I was tired, scratched up, and generally beat to pieces when I finally emerged from Viridian “Hellhole” Forest. But I was alive. I marched into Pewter City triumphantly, with my newly claimed Butterfree by my side.
“Well, that was certainly an ordeal.”
The sun crept over the mountains and began to shine on the city. I recalled my Butterfree, nicknamed Locustod, back into its Poké Ball.
I had planned and prepared to hike through Viridian Forest that day. I had not planned or prepared to get lost. Six miles had quickly turned to fourteen and I was beat, literally.
Two days ago I turned sixteen. Two days ago I got my Pokémon license and my Squirtle, Rainer. Two days ago, I knew what I was doing. Now, not so much. This journeying stuff was tough. Only three nights ago I had lain with my best friend Tim on the roof of his house, looking up at the stars.
I closed my eyes tiredly, remembering.
Tim had turned to me. “If you could have any Pokémon, any one at all, what would it be?”
I looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“Real Pokémon, no legendaries,” he said.
The question had definitely been on my mind for quite a while. “Moltres would be pretty sick, but otherwise… a Dragonite. Definitely a Dragonite. What about you?”
“Dragonite? Well they’re so rare they might as well be legendary,” he’d said laughing. “I’d like a Gyarados -- those things are just plain badass.”
“I’ll be sure to send one home to you for your birthday.” I’d teased.
“Oh, shut up, I doubt you’ll even be out of Viridian Forest in two weeks,” he had said, punching me in the shoulder. I had just laughed and looked back up at the stars.
If it weren’t for Locustod, though, he just may have been right. On the other hand, if it weren’t for that damned Butterfree I probably would have been out of that place hours before.
It was still rather early in the morning, so no one was out yet and the Pokémon Center was still locked for the night. I wandered around the city, drowsy eyed, waiting for the town to wake up. I decided to wander my way over to the path towards the mountain. I hadn’t even beaten Brock yet but there was no harm in looking ahead.
The sun was low and reflected off the gray clouds, casting a foreboding light on the city and surrounding mountains. At a dip between two plateaus, the paved road became gravel and looked like it turned into a dirt path about a quarter mile down. I sighed and leaned against a sign post that proclaimed, “MT. MOON – LICENSED TRAINERS ONLY.” It had been a long time since my mom had taken me here to visit the museum and the mountain was bigger than I remembered. Rest would definitely be necessary before I tackled it.
It was only then that I noticed a bench on the far side of the road with a girl laying on it. She had a knee up and her arms folded; I would have thought that she was sleeping if I had not seen her looking at me with a single open eye. Upon noticing my gaze, she snapped it shut again.
“Hmm….” I was a little creeped out, so I didn’t say anything; instead looking back down the road, where I saw a young man, probably in his twenties, walking quickly. He was wearing a long dark overcoat and a brimmed hat. He looked suspiciously at me as he passed, but I just smiled and nodded hello. I guess he hadn’t noticed the girl, who stood up and walked quickly to catch up with him. She stepped in behind him and grabbed him by his collar, spinning him around. Apparently she was pretty strong, as the man could not wrestle free.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” she asked him angrily.
“Hey!” I cried. “What are you doing?” I took a step towards the pair. With lightning fast reflexes, the girl pulled a five inch sheathe knife from her belt and threw it at me with her free hand. It missed me by a matter of inches, instead sticking into the sign post with a loud “thunk!” where it quivered ominously.
I stopped in my tracks, looking back and forth between the knife and the girl.
“I’ll deal with you in a minute,” she said before turning back to her victim.
All I could do was nod and slowly back up to the sign post.
“I asked you a question. Where are you going?” the girl repeated.
“Into town. Who are you? I haven’t done anything wrong,” he protested wildly.
“Who says you did?” She reached into his coat with one hand and pulled something out of his pocket, “Oh wait, this does.”
I stared in amazement. It appeared to be a normal trainer ID card, but when she turned it so that it caught the light, I saw a large red R emblazoned on it. “Team Rocket, huh? Well, there’s something wrong.”
