Hey everybody! This is the story I've been working on for a few weeks now, which I've mentioned a few times around the Workshop. I want you all to know that this does not mean that Stainless Steel is canceled. I just needed a little break is all.
This story is rated T, as it contains material that may be considered inappropriate for younger readers. The first chapter, however, is an exception, and is about as light as the early chapters of Stainless Steel.
Please, enjoy, and feel free to comment!
Chapter One: The Start of Something Big
The monster's head was covered in thick white fur that enshrouded its face except for its eyes, which were like reflective pools of blue water. It had five fiery red horns that extended from the fur, resembling rays of the sun. The rest of its segmented body was brown, and was supported by tiny black legs.
The boy froze as the monster passed beneath his perch. He held his breath apprehensively, and hugged the tree's trunk to steady his shaking body. Thankfully, it was windy today, so the monster would detect no scent. It scanned the ground around itself, its head arcing left and right slowly, several times.
Come on, go away. Come on... Leave already! the boy pleaded in his head. Finally, apparently satisfied, the monster began to scuttle along, continuing its search for the boy. Then there was a sharp crack, and the limb the boy was squatting on snapped from the trunk, and the boy tumbled to the soft, green ground. Immediately, the monster was on him, and he was entangled in a tough, white string.
The boy screamed with laughter as he felt the fur tickle his face. The monster shrieked excitedly, burying its face in the boy's chest, and the boy snapped the strings constricting him and threw his arms around the monster. The laughing continued for several moments, before another snap silenced both boy and monster. The boy's gaze darted around the forest surrounding them, glancing over the bushes and trees in the direction of the sound.
“Junko...” the boy trailed off, climbing tentatively to his feet. At this, the monster took a few steps toward the sound. “What's there?”
Suddenly, a flash blinded the boy, and he fell back to the ground, shielding his eyes from a barrage of flashing camera lights as several paparazzi rushed into the small clearing toward him.
The boy rolled onto his hands and knees and stood, rubbing the blindness out of his eyes and running back toward home. “Come on, Junko, let's go!”
The monster spat several small flames at the photographers and then whirled around, and quickly scurried off after the boy. The commotion had apparently disturbed the forest's native inhabitants, as irritated hooting and crowing nearly drowned out the cacophony of clicking, but nothing could have veiled the flashing lights that dyed the forests white in one continuous burst.
“Grayson! Grayson, wait! Can you answer a few questions?! Grayson, we need to talk to you! Grayson, can we get an interview?” they all called out spastically from behind him. The boy ignored them, as usual; he never said anything to them, just as his father had always told him. If they had anything, they could ruin the family and town's reputation, he'd said.
He could barely even hear the padding of his own footsteps on the grass over the racket. But he didn't care. He just ran, back toward home, toward peace and privacy. At least, as much peace and privacy as one of the Unova Region's greatest celebrities could get.
Truth was, Grayson hated the way people always seemed to be intruding on his life. Whenever he went outside Nuvema Town, be it to Nimbasa City to visit Grandpa, Pinnacumulo City for a visit to the Pokémon League headquarters, or even a trip to the beach in Undella Town or Route 18, they were there, snapping camera shots as if each click sustained their lives, but only for a few short seconds.
And Junko, the Pokémon at his heels, was just as annoyed by the harassment. He could hear her hissing angrily, and occasionally, she chanced a threatening glance at the pursuers.
His lungs were burning, and his entire body was screaming, but he could see the edge of the forest not far ahead. He was sure his father would be outside, like always, probably talking with some friends from around town. He'd be able to take care of the situation. He always did. And maybe Aunt Bianca or Uncle Cheren would be there, too.
Not long now, he thought. The flashing continued, dying the world white every other instant.
Junko cried out in irritation over the shouting.
“I know... it really is... getting ridiculous!” Grayson replied between huffs. “I don't... even know why... they're so interested... in me!”
He looked down at his Larvesta, who was managing to keep pace with him. But then he felt himself crash into something hard, and then he was on the ground.
“Ow,” he moaned, rubbing his head and gazing dazedly up at the mighty oak tree he'd just collided with. “That hurt.” He hauled himself back to his feet, wiping the grass off of his hands on each other, and then on his pants.
“Oh,” he muttered under his breath, as the mob of photographers formed a circle around him.
