah might have laughed.
The rat Pokemon snorted. “Kid, if a talking Pokemon is all it takes to rock your world you’re going to freak at some of the shit you would have never guessed existed.” An uncomfortable silence followed, and then it dawned on the rat that he had to fulfill his side of the bargain.
“Oh right,” he began. “Just call me Raticlaw.”
“Raticlaw?” Jonah asked.
“Yeah, Raticate plus claws equals Raticlaw. Don’t fall over yourselves telling me how brilliant I am now.” The trainers exchanged a look, neither sure if this was sarcasm.
“Well…uh…Raticlaw,” Jonah began, “you didn’t happen to bring back…say…a gun maybe?”
Raticlaw gave Jonah a look like he was talking to stupidest human being on the planet. “Do you know how to use one?” he asked, and seeing Jonah’s mouth begin to open added “If it any point you have to say ’I saw it on TV’ it doesn’t count, by the way.”
Jonah’s mouth closed.
“Then you’re not getting one,” the rat Pokemon said firmly. “You’re a trainer, aren’t you? Why the Hell are you wandering the woods without a damn Pokemon?”
Jonah looked down, somewhat embarrassed. “Well, they only give out Pokemon once every three months, and you know how you have to be fifteen before they’ll let you begin as a Pokemon trainer, right?”
“And?” Raticlaw asked.
“Well…I turned 15 the day after the latest giveaway was held.”
“And instead of waiting three more months, you decided to set off on your Pokemon journey. Without an actual Pokemon.”
Jonah looked at him sheepishly. “Yeah.” He said this with considerable embarrassment. Raticlaw sighed and turned to Caroline.
“And what’s your story? You don’t look older than he is, and I’m pretty sure they don’t give out fully evolved English-speaking psychics to greenhorns.”
Caroline looked almost offended. “Syl and I have been together since we were little,” she said, as if Raticlaw’s insinuation that Syl was a mere Pokemon was somehow a grave insult. The rat Pokemon turned towards the Gardevoir and began to give her a critical look. His eyes fell on the bandages.
“Were you able to get that bullet out?” he asked nonchalantly.
Caroline shook her head. “No good,” she said, “we won’t be able to get at it until we get to a Pokemon center.”
“To Hell with that, we can get it out now. Got any soap?”
Syl’s eyes shot wide open as her trainer nodded and sudden, painful realization dawned on her. No, that’s quite alright…
“Good. Hey Jonah, get over here, I’m going to need you to hold her down.”
Really, I’m fine…
“See if you can find something for her to bite down on while we’re at it. Wouldn’t be much good if she swallowed her tongue.”
It’s okay! I’m fine! I’m fine!
Raticlaw stared at the flailing Gardevoir as both trainers tried to restrain her without causing the psychic type even more injury. This was quite a feat, all things considered. “Quit being such a goddamn baby,” Raticlaw snorted, “if you’re going to be a trainer’s Pokemon this is nothing.” He lathered his hands with the bottle of soap Caroline had tossed to him, and he set it down carefully. “Hey Syl, what’s your favorite legendary Pokemon?”
Syl stopped flailing, confused at the sudden turn in the conversation. Favorite…legendary?
Raticlaw peeled carefully at the bandages. “Yeah.”
Well, Groudon, but I don’t see why that’s im-
Claws suddenly disappeared into her open wound. The psychic scream sent flocks of Pidgey scattering in panic for miles as small burst of tomato sauce erupted from a neglected can of ravioli.
Last edited by Blastoise; 18th August 2009 at 02:06 PM.
28th July 2009, 12:12 AM #2
How is forever?
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
I for one loved it. A lot. No criticism here. You've found yourself a loyal reader. Damn, I always need to give criticism... Hmm... Maybe keep just one line of asteriks? This is brilliant. Love.
3rd August 2009, 03:37 PM #3
Imma chew on yo gibblies
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
“Well, I guess the important place to begin is that many Pokemon are capable of learning to speak a human language.”
Jonah listened intently as Caroline began her explanation. The group had set out early in the morning on Raticlaw’s insistence, and there were still a couple hours before noonday was a reality. The rat Pokemon walked several feet ahead of the trainers, looking for any potential trouble.
After his impromptu operation on Syl, Raticlaw had declared to the trainers that--given their sorry state—he was taking on the responsibility of making sure they made it to civilization safely and was not going to take “no” for an answer (questions about his origins were rebuffed with equal vigor). Despite volunteering of his own volition the pair periodically heard Raticlaw grumbling under his breath about something or other, and they had decided to let him take point so that he could vent a healthy distance away from them. In any event, they had little choice: Syl was too badly injured to risk battle, and even as they walked along the winding path through a small mountain range the psychic type rested inside her Pokeball. Jonah had noticed the lack of her presence seemed to make Caroline fidgety and uncomfortable, and he had decided to start a conversation in order to distract her.
“Well, if Pokemon can, er, speak human, why don’t they?” Jonah asked.
“Beats me,” Raticlaw said loudly, not bothering to turn to face him, “how would they be able to live without talking to a brilliant gentleman such as yourself?”
Jonah stopped in his tracks. Caroline stopped as well, trying to figure out why Jonah had stopped. This in turn caused the noise of the pair walking to trail off, which drew Raticlaw’s attention and caused him to stop walking and turn around. There was an uncomfortable silence.
“Dude, what the Hell is your problem?” Jonah asked Raticlaw. “Ever since we started out today you’ve been on my case about everything!”
Raticlaw seemed unfazed. “First off, I’m not your dude. Second, it’s because you’re an idiot.”
Raticlaw nodded. “You heard me. You’re just another dumbass city kid with no clue about the wild and you’ll always be a dumbass city kid until you can prove you’ve smartened the Hell up.” The rat Pokemon watched the teenager stew in his own anger with obvious amusement, and held up one clawed hand when the trainer began to reply. “Save your breath, kid. I don’t have to give the girl crap because one, she’s not a moron and two, if her Gardevoir hadn’t been banged up she wouldn’t even need my help. You, on the other hand, are currently total deadweight, a liability in battle and most importantly you owe me big time for saving your ass. So if I were you I’d be grateful every time I offer you advice on how to not get yourself killed as you think about what you’re going to do to repay your debt instead of acting like I pissed on your patsy.”
And with that, Raticlaw abruptly turned on his haunches and began to amble away, ending the conversation before Jonah could reply. Caroline watched Jonah try to burn a hole in the back of Raticlaw’s skull through sheer force of will for a moment before coughing politely. It managed to get Jonah out of the staring contest with Raticlaw’s back hairs.
“Sorry about that,” Jonah apologized.
Caroline shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. You did help us out yesterday.” Caroline avoided adding even if Raticlaw doesn’t think so to avoid provoking another argument. “Where was I…oh yeah. Anyway, most Pokemon can learn a language, but most don’t. For wild Pokemon they usually don’t have any reason to, and for trained Pokemon you can usually get by so long as your trainer knows when you’re asking for food, water, or a bathroom break.”
A flock of Starly flew overhead, off to some unknown destination in the horizon. The trainers watched them go, and then Caroline continued.
“So…yeah, Syl and I. Well, my parents are Pokemon breeders, and as it turns out my dad’s Gardevoir gave birth to Syl around the time my mom gave birth to me. So we were both together from a very young age.” Caroline smiled at the memory. “You know how psychic Pokemon bond with humans, right?”
Jonah nodded. Nearly all prospective trainers were required to take a course on Pokemon training, due to someone’s insistence that if one was required to take a course in order to own a mere pistol one should also have a rudimentary level of education before being handed de facto control over creatures who could breathe horrific gouts of flame and punch through two inches of steel with jets of water.
Caroline continued. “When psychic Pokemon and humans bond at a very young age, they share aspects of each others mental development, particularly in the parts of the brain that control language comprehension. Long story short, Syl learned English because of me and I learned Pokemon because of Syl.”
“Wait a second, what do you mean ‘learned Pokemon’?” Jonah asked. Caroline stared at him, trying to figure out what to say: it was something she had known all her life and taken for granted. She would have found it easier to explain sight to a blind man.
“I can understand Pokemon when they speak their…um….native language,” She finally said, “I don’t need them to speak ours because I can understand them already. Pretty helpful when you’re a breeder actually: it’s nice to have the Onix tell you where it hurts rather than poking around until the tail to the face lets you know.”
Caroline watched Jonah’s face contort in thought as he mulled over this newfound information. She couldn’t help but feel like she had just admitted to having twelve toes.
And if the subject had been about toes, Jonah’s reaction would have suggested that six-toed feet were his sexual fetish. “Can you teach me to speak Pokemon?”
Caroline was taken aback by his response, but quickly regained her bearings. “Sure. Well, it won’t exactly be ‘teaching’ in the way you’re expecting.”
“Well, it turns out that Syl can pull double duty as a translator. As long as she’s around she can ‘translate’ anything a Pokemon says to you.”
Jonah frowned. “Isn’t that a lot of work though?” Intrigued by the idea as he was, he was already tired of being considered a burden and wasn’t looking to enhance the reputation.
Caroline shook her head. “She’s psychic. Once she’s decided to translate for you her subconscious mind does all the heavy lifting for her. Even better, she’ll be teaching you subconsciously even while she’s translating. Hang around with us long enough and you’ll be able to understand Pokemon without Syl’s help.”
The conversation ceased as the pair walked on, mulling over what had just been said. A concerned look spread on Caroline’s face.
“I just agreed to travel with you, didn’t I,” Caroline said.
Raticlaw took the opportunity to jump back into the conversation. “Sounds good to me.”
Jonah’s face brightened, apparently pleased that his stature had risen in the eyes of a 4-foot-tall rodent. “Really?”
The trainers—staring as they were at the back of Raticlaw’s head—were able to make out a nod. “Sure. If you two run into an Ursaring, she just has to outrun you instead of the bear.” He sniggered.
Caroline felt a sinking feeling in her gut as she saw an already depressingly familiar facial tic that on Jonah signified a wellspring of anger boiling just below the surface. She watched as Jonah began to pick up speed, apparently eager to catch up with Raticlaw in order to start yet another argument. He decided to shave off some time by walking through a bush that Raticlaw had decided to circumvent, and found out why the rat Pokemon had chosen to do so when his foot contacted a bundle of dark blue mass and three leaves and sent it bouncing along the ground.
To a casual observer, it seemed like time froze for Jonah as he literally stopped mid-stride, transfixed on the unfolding spectacle. The Oddish looked up at the unwitting trainer who kicked it, and the raw survival instinct necessary to survive a world full of fire breathing monsters when one is a one-foot tall plant Pokemon quickly overrode the Oddish’s conscious thought. Crying out and shaking its leaves, it released a thick cloud of spores that bore down on Jonah.
Elementary physics holds that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time (this law is apparently lost on most drivers stuck in traffic). Raticlaw made use of this physical principle as his body traveling at high velocity forced Jonah’s out of the area he had been occupying a moment before. Jonah went tumbling backwards as the startled Oddish made a break for the nearest tree line.
The first thing Jonah was aware of past the sudden pain in his tailbone was the sound of footsteps running towards him. Deciding to risk opening his eyes he found his vision filled with a Caterpie’s-eye-view of Caroline.
“Are you okay?” Caroline asked (the fact that people will ask this of others when the person being asked is in several pieces is a hot topic of study amongst anthropologists). Jonah sat up, and feeling nothing broken nodded. Then he turned to Raticlaw. Caroline followed his gaze, and then the two trainers turned to each other in unison.
Raticlaw gurgled weakly. Paralysis tends to do that to one’s vocal capabilities. Neither trainer paid it much heed: he probably hit a bump or something.
Jonah and Caroline found themselves carrying the paralyzed and barely-conscious Pokemon through the forest, utilizing a couple of tent poles and a sheet as an impromptu sled to carry him. Not surprisingly, this made for an uncomfortable ride, made even more uncomfortable by the speed at which the two trainers were moving, both hoping to be well out of the forest before something with a large number of sharp teeth and/or claws realized that the two trainers were easy pickings. Ratsiclaw had told the pair at the outset that the current path would get them to the nearest town by late evening: both trainers were hoping that a mid-afternoon arrival was in the cards.
Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry: in this case, “awry” happened to be sitting in the middle of the path, its attention drawn to the humans that suddenly skidded to a stop upon seeing it. It was human-shaped, albeit shaped around humans who thought that gluttony was less of a sin and more of a lifestyle choice. It appeared as if whatever had designed the creature had decided to create one with a barrel-chested body and hands large enough to comfortably grip a redwood tree and then near the end of the process realized that arms, feet and a head probably needed to be included somewhere. It gazed at the trainers gawking at it with the about the same level of concern a Steelix gives a Diglett with dwarfism.
Jonah lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, in case the gigantic fighting Pokemon somehow took offense. “I thought Hariyama didn’t live on this side of the ocean.”
“They don’t,” Caroline said, and hurried to clarify before reality made a liar out of her, “but I think some came over on boats a couple hundred years ago for the railroads and…well…” she gestured vaguely in the Hariyama’s direction, who was busy using his meaty hands to get at an unpleasant itch.
“So, what the Hell is it doing here then?”
“How would I know?”
“You’re the one whose family raises Pokemon for a living, aren’t you? Go talk to it, or something.”
Caroline realized—and not for the first time that day—that she had talked herself into trouble. Jonah watched nervously as Caroline took some tentative steps forward, testing the fighting Pokemon’s reaction. She breathed a sigh of relief when the Hariyama made no move to fight or even stand up, and strode forward with as much confidence as she could muster.
The sheer size of the Pokemon suddenly became apparent to Jonah as he realized that even sitting with its legs splayed out in front of him the Hariyama had to look down on Caroline to make eye contact. He couldn’t make out what Caroline was saying, but the fighting type’s rumbling voice easily carried across the distance.
A few minutes later Caroline came back, clearly puzzled. The Hariyama watched her go with mild interest but remained sitting.
“He says he wants a fight,” she reported, responding to Jonah’s question before he even asked it.
“Then he can find something to fight in the forest, right?” Jonah, like many people, was well aware of the penchant of fighting Pokemon to pick fights for little apparent reason. He had also assumed that a fighting Pokemon would seek battle with things they couldn’t pulp in a single hit.
At least .500 is a good percentage in baseball.
“He says he’s been sitting on the path for days, and he’s not leaving until he gets what he wants. He won’t let us pass until then.” What Caroline didn’t say is that the latter had been assumed rather than explicitly stated, but she had decided to not try her luck with a Pokemon capable of sending a truck flying with an open palm strike.