Memories flashed through my mind. My father… Team Rocket… Cinnabar Island…
By the time I had snapped out of the flashback, the man had disappeared and the girl stood looking at me with her arms crossed and a cynical look on her face. “What’s your problem?” she asked.
I stared at her blearily “Huh?”
“Well, first of all, you show up at six in the morning to a mountain trail with bloodshot eyes and torn up clothes, obviously unprepared to go hiking. And then you completely phase out at the first sight of a Team Rocket agent. Kind of a weird reaction in my experience.”
“I got lost in the Forest, just got out. And…” I hesitated before continuing. For some reason, I wasn’t as afraid of this girl as I probably should have been. “My father was killed by Team Rocket a few years ago; kind of traumatic for me, if you know what I mean.”
Her face lightened slightly. “I do.”
I stared at her skeptically.
“I’ve lost… people, too. That’s why I’m hunting them.”
Suddenly I felt much warmer towards her. “What did you do with that guy?”
“I took the Moon Stones he was smuggling and kicked him back to his superiors.”
In the distance, the city clock chimed seven. She turned and began walking back into town. I jogged to catch up with her. “So did you wait all night for that guy to come?” I asked.
It was only then that I noticed the Flareon walking beside her, which was surprising as usually Flareon are incredibly bright and nigh impossible to miss. But this one was dim, probably from spending a night out of its ball awake.
“Shouldn’t you recall your Flareon?”
The girl glanced down at her Pokémon. “She won’t go in. She’s just too protective of me for that.”
We rounded a corner and the domed roof of the Pokémon Center came into view. I wondered what would make a Pokémon so loyal that it refused to let the trainer leave its sight. I realized that I didn’t even know this girl’s name, so I asked her.
“Just because we have something in common doesn’t mean I’m going to answer all of your questions.” She pushed open the door of the center and paused, looking me up and down. Finally she said, “Oh, all right, join me for breakfast; we can talk all you want.”
I started by telling her my name and story.
Sitting under a tree in the forest, I perused my map and watched my two new Pokémon play. I was hopelessly lost, but not worried; I had gotten up early that morning so that I would have extra time to make my way through. The forest did have a trail from Viridian City to Pewter City, but it was identical to the trails to the Viridian Tributary, the Forest Lake, and all of the trails that wild Pokémon had made. Needless to say, it was all a little confusing.
Suddenly, Rainer and Baron (my Pidgey) started making quite a ruckus and I heard a sound I had never heard before. Almost like singing, but obviously a Pokémon.
I lowered the map to see what was going on. A giant purple butterfly, looking the other way, was flying over my Pidgey and Squirtle. They were asleep.
“Hey!” I yelled, scrambling to my feet and whipping out my Pokédex. The butterfly turned around and began to float towards me.
“Butterfree. In battle, it flaps its wings at high speed, releasing highly toxic dust into the air.”
“Uh-oh.” I looked up, but it was too late. Small scales were falling from the Butterfree’s wings.
First my nose and throat began to itch, then I couldn’t see well and my eyelids began getting heavy. My muscles became loose and the Pokédex dropped from my hand. Within seconds I had slumped over, fast asleep.
When I awoke, it was dark. I pushed myself to my feet groggily and recalled what had happened. Picking up my still open Pokédex and putting it in my pocket, I looked around for my Pokémon. Baron was still sleeping, but Rainer had begun to stir. I put them both back into their Poké Balls. Shoving the map back into my pack and putting it on, I realized how far I still had to go, and in the dark too. I called out my Pidgey and shook it awake.
“Baron, listen to me, I need you to fly with me for a while. If you see another Butterfree, attack it. If it tries to use sleep powder or stun spore then use your gust to blow away the powder. I want to catch it.”
Butterfree were supposed to be rare in the Viridian Forest, as they usually migrated away immediately after evolving. This would be an opportunity too rare to miss out on.
The small bird nodded solemnly and flew out of my arms. We walked for a ways looking into the dark forest. It didn’t occur to me to check my watch until we had gone a couple miles.