“Grayson, what are you- Grayson, what is- Grayson, about your father- Grayson- Grayson- Grayson-”
He felt like he could swim in the ocean of questions pouring from the mouths of the reporters. Well, more like he was drowning. He stared at the ground, his face going red.
Suddenly, a pair of red shoes appeared in front of him. A slight grin appeared on his face as his gaze traveled up a pair of black jeans, and over a blue jacket, and, finally, short, chocolate-brown hair.
The man held his hands up in front of himself. “All right, that's enough questions for my son. He was just out here exploring a little, like every teenager should. Leave him alone.”
At this, the crowd of reporters disassembled and shuffled away dejectedly.
The man turned to Grayson and put a hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay, Grayson?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Grayson said. “Thanks, Dad.” He sighed in relief.
“Man, the paparazzi are getting crazy, huh? I can't believe they followed you all the way out here! Let's go home now, though.” Blake turned and began leading his son down the path toward home, in Nuvema Town.
Grayson brushed a lock of hair identical in color to his father's out of his face. He felt his pulse calming, but walking felt like he was balancing on rubber stilts. He glanced down at Junko again, and she returned his gaze. She seemed satisfied that the ordeal was over for today.
The bird Pokémon had calmed down, too. Their alarmed squawks had stopped.
His attention drifted around the forest, from the gray-feathered Pidove and Tranquill congregating in the branches, to the yellow-eyed Patrat rustling among the brush. He spent so much time here when they were home that he was surprised the photographers hadn't followed him there before, for whatever reason they did at all.
Speaking of which, why did they follow him? After all, he wasn't the Champion- just the Champion's son.
“Dad,” Grayson said, “why do they follow me around, too?”
For a moment, Blake said nothing. Then: “It's because of me. I know it sounds crazy, but you're famous because I'm famous. Besides, everybody's been talking about you.”
“Because you're sixteen now,” Blake answered. “Everybody's expecting you to be jetting off on your own journey any day now. They all think it'll be the greatest battle of the century if you get to face off against your own dad for the championship.” Blake flashed his son a smirk. “And, I hear the ladies think you're not too bad-looking, either.”
Grayson looked down at his father's feet and blushed.
“But I'm not taking the League Challenge...” he said, avoiding the girl issue. He'd had enough trouble with them at school for the past few years already.
“Not yet, anyways!” Blake said with a chuckle.
“W- what do you mean?” Grayson asked, afraid to hear the answer, and dreading to find out what his father was planning.
“I've got it all planned out with Professor Juniper. There are two other teenagers in Nuvema Town who are now of age and approved to take on the League Challenge. You're one of them.” Blake grinned widely.
Grayson reached up and scratched the back of his head. “B-but I-I'm not s-so good with Pokémon,” he stuttered.
“Nonsense!” Blake laughed heartily. “You've got my talent, after all! You know it runs in the family! Besides, you can take Junko, too.”
Grayson looked down at the Larvesta crawling beside him. She seemed to shrug in reply.
Grayson gulped down a large, nervous lump in his throat. “Okay, who are the other two trainers?”
“Well, one of them is Bella, and I don't think I've ever met the other one. I think his parents might've lived here when I was a kid. Anyways, I'm sure he'll be a great friend!”
Grayson chuckled nervously. The fact that Bella was going eased his apprehension a little, but he had no idea who the other guy might be. But, he was going to be with Pokémon, and that thought did comfort him somewhat, even if it did mean he'd have to battle with them.
“Yup! You'll be given a beginner's Pokémon and a Pokédex, just like I was when I was your age! But you won't have to worry about collecting data, of course. It's all there in the newer models!” Blake said, grinning excitedly.
“So... when am I leaving?”
“Like they say, no time like the present!” Blake answered.
He frowned, considering his options. Of course, he was going to choose Oshawott, as that was the one he was most familiar with, his father having chosen the same. But what else? Maybe he'd get a Lillipup. Aunt Bianca, Bella's mom, had caught one during her journey, and it was now a Stoutland. It was very strong and good-tempered.
But he had no idea what else he wanted to catch. He really wasn't very familiar with many Pokémon. Pretty much just the ones his dad and the others had captured, which were usually kept around Professor Juniper's laboratory.