Jonah looked to Raticlaw. The rat Pokemon was still lying on the sled, groaning and periodically twitching through his paralysis. “He does know we don’t have any Pokemon that can fight, right?”
Caroline shrugged. “He wants something, and I don’t think he’s too picky about where it comes from at this point.”
A glimmer suddenly came into Jonah’s eyes, and he began rifling through his pack. Caroline saw what he was doing and began hoping that her wish to take back anything she said would be granted, preferably immediately.
“You’re seriously not going to do it,” Caroline asked rhetorically as she watched Jonah fasten a wicked-looking knife to the end of a tent pole with the help of large amounts of duct tape. While he hadn’t let them keep guns, Raticlaw had brought back some knives that he had scavenged: a Pokemon trainer with a knife would be asked fewer questions than if he had a gun, Raticlaw had reasoned. More importantly, accidental fatal injury was largely restricted to the user and not everyone within a 50-foot radius.
Jonah paused just long enough to vaguely gesture to the surroundings before returning to work. The path had been cut into the side of a mountain years ago, and whoever had done so had decided to let the work of countless feet handle the thankless task of maintaining it. To the path’s left the side of the mountain towered towards the sky at an angle too steep to climb, occupied only by trees with courageously tenacious roots. To the path’s right was a similarly steep mountain face angled downwards, promising anyone trying to climb down it a messy but brief union with the rocks below. The path was relatively wide--enough for a medium-size vehicle to traverse--but with an 8-foot tall Pokemon sitting in the middle of it both trainers badly wished that the designer had thought to make it wider.
Jonah didn’t even turn to look at her as he said, “Raticlaw said the fastest way besides this would be three days at least, and I dunno about you but I want to be out of this god-forsaken shithole well before then. If you’ve got a better idea I’m open to it.” He took Caroline’s silence as an admission that she did not.
Jonah grunted as he finished his work, examining it with some satisfaction. He gave a series of quick thrusts to some unseen foe, making sure that the spear tip wouldn’t break off after the first strike, and then stuffed an extra pair of knives wherever he was reasonably sure that it wouldn’t accidentally shank him in the middle of the fight. Caroline watched as Jonah turned towards the Hariyama, assuming a fighting stance that reminded Caroline of the image of a caveman—primitive but bold—about to take on a Mamoswine with nothing but the clothes on his back and the spear in his hand in a primal battle for survival. The image might have even been impressive had Jonah had the body type of Conan the Barbarian and not the body type of Conan O’Bradley, the newly hired fast food employee.
Jonah leveled the spear point directly at the fighting type in challenge. The Hariyama cocked its head at the strange display, before giving a noncommittal grunt and moving to stand up. In the time it took him to do so Jonah had already crossed the distance and leapt at the fighting type, spear point at the ready. Jonah felt grim satisfaction as he heard the Hariyama grunt, the spear tip piercing the Pokemon’s torso with the wet sound of metal cutting flesh.
Now, some might think that Jonah was either a coward or full of stupid bravado. The reality, however, is somewhere in between: it wasn’t that Jonah was cowardly per se, it’s just that he was possessed of a certain pragmatism that said trying to attack foes who (to use military parlance) have a significant force multiplier over you is in general a very bad idea. And it’s not that Jonah was fearless, but merely that when backed into a corner a man’s primal instincts take over and insists that if it must go down, it would prefer to leave a few bloody noses in its wake and win the moral victory. Jonah looked up and saw the Hariyama staring at him with murderous intent, injured but unphased by his reckless assault. This is also about the time where Jonah’s competing mental processes collided in a horrible wreck and tried to untangle themselves, doing little but making the problem worse.
Jonah’s mental bureaucratic fustercluck soon gave way to the sensation of flying through the air punctuated by a sudden horizontal stop. He was vaguely aware that Caroline was screaming as he felt his body slide off the side of the mountain back towards the path, and he hazily threw out his arms to stop himself from landing flat on his face. Eventually his mind returned to a semblance of order: he had taken a glancing hit from one of the Hariyama’s massive fists, and even now he felt his body screaming at him as the Pokemon’s thundering footsteps came closer. Jonah risked looking up. The Hariyama was looking at him with a stare that suggested he would not be so quick to underestimate the trainer next time, and the spear wobbled where it lay impaled in the sumo Pokemon’s flesh, seemingly forgotten in the fighting type’s rage.
Jonah barely managed to roll out of the way as one of the Hariyama’s feet came crashing down, throwing up dirt and putting a dent in the place Jonah had been moments earlier. He unsteadily clambered to his feet, drew a knife and assumed what he felt was an intimidating fighting stance. Had the Hariyama not been nearly 3 feet taller and a quarter ton heavier this might have actually worked. He circled, managed to dodge another hastily thrown palm, and struck with the knife. A thin cut appeared on the Hariyama’s torso, but the fighting type didn’t even flinch as he stomped the ground, causing Jonah to stumble. This saved him, as his body was jerked to the right just as the Hariyama’s foot shot out in an awkward kick, catching only air. Regaining his balance more quickly than the fighting type, Jonah struck again and again in desperation, which only grew as he realized that he was barely inflicting superficial damage on the Hariyama and that there was nowhere to run.
He hadn’t even brought a knife to a gun fight, Jonah realized. A more accurate comparison, his brain added, would have been bringing a plastic fork to take on a tank.
Jonah barely avoided another open palm strike that would have sent him tumbling to the rocks below, nearly caught off guard by the deceptive speed of the Hariyama’s attacks. In his haste to dodge Jonah wound up tripping over his own feet and then on his backside. The Hariyama leered over him, seemingly savoring his victory before delivering the final blow.
Jonah tentatively felt behind him. He felt the edge of the cliff, and realized that the only way out of this was most likely terminal. He had always been told to face his fear like a man, his brain reminded him, and to stand proud no matter what comes.
Yes, another part of his brain shot back, but “fearless” is an honorific frequently used to describe dead men.
The Hariyama stepped forward, and tripped.
Jonah’s mind once again came to the rescue by reminding him that he could still roll to the left, and he did so, avoiding joining the Hariyama on its descent as the fighting Pokemon went tumbling ass-over-teakettle down the cliff, yelping in pain all the while. Seconds later there was the sound of something heavy hitting the ground below, then the settling of rubble, then silence.
As the realization that he was still alive faded Jonah turned to look at Caroline and found her holding Syl under the shoulder, the psychic Pokemon’s face contorted in pain and her breathing labored. Jonah noticed a large mound of dirt that the Hariyama had tripped over and realized that it had not been there mere seconds before. He hazarded a look over the cliff--as if afraid that the Hariyama would somehow be climbing back up to get him—and was greeted with the sight of the fighting type splayed out in the ravine, its groans audible even from so far below. It was a sight that was more comforting to Jonah than he cared to admit. He barely noticed as Caroline approached him, holding a Pokeball that she had taken out of his pack.
“Syl, would you be able to get this from here?” Caroline asked her Pokemon, holding the Pokeball in front of the psychic type for emphasis.
Yes, Syl replied, and Jonah registered the sensation that even this simple statement took considerable focus from the Gardevoir, even as her red eyes shone with pained determination. Caroline nodded and turned to Jonah.
“Congratulations on catching your first Pokemon,” she said, dropping the Pokeball over the cliff towards the Hariyama below.
4th August 2009, 03:05 PM #4
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
Does posting it here mean you're actually going to get beyond chapter 5? I read it over at SPPf, funny as hell but I was always rather disappointed that it just stopped.
4th August 2009, 05:27 PM #5
Imma chew on yo gibblies
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
I'm working on it.
Originally Posted by Concept
EDIT: And to reiterate, flattering my e-ego will not make me give you super awesome power in the ASB.
Last edited by Blastoise; 4th August 2009 at 05:34 PM.
4th August 2009, 08:16 PM #6
Beauty of the sea
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
haha i liked this. "raticate + claws = raticlaw...Don’t fall over yourselves telling me how brilliant I am now." XD
Nice work! good stuff
5th August 2009, 05:49 AM #7
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
Like I need you to give me super awesome power in the ASB. I like it as is, even if I am getting soundly beaten by Jeri, Gr and Sciz.
Originally Posted by Blastoise
11th August 2009, 02:21 PM #8
Imma chew on yo gibblies
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
“Wow, you look like a Hariyama walked all over you.”
Jonah looked over at the…his Hariyama. A small group of Chansey had clustered around the fighting type, appearing to debate the best method of removing the remains of the spear still embedded in his torso. While medical technology was advanced enough to heal most of the injuries Pokemon suffered without ever having to leave their Pokeballs, silly inconsequential things like embedded pieces of metal still required the attention of qualified medical personnel, even if said personnel were egg-shaped and pink. The bruised fighting type watched the spectacle occurring around him with befuddled interest. Jonah turned back to the nurse, who was busy applying various ointments to the large bruises covering his torso.
“You don’t say,” he replied in a tone that could have been used to anchor a cruise ship. It’s not that Jonah didn’t like the nurse, per se: she was amiable and clearly possessed of a berth of medical expertise, human or otherwise. It was more due to the fact that she was one of those people who could breathlessly talk for hours about the ligaments in a knee and how amazing they were at enabling locomotion but was unable to see the connections in a four-piece jigsaw puzzle. On a certain level this was a relief: she wasn’t particularly concerned with why a Hariyama had a knife stuck in its gut and why a Gardevoir sporting a bullet wound had both come into the Pokemon center on the same day, which meant that there was no need to answer awkward questions that at some point would have probably involved the police.
“All done,” the nurse said, finishing up the last of the bandages on Jonah’s torso, “now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check on how your friend’s Gardevoir is doing.” The nurse walked past a Chansey coming into the room carrying a footstool and a pair of pliers.
Jonah sat back and watched as the group of egg Pokemon formed a line behind the Chansey with the pliers, the latter who had clamped down on the piece of the blade that had somehow survived the fall still lodged in the Hariyama and begun to pull. He admired the fighting type’s resilience as the Chansey began to heave-ho as a group, grunting with communal effort: if it was painful the Hariyama wasn’t showing it.
Your first Pokemon.
The thought echoed around in his head as he watched the Chansey go to work. The very concept that he had taken for granted nearly all his life suddenly seemed patently absurd: he now “owned” a Pokemon who could tear him in half if the mood struck him, and yet ever since he had worked up the courage to release the Hariyama from his Pokeball for treatment the fighting type had made no indication that it wished to do so, despite having every reason to the contrary. Jonah realized that his only real control over the quarter-ton Pokemon was a device that had become so cheap to manufacture that it was sold in supermarkets by the tabloids. It was not a comforting thought.
The line of Chansey tumbled over like a line of oblong dominoes as the knife blade finally gave way, causing the Hariyama to grunt as its wound began to bleed. The Chansey quickly clambered to their feet and ran to get something for their charge, nearly bowling over Caroline and Syl as they rushed out the door and down the hallway chattering noisily. Caroline and Syl watched them go with a bemused look before coming inside the room and closing the door behind them. Whatever the nurse’s flaws, she had done a bang up job on Syl: her skills plus modern medical technology had healed Syl to the point that it was impossible to determine that she had ever been shot in the first place.
“So, how are you two doing?” Caroline asked.
“I’ve been worse,” Jonah said, lifting his shirt to show Caroline his bandages. Hariyama grunted what Jonah assumed was an affirmation.
“Hey Caroline,” Jonah asked carefully, “that thing we talked about in the forest…can we do it now?” Jonah stared at her as she tried to remember what he was talking about: it had been a hectic 48 hours, and it took a moment for Caroline to realize what he was asking for.
“I don’t see why not,” she said. “Is there any reason you want to do it right now?”
“I have a question I’d like to ask.” Jonah’s eyes briefly flickered at the Hariyama, and then returned to Caroline.
Caroline nodded. “Fine by me, I guess. Syl, are you up for it?”
Yes. The psychic type suddenly winked out of existence, and reappeared uncomfortably close in Jonah’s personal space. She leaned in closely, just in case any had survived her initial intrusion. Look me in the eyes, she commanded.
Jonah’s remark about how her eyes took up nearly half her face and thus would have been hard to miss was suddenly snuffed out as the psychic type’s eyes began to glow…
And then it was over. Syl vanished and reappeared beside her trainer. Jonah blinked. He didn’t feel any different.
“So, that’s it?” Jonah asked.
“Yep,” Caroline replied.
Were you expecting a trip down your psyche, perhaps? Syl asked. Being forced to face your inner demons, that sort of thing?
Syl’s look indicated Jonah had guessed wrong. It’s a psychic technique, not performance art, she said with a tinge of disdain.
“Well, did you have to be so close to me to do it? I mean, you lift things with your mind, couldn’t you have done it from where you are?”
I have some sense of presentation.
“Excuse me, Lady Caroline,” a rumbling voice cut in, “could you explain to me what that was all about?” It took Jonah a moment to realize that it was the Hariyama’s voice.
“Hey, I understand you!” Jonah said. His Hariyama turned to look at him.
“You did not before, sir?”
“No…wait, did you think I could?”
The fighting type looked lost. “But she understands me,” he said, gesturing to Caroline.
“Few people can,” Caroline replied, and then added, “you haven’t met many humans before, have you?”
“Besides you, one other time when a human tried to fight me with a Caterpie. Does he count?” Hariyama asked.
Caroline thought it over, then said, “Did he try to talk to you?”
“I am not sure. He did yell at me very loudly for what I did to his Pokemon, but I am not sure that he wished to engage in conversation.”
“I don’t think that counts, th-“
The conversation was interrupted by voices that struck Jonah’s ears as sugar cubes with razor blades inserted in them being dragged across a chalkboard. The group of Chansey that had been in the room minutes before came bursting back in, nearly trampling Caroline and Syl in their haste.
“I have the bandages!”
“No fair, you got to do it last time!”
“But it’s my turn!”
“How about we all bandage him up together?”
“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’!”
“But there’s a ‘team’ in ‘team’!”
“Wow, you’re right!”
“We’re being helpful!”
“Yay!” the Chansey all cheered in unison as the got to work on bandaging up the Hariyama with nearly commando-level efficiency.
“Pass it over here!”
“Does anyone have the rubbing alcohol?”
“Be nice, wrap it twice!”
“And we’re done!”
“Another job well done!”
The group of Chansey charged out the door as quickly as they came, a pink tornado less occupied with tossing trailers and livestock about and more occupied with finding its next sugar rush. Caroline and Syl had the presence of mind to be well out of the way this time. Jonah rubbed his forehead.
“I think I was happier when I didn’t know what they were saying,” he said.
Caroline sighed. “Chansey are not…uh…the brightest Pokemon,” she said as charitably as she could, “but their hearts are in the right place. That’s something, isn’t it?” Jonah shrugged and turned to his Hariyama.