“Four-fifty-seven in the morning…. Crap, how long were we out?” Baron cooed softly in reply. I rubbed my eyes, the powder was still having some effect -- I could feel it. My senses felt numbed and I was disoriented.
All of a sudden I saw movement. Large white wings were beating softly just off of the trail about thirty feet ahead. “There!” I called. Somehow I knew it was the same Butterfree. It had to be.
I ran off, but it flew into the brush. I didn’t give up. Ignoring the possibility of stepping on a sleeping Weedle and catching a poison sting, I haphazardly crashed through the brush. Baron was going wild, screeching and flapping after me. Branches and thorns whipped my face and clawed at my arms and legs. I could see the white wings of the Butterfree beating along ahead of me but I was losing ground. I chased it for a good ten minutes.
I knew I was lost, even more so than before, but I didn’t care: I wanted that Butterfree. I saw a meadow ahead; the Butterfree was going straight towards it. As soon as I reached the edge of the forest, I tripped and began falling down a slight incline. I tucked into a roll, but the fall tore the Poké Balls off of my belt. Rainer popped out and tumbled along, bleary-eyed. We stopped at the bottom of a short hill. I was soaked with dew.
We were in a large meadow in the middle of the forest; the Butterfree was floating a short distance ahead. I gathered up my Poké Balls and was about to set Rainer on it when I was hit with a blinding light. Sunrise – damn, I had been out a long time.
I blinked a few times until my eyes adjusted. Butterfree was still staring at the sunrise with its back to me. I pointed to it and looked at Rainer. A blast of water hit the bug in the back, quickly followed by my Poké Ball.
The ball rocked a couple times before the light on the button finally went out. I walked over to my new Pokémon and let it out right away. It floated in front of me, fear in its eyes.
I looked at it for a second. “And what will your name be…” I pondered. It just stared at me unblinkingly. That was creepy. “Locustod. Perfect.
“Now,” I continued, “I need one thing.”
The butterfly cocked its head and looked at me.
“Get me out of this place.”
“That’s pretty much all I have to tell,” I told the girl.
”My name’s Criss,” she said. “I can show you the way to the gym if you want. It’s on the way to the museum, where I’m going to drop off these Moon Stones. You should get some sleep first, you look tired.”
Criss looked to be about eighteen, two years older than me. She was tall for a girl, almost my height, with long dark hair and piercing blue eyes. She was very pretty, now that I’d thought about it, but her overall demeanor was rather intimidating.
I looked around the Pokémon Center. It was much larger than the one in Viridian City. Its shiny silver machines and healing devices reminded me of Professor Oak’s lab back home in Pallet Town.
Professor Oak was friends with everybody in Pallet Town but he had grown really close to me and my mother. He had been best friends with my father, and when Dad was killed by Team Rocket, Professor Oak had taken us under his wing. My mom worked as his secretary, but we lived off of his own paycheck. My brother had gone off to work for Silph Co. in the Orange Islands so as not to be a burden. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, but we communicated through mail and telephone. He often hooked me up with all sorts of cool new technology. In fact, in the bottom of my pack was the Ultra Ball he had sent me as a gift for my birthday. With it was a note that said: “These will be common in areas with stronger Pokémon but it will be a sure catch for you early in your adventure. Use it wisely!”
“Yeah, that’d be great.” I agreed finally, “What about you? You look tired yourself.”
“I always look tired. Just go get some rest; I’m going to challenge some of these trainers to battle.”
I nodded and slouched off towards the bunkroom. I had given my Pokémon to the nurse when we had first walked in; they probably weren’t ready yet.
Before I finally fell asleep, I just stared at the ceiling for a few minutes, thinking about what had happened so far. Criss seemed like a decent enough person, if a little steely and stern. Anyone who fought Team Rocket couldn’t be that bad.
A little before noon I was shaken awake by a frantic looking nurse. “Excuse me sir,” she said exasperatedly, “are you the trainer of the Butterfree that was brought in this morning?”
I blinked my eyes and shook my head a couple times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. “Uhh… yeah,” I said groggily. “What’s wrong?”