Then the trees gave way to the town, and Grayson could see the familiar rows of neighborhoods, nestled between the beach to the south, the laboratory's fields to the north, and another forest to the west. Blake stopped, placing his fists against his hips, and took a deep breath. Grayson stood beside him, gazing out over the town. It almost pained him to think that this was the last day he'd be seeing it for a long time. Junko seemed to sense this, as she rubbed against the calf of his leg affectionately. He reflexively reached down and scratched the back of her head gently.
Grayson pulled on a sturdy pair of denim jeans and a black undershirt, and stuffed his cell phone into his pocket, before slipping into a red sleeveless jacket with a white collar and lacing up his red and black pair of running shoes. He sighed, and surveyed his room for what would be the final time for a while.
The sprawling television screen that was usually vivid with fantastic lands and characters engaging each other for the fate of their worlds was now lifeless and black. His dark blue curtains were pinned against the walls, and beams of yellow sunlight snuck through the wooden blinds, giving the pale blue walls a somewhat melancholy look. The white shaggy carpet had been vacuumed thoroughly, no doubt by Jennifer, the maid, in preparation of his departure. Pokémon from all over Unova stared down at him from their posters.
He shifted his weight to his feet and stood from the four-poster bed in the center of his large bedroom. He walked to a window and peeked out at the courtyard below, and at the Samurott fountain spraying water high into the air, which stood, as ever, at the center of the swimming pool.
He heard the door open and turned to see his mother approaching him through it, smiling serenely. She gently placed an arm around him and embraced him tightly. “I'm going to miss you so much,” she said, brushing a lock of chocolate-brown hair from his eyes. “And I'll worry, but I'll know you'll be safe. You've got so much of your father in you.”
Grayson shifted his shoulders uncomfortably, and looked down into her teary green eyes. “I'll only be gone for the summer, mom. You know that.”
“I know, but three months is the same as three years to a mother,” she said. “You're so grown up.” Her lip trembled, and it appeared that she was unable to say anymore.
“Grayson.” Grayson looked up to see his father standing in the doorway, that same grin on his face. “Time to go, son.”
Grayson's mother pulled him in close for another hug before turning him loose. “Promise you'll call every day!”
“Don't worry, Mom. I will,” Grayson assured her. Blake patted him on the back as they started down the hallway, past Grayson's own lounge, which contained a large screen for watching movies and a popcorn machine, past the game room, with a table for each of several different games, past the exercise room, and past several storage closets.
They came out to the upstairs lobby, with a couch positioned between a few recliners, a coffee table in front of them, and a large flat-screen television on the opposite wall, above an empty fireplace. They turned and stepped down the grand staircase. Uncle Cheren, a rather serious-faced man with analytical dark brown eyes and jet black hair, who had been Blake's best friend for as long as anyone could remember, stood at the bottom, waiting for them.
“All set?” he asked, smiling genially.
“Yup!” Blake exclaimed. “You coming with us?”
“I wouldn't miss this moment for the world,” Cheren replied.
As Blake and Cheren chatted, they led Grayson out of the chateau and climbed into Blake's shiny red sports car. It wasn't a long trip to Professor Juniper's laboratory complex, which was located at the northwestern edge of town; the streets were fairly clear, with much of the city's inhabitants currently on vacation at the beach in Undella Town. After a few short minutes, they pulled in front of a sprawling complex with white concrete walls and vast fields in the back. A sign in front of the glass double-doors was marked “Juniper Laboratories” in curved, highly-stylized silver letters against a white background. The three passengers disembarked, with Cheren and Blake reminiscing about the beginning of their own journey twenty years before.
The instant they'd passed through the doors, a tiny orange and yellow creature leapt onto Grayson's chest, shrieking ecstatically.
“Hey, Victini,” Grayson said, stroking the fur on the back of Victini's head. The Pokémon purred contentedly, and looked up at Grayson with its bulging blue eyes.
“Hey, Victini, how's it going?” Blake greeted, ruffling the fur between Victini's ears.
Victini replied with another enthusiastic screech, and jumped down from Grayson's arms, tugging at his shirttail. “You want us to follow?” Grayson asked. Victini nodded.
“Let's go, then!” Blake cried, pulling his son along by the neck of his shirt.