“You have a name, right?” he asked. The Hariyama nodded.
“My mother called me Hachiman,” the fighting type replied, “but I have not been called that name in many years. I lived alone until you came, sir.”
“’Hachiman’ works for me,” Jonah replied. “I also have something I want to ask you.”
“I am at your command, sir.”
“The whole ‘sir’ thing. Why do you think I command you?”
Hachiman looked confused. “You are a Pokemon trainer and I am a Pokemon. You have defeated me in battle and therefore I am honor bound to follow you.”
Jonah’s looked at the fighting type in disbelief. “And that’s it?”
Hachiman began to wonder if this was a trick question. “Is another reason required, sir?”
Jonah sagged. “No, I guess not.”
The nurse popped her head in the doorway, once again demonstrating the ability of medical professionals to instinctively interrupt important conversations. “Oh, the Chansey are already done?” This despite the fact that the Chansey had used enough bandages on Hariyama to wrap half of the Egyptian pharaohs.
“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll need your Hariyama returned to the Pokeball in order to finish recovery,” she said. A minute later she was walking towards her office, Hachiman’s Pokeball in tow. The trainers and Gardevoir watched her go.
“Why do I feel like we’ve forgotten something?”
Raticlaw was finally coming out of his paralysis-induced unconsciousness. The rat Pokemon got up slowly, working out the stiffness in his limbs.
“Jesus, laid low by a goddamn Oddish,” he grumbled to no one in particular as he became aware of his surroundings. He realized that he had woken up in a copse of trees and unidentifiable underbrush, a small island of greenery making its futile last stand against the overwhelming yellowish brown of the grass covering most of the hills. He also realized that he was alone.
“Son of a bitch, the fuckers left me behind!” Raticlaw’s diatribe continued in its unprintable form for several minutes until his stomach alerted him that, yes, while it was important to vent that he should also pay attention to what his nose was telling him.
Raticlaw carefully crept through the copse and peered out. A highway lazily snaked through the valley below, carrying a small flow of cars on their way to destinations unknown. A small town grew around the highway like a tumor, apparently having originated as a single fast food restaurant that builders had obviously felt required a significant local infrastructure for support. The smell of grease and burning meat assailed Raticlaw’s sensitive nostrils, even from so far away.
Raticlaw looked up at the sky. The sun was descending behind the mountains, signaling the end of another day. Suddenly, a small Rattata with bat wings appeared, clinging easily behind Raticlaw’s right ear.
“Don’t be a pussy,” the Rattata hissed, grinning as far as a rodent is capable of grinning, “it’s easy food and it’ll be dark soon. What’s to lose?”
There was a moment of silence, as if Raticlaw was waiting for something.
“Aren’t there supposed to be two of you?” Raticlaw finally asked.
The Rattata’s laugh came out as an obnoxious, high-pitched squeaking. “You, having a good side? Nah, I have to pull double duty.”
“I saved those kids, didn’t I?”
“Whatever Mr. Hero, don’t act like I didn’t hear you just now. You’ll never get into the Justice League with such a potty mouth you know.”
In one quick motion Raticlaw reached above his head, plucked the witless Rattata by its tail and dangled it in front of his face. “Okay you obnoxious little freeloader, you have five seconds to explain why you’re here before I remove you with extreme prejudice.”
The Rattata looked thoughtful rather than threatened. “Well, as long as I can remember I’ve been mucking around in your subconscious. You think you got it bad? You’ve never lived inside your own head and it is fuckin’ nasty in there.” The figment sniffed in disdain.
Raticlaw glowered. “Piss off.”
“Hey, it’s not like I had any choice in the matter.”
“If you don’t answer my question you won’t have to anymore. You’ll also be in several pieces.”
The Rattata continued to look unphased by Raticlaw’s posturing, likely because The Idiot’s Guide to Tough Talking was one of its favorite books in the prefrontal cortex. “Okay, okay. If I had to guess it’s probably because you’re still, how shall we say, ‘tripping balls’ off of the Stun Spore.”
“So I’m stuck with you until it wears off?”
“Yep!” the Rattata chirped happily. Raticlaw grumbled and tossed the smaller rat back onto his head before setting off towards the town below.
“Wow, you’re finally listening to me!”
“Yeah,” Raticlaw replied flatly, “and if I keep listening to you maybe I’ll be able to find a bottle of booze so I can drink you out of existence.”
“He’s a pretty impressive specimen, you know.”
Jonah took a moment off of counting the floor tiles to look at the nurse. “Hm?”
The pair were sitting in the nurse’s office, a room so whitewashed, orderly and sterilized that bacteria couldn’t have taken it without military organization and possibly heavy artillery. Hachiman’s Pokeball sat on a nearby healing pad, humming quietly as energy was transferred to mend the fighting type’s wounds. The nurse seemed too engrossed in watching her computer monitor to pay much visual attention to her human charge, and Jonah leaned back in his chair, waiting for the seemingly interminable healing process to end. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t gone with Caroline to take care of Raticlaw instead of sitting around twiddling his thumbs: his best guess was misplaced obligation to watch over his new Pokemon. Not that the sumo Pokemon would have really needed his help in the off chance that the fecal matter had hit the rotary airflow device.
“Your Hariyama, sir,” the nurse said with no tinge of reproach. “Most Hariyama stand about seven foot seven and weigh 559 pounds on average.”
“Your Hariyama is about eight feet tall and weighs over 600 pounds!” the nurse said with far more excitement than Jonah felt the situation warranted. “How did you find such an amazing creature?”
“Uh…let’s just say he fell into my life,” Jonah replied. Well, it wasn’t exactly a lie, he thought silently to himself.
“And I take it you got him from someone close to you?”
“Sure, you could say that.” Jonah shifted nervously. She wasn’t actually realizing that something was amiss, was she?
“That explains why you’re not in the system then?”
“The system?” Jonah asked with some trepidation.
“You’re not registered with the NPL,” the nurse clarified, unaware that Jonah suddenly visibly relaxed, “you said you were going to compete in the league, right?”
“Well, normally you’re registered with the league when you get your starter,” the nurse continued, “but I can register you here if you like.” The nurse stopped typing for a moment. “Speaking of which, I think your girlfriend needs to register as well. I guess I’ll have to ask her when she gets back.”
Jonah was caught off guard, until he put two and two together. “Uh, she’s not my girlfriend.”
The nurse stopped what she was doing and gave him a conspiratorial wink that suddenly made him ill at ease. “You can be honest with me, dear. I was a trainer when I was your age too you know.”
Jonah had a sense that he knew where this was going, and against all reason decided to continue anyway. “…and?”
“Oh come on. Out on your own, no adults for miles and miles? I met a boy while I was traveling…” the nurse began to stare off into the distance with hazy eyes as she continued to ramble, “handsome, tall, built like a Machoke…my first kiss, the way his hand cupped my-“
Jonah’s mind was racing full speed, imagining the nurse in front of him and a man in flagrante delicto. It was less successful at imagining the nurse being three decades younger, much to his horror.
“Please stop,” he groaned weakly.
“…and put his hand in my-“ the nurse continued oblivious, now completely lost in her own memories. Jonah put his head in his hands.
“Raticlaw, where are you?” Caroline called out. She and Jonah had decided to leave Raticlaw in the copse before heading into town to see to their own Pokemon and find medicine for the rat Pokemon. Things were currently not going according to plan.
“Any luck?” she asked Syl.
Syl shook her head. No, he’s not here.
“Are you sure you didn’t miss him?”
You don’t “miss” a mental presence like that, Syl said firmly. Yes, even more obvious than a Rhydon covered in Christmas lights playing the drums, Syl added, reading Caroline’s thoughts. Doesn’t look like something bad happened to him though. You don’t think he…
It was Caroline’s turn to finish the psychic’s thoughts. “Why not? He’s a rat, it’s not like he’s going to be a picky eater. She began to walk back down towards the town, and Syl followed behind her obediently. “Come on, let’s go get something to eat.”
Are you sure, Carol? Syl asked. Shouldn’t we try to find him first? She heard the rumbling of her own stomach and tried her best to ignore it.
Caroline shook her head. “He can take care of himself. And if he’s doing what I think he’s doing, we’re bound to run into him eventually.”
The nurse smiled and handed Hachiman’s Pokeball back to Jonah. “All done! Your Hariyama is fit and fighting ready.”
Jonah accepted the Pokeball, now filled with more knowledge than he would have cared to know than when he had given it to the nurse an hour and a half ago. “Thanks,” he said with the little enthusiasm as he could muster. He turned to leave.
“Have you had any trouble feeding him?” the nurse asked him as he began to pass through the doorway. Jonah stopped and turned to her.
“Oh, so finding him enough to eat hasn’t been an issue?”
“Not really,” Jonah said. “But, let’s just say…hypothetically speaking of course…how much does a Hariyama eat?”
The nurse sat back in her chair a moment, eyes flickering as if reading through some mental archive. “Well, the rule of thumb for Hariyama is that they eat roughly five times that of a normal person daily.”
Jonah nearly choked on his own surprise. “Five times?”
The nurse nodded. “That’s just for your average Hariyama, though. Yours probably eats around six times, right?”
Had the nurse been more observant, she would have been able to almost literally see Jonah’s heart sink down into his feet. “Yeah, probably.”
“Well, so long as you aren’t having any problems,” the nurse continued. “See you in the morning, dear.”
“Yeah, good night,” Jonah said darkly. He walked out of the nurse’s office, out through the Pokemon center’s doors and out into the cool night air. The National Pokemon League had established such centers across the country to serve both as veterinary centers for Pokemon and as hostels for Pokemon trainers, and many were staffed by ex-trainers-cum-nurses who were believers in the cause and a retinue of Chansey who felt that a sufficient level of enthusiasm was an adequate replacement for a sufficient level of competence. All of this sounds rather noble until one learns that the centers were partly established by the NPL as a PR move to convince the public that Pokemon battles were a respectable sporting event for the whole family and not overglorified cockfighting for uneducated hicks (although said hicks still made up a healthy portion of the league’s revenue).
And more pressing for Jonah, they didn’t offer free meals. He was starting to wish he could have mowed more lawns before setting out on his journey, but there was nothing to be done about it now. He looked down at the Pokeball in his hands and lifted it into the air.
“Hachiman, come on out,” he said. The ball opened as a jagged beam of light erupted from the center and coalesced into the Hariyama. It turned to Jonah and began to speak in its rumbling tone.
“Sorry Hachiman,” Jonah interrupted, “I can’t understand you if Syl’s not around.”
Hachiman looked down at his feet apologetically.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jonah continued, “we’ll learn to play it by ear, alright? You up for some grub?”
Hachiman cocked his head at him.
“Food,” Jonah clarified. Hachiman began to speak, stopped, and nodded instead.
“Well, come on then.” Jonah began to walk off towards the center of town, and felt a steady beat of slight tremors as Hachiman followed behind. Jonah’s mind began to wander as he walked.
The problem is that you’re looking at it from a humanocentric view, Syl said.
“What the Hell does that mean?” Jonah asked. The nurse had just taken Hachiman off for healing, and Caroline had decided to slip out to ask the woman if she had any medicine for paralysis. Syl had begun to follow, but had sensed Jonah’s uncertainty and had decided to stay behind to answer the question she had seen coming.
Syl sighed. Look at it this way. Let’s say you were to describe me: you’d give me qualities that you use to describe humans, yes?
But you would not say that I am human.
“Of course.” Jonah rubbed his temples. “Are you going somewhere with this?” He avoided her glare.
Simply put, she continued, you see the world through human eyes and view it in human terms. You accept that your Pokemon is not human but yet you are surprised that he does not see the world in the same light as you do.
“Syl, you’re making my head hurt.”
Would a human have sat in the middle of a path for days just to pick a fight?
“How crazy are we talking here?”
You think it’s crazy. To a fighting Pokemon it’s not. To humans, a Tyrogue taking on Pokemon that it has no chance against is pure insanity, but to fighting Pokemon doing so is a demonstration of courage and drive to improve. In short, an embodiment of the fighting spirit.
“So you’re saying that Hachiman sees me as a Tyrogue.”
Syl considered this. In a sense. He has a deep amount of respect for you, you know.
“How do you know that?”
Being psychic helps.
Fighting types value courage and strength above all others. Having challenged him to battle you proved the former, having beaten him you proved the latter. That’s all the reasons he needs to follow you into the mouth of Hell itself.
“But I didn’t beat him, you made him trip!”
Syl gave him an innocent look. Why, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
“Yes you did!”
Are you calling me a liar? A sudden mental sensation washed over Jonah. Had he known of phrase at the time he might have described the feeling as “plausible deniability.”
“Whatever,” he said, dropping the subject. “So you’re saying that the only thing stopping my Pokemon from ripping me in two is respect.”
That’s the short of it, yes.
“That doesn’t make me feel a lot better.”
Why? Did you really think there was more to trainers controlling their Pokemon than that? I could be “free” in seconds if I wanted to be. What do you think stays my hand?
“The power of friendship?”
You said that to be sardonic, but correct nonetheless.
“But why would he give up his freedom to follow me, of all people?”
What did I just tell you about humanocentrism?
Jonah stared at her to see if she was joking. She wasn’t. “How is the idea of freedom humanocentric?”
You see it as enslaving a sentient being. Hachiman sees it as a guarantee that he will find battle and grow stronger.
The people who have the most idealistic view of living “wild and free” are the ones that have never done it. Look at it from a Pokemon’s perspective: they can either live a “free” life, uncertain when their next meal is coming or that death is just around the corner, or they can become a trainer’s Pokemon, be guaranteed steady meals and fights that are for fun and not life-or-death. What would you choose?
“But why would he choose to follow me? I don’t even know what I’m doing!”
And he’s out of his depth as well. I guess you’ll both have to learn together then, yes?
A finger thicker than his neck tapping him on the head brought Jonah out of his thoughts. He turned back to Hachiman, who gestured towards a nearby alley. Growling and clanging metal could be heard echoing in the darkness. Jonah peered into the murky blackness for a moment and turned back to see Hachiman patiently waiting for orders. He realized that Hachiman was not going to be able to fit into the alleyway, which meant that he was on his own barring being able to outrun whatever it was in the darkness. Jonah would have simply ignored the noise and continued to walk on, but the weight of his Hariyama’s expectations hung over his head, and he became aware of how easy it would currently be for the line holding them up to snap.
“This is my garbage can you mangy fleabag! Get the fuck out!” Jonah jerked as he recognized the voice.