“Your Butterfree is attempting to attack my assistant Chansey and just throws stun spore everywhere whenever I try to get close to it. Can you please do something?”
I slowly sat up and put my feet on the floor, swearing under my breath, and rubbed my eyes. I hated it when people woke me up, but this nurse seemed at her wit’s end and besides -- she was cute.
I pulled on my shoes and followed the nurse to the medical rooms. She handed me a surgical mask to keep out the stun spore, but I declined.
“It acts like a prick, but you’ve just got to show it who’s boss,” I said.
I shoved open the door that the nurse had indicated and stepped inside. The room smelled like the powder that had knocked me out the day before, but it wasn’t too strong. Locustod was chasing an incredibly agitated Chansey around the room, chittering wildly.
“HEY!” I yelled at it.
It stopped instantly and stared at me, frightened.
Chansey ran past me, out the door, wailing insanely.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOUR DOING?!?”
The bug type landed at my feet and bowed its head. I recalled it back into its Poké Ball. “Damn Butterfree,” I muttered under my breath.
I turned to leave, but the door was blocked by the nurse, who looked rather indignant. “Is that how you handle all of your Pokémon?” she said acrimoniously.
“No,” I sighed. “Just the ones that are a complete PAIN IN THE ASS!” I directed the last four words at the Poké Ball still in my hand. I pushed past her and walked back into the main room of the center, where I picked up my other two Pokémon from the nurse that was there.
Still steaming about Locustod, I walked out the back door, which led to a small grass field used for Pokémon battles. Criss stood at one end with her Flareon by her side. In front of her an Ekans slowly slithered towards its opponent, a Zubat at the far end of the field. She must have been putting on quite a show, for a fair amount of people had gathered to watch.
Interested to see how Criss handled battling, I sat down on a bench nearby.
“Ekans, tackle!” Criss called. The purple snake jumped at the Zubat.
“Zubat, fly out of reach!” retorted the boy who must have been the Zubat’s trainer. The bat flew about ten feet up and Ekans missed its target.
Criss didn’t say anything but instead made a hand gesture to her Pokémon. The snake reared its purple head and opened its fanged mouth. A bunch of glowing poisonous needles began to fly out at the Zubat, who dodged them.
I tore my eyes away from the battle and opened my Pokédex. “Let’s see what the annoying little bug’s good for…” I muttered, and looked up a Butterfree’s available move set. I obviously harbored a strong dislike for the Pokémon, but I would need two Pokémon for my first Gym battle. Since Baron would be a definite no go against Brock’s rock types, Locustod was my only choice as a secondary. The device read the list out loud, amid the sounds of the battle in front of me. “Tackle, string shot, stun spore, poison powder, sleep powder, and confusion.”
“Confusion? But that’s a psychic move. Huh. That’ll be very useful.”
In front of me, Criss’ Ekans had finally managed to hit the Zubat; it had begun to fall. Criss gave it another hand signal order. The snake wrapped the Zubat, crumpling its wings.
“Zubat! Bite it!” the other trainer cried. The bat bit the snake as hard as it could. Criss’ Ekans hissed in pain. But then it began to glow. The crowd gasped collectively and Criss smiled in a smug manner. The Ekans began to grow longer and develop a hood. I was witnessing my first Pokémon evolution. The newly evolved Arbok was much larger than the Ekans had been.
“Arbok, finish it with wrap,” Criss said coolly. The snake squeezed Zubat until the flying-type finally surrendered with a cry. Then it was released and fell to the ground, looking broken.
“Zubat, return,” the other trainer recalled his Pokémon before walking over to Criss. They looked to be about the same age. “You’re a very good trainer. I’m gonna have to train a lot more if I’m gonna beat Brock. Take this, I found it in Mt. Moon on my way over.” He handed Criss a small, round, orange-ish stone. “It’s amber, fossilized tree sap.”
“I know what amber is, thank you.” She took the rock from him and put it in her pocket. “Arbok, return!”