Victini led them through a machine emitting a purple light that didn't reach the ground, which Grayson knew was a UV light that sterilized all visitors, and down a stark white hall, before turning into a room through a swinging door.
Professor Juniper, who was now in her mid-40s, gave a great grin when she saw her visitors arrive. Another woman, who looked a few years older than the professor, stood up from a chair at a table.
“Oh, Grayson! My grandbaby's going on his own journey!” the woman cried, pulling Grayson into a tight bearhug that emptied his lungs of air.
“I love you, too, Grandma,” Grayson managed.
“Hi, Mom,” Blake said, waving.
“Oh, you must be so excited!” she said, relinquishing Grayson and moving on to her son. “I know I was when Aurea called me!”
Cheren shot the professor a serious gaze. “How many people did you inform?”
“Oh, only Lila. Don't worry, I don't think the paparazzi's gotten wind of this yet,” Professor Juniper said with a wink.
“Good,” Blake said. “It'll probably be better if the kids aren't harassed the whole way to Pinnacumulo City.”
“Speaking of which, where are the other two?” Cheren asked.
“Oh, Bianca and Bella haven't arrived yet. The other boy's already gone, though,” Juniper said.
“Gee, where have we seen this before?” Cheren said. He and Blake laughed.
“But, wait- which one did the other guy take?” Grayson asked, his eyebrows furrowing in concern.
“His name is Wyatt and he chose Snivy,” Juniper answered. “So I have Oshawott and Tepig left.”
“Gee, I wonder if that kid's as stuck up as some other people I know who chose Snivy,” Blake joked, elbowing Cheren in the ribs.
“So,” Lila said, turning to look at Grayson, “which one are you choosing?”
It seemed like a spotlight had been thrown on him. He gulped, hesitating. He let his gaze dart around at everybody. They were all staring at him in anticipation. Professor Juniper was now holding two Poké Balls out in front of herself, one in each hand.
“I choose Oshawott, of course,” Grayson said, grabbing one of the red and white capsules.
“Honey, that's Tepig's ball,” Juniper said, taking the ball from Grayson and giving him the other.
“Oh- er, right,” he said. With the tip of his right index finger, he pressed the tiny white button on the front of the capsule and tossed it down to the ground. A white and sky blue Pokémon with a large, round head, beady black eyes, a round orange nose, an aqua blue tail and feet, and a slightly red-tinted white shell on its chest materialized. It sparkled briefly.
There was a round of intrigued murmurs at this.
“Wow!” Blake said.
“What luck, Grayson,” Lila said.
“What?” Grayson asked, confused. “What do you mean, 'luck'?”
“This Oshawott is what we call 'shiny',” Juniper explained. “That means he's colored differently from most Oshawott. They're very valuable in some collector circuits. You should be very careful with him.”
“Uh, okay,” Grayson said, lowering himself to his knees. “I choose you, Oshawott.”
At this, the Oshawott squeaked happily and buried its face in Grayson's stomach.
“Do you want to give your Oshawott a name?” the Professor asked.
Grayson pulled the Oshawott back to arm's length and studied him. He thought for a moment and said, “Riptide.”
“Sorry we're late, Professor!” came a voice. Grayson craned his neck to see a blonde woman in a white and orange striped shirt and green pants enter the room, followed by a girl with black hair and wearing a red shirt with ruffled straps, denim shorts, and brown leather flip-flops.
“Ah, Bianca, Bella!” said Professor Juniper.
“We were a little held up,” Bianca said, motioning her daughter forward.
“Well, well, well, look who decided to show up after all!” Cheren said.
“Oh, shut up,” Bianca said. They looked at each other and smiled.
“Hey, Grayson,” Bella said. “Oshawott, huh? Just like your dad.”
“Yeah,” Grayson said, standing and moving out of the way so Bella could receive her Pokémon.
“I'm sorry, Bella, but I only have Tepig left. The boy who took Snivy left a few minutes before Grayson got here,” Professor Juniper said.
“That's okay. I wanted Tepig anyway,” Bella said, accepting the Poké Ball. She released her Pokémon, an orange and black Pokémon with a curly tail and a streak of yellow on its snout. “I'll call you Emby.”
Emby rubbed against Bella's legs, snorting excitedly.