“Hachiman, stay here,” he ordered, and the fighting type nodded in confirmation. He dived into the alleyway. “Raticlaw, is that you?”
“What the Hell are you doing here ki-“ the voice was suddenly cut off by a gurgling scream followed by, “you little son of a bitch!”
Jonah hurried to reach the source of the sound. What greeted him when he got there was Raticlaw, an overturned garbage can, and a mangy-looking Growlithe whose very appearance suggested “stray”. Jonah could see where the fire Pokemon had singed a small patch of fur off of Raticlaw’s torso, but it was an injury that was more angering to the rat than painful.
“Raticlaw, what the Hell are you doing?” Jonah asked.
“What the Hell am I doing? What the Hell were you doing leaving me behind? I oughta gut you like a fish!”
“We didn’t think you wanted to be brought into town!” Jonah replied angrily, “Caroline just left the Pokemon center a while ago to take care of you!”
“That…” Raticlaw began, “is actually a good point.” Realizing he was losing the initiative, he redoubled his efforts. “Damnit, you’re not allowed to be right when I’m pissed!”
“Why are you picking a fight with a stray over the garbage?” Jonah asked. Said stray was watching the fight between man and rat, confused as to what was going on and how it had gotten involved in this whole mess.
“Because it’s my garbage! I got here first, and if Sparky here thinks he can take it from me he can get to know ‘Sin’ and ‘Punishment’ personally.” Raticlaw held up his clawed forelimbs for emphasis.
“We’ll buy you something to eat, for God’s sake,” Jonah said with exasperation, “just stop fighting! You’re going to get found out if you keep this racket up!”
Raticlaw’s stare belied his sudden burst of rage. “Oh I see how it is. ‘Mean old Raticlaw is picking on poor Fluffy Wuffy, and only I, City Brat McAssface, can save the day.’ Well piss off you obnoxious little jizzstain, I guess I’ll go find another garbage can and leave the little puppy alone so as not to wound your bleeding heart.” He began to walk off muttering, “I can’t believe I risked my damn life for you.”
“That’s not what I-“ Jonah began, but it was too late. Raticlaw had scampered up a nearby wall and was already gone. He looked down at the Growlithe, who whimpered. Jonah tried to avoid the mesmerizing gaze of its puppy-dog eyes and failed.
“I’m already feeding six, what’s one more?” Jonah conceded in defeat as he wandered out of the alleyway, Growlithe wagging its tail happily as it came up behind. Hachiman gave him a questioning look as he emerged from the alleyway.
“Don’t ask,” Jonah said as he began to consider how he was going to feed both Pokemon without bankrupting himself. He looked up at a lighted sign nearby and suddenly inspiration struck.
The manager leaned back in his chair, watching his employee’s nervous expression. The new kid hadn’t even been employed a week and already there was trouble. “I want you to run that by me again.”
The employee began to speak without stopping for breath. “So I was working at the front when this kid came in and asked for a table for three and he was all alone so I asked him if the others were coming and he said yeah, so I went ahead and charged him for three and then two Pokemon come out of their balls and I tell him that we don’t open the buffet for Pokemon and then he said that he paid for three and that I didn’t say that the customers had to be human and that since we don’t offer refunds we had to serve them and then…”
The buffet manager held up a hand, stopping the employee in his rhetorical tracks. “So you’re telling me that you fell for the oldest trick in the Pokemon trainer book.”
The employee shifted uncomfortably. “Yes sir.”
“Well, I guess I’ll have to handle this then,” the manager said, climbing out of his office chair. “You do realize that this is coming out of your paycheck?”
If dictionary makers ever needed a picture to go with the definition of “crestfallen,” they would have been hard-pressed to do better than capturing the employee’s expression. “Yes sir.”
The manager strode out of his office, into the restaurant, and face to face with a Hariyama who had decided to forgo the formality of using a plate and had instead decided to grab an entire ham from the buffet table. Since the manager was stocky and short and the Hariyama was stocky and tall he was “face to face” with the Pokemon only in the figurative sense.
“Now look here,” he began, and suddenly felt his conviction waver as the Hariyama turned its gaze to him. Survival instincts hurried to remind him that coming between a Hariyama and its food was roughly as intelligent as coming between a mother Ursaring and her cubs. A trainer, apparently the Hariyama’s master, looked over from a nearby table with a Growlithe busying itself with licking some plates clean.
“Excuse me, is there a problem?” the trainer asked with an innocent voice that suggested anything but. The Hariyama continued to stare down at him with its distinctive glare, as if challenging the man to take back the ham already cradled in his massive fists.
The manager calculated how many smoked hams his life was worth, and decided to be conservative with his estimate. “…no, have a nice evening,” he said weakly, and beat a hasty retreat back to his office. The employee was still inside, waiting expectantly.
“Did you take care of it, sir?” the employee asked.
“Sure, sure,” the manager said hurriedly. “Don’t you have something to do? I spilled something on my pants and I’d like to change them if you don’t mind.”
In an alleyway dumpster elsewhere in town, a certain rat was busy drowning his sorrows in flat soda, half-eaten hamburgers and rotten fruit.
Raticlaw stared at a half-eaten apple in his hand as if trying to project his anger and despair onto the fruit. He wasn’t very successful. “It’s bullshit how nobody respects me,” he muttered before unceremoniously tossing the entire fruit into his mouth.
The Rattata watched Raticlaw intently, having somehow managed to acquire a leather chair, pencil and pad of paper designed for someone a foot and a half tall. He scribbled on the pad energetically.
“I think,” the Rattata said, chewing on the eraser, “it all has something to do with wanting to have sex with your mother.”
Raticlaw stopped in mid-chew. “Whuf doff dat haff to do wiff anyfing?”
“I dunno,” the Rattata said, “but according to humans it’s important or something. Freddyian, I think.”
Raticlaw swallowed. “I hate you, you know.”
“And I hate you too,” the Rattata said bluntly, continuing to scribble on the pad, “and I am you…well, a part of you…so it turns out you hate yourself! Pretty deep, huh?”
“Fascinating. What are you writing on that thing? Some notes for to keep track of your ‘deep’ thoughts?”
The Rattata looked up, puzzled. “Notes? Nah, I’m drawing a picture of a Ditto doing its impression of a tangle of wires. Wanna see?”
“Your loss, then.”
A sudden commotion outside the dumpster cut the pair’s conversation short.
“I’m not playin’ around wit’ you! Gimme your goddamn purse!”
A voice Raticlaw recognized as elderly cried out as the sound of flesh hitting flesh reached his ears. The Rattata walked by him on his hind legs, pad in paw and continuing to chew on his eraser thoughtfully.
“You know, an outlet for aggression is good for long-term mental health,” the Rattata said.
“First thing you’ve said that I agree with,” Raticlaw replied, before kicking the top of the dumpster open. He peaked his head out and saw a gangster holding an old woman by the collar of her dress, both wearing the same expression of surprise. Raticlaw noticed a growing bruise on one of the woman’s cheeks.
Raticlaw grinned wickedly. “You caught me in a bad mood, punk.”
“Who’re you callin’ a punk!?” the thug yelled as he let go of the woman. Temporarily forgotten, the old woman took advantage of the distraction to make for the street as fast as her aging legs could take her. Raticlaw watched as the man reached for a pistol tucked into his belt. He leapt out of the dumpster, claws bared and screaming.
Last edited by Blastoise; 11th August 2009 at 10:26 PM.
11th August 2009, 09:25 PM #9
A black and white world
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
I'm going to remind you of something--Bulbagarden has no swear filter, so it's unnecessary and jarring to write something self-censored.
11th August 2009, 10:25 PM #10
Imma chew on yo gibblies
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
I'm copy-pasting from Serebii, so if there's a burst of asteriks in the text it's unintentional.
Originally Posted by Blackjack Palazzo
Unless it's a really long line of asteriks, in which case it's a section break.
EDIT: k, should be good.
Last edited by Blastoise; 11th August 2009 at 10:38 PM.
11th August 2009, 11:15 PM #11
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
Very, very nice. I have no critiscism. I highly look forward to moar.
Originally Posted by Alaska
18th August 2009, 02:04 PM #12
Imma chew on yo gibblies
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
For a psychic, it’s the little things that are the most important.
The uninformed think that psychics can read a person’s thoughts, memories and darkest fears as easily as one can open up a newspaper, but this is not quite true. Sure, psychics can do so, but it requires significant effort on their part and most sentient creatures tend to take offense. Because of this, most psychics learn to discern their target’s thoughts through easily-read parts of the mental process such as surface impressions along with a careful study of nervous habits and physical tics.
And when you have fifteen years of experience and a deeper connection to your subject than most, it’s easier than reading a large print children’s book.
Syl and Caroline were sitting in a dingy fast food restaurant whose unofficial corporate motto was likely “Beat the Health Inspector.” It was late and the two were the only customers left in the building, and so the establishment’s employees had decided to retire to the back of the kitchen, their chattering barely audible over the small building’s air conditioner. Caroline was sitting opposite Syl in the booth, burger and fries haphazardly strewn about her tray as the trainer blankly picked at the food as if she was a vulture who fancied itself a gourmet. One hand idly played with her hair as another hand deposited a fry into the left side of her mouth, where she chewed slowly. Syl was so accustomed to seeing these personal habits that she didn’t need to sense the mix of anxiety and apprehension coming from Caroline’s mind to know what she was thinking.
Maybe it was because Syl had the exact same nervous habits. When two beings are mentally connected together from birth it can be hard to tell what unconscious behaviors come from who. Syl was a psychic and it was all she had ever known since birth, and so she accepted it as a matter of course.
In any event Syl was well aware that Caroline’s thoughts were not currently open to discussion, so the Gardevoir chose to occupy herself with a mystery of her own. She had told Caroline that Raticlaw’s mental presence was unmistakable, and that was true. What she hadn’t pointed out was that his thoughts were utterly incomprehensible to her, the mental equivalent of trying to catch a greased piglet after rolling around in motor oil.
Not being able to pierce his thoughts wasn’t the part that bothered her: she was used to dark types being an impenetrable black stain in her mental vision, their mental presences a shapeless, amorphous blob that slipped through any psychic’s attempt to grasp and manipulate them like water through a sieve. What bothered her was the way he did it: his thoughts were out in the open, yet the more she tried to focus on them the vaguer and more indistinct they became. She had never encountered anything like it: was it the result of evolution, she wondered, or something else.
In short the strange Pokemon was a puzzle to Syl. The Gardevoir considered herself lucky that she happened to like puzzles.
“Let’s go,” Caroline said, breaking Syl out of her reverie. Syl began to protest that she hadn’t finished eating until she looked down at her empty tray. She had been so deep in her own thoughts that she hadn’t noticed that she had finished eating.
There’s no reason we have to go with him, you know.
The sun had already set, and a full moon was beginning to appear in the night sky along with a small number of stars. The empty streets were periodically lit by lamps that had seen better days and only the sound of the pair’s footfalls and an occasional car broke the night’s silence. Caroline’s heart sank: she knew that Syl had been looking for an opening all day, but she had also been looking forward to enjoying the first evening in which she was not afraid for her life in what seemed like forever.
“Can we not talk about this?” Caroline asked, although there was little conviction in her voice.
You’re aware that you really can’t put this off, yes? Syl asked. Jonah is probably going to want to leave tomorrow, if not sooner.
“You’re not going to leave it be then?”
That’s the general idea, yes.
Syl watched as Caroline took a moment to run her fingers through her hair. “After what happened back in the forest, I really don’t want to travel alone anymore.”
You have me.
“That’s not what I meant.”
Syl continued as if Caroline hadn’t even spoken. And yet you’re placing your faith in a boy we hardly know instead of your best friend? Syl’s “voice” projected a sense of hurt. Do you really trust him that much, or is this just a way to make yourself feel better about what happened?
Syl could feel Caroline’s mood darken. “I nearly lost you,” she said quietly, “I don’t want to ever have to go through that again. Do you understand?”
There was a long silence.
“Look, there’s no reason we have to travel with him forever,” Caroline finally added, “but until we’re stronger having someone at our back can’t hurt.”
Caroline and Syl turned to see Jonah walking out of a buffet towards them, Hariyama and Growlithe in tow. He waved at them and smiled. Caroline felt a sensation of wry amusement emanating from Syl.
Well, speak of the Devil.
“This isn’t going anywhere,” the Rattata complained.
Raticlaw grunted in a way that suggested that politeness was the only reason he was bothering to acknowledge the figment’s existence. “No shit.”
“Oh God, please help me…”
Raticlaw sank a pair of claws into the thug’s back, causing him to yelp pitifully. “Quit yer bitchin’,” he said, twisting his claws for emphasis.
“As fun as it is to watch you play ‘Bad Cop, Bad Cop,’” the Rattata said dryly, “maybe you should try a different approach?”
Raticlaw snorted derisively. “You seem to be full of ideas today. Why don’t you tell me?”
“I only represent a fraction of your brainpower. You think of something.”
Raticlaw opened his mouth to make a retort, but suddenly shut it as inspiration dawned. He stroked his whiskers in thought.
“Brainpower, huh?” he said to no one in particular. “That gives me an idea…”
The thug whimpered. Not only did he have to pick a fight with an overgrown Raticate, he had to pick a fight with an overgrown Raticate that talked to itself.
Syl gave the Growlithe a critical look.
How did Jonah capture you? she asked again, not sure she had heard correctly.
Some Pokemon species are naturally predisposed to proficiency and fascination with the spoken word, while others treat language strictly as a tool for conveying information and treat those obsessed with the art behind it with roughly the same enthusiasm that people give to a trainspotter discussing his hobby. Growlithe are an example of the latter.
“He gave food,” Growlithe replied in a curt series of barks.
So you consider him your master?
Growlithe gave it some thought. “Will he keep giving food?”
“Why not?” Jonah replied. He had never considered that this would be a point on which a Pokemon would base its loyalty: it was a way of thinking alien to someone who had never had to root through a garbage can for his next meal.
“Good enough,” the Growlithe said. “That good too.”
Caroline smiled slightly as she kept scratching Growlithe behind the ears, causing the puppy Pokemon to exhale in satisfaction.
“Needs a bath and a checkup, but he’s cute,” Caroline said. “Where’d you find him?”
Caroline watched as Jonah’s good mood almost instantly evaporated. “He and Raticlaw were fighting over garbage.”
Caroline began to look around. “You found Raticlaw? Where is he?”
“I told him not to fight over garbage. He…didn’t take it that well.”
Caroline—knowing what she did about Jonah and Raticlaw’s relationship—filled in the blanks. “Oh.”
“So he’s not coming back?” she asked.
“Who knows?” Jonah said. “He can go screw himself as far as I care.”