I waved her over and we left the center, Flareon striding along behind us. “That was a good battle” I said.
”I try to train every day in order to keep my strength up.” She pointed at a large building ahead. “That’s Brock’s gym. Are you ready?”
“Of course. Aren’t you going to the museum?”
“I decided to stay and watch you battle Brock. I beat him already you know.”
“Yep. I’ve also beaten Sabrina, Erika, and Koga.” She added, “But Brock was the one that convinced me to catch an Onix.”
“Oh yeah, he prefers rock-type Pokémon doesn’t he?”
“They’re also ground-types, but people tend to ignore that. He has a Geodude and an Onix. Between your Squirtle and your Butterfree, you shouldn’t have a problem.”
A minute later, I pushed open the glass door to the gym. From the outside it was smaller than I had expected, and relatively inconspicuous. The inside was sparsely lit, so it took my eyes a few seconds to adjust.
When they finally did, I looked around at the room that I stood in, for the entire building was one large room. Several fluorescent lamps hung from the ceiling, providing the dim light. The walls were made of smooth cement, while the floor was covered almost entirely in gravel and sporadic boulders. White paint outlined a battlefield that looked similar to the ones I had seen on TV, it was a little bigger than the basketball court back at my high school in Pallet Town.
Their feet crunching on the gravel, two men approached us from across the field.
The shorter, fatter one was smartly dressed in what I recognized as the uniform of a Pokémon League referee. The League symbol, a Poké Ball, was emblazoned upon his shirt pocket, and a silver whistle hung around his neck.
It wasn’t until then that the reality really struck me. This was my first ever official battle! Sure, I had gone up against plenty of other novice trainers in Viridian, but this was different. This was what I had been waiting for my entire life. An official battle against an official gym leader on an official field with an official… official. I hadn’t been at all nervous up until that very point, but right then, I started to sweat, my voice shook and I began to panic.
Shakily, I held out a hand an introduced myself to the second man, who I assumed to be Brock. The gym leader was tall, stoic, and a rather imposing figure. He had dark, squinty eyes, tanned skin, and spiky black hair that stood out in all different directions. His muscular arms were folded across his chest.
“I-I’m Keith… from Pallet Town. I’d uh, like to challenge you. To a gym battle. If that’s okay.”
The man smiled kindly and unfolded his arms to shake my hand. “I’m Brock,” he said. “Are you a beginning trainer then?”
“Yeah, I… yeah,” I stuttered.
Brock clapped a friendly hand to my shoulder. “There’s no need to be nervous.” Looking behind me, he noticed Criss.
“Criss, good to see you again.” He nodded.
“Likewise,” my new companion responded.
“You showing Keith here the ropes?”
“You could say that.”
Brock smiled again and turned to his referee. “Let’s go then, Reg.” The referee nodded back to him and strode over to a raised platform on the right side of the gym’s field. Brock walked across to a small square on the far side, calling back over his shoulder, “It’s two on two. You good?”
A double battle? That wasn’t what I had been expecting. Panicking, I turned to Criss.
She seemed to recognize my fear before I said anything. “He means you each get to use two Pokémon each. Double battles aren’t allowed in the Kanto league.”
I gulped and nodded before heading to my own square. I had known that. But why had I forgotten? Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this kind of stuff. Who knew what else I might forget? My mind raced along this train of thought while the referee announced the rules and Brock sent out a Geodude. Finally I shook my head to clear my thoughts. No, I was prepared. I could do this.
I studied Brock’s Pokémon for a second. I had already made a decision as to what Pokémon I would be using, but I wanted to go over my rather rough plan in my head anyway. The Geodude was nothing more than a rock with arms, eyes, and a mouth locked in s crooked grin.
They never taught us anything about battling in school, deciding to leave that to the specialized Pokémon training universities, but I had read numerous books on the subject. Geodude was a rock and ground-type. Its stone body made it almost completely invulnerable to most physical attacks, except fighting-type ones. If I used water and psychic-type moves, though, everything would be fine.
Strengthening my resolve once more, I confidently grabbed a Poké Ball from my belt.