“Now, I have a few more things to give you before you leave. The first,” Professor Juniper said, turning to her desk behind her before turning back, “is a Pokédex.” She handed Grayson and Bella each a red, rectangular device with a black screen.
“Lucky for you guys, you don't have to fill it!” Blake said, slapping Grayson on the back.
“It's easy to operate. You just press the 'Power' button, and scroll through the encyclopedia using the touch screen. To use technical and hidden machines, you just insert the disk into the slot on the back, and it will give instructions on how to learn each move, as well as a list of the Pokémon capable of performing it,” Juniper explained.
Grayson activated his Pokédex, the screen going blue. It asked for his full name, and then his thumb print, both of which he entered. After a moment, a numbered list of names appeared on the screen, beginning with “000 - Victini”. He tapped the bar for “007 – Oshawott”, and the screen changed to a general entry for Oshawott. It included a picture of a normal Oshawott, a summary of the collected information on the species, average height and weight, and even a footprint. At the bottom of the screen were buttons marked “Information”, “Forms”, “Cry”, and “Habitat”. “Information” contained a detailed encyclopedia entry, “Forms” contained pictures of male and female Oshawott of both normal and shiny variety, “Cry” was pretty self-explanatory, and “Habitat” displayed a map of the Unova region with the words “Habitat not found” over the center.
“Professor?” Grayson said, looking up at her.
“Why does it say, 'Habitat not found'?”
“Are you looking at Oshawott's entry? The Pokémon that we professors give out are generally very rare, and occasionally are only known to exist in captivity, like Chikorita and Bulbasaur. You'd be very lucky to find a wild Oshawott in Unova, or anywhere.”
“Oh,” Grayson said. He looked down at Riptide, who was looking right back at him, his mouth hanging slightly open. “Well, Riptide, guess you won't be seeing any of your friends.”
“Oh, I don't know about that,” Blake said, handing Grayson a second Poké Ball. “You are taking Junko, after all. I'm sure all your Pokémon will be friends in the end.”
“That's true!” Bianca said. “During my journey, I and my Pokémon all became best friends.”
“Yeah, that's right,” Blake said.
Cheren smiled. “It's true.”
Grayson looked up at everyone else. They were, as he expected, staring at him and Bella.
There was a sharp squeak, and Grayson's head jerked down to see Riptide's mouth clamped on one of Victini's ears.
“Riptide, let go,” Grayson said firmly.
Immediately, Riptide released Victini, who rubbed its ear tenderly with its miniscule palms.
“Well, I guess it's about time you kids get going, then,” Professor Juniper said. “Especially if you want to get to Accumula Town before nightfall.”
“Oh, wait! I forgot something!” Bianca shouted, running out the door. A few moments later, she returned with two backpacks in hand, one red and one blue. She handed the red one to Grayson and the blue one to Bella.
“Grayson's mom and I packed everything you two are gonna need! There's a town map in each bag, several sets of clothes, five Poké Balls each, a couple of Potions, and a few Antidotes, Paralyze Heals, and Awakenings. There's also some granola bars and a bottle of water each.”
“Awesome! Thanks, Mom!” Bella said.
“Yeah, thanks, Aunt Bianca,” Grayson agreed.
“All right, you two, get going now,” Blake said. “A whole world of adventure awaits you!”
“Have fun, Bella! You, too, Grayson!” Bianca said.
“Guess we'd better go, then,” Grayson said.
“Yeah,” Bella said.
The two turned to leave the lab, saying their good-byes, and returned their Pokémon, attaching their Poké Balls to their belts, and walked down the hall and out the front door.
“So,” Bella said, after a few minutes of walking, “are you excited?”
“Uh...” Grayson hesitated. “Kinda. I mean, I guess I'm excited that I'll get to see the region on foot.”
There was a light breeze coming in from the beach, which felt cool against the hot early June sun. It rustled Grayson's hair a little.
“Yeah. You've never really like battling. Why not?” Bella asked.
“I don't know,” Grayson answered truthfully.
“Well, you'd better get used to it, because you're going to be doing a lot over the next three months.”
Grayson sighed. “Yeah, I know. It's not like I can come back without any badges. He'd be so disappointed.” He was referring to Blake.
Bella sighed and rolled her eyes. “What?” Grayson asked.
“Nothing. I guess I just ought to be used to you by now. You're the only person I know who doesn't like to battle.”