Jonah looked up to the sky. The moon was making its steady climb towards its zenith.
“Come on, let’s go back to the center,” he said. His two Pokemon went with him as he began to walk away, and after a moment’s hesitation Syl and Caroline followed.
The two humans and three Pokemon made their way down the quiet streets towards the Pokemon center. The Growlithe grunted contently, happy to have had a full meal without swallowing a piece of packaging in the process. The puppy and psychic walked beside their respective trainers while Hachiman followed the group but a step behind, deferring to Jonah’s authority and the limiting width of the sidewalk.
“Little asshole,” Jonah suddenly said without provocation, apparently eager to hear himself talk about how much he didn’t like Raticlaw. Caroline said nothing as Jonah ranted: given the already rocky relationship boy and rat had established over the past few days, she thought it wise to let him vent.
“I don’t get him,” Jonah complained, kicking at a stray soda can. “He has to be right about the stupidest things, or he gets pissed.”
And you were hoping Raticlaw would come along too, Syl said to Caroline in a tone that suggested “I told you so.” Still think that’s a good idea?
I never said anything about that, Caroline thought, knowing that her Gardevoir could read her thoughts and hoping to keep the conversation private.
You were thinking it.
We could do worse, Caroline thought.
We could also do better than a cantankerous rodent, Syl retorted. You know I’m with you all the way, she added, forestalling Caroline’s response, but I don’t think it’s wise to trust someone so…capricious.
Syl watched as Caroline digested this. Trainer and Pokemon had no doubts about his battle prowess and both knew he had he had technically fulfilled his promise to bring them this far (even if they had been carrying him a decent part of the way), but there was no guarantee he would go any further. More importantly, neither of them were sure what had motivated him to do so in the first place. Pride? Duty? Ego? Given what they had experienced so far, probably the third.
I’m glad you’re thinking of me, Syl said, but--
Syl stopped in midstride, gaze fixated on something in the distance. What was unnerving was that she appeared to be attempting to gaze through a wall not six feet in front of her face. The spectacle was enough to cause even Jonah to stop in midrant.
Hachiman looked to Jonah. Jonah looked to Caroline. Caroline shrugged at Jonah. Jonah shrugged at Hachiman. Hachiman decided to take the initiative.
“Lady Syl, are you alright?” Hachiman ventured. The Gardevoir seemed to ignore him, her gaze unwavering.
It’s Raticlaw, she finally said. He’s…calling to us?
The town had definitely seen better days. While the section nearly the highway was still relatively bustling and hence good for business, much of the outer part of the town was little more than a lengthy patch of urban blight, a motley collection of squat brick buildings with “For Sale” signs, graffiti, and plywood-covered windows.
The group stood before a two story structure that at one point might have been an office building but now served as an Ozymandian tribute to capitalism instead. Barring present company, it seemed that nothing alive had even bothered with this side of town.
“So, this is the place?” Caroline said, looking over the building.
Yes, Syl replied. He wants to be found.
They watched as Jonah pored over the the building, trying to find a way inside. Any apparent entrance had been locked or nailed shut a long time ago. Jonah yanked at the handle on a side door, but the door refusing to yield even an inch. Hachiman stood right behind him, watching intently.
“Maybe we should help him find a way in,” Caroline suggested.
“Do it Hachiman!”
Before Caroline and Syl could react, the Hariyama leveled one mighty palm and brought it forcefully against the door. The sound of eighty pounds of wood being forcefully ripped off its hinges broke the silence with an explosive bang before being followed by the sound of aforementioned eighty pounds of wood succumbing to the force of gravity.
One of the perks of a psychic bond is that speaking is optional. In an instant Syl had read Caroline’s mind and teleported the pair near the doorway where Hachiman was admiring his handiwork. Jonah gave Caroline a grin that suggested what he had done was nothing short of the greatest idea to have ever been conceived by mortal man.
Caroline frowned. “Are you insane?” she asked in a hoarse whisper, as if doing so would somehow make the last several moments transpire more quietly. She felt a sensation from Syl that suggested the psychic type took grim amusement in being right. Caroline tried to ignore it.
“Took you guys long enough,” a voice said gruffly, coming from inside. “Come in.” Jonah and Caroline looked to each other hesitantly before obeying.
What greeted them inside was Raticlaw sitting amidst a veritable mound of office detritus and atop a badly bruised, very scared street thug. The thug—lying flat and sprawled out on the ground--lifted his gaze to look at them, whimpered at the sight of the newcomers and returned to staring at the floor as if trying to avoid drawing attention to himself. The now-ruined door had landed just a couple inches short of his head.
“You know you could have just come through the window,” Raticlaw said, gesturing towards somewhere in the darkness behind him, “but I guess this works too.”
“Sorry,” Caroline said apologetically, shooting Jonah a look. Jonah looked at her and shrugged. They turned back to see Raticlaw staring past them. Raticlaw’s attention was drawn to Hachiman peering through the doorway, the fighting type too high and too wide to fit through the opening he had created. The rat Pokemon cocked his head.
“Where did fatty come from?” he asked.
Jonah realized that Raticlaw must not have seen Hachiman earlier. “That’s Hachiman. He’s my Pokemon.”
Raticlaw looked incredulous. “Bullshit he is. How did you catch him?”
Jonah fought him while you were incapacitated, Syl said, and won.
The rodent glared at her. “You’re shitting me.”
I swear upon my honor that it is nothing but the truth, she replied, and adding so that only the teenagers could hear, I won’t tell him if you won’t.
Caroline nodded. “Yup, charged him with a knife and everything.”
“It is true, sir.” Hachiman affirmed. Raticlaw gave them a look of a creature that suddenly felt like everything it had known to be true was a lie. He looked back and forth between everyone gathered around him as if trying to find inconsistency in their faces. It eventually occurred to him that he wasn’t going to find it.
“Not bad kid,” Raticlaw said to Jonah. It was the epitome of a grudging compliment, but a compliment nonetheless. Hachiman felt the urge to speak up.
“I have heard many things about you, Lord Raticlaw,” he said.
Raticlaw’s ears perked up. “Really?”
“Yes sir. I have heard about how you took on a dozen enemies at once and triumphed.”
It was just possible to see Raticlaw puff his chest out. Unfortunately Hachiman chose to continue talking.
“Lord Jonah has even said that your battle prowess is second only to your ability to toss salad, although I am not sure how food preparation is related to battling.”
Raticlaw’s stare at Jonah demanded an explanation.
“I think he misheard me,” Jonah offered lamely.
“I am quite sure I heard correctly, sir,” Hachiman said firmly.
It was at this point that Growlithe walked through the door, fresh from marking its territory. It looked at Raticlaw and gave it the closest canine equivalent to a triumphant grin.
What little respect Raticlaw had for Jonah disintegrated like a sandcastle in the path of a tidal wave.
“Wow, you’ve caught a tactless idiot and a mutt,” Raticlaw said derisively, “truly the three of you deserve each other.”
Caroline decided to step in before the flames got even hotter. “You called us here. What do you want?”
“To be honest I was thinking I would just attract you and Syl,” Raticlaw said, doing his best to ignore Jonah and his Pokemon, “doesn’t really matter, I guess.”
“So,” Caroline pressed, trying to get more out of Raticlaw than a non-answer, “is there a reason you’re sitting on top of someone in an abandoned building in the middle of the night?”
“Oh, him?” Raticlaw pointed a clawed finger down at the thug. “Found this wannabe gangster trying to shake down an old lady and decided to set him straight. Been trying to get information out of him but he’s being pretty damn stubborn.”
“Oh God, help me…”
The thug’s cry echoed through the room as a pair of claws sank into his back.
“It didn’t work the last fifteen times you fucking said it, it won’t work the sixteenth time,” Raticlaw said to the thug with exasperation. “So, this is where you come in. Syl, you know Hypnosis?”
Raticlaw hopped off the thug, grabbed him by his hair, and hoisted him up into an awkward kneeling position. “Make it happen.”
Syl looked to Caroline. Caroline looked to Raticlaw.
“This is illegal, isn’t it,” she asked.
“Probably,” Raticlaw replied, “Manslaughter, false imprisonment, breaking and entering, violating someone’s right to not incriminate himself…I think humans look down on that. Been out in the sticks awhile so I could be wrong though.”
Jonah walked up besides Caroline. “So what you’re saying is that you got us out of deep shit only to land us in even deeper shit,” he said.
“You could say that,” Raticlaw replied.
“Some hero you are.”
Raticlaw shrugged. “And you’d rather be Spearow food? Whatever kid. If you’re screwed at least you’re getting screwed for the right reasons.” He shook the thug’s head for emphasis. “If you’re going through Hell might as well keep going, right?”
Jonah and Caroline exchanged a look. Caroline turned to Syl.
I told you so, Syl said matter-of-factly.
“Just do it Syl,” Caroline replied curtly. Syl nodded, reappeared in front of the thug in the blink of an eye, and forced his eyes to stare into hers, the man trying to fight against her psychic grasp and failing. An eerie blue glow emanated from her eyes, and soon the thug stopped struggling.
Stand, Syl said. The thug did so. She turned to Raticlaw.
You know how Hypnosis works, yes? she asked.
“Yeah yeah. Can’t force him to do something he will never do, can’t make him jump in front of a bus, etcetera etcetera,” Raticlaw said with a wave of a clawed hand. Turning to the thug, he said, “hey you, you in a gang?”
“Yeah,” the thug replied. His tone was flat and hollow, his mental state equivalent to the lights being on but no one being home.
“How many of you?”
“And what do you guys do?”
“Drug runnin’, Pokemon smugglin’, that sort of thing.”
Raticlaw’s ears perked up at the mention of Pokemon smuggling. “Really. Pokemon smuggling for who?”
“I dunno man. Some dude rolls up in a truck, we load it up, he pays us and he drives off. We don’t ask no questions.”
“And when does this happen?”
You must answer the question.
“I dunno man,” the thug said, “no schedule or nothin’, he just rolls up with only a couple day’s warnin.”
“Well, do you know if he’s coming soon then?”
“Yeah, said he’d be comin’ tonight.”
Raticlaw grinned as he turned to the trainers. Jonah caught on first.
“We are not going to bust a gang shipment,” he said sternly. “You’re out of your friggin’ mind.”
“Why not?” Raticlaw asked. “You help me and I’ll look past the nasty things you said about me and not do horrible things to you in your sleep.” The rat Pokemon watched Jonah squirm at the thought and felt a tinge of satisfaction.
“Plus,” he continued, “if you’re gonna break the law might as well do it for something that no one is going to convict you for.” Raticlaw could see that both trainers found a certain persuasive logic in what he said. He turned back to the thug.
“Where’s your hideout, homeboy?” he asked.
There are certain advantages to locating your hideout in the midst of urban blight, highest among them being the ability to hide in plain sight.
Sure, it’s common sense that such areas are a breeding ground for criminal enterprise: even the police are aware of it. But while the police are ostensibly supposed to patrol said areas there are only so many petty vandalism calls one can answer before deciding that the law’s time and expenses could be better spent elsewhere. Add in the trouble of legal niceties such as “search warrants” and a well placed bribe or two and soon The Man becomes a non-issue for the criminally inclined.
The second advantage is the prevalence of abandoned warehouses. One of the unwritten rules of organized crime requires that any gang, triad or mafia worth its salt work out of at least one dilapidated, shady warehouse staffed by equally shady men who are also well armed. No one is sure why this is a requirement (especially for gangs that don’t traffic in goods requiring large amounts of long-term storage), but in a business where tradition is enforced via blunt instruments to the head tradition tends to be questioned only in the abstract.
In this particular blighted area there was a particular warehouse that was particularly uninspiring by criminal syndicate standards. It was a warehouse, granted, but it was a sad little prefabricated metal structure whose only apparent reason for still standing was because it was simply not cost efficient to tear it down. Aging paint chipped off the walls revealing slightly rusting metal beneath. If criminal warehouses were wine, this one would have been the type one buys at supermarkets: a wine regardless, but a crude and base wine meant for the hoi polloi and beneath the notice of more refined palates.
The emptiness of the streets was disturbed by a lone figure shuffling slowly towards the warehouse. His attire—torn in places and sporting bloodstains in others—suggested to the observer that he was a gang member who apparently liked pulling the tails of cats. If one were to have gotten a closer look however, they might have instead been drawn to the man’s vacant eyes, fixated as they were on something visible only to their owner. He walked with an awkward gait like his body was not entirely under his own control. After several agonizing minutes he finally reached a door set into one of the walls of the warehouse. The hand slowly grasped the handle and pulled it open. The thug walked inside.
A series of small rooms greeted him: this area had been a front office back when the warehouse had been used for legitimate enterprise and showed little sign of use beyond then, the resident gang apparently having little use for the space. The thug shuffled through until he found what he was looking for.
He opened the closet door, walked inside, and shut the door. And then he fell unconscious.
The glow in Syl’s eyes faded. We’re in.
The group had chosen to stake out on the second floor of a nearby building, one that they had entered without the utilization of Hachiman’s fists per Raticlaw’s insistence. The group kept watch out of a dirty broken window waiting to see if anything went south. At the moment, it appeared that disaster was still deciding to spend its summer up north.
Raticlaw grunted in acknowledgement. “Anybody else in there?”
Not the way he went in apparently, Syl said. I can sense others inside, but it’s…fuzzy. Syl disliked using such an imprecise term, but it was the only way she knew to convey the idea to the psychically unattuned.
“Fuzzy? You found me didn’t you?” Raticlaw asked.
That’s different. You wanted me to find you and your mental pattern is…unique. Trying to count all the people in a building a quarter of a mile away is a bit harder.
“Feh. Excuses, excuses,” Raticlaw snorted. “You can teleport us in there now, right?”
Syl nodded. Yes. I have a lock on the man, so I can get us in there without risking teleporting inside a wall.
“Alright then,” Raticlaw said, “here’s the plan. Syl and I are going in, the rest of you are staying here as backup.” Jonah and Caroline both gave him a look of confused bafflement.
“You wanted us here and you’re not even going to use us?” Jonah asked.
Raticlaw sighed. “I want to look around inside first and that’ll require some subtlety. And let’s face it kid, you and that Hariyama are about as subtle as a friggin’ freight train. We’ll call when we need you.” He turned back to Syl. “Let’s go, time’s a wastin’.”
Syl looked to Caroline for her orders. If she was looking for Caroline to say “no” she wasn’t going to get it even though Caroline’s facial expression suggested that Raticlaw had asked her to personally throw her Pokemon to a pack of rabid wolves.
“Be careful in there, Syl,” Caroline said. Syl and Raticlaw vanished from sight in the time it took the psychic type to nod.
Many people hold the common misconception that teleportation is one of the easiest psychic powers to master. If the lowly Abra is a master of teleportation, they argue, how hard can it truly be?
The uninformed tend to discount the complexities of teleportation, instead viewing techniques like being able to lift a truck with one’s mind as a greater challenge to the psychic mind. While lifting a truck is an impressive feat by any measure, by psychic standards such techniques are the domain of banal mental brawn, an act performable by even the least psychically attuned with enough training and raw determination. Teleporting is a different beast altogether, requiring the ability to skillfully manipulate natural laws in several dimensions at once in order to facilitate the instantaneous transfer of matter over long distances safely. This is a difficult feat for creatures used to thinking only in four dimensions and failing in this delicate balancing act brings potentially disastrous consequences for the user.
This is part of the reason why one does not meet many dumb psychics: stupidity is literally fatal.
Fortunately Syl was not one of them. Rat and psychic humanoid materialized in the closet, landing on top of the sleeping thug Syl had hypnotized earlier. He made a small grunt in his sleep as their weight came down on him but otherwise remained unconscious.
The Rattata released his tight grip on Raticlaw’s head.
“Did we really need this broad to get in?” he asked Raticlaw rhetorically. “We could have found a sewer entrance or a ventilation shaft or something.”
I can see you, you know.
The Rattata turned to look up at her, surprised to have another being acknowledge his existence. “You can see me?”
A feeling of exasperation washed over both rodents, a similar sensation that one feels trying to explain how water is wet. You are a quasi-tangible hallucination known to periodically manifest after the inhalation of Stun Spores. The temporary damage done to the central nervous system occasionally unleashes untapped psychic potential that the victim’s mind is not able to handle in its damaged state, and so the mind creates a proto-psychic projection as a metaphorical “safety valve” to help dispose of the excess psychic energy. This proto-psychic projection often takes the form of a tangible being or object that exists only to the user and those creatures capable of detecting the discharge of psychic energy.
Rodent and rodent figment stared blankly at Syl. It occurred to the psychic type that she might have gotten too technical.
Look, deliriants in the Stun Spore as well as short term neural damage have resulted in your existence in Raticlaw’s perception of reality. Therefore to psychics you also exist. Until you finally disappear, at least.
“Oh, right,” the Rattata said uncertainly. “I was just testing you, is all.”
Raticlaw gave her a wry smile. “Is this…personal experience talking?” he asked. He had learned long ago that when humans spoke of “frenching the Bellsprout” they were not referring to an act of zoophilia.
Syl gave him a dirty look. I lived on a Pokemon ranch. You’d be surprised at how many Pokemon simply must poke the Shroomish to see what happens.
The Rattata shuffled nervously on Raticlaw’s head, having finally grasped the ramifications of the Gardevoir’s words. “So…uh…how much time do I have left?”
Syl picked him up effortlessly and gave him a once over. I can feel the discharge of psychic energy emanating from you beginning to slow. A few hours at most, perhaps. The Rattata looked crestfallen, apparently never having contemplated death in his scant hours of corporeal existence. Suddenly he perked up, a look of determination on his face.
“I don’t want to die trapped in the closet,” he said, “are we going to do this or what?”
Raticlaw nodded. “Yeah, let’s do it. Syl, how many people are in here?”
Syl closed her eyes as she began to concentrate. Her eyes shot open in surprise, and she told Raticlaw the how many she had detected.
“That few?” he asked incredulously. “Where the Hell are the rest of them?”
“Someone’s coming,” Jonah hissed.
Caroline looked up, hand paused in midstroke down Growlithe’s back. The canine Pokemon had curled up into a ball and gone to sleep, apparently disinterested in the tedious boredom of the stakeout and how—contrary to his expectations—no steaks were involved. Jonah quickly cut off her reply with an index finger pressed against his lips, and he gestured for her to come over to him and take a look. She crept up quietly to the window Jonah was kneeling under and took a look. A trio of shady-looking men were walking towards the warehouse in a nonchalant manner that suggested anything but. They chatted easily among themselves as they passed under Jonah and Caroline’s two-story perch.
“This is bullshit man,” one complained bitterly. “We don’t need eight people to load Pokeballs onto no damn truck.”
“Shut up,” one said, “you know we have to be there to make sure he don’t try to stiff us.”
“Plus make sure the pigs don’t get in the way,” the third added.
“That’s what we pay the pigs off for,” the first one replied.
“Whatever nigga, we still get paid so just—“
Jonah felt his heart stop. He slowly turned around and looked in horror as Growlithe barked in his sleep, the puppy Pokemon’s limbs twitching as a tableau of adventure played out inside the recesses of his mind. The thugs’ conversation had ground to a sudden halt, their attention drawn to the noise above them. Jonah and Caroline were so tense you could have bounced a coin off of either.
After what seemed like several forevers, one thug finally said, “just a stray mutt.”
“Come on, you know he’ll be pissed if we’re late,” the third said.
Jonah and Caroline visibly relaxed at the sound of retreating footsteps.
And that’s when the Weavile came bursting through the window.
Raticlaw and Syl crept carefully through the mess of hastily stacked crates and assorted packaging materials. In contrast to the outside the storage space inside the warehouse was in fair condition, or at least as well maintained and organized as one could expect from a small criminal enterprise. As far as Syl could tell all the other gang members were in another part of the building, but the pair was taking no chances, stepping as quietly as they could and triple-checking for guards before passing through the open. For the moment though it seemed no one was coming, and Raticlaw had chosen to indulge his curiosity and rifle through whatever he could open with his claws as Syl kept watch.
Stolen car parts, some drugs… Raticlaw thought as he picked his way through the various crates, looks like these guys have a sweet gig as the middlemen of crime.
Syl read his surface thoughts and sent a sensation of agreement back to him. But where are the Pokemon?
Dunno… Raticlaw began, wait, someone’s coming.
The pair hunkered down in the corner behind a splintering stack of pallets as four thugs came walking through the doorway separating the storage area from another. They seemed uninterested in this particular area, however, and continued for the doorway to yet another walled off section of the warehouse. They kept walking through the various subcompartments of the warehouse, finally stopping at one in particular. It was another area filled with yet even more boxes and crates, distinguished only from the other sections by the presence of a loading dock. One thug went over to a nearby hand crank and looked to the others. One nodded, and the thug quickly began to turn the crank, the loading dock’s door rolling amid creaking protest.
The sight of the back of a Rhyder truck greeted the thugs, advertising the amazing hauling capacities and discount rates to a group so accustomed to seeing the text that they could likely recite the entire sales pitch by heart. The smell of burning diesel and the hum of the idling engine began to fill the warehouse as the truck’s driver hopped out of the cab.
He walked up to the gang, his posture conveying fearlessness acquired through familiarity with his associates. The driver—a grimy, rough-cut fellow who looked like he would rather drive than sleep—looked around the loading area and stuck an accusing finger at one of the thugs--presumably the leader of the gang--apparently displeased by the surroundings.
“How many times am I going to have to come before you have the goods ready to be loaded?” he asked in exasperation. “Time ain’t free.”
The leader looked unmoved. “Your stuff is…worth a lot. We don’t get it out of storage until we have a damn good reason to do so.”
“And that’s why you store them on the opposite side of the building from the loading dock,” the driver said in disdain.
The leader glowered back. “You want our shit or not?”
“Yeah yeah, I have the money,” the driver replied, gesturing to the truck. “Hurry up and go get the goods.”
The leader gestured to two others in the group. The two nodded and began to walk back the way they had came. Unseen to the five men, a small red bat-winged Rattata was running ahead of the pair as fast as its tiny legs could take it.
The Weavile swung a wicked clawed hand at Caroline. It missed only narrowly, claws slicing through one of the straps holding up her overalls like a hot knife through butter. It moved to press its advantage against the prone girl, but a sudden burst of flame forced it to leap back. It turned to the offender, claws bared for battle. Growlithe barked, moved by ancient instinct to protect his new companions and unafraid of the dark type Pokemon. The two leapt at each other, each giving its respective battle cry.
Jonah ran to Caroline, grabbed her by the arm and hauled her to her feet, relieved to find her more surprised than hurt. He turned back and began to bark orders to Growlithe, but it was quickly becoming apparent that even with the type advantage the puppy Pokemon was terribly outclassed, the former stray no match for a gang Pokemon encouraged to kill without hesitation or remorse. Weavile seemed to realize this and was easily dancing around Growlithe’s attacks, landing superficial cuts and enjoying Growlithe’s howls of pain: it was toying with its victim before delivering the final blow.
Jonah’s mind raced, well aware that their lives were on borrowed time. Syl would doubtless know her trainer was in trouble, but there was no guarantee she would be able to arrive in time or even do anything against the dark type Weavile. Conventional wisdom said that Hachiman would have no trouble against it, but Jonah had left the fighting type in his Pokeball upon entering and his gut told him the building was far too confined for the Hariyama to have any hope of putting up a fight against a smaller, more agile opponent. That, as far as Jonah could tell, left one option.
It wasn’t a very good option. But it was better than no options.
“Caroline, come on!” Jonah yelled, gesturing wildly to the doorway and grabbing a Pokeball from his belt, “Growlithe, return!”
A beam of red light shot out from the Pokeball and contacted Growlithe just as Weavile’s claws were poised for a violent Slash. The attack passed harmlessly through Growlithe as the fire type coalesced into an unidentifiable reddish glob of energy that was sucked back into the Pokeball before the dark type could react. Caught by surprise for only a moment, Weavile turned to the trainers running into the hallway and screeched horribly, furious that its moment of triumph had been stolen from it. It charged them at a blinding speed, claws gleaming with ill intent in the moonlight. Its targets stood in the doorway, watching its advance with a mixture of fascination and horror. It leapt.
Jonah slammed the door shut as hard as he could.
The door gave off a cracking sound as well as a violent shudder as the Weavile went from 40 to zero in half an inch and a tenth of a second. There was a sound of dazed anger, soon followed by the ugly sound of claws carving into wood.
“Growlithe, Flamethrower on the door!” Jonah screamed. A Pokeball at his belt erupted with red light as Growlithe returned to a more tangible form. A burst of flame emerged from Growlithe’s mouth and hit the door, setting it alight and causing a horrific scream to rattle out from behind it.
Jonah turned back to Caroline. “That’s not going to hold for long! Let’s go!”
The thug watched his partner struggle with the padlock on the door. “Come on man, hurry up.”
The other thug continued to concentrate on the lock, wiggling the key in frustration. “Not my fault this lock is a piece of shit. How come we don’t buy a new one yet?”
“Don’t matter, it’s still our asses if you don’t hurry.”
“So this is where you fine gentlemen keep the Pokemon, huh?”
An invisible force brought the two thugs’ heads together at high speed, causing the pair to crumple in a heap on the floor. Raticlaw stepped over them and walked over to the door. After a moment’s reflection he turned the key, causing the padlock to snap open.
“Dumbass didn’t stick the key all the way in,” he grunted as he heard Syl approaching from behind. Raticlaw grasped the door handle and swung it open, revealing a dark room with a musty smell on the other side. The rat Pokemon grabbed a flashlight that had been sitting by the doorway and waved it at Syl to get her attention. He felt a tug as the flashlight struggled to float out of his hand and let it go, watching as it ascended into the air as if possessed of a will of its own. Light came pouring out of it with an invisible flick of the switch, and soon after the flashlight was heading into the darkness like a spelunker into a cave. The pair followed closely behind.
In better days this had been a breaker room, the electrical panels still bolted to the wall and awaiting a time when power could be supplied to the building without the utility company getting too nosy for their own good. In lieu of its intended use a series of hastily constructed racks had been thrown inside, turning the room into little more than an excessively wired closet. Syl willed the flashlight to sweep slowly through the room. The racks were covered in trays filled with Pokeballs, each ball held shut with a strange looking clamp.
I don’t understand, Syl said, why all this trouble when you can just send them via computer?
“Security on the online system is too tight,” Raticlaw replied, “might as well try to fart in a church.”
Are you saying it’s unbreakable?
“No, but truck drivers are a lot cheaper than wunderkind hackers.”
Syl gave him a critical look. You seem to be… knowledgeable about many things.
“I’ve been around,” Raticlaw said simply. He grabbed a Pokeball off one of the racks and easily tore off the clamp, the device clearly meant to keep the Pokemon inside from coming out rather than preventing those on the outside from opening the Pokeball. He walked out of the breaker room and back into the storage area of the warehouse. “Let’s see what we got here.”
I don’t think this is a good ide— Syl began.
Syl’s protest was interrupted by the Pokeball meeting the pavement, releasing its contents with a flash of light. Its occupant—not yet fully coalesced—made a beeline charge at Syl, a distinct keening sound following in its wake. Syl’s sixth sense began to raise a commotion in her mind, telling her to get away, but the opponent was too fast, too close…
A green arm--its edge both humming with psychic energy and dangerously sharp--stopped a hair’s breadth away from Syl’s throat. The reddish haze surrounding her would-be attacker dispersed, revealing a surprised-looking Gallade.
You… the Gallade said, his arm not wavering from its position out of bafflement rather than malice, are not that hombre humano.
Syl glanced over at Raticlaw.
“I think he said that you’re not human. Or a guy,” Raticlaw replied, his grip on other human languages being piecemeal at best.
Clearly not, Syl replied. The Gallade lowered his arm. Another sharp sound preceded a dying hum as the psychic type’s limb warped and contorted, the edge of his arm growing duller as the tail end of the blade receded into his elbow. He stepped back and gave her a courteous bow.
My apologies, senorita, the Gallade said, in my haste I mistook you for the one who captured me. He grasped her hand in his and lifted it up to his face and planted a soft kiss on it before she could protest.
Raticlaw couldn’t help but chuckle at the display. “You’re old school, aren’t you?”
The Gallade turned to Raticlaw. There is no shame in chivalry, senor. He was confused by Raticlaw’s expression changing from amusement to concern, until he looked back at Syl. The Gardevoir wore a look of sudden panic.
“Syl, go!” Raticlaw said, discerning what had caused her sudden shift. Syl began to protest, but Raticlaw’s intense glare and her natural inclinations quickly won out and she vanished from existence with nary a word.
The sound of a thug yelling for his companions suddenly echoed throughout the warehouse. Raticlaw turned and dashed back towards the breaker room.
“Hey you!” he called to the Gallade, throwing any remaining pretense of stealth that remained out the window, “give me a hand in here!”
Forgive me, but what is going on? the Gallade asked.
“Live through this and I’ll tell you later,” Raticlaw said, as he grabbed as many Pokeballs as he could.
Senor, some los hermanos are approaching. And what about that odd Rattata on your—
Jonah’s bruised ribs wanted him to slow down. Adrenaline wanted him to go faster. Being in between the two was an uncomfortable experience. There was no sound of pursuit, which would have been comforting to the trainers had Weavile not been described in ancient myths as a silent herald of death.
The group reached the stairs and began running down as fast as they could. Jonah let Caroline take the lead and began to follow her down the stairs when he heard whimpering coming from behind him, causing him to stop. Jonah turned to see Growlithe looking at him pitifully. The fire type barked something.
“What do you mean, you can’t go down stairs!?” Caroline yelled back, not even bothering to turn around as she took the steps two at a time. It had only distracted her for a moment, but it was enough: she lost her footing and tumbled to the floor below, yelping as a good portion of her weight was brought down on her elbows. Jonah watched as a black shadow passed through where Caroline’s head would have been had she kept her balance and heard the Weavile hiss in frustration. The dark type landed and skittered to a stop, preparing for another pass against the female trainer.
Weavile turned just in time to see Jonah jump down the stairwell head held low as a torrent of flame erupted from Growlithe’s mouth. Unprepared for its ambush to have failed the Weavile was caught flat-footed and soon found itself sucked into in the twisting spiral of flames, the dark type screaming bloody murder the whole time. Jonah paid the spectacle no mind as the small flaming tornado continued to snake awkwardly down a nearby hallway, scorching what little paint remained on the walls: he didn’t know how long it would last, if it would hold, or even if it would deter Weavile much at all. With a door to the outside promising freedom mere feet away he only hoped that the Fire Spin would last long enough.
Something came tumbling down the stairs with several loud thumps. Jonah turned back to see Growlithe lying on its back, nose bleeding from where muzzle had met step and feet splayed in the air like a dead cockroach. The fire type gave him a sheepish grin. He felt a sudden tugging at his sleeve and turned to see Caroline trying to pull him towards the exit, desperation apparent all over her face. Jonah barely had the time to recall Growlithe once again as the pair burst through the door to freedom.
Or so they thought.
Three thugs, the business ends of three handguns, a Cacturne and a Houndour greeted them on the other side.
Jonah and Caroline did the only thing they could think of, raising their hands in the air.
“Looks like we found some rats,” one of the thugs said. He gave them an ugly grin, gold-capped teeth gleaming in the moonlight. He glanced past them, adding, “good job, Killer.”
The trainers hazarded a glance behind them. The Weavile staggered through the doorway behind them, giving the trainers a wicked grin despite smelling like charcoal and looking like it had gotten its fur trimmed by a half-blind Scizor. It clicked its claws together ominously and hissed at them with a grin that suggested it was not opposed to personally delivering some payback.
It was at this point that Jonah’s brain decided to kick in.
Well let’s see what you’re in this time, it told him. Hachiman probably could take on these dark types if you could get him out of his Pokeball…too bad you’ll get shot dead before he even emerges if you try. You could try running, and you might even make it a few yards before you die horribly. In my professional opinion, you are totally screwed. Glad I’m not you.
Jonah felt something click inside his head.
He risked a glance at Caroline. She glanced back at him, expression having gone from panicked to eerily calm.
The thugs had noticed the change as well, and they looked to each other in confusion, not sure what the sudden smile on Caroline’s face portended. Gold teeth--apparently the leader of the motley group—waved his pistol at her.
“You gonna die,” he said, although his voice suggested his confidence in this outcome was beginning to waver, “what you so happy about?”
His answer was the rending protest of metal piercing the night sky. The thugs looked upward towards the source of the noise, where the sight of what had formerly been a rooftop air conditioning unit falling towards the earth at roughly 32 feet per second greeted them. The thugs scattered as it slammed into the ground, a sickening cacophony of metal tearing punctuated by flying shrapnel in all directions. Jonah watched as a panel cover was blown off the wreckage from the impact and spiraled through the air, jagged edges causing an odd whistling sound as it bore down on him. Time seemed to slow down for Jonah, as if he was suddenly deep in a vat of molasses and his only option was to watch his own doom come and claim him. He closed his eyes.
When he opened them he was standing on a rooftop with Caroline and a twisted metal bracket that had once held an air conditioning unit. Syl stood in front of them, a small smile creeping across her face.
You have no faith in me, she said, although it wasn’t readily apparent if she was speaking to one of them in particular. Come on, we can get away while they’re rattled.
The two trainers crept over to the edge of the rooftop and risked a look over. The A/C unit was lying in a junked heap in the middle of the street as the thugs and their Pokemon picked themselves up off the ground, too shell-shocked by its unexpected appearance to do little more than gape at the wreckage. The Weavile was lying on the ground with the panel cover embedded in its torso, its pitiful whimpers rising to meet them. The trainers couldn’t help but wince in sympathy, even if the dark type had been trying to kill them moments before.
They could feel a sense of impatience rising from Syl. This is no time to be gawking. We need to leave now.
Jonah looked over the thugs. They were dazed, they were confused, they were off balance and possessed of the realization that they may have gotten in over their heads. They were just like Jonah and Caroline, but with one element missing.
“We’re not running,” Jonah said firmly.
Caroline and Syl exchanged glances.
“What?” Caroline asked. She watched as his face began to carry the same expression that he had worn moments before he had charged Hachiman with little more than an improvised spear and enough gumption to equip an infantry regiment.
Jonah stared back at them, adrenaline still coursing through his veins. With the desire for flight gone, he was clearly spoiling for a fight. “I’m sick of being hunted and I’m sick of being shot at. It’s time for payback.”
Caroline wanted to object, but the look in Jonah’s eyes awakened her own primal desire for vengeance that she hadn’t even realized existed. She nodded at Jonah.
“Let’s do it.”
“It takes you guys this long to get some Pokeballs out of a closet? No wonder you idiots are small time.”
The gang leader bristled at the insinuation as the driver continued to rake the gang over the coals regarding the myriad flaws in their inventory organization. He was used to getting respect and the driver’s disregard for his authority had always rankled him, but the man paid too well to send him floating downriver with a bullet in his head.
But tonight? It was so tempting. Between this and half his gang being AWOL for no apparent reason, he would have described the idea of capping the driver as cathartic if he had actually known what “catharsis” meant. Too bad he had left his last lackey watching the truck: they could have roughed the driver up a bit here and now to teach the man some respect.
Well, that was still in the cards, the leader thought to himself with some hope. Just had to remember to get the pay beforehand and to make sure the driver could still use the pedals. He let the happy thoughts drown out the driver’s almost endless tirade.
Suddenly the driver stopped. If the leader had been paying attention, he would have realized that the man had stopped mid-sentence and might have caught on sooner. As it was it took a sharp elbow to the chest to break him out of his daydream.
The first thought that went through the leader’s mind was how the driver had just dug his own grave. He grabbed the driver by the collar and gave him a foul look, and noted with some satisfaction that the he was as white as a sheet. He gave the driver an evil grin, thinking the source of the man’s terror the realization that he had breeched street protocol. He reached for the pistol in his waistband and stuck it under the driver’s chin.
“Any last words?” he asked, the cocking of the gun ringing ominously through the warehouse.
“…look…” the driver said weakly, pointing over the leader’s shoulder. The leader frowned and looked back obligingly. The color drained from his face.
While a little moonlight shone through the windows on top of the roof it was very dark inside the warehouse, the kind of darkness where you can see well enough to get around but poorly enough where the signs of movement cause your animal instincts to scream at you as if you’re walking around in a suit made of ribeye steaks in front of a pack of hungry Mightyena. Low rumbling growls punctuated the twisting of shadows and the unnatural shifting of silhouettes among the boxes.
Much like the light in the warehouse, the human mind is often too good at the same time that it’s too poor: too poor in the sense that it’s ultimately not very good at saving humans from being stalked and eaten by very large and hungry creatures but too good at giving the imagination liberty to fill in the blanks.
The growling surrounded the pair now. Was it the echoes or were they really surrounded? Both men were too paralyzed by fear to try and find out.
The moving shapes came closer, and eventually the pair were able to make out a collection of Pokemon in all sizes, breeds and colors. And although each species of Pokemon has its own unique body language and methods of communication all the Pokemon present had adopted the universal posture for “I’m going to rip you limb from limb.” The leader had the presence of mind to move his gun from underneath the driver’s chin and to sweep it back and forth between the Pokemon surrounding them, the barrel eventually ending its journey pointed at a Rhydon. The rock type ignored it.
The leader gave off a very unmanly squeak. As if on cue an odd-looking Rattata with bat wings appeared from underneath a very irate Dodrio. He walked towards them on his rear legs, a pad and pencil held in his forelimbs.
“…what the?” the leader began to ask, staring at the Rattata as if doing so would somehow deter the other event about to happen from following its natural course.
The Rattata shrugged at him. “The mind sees stuff really good in the moments before death, or something. I think it’s called ‘Claricety’.”
The hiss of a Sceptile emanated from somewhere in the darkness.
“Oh yeah, I have to ask you guys something,” the Rattata said, “what are you going to do before you die?”
The Pokemon began to close in on the men. The Rattata watched them carefully before looking down to jot notes.
“Wet yourselves. Interesting,” he said, chewing on the eraser of his pencil.
The thugs gazed at the ruined metal hulk with what could only be described as baffled wonderment. Gold teeth—apparently leader by virtue of being slightly quicker on the draw than his compatriots—managed to tear his gaze away long enough to see his Weavile bleeding out on the sidewalk. More importantly, the trainers were gone.
Gold teeth uttered a stream of curses. It wasn’t for what had happened to his Weavile: to a gangster Pokemon are weapons and a way to maintain a masculine image rather than companions, and in a gang that trafficked Pokemon it was not like getting another would be a problem.
No, the little bastards had gotten away. Who knew what they were up to, but they would need to be waxed just in case.
“Looking for us?” a voice called out.
The gangster turned to see who had uttered one of the most cliché, overused phrases in action sequences everywhere. The two kids had reappeared, but what Gold teeth found most disconcerting was that they had decided to bring friends, one of whom was very big.
“Move it!” he yelled to the other two thugs. The men were already scrambling for the handguns they had dropped in their haste to avoid being crushed to death, barking orders at their Pokemon all the while. Both the Cacturne and Houndour looked upon Hachiman with severe trepidation, but a warning shot in the air convinced them that they would rather face the fighting type than their masters.
Human, Gardevoir and Hariyama watched the fighting types approach as the thugs followed behind, the latter bringing their guns to bear.
“Your orders sir?” Hachiman asked Jonah, his voice tinged with anticipation of the battle to come.
“Go for the Pokemon,” Jonah said in a tone that suggested Hachiman’s enthusiasm for battle might be infectious, “and smash ‘em.”
“Keep the dark types off of us and we’ll take care of the thugs,” Caroline said. “Syl, let’s go!”
Hachiman bellowed and charged, the Hariyama advancing upon the thugs like an unstoppable force of nature given flesh. Popping sounds filled the air as the thugs opened fire in the hopes of stopping the Hariyama in its tracks, but they could do little but watch as something around Hachiman shimmered and the bullets seemed to freeze in midair, stymied by some unseen barrier. Hachiman plowed through the small cloud of bullets unharmed, sending them scattering as if they were little more than dandelion seeds on the wind. The dark types grimaced and held their ground, knowing that it was their unpleasant duty to break the fighting type’s charge so that their masters could reload and counterattack.
The sound of one of the thugs screaming in pain caused them to look back for a moment, where they saw a Gardevoir in the middle of the trio unleashing psychic vengeance. One thug went flying in the air before being bodily slammed into a nearby wall, followed soon by another. The two dark types found themselves frozen by indecision, unsure whether or not to engage this new threat.
They had only been distracted for a moment, but it was all that Hachiman needed. Cacturne turned just in time to see Hachiman bring one of his massive fists down on the dark type’s head: the blow knocked the Cacturne to the ground, crumpling it like a rag doll. Houndour turned at the sound of its fellow Pokemon wheezing weakly and found itself suddenly very alone against an opponent who outweighed it nearly 25 times over.
Houndour and its evolution are renown for their fearless tenacity, but it’s the type of bravery possessed by pack hunters who typically outnumber their prey ten to one. It growled uncertainly as Hachiman loomed over it. The fighting type began to speak.
“Your friend was weak,” Hachiman said in a voice that was level but tinged with the promise of violence to come. “Hopefully you are stronger.”
The Houndour shot a quick glance at its fallen comrade and then looked to its master, the thug leaning against the building he had been tossed into moments earlier in obvious pain. It decided that discretion was the better part of valor and gave a weak warning bark as it opened its mouth, a sickly Smog cloud quickly spreading and surrounding the area between the two in a purple haze. Hachiman hacked and wheezed as the stinging gas filled his eyes and lungs.
Gold teeth had managed to reload his weapon. He snuck up behind Syl, pistol leveled. He pulled the trigger.
A shimmering wall of light appeared behind Syl, causing the bullet to deflect with a loud ping. Syl turned around and stared at Gold teeth, and he stepped back in absentminded fear. It didn’t matter that he was two heads taller than the Gardevoir and nearly twice her weight: the way she was staring at him he felt like he was barely one inch tall.
He felt an invisible force pluck the gun out of his hand and toss it away. Syl advanced upon him slowly and deliberately, and he did the only thing he could think of.
He ran towards the warehouse like a bat out of Hell.
The two other thugs saw him running and--seeing the condition of their own Pokemon--decided to join him.
A loud clapping sound emanated from the smog, followed by a strong gust of wind that dispersed the poisonous cloud. As it cleared Hachiman could be seen with his hands pressed together in front of him, eyes red and irritated. He did his best to ignore them as he looked for the Houndour, but found no sign of the dark type: it had used the Smog to buy itself time to escape.
“Coward!” Hachiman spat the word as if it were an epithet. Though his vision was clouded and fuzzy due to the Smog, he caught sight of the fleeing thugs in the corner of his eyes and moved to follow. “Honorless dogs, every one of you!”
Hachiman suddenly felt a tugging sensation holding him back. He looked to Syl, his face suggesting incomprehension.
“You would allow them to get away, my lady?” he asked in shock.
Jonah and Caroline ran up to meet up with their own Pokemon. “Syl, what’s wrong?” Caroline asked, half out of breath.
Syl gave them all an odd smile, clearly aware of something that they weren’t. They’ll get what’s coming to them. You’ll see.
Gold teeth slammed the door behind him, bolting it shut with as many locks on the door as he could handle with his trembling hands. He could hear his companions behind him panting heavily for breath, each as winded as he was.
“What…the…Hell…man?” one thug asked between gasps for air.
Gold teeth didn’t know how it could have possibly gone wrong. They had flushed the kids out with Killer and should have had them dead to rights. The night should have ended with them a couple Pokemon richer and with a couple of bodies thrown in a ditch somewhere.
It had been that damn Gardevoir! Gold teeth cursed at how she had mocked him as she had deflected his bullets and disarmed him with ease. That smile…that smile! It was the grin of someone who knew that she had been perfectly capable of ending his life but had instead chosen to spare him, secure in the knowledge that he would live the rest of his days in shame.
She was gonna pay, he decided. All he had to do was grab a few Pokemon from the stash and hunt her and her trainer down. He’d see if she was smiling then.
The sound of wet meat hitting concrete broke him out of his thoughts. He turned to see a Scyther standing over the bodies of his former comrades, arm scythes slick with a reddish tint. The bug Pokemon cried out and raised its arm scythes high, the moonlight glinting off the few areas on the blade that were still clean.
Gold teeth never had the chance to scream.
The trainers watched from a distance as groups of Pokemon streamed out of the warehouse. While a few of the Pokemon made a break for the first patch of “wild” space they could see many lingered around the structure, predator and prey alike united in their common uncertainty in what to do next.
Jonah whistled at the sight. “Damn. Looks like Raticlaw came through…don’t tell him I said that.”
Caroline nodded, and looked to Syl. “Any sign of him?”
Syl shook her head. No, but I think he can take care of himself.
Caroline was about to reply when she was interrupted by the sound of a large amount of air passing through Hachiman’s nostrils.
“Is something burning?” the fighting type asked.
The trainers closed their eyes, sniffing the air and catching the whiff of burning wood and paint. Their eyes shot open in realization, and they looked at each other.
Smoke and small licks of flame poured out the windows of the building the group had been hiding in a short time before. They could do little but watch as remnants of the Smog cloud floated towards the open flames.
Caroline’s mind reminded her that a Pokemon’s Smog was flammable.
“Get down!” she screamed, throwing herself to the ground. Hachiman watched as Jonah and Syl dived for the ground almost in sync as a shimmering barrier formed over the humans and Gardevoir.
A small flicker of flame contacted the Smog cloud.
The resulting explosion drowned out all other sound, the shockwaves knocking Hachiman clear off his feet and onto his back with a heavy thump. A pillar of flame streaked up into the night sky as the building’s flames began burn even hotter.
Jonah turned back to Hachiman. “You okay?” he asked, yelling to be heard over the sound of his own ears ringing.
Hachiman groaned as he sat up, rubbing his head. Amazingly, he did not appear to be badly hurt. “I have been better, sir.”
The ringing in everyone’s ears was soon replaced by the blaring of sirens. Jonah and Caroline exchanged glances.
“Uh…I don’t think we want to be here when they arrive,” Caroline said.
“I agree,” Jonah replied.
The Rattata sat on the edge of the rooftop, attempting to draw a sketch of the morning horizon as the sun slowly climbed over the surrounding mountains. What was actually going down on the page might politely be described as a drawing of a bald man buried up to his eyeballs in dirty laundry.
He didn’t even turn at the sound of something climbing up the wall and tossing itself onto the rooftop. “Tampering with evidence is a crime too, you know.”
Raticlaw stared at the figment of his imagination and grunted. “You know all the shit I’ve done in my life. What’s one more crime in the grand scheme of things?”
“Eh, fair enough.” The Rattata went back to his doodle, but Raticlaw could see a lack of enthusiasm in his scribbling.
“It’s almost time,” the Rattata said sadly.
Raticlaw nodded. “Looks like it.” Already the Rattata seemed to becoming more and more transparent, less…real. One part of Raticlaw’s mind called him crazy for ever considering the little runt to be as real as the back of his hands. Another part of his mind reminded the first part that the Sanity train hadn’t been making stops at Raticlaw’s metaphorical station for a long time now. Raticlaw did his best to ignore both parts.
“I wonder what it’s like to…disappear,” Rattata said.
“I’d tell you if I knew,” Raticlaw replied, “but I’m pretty bad at dying so I’m probably not the one to ask.”
“It’s not like death,” Rattata said, “at least, I don’t think it’s like death. I’ve always been in you, but I don’t remember being…uh…”
“Yeah, that. Will I go back to you when I disappear, and what will happen then? What if I come back someday? Will I remember this, and will I remember it because it’s the me me being brought back or another me who has the memories of me but isn’t me and—“
The Rattata’s musings were cut short as Raticlaw picked him up by the wings. Raticlaw held the figment to his face and looked directly into its eyes.
“Kind of dumb to be spending your last hours worrying over something you can’t do anything about,” Raticlaw said.
The Rattata looked surprised, then thoughtful, then sheepish. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“There must be something you want to do before you…uh…go,” Raticlaw added. Rattata thought on this.
“Well, there is this one thing…” Rattata said.
The rooms in the Pokemon center were extravagant by Spartan standards but spartan by anyone else’s: little more than two bunk beds and a small desk shoved in a corner with the walls coated in a nauseating yellow coat of paint. Jonah and Caroline occupied the bunk on one side of the room, both trainers deeply asleep on mattresses that—while made in China by the lowest bidder--were far more comfortable than sleeping bags after a long night working as vigilante crimefighters. Growlithe shared the bottom bunk with Jonah, the puppy Pokemon snuggling closer to its new master for warmth. Syl had chosen the bottom bunk on the other set of beds, but with the annoying voice bringing her out of a sound, dreamless sleep she was groggily beginning to wish she had taken the top bunk instead.
She rolled on to her side, putting her back between herself and the source of the sound. It’s too early dad. Show me what you can do with your stomach later…
The Rattata sighed. He hadn’t wanted to do this, but she wouldn’t wake up and he had no time to waste. He scampered over the top of her and stopped in front of one of her hands. He bared his incisors and bit down.
Ow! Syl said, awoken with a start. Her eyes glowed, ready to deliver punishment to her attacker until she saw that her attacker happened to be less than one foot long.
Oh, it’s you, Syl said with a marked lack of enthusiasm.
“You’re not exactly a morning glory yourself, sister,” Rattata snapped back. If bedhead was a disease Syl’s case could have been considered cancerous, and the Gardevoir watched him through lazily half-open eyes. Ancient artists had been known to praise the Gardevoir for their alien beauty: clearly none of them had met one that was like Syl in the morning.
“Listen, I need your help,” he said.
Syl laid back down and closed her eyes. Why should I help you?
A moment’s silence, then a tentative, “well…I did help you out.”
You sat on Raticlaw’s head and made snarky remarks, she said, trying to go back to sleep. She felt something climbing all over her face and opened her eyes to find the Rattata standing on the ridge of her face separating them, giving her a pitiful look.
“You wouldn’t deny a dying Pokemon his last wish, would you?” he asked in a sad voice. “You’re the only one who can do this for me. Please?”
Syl realized that she could see the bedframe above her through the figment’s pleading eyes, and she couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sympathy for the creature’s plight. She gently picked the Rattata off her face with both hands and sat up, gently cradling him in her arms like a newborn.
What can I do? she asked him.
He told her.
She threw him at the opposite wall as hard as her psychic powers would allow, where he bounced off with nary a sound and landed on top of Growlithe. The puppy Pokemon whimpered in his sleep but made no other movements. Syl gave a “humph,” throwing the covers back over herself as she rolled over to face the wall nearest her.
The sound of the Rattata’s fading voice was like the passing of the wind.
“So that means you won’t rub me between your buttcheeks?”
Whenever there is a television in a public area, one can be guaranteed of the existence of two universal truths:
1. It will be on regardless of whether or not anyone is actually watching it, and even if no one is there to watch it at all.
2. It will always be tuned to a news channel. The only exception to this rule is if the television has been placed in a gym or other workout area, where it will be tuned to a cooking channel instead.
As the only trainers from out of town Jonah, Caroline and Syl had free reign of the common room. The trio had taken over a well-worn couch that sat across from a television older than the two trainers were, human and Pokemon alike balancing Styrofoam plates of toast on their laps.
(While it should be noted that most Pokemon Centers do not offer food, many offer continental breakfast. Since “continental breakfast” is hotel-speak for “toast and jam for an additional twenty dollars a night” and has about as much in common with real breakfasts as a Weedle has in common with a Salamence no one sees any inherent contradiction).
The television’s tinny speakers blared with the opening theme of the local news station. The image of a woman both middle aged and overly made up filled the screen.
“Today’s top story: the Eight Disciples are no more,” the woman began. The group perked up with nervous interest.
“Eight members of the local gang were found dead in their hideout, killed when the Pokemon they were smuggling somehow managed to get loose. One member of the gang with no memory of the events was found locked in a closet in the gang’s warehouse and was taken into custody. Authorities say there is no evidence of a third party’s involvement and are currently treating last night’s events as an act of God.”
There was a palatable sense of relief in the room.
“Authorities have now turned their efforts towards retrieving all the Pokemon who fled the scene, one which appears to have accidentally set fire to a nearby building that took local firefighters several hours to put out. No one was injured in the blaze, but the police are urging anyone who finds a stray Pokemon to call animal control immediately. In other news…”
Jonah could be heard exhaling sharply.
“Let’s not do that again,” Caroline said.
“Yeah,” Jonah replied.
With our current run of luck? Wishful thinking, Syl replied.
“Then let’s hope we continue to be as lucky as we are unlucky,” Jonah said.
The group’s conversation was interrupted by the sound of someone opening the door. They turned to see the nurse smiling at them apologetically.
“I’m sorry dears,” she said, “I’ve been so busy with all the Pokemon they brought in last night that I haven’t had time to complete your applications.”
“It’s okay,” Caroline replied.
“I’ve got the Chansey working on the laundry, so I’ve got some time now,” the nurse said. She turned to Jonah. “Your sheets were filthy dear. Do you know that your Growlithe isn’t paper trained?”
Jonah grimaced: he had been in those sheets at the time and had gotten a front row seat. “Yeah.”
“Well, something to teach him then. Come along you two: let’s get those applications done.”
The nurse smiled as she handed the PDA-sized devices to the trainers. “All done. You’re both officially members of the NPL.”
Jonah looked at the logo emblazoned on the front cover, unwilling to accept but faced with the unshakable reality that someone had seen that most obvious joke that could be made and yet had decided to go for it anyway. “Pokemon Digital Assistant?”
“Is there a problem?” the nurse asked. Jonah stared at her genuinely curious face.
“No, I guess not,” he said, and joined Caroline in flipping open the device for a closer look.
“It serves as your ID, maps, GPS, information guide to Pokemon…” the nurse said, ticking the features off on her fingers before adding, “…I wish I’d had something like this when I’d been a trainer.” She got a wistful look in her eye that Jonah realized he knew all to well.
“Thank you,” Jonah said hurriedly, hoping to put a stop to her daydreams before they went to their conclusion. “What do we owe you?”
The nurse’s mind snapped back to reality. “How much? Oh no no no, it’s free of charge courtesy of the league,” she replied.
“Well, if we’re done I guess we should be going,” Caroline said, extending her hand to the nurse. “Thank you ma’am.”
The nurse took it and shook it warmly. “It was no trouble at all, dear. Don’t be strangers, you hear?”
“We won’t,” Caroline said.
“The next time you come back we can trade stories!” the nurse said as they walked out the front doors. Caroline watched as Jonah’s face scrunched up.
“What’s wrong with you?” Caroline asked.
Caroline poked at her PDA, seemingly unhappy with the results she was getting. The rest of the group loomed over her, and although she preferred to not have the pressure she at least appreciated Hachiman’s shadow shielding the screen from the glare of the afternoon sun. She continued to tap the buttons until it became apparent to her that sending multiple queries was not in fact going to change the answer.
“According to this the nearest Pokemon gym is in Reno,” she said.
“Reno as in Reno, Nevada?” Jonah asked. He watched as Hephaestus—that was the name he’d given Growlithe—marked territory that he was never going to get the chance to maintain.
“You know how far that is?”
“I know,” Caroline said dejectedly.
“Well, I guess you should start walking then, huh?”
The group turned to see Raticlaw reclining in the branches of a nearby tree.
Syl looked at him in surprise. How did I not sense you?
Raticlaw gave her a toothy grin. “It wouldn’t be any fun if I told you, now would it? Besides, the answer’s so obvious that you’re going to kick yourself when you figure it out.”
“Coming to say goodbye?” Jonah asked, and while last night’s escapades had raised the rat Pokemon in his eyes the tone of his voice still betrayed a desire for an affirmative answer.
Raticlaw chortled. “And go back to my boring ass life back in the forest? Fuck. That.” He leapt down from the tree and strode towards the group, tail swishing eagerly. “Besides, you guys are totally lost without me even if we overlook the fact that you all still owe me big time. Nah, I think I’ll grace you with my presence instead.”
Raticlaw carefully gauged their reactions.
Caroline’s? Happy, albeit relative to the others.
Syl’s? Less than enthusiastic but resigned.
Jonah’s? Well, that was obvious. Oh well, tough shit.
Hachiman? Didn’t appear to have any strong feelings one way or the other.
The Growlithe? Was sniffing Noctowl pellets.
So call it two votes in favor, one against, one abstained and one disqualified due to excessive interest in avian excretions.
“Well, looks like it’s settled then,” Raticlaw said.
“We didn’t settle anything!” Jonah exclaimed.
“Sorry kid, the aye’s have it,” Raticlaw replied, gesturing to Jonah’s traveling companions. He turned and beckoned for them to follow. “Well come on then. Reno ain’t going to walk there by itself.”
Jonah and Caroline watched him walk down the path.
“Ugh,” Jonah said.
“At least it won’t be dull,” Caroline said helpfully.
Jonah looked back at the town in the distance and the forest behind it.
“I could have lived with dull,” he replied.
22nd August 2009, 11:55 PM #13
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
Urgh. I want to write a bigger reply to a humongous chapter, but there's nothing much to say except that it was excessively awesome.
Originally Posted by Alaska
26th August 2009, 04:03 AM #14
Is here to save Jhoto...
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
Excellent fic Blastoise.
Nothing much to critisize but seeing that you haven't had much ...
aha ! Use é.
Press Alt and then type 0233 to get the magic word.
26th August 2009, 02:52 PM #15
Re: Penultimate (PG-13)
Or Alt+130. And make sure you have num-lock on and that it's on the num-pad.
Originally Posted by Padfoot
But that's not REALLY important, it's just that some people HAVE to have some sort of problem with it, despite how tiny it could be.
Originally Posted by Alaska