“Let the match begin!” called the referee, and he blew his whistle.
“Geodude, use rock throw!” shouted Brock.
“Dodge it!” I responded.
Two, three, then four fist-sized rocks sped through the air towards my Pokémon. But at the last second, it flapped out of the way. Emboldened, I attempted to test Geodude’s defenses.
“Now, stun spore!” I cried out.
Locustod hesitated for a second, then flapped quickly over to the rock-type and doused it with a toxic yellow powder.
I almost hit myself. Of course! That doesn’t work. I began to panic again.
“Just stick with the plan and it will all turn out fine,” I muttered to myself.
Rather than teasing me for my mistake, Brock just smiled and called for another rock throw.
This one was too close for Locustod to dodge, but I quickly came up with a counter. “String shot on those rocks!” I called across the field.
Immediately, my Pokémon began shooting a silvery silk-like string at the rocks. The projectiles still hit the butterfly, but were cushioned.
Now it was time to do what I should have done in the beginning. “Confusion!”
Locustod was doing well; it clearly wanted to make up for pissing me off back at the center.
Suddenly, my Butterfree’s eyes began to glow red. Geodude’s body gained a similarly colored aura. The rock-type’s eyes widened; it was obviously straining. Our two Pokémon stood like that for almost a minute, then finally Geodude collapsed.
The referee gave a shrill blast on his whistle. “Geodude is unable to battle! Brock, choose your next Pokémon!” he cried out.
“Nice one, Keith,” said Criss from behind me.
I grinned ecstatically. I had taken out one of Brock’s Pokémon! Only one more to go until I got my very first gym badge.
“Geodude, good job, return! Go, Onix!” Out of my opponent’s Poké Ball came a giant snake-like figure made out of boulders, its huge, ferocious eyes glaring down at me.
“Onix, use bide!”
I winced, expecting a powerful iron tail, or something similar, but then just looked at the Onix. Nothing happened. I had never heard of bide before. Why would there be a Pokémon technique for just waiting? I looked at Brock and then Criss, both of their faces were expressionless.
I coughed once, then shrugged it off. Whatever, I would take advantage of this. Maybe it was some kind of test. “Locustod, use confusion again!”
The Pokémon’s eyes glowed again, but nothing happened to Onix.
“Okay, maybe he’s too big. Just use tackle then!”
The butterfly began to bounce off of Onix here and there. Again, it hardly reacted. That was to be expected, but my attacks had to be doing some sort of damage. Why wasn’t Onix doing anything? Why wasn’t Brock doing anything? I turned around to face Criss.
“Is this some kind of joke? What’s he doing?”
“You’re in trouble now,” she said calmly. I turned back around to see that the Onix’s eyes had begun to glow -- then his whole body glowed too.
Again, I had forgotten something critical, Brock’s signature move. A pamphlet I had read detailing Kanto’s gym leaders flashed back to me. I was in major trouble. “Locustod, watch out!”
But it was too late. Imbued with its technique’s powerful energy, Onix hurled itself at the butterfly and smashed it into the wall. I watched, stunned.
“Butterfree is unable to battle! Keith, choose your next Pokémon!” called the referee, blowing his whistle again.
“L-Locustod, return! Come on, Rainer!” It was almost a relief to fall back on my ever-faithful Squirtle. I encouraged myself with thoughts of the many victories the pair of us had accomplished so far on this short journey. We had never lost. We were unbeatable.
The tiny turtle popped out of the Poké Ball and looked up at Onix defiantly, sharing my same newfound courage.
“Bubble!” I cried.
The stream of bubbles caused the ferocious rock-snake to rear its head and roar in annoyance, but didn’t seem to be doing much damage.
“Onix, bide again!” Brock called, once more.
I knew Brock specialized in rock-types, his gym was rocky, even his name sounded like “rock”, but I had figured that was as far as his stone fetish went. I was wrong. He even battled like a rock. Now it was time to kick him into the gutter.
I had two choices. I could wait for the energy to subside, thus negating the power of the bide attack, or I could finish Onix before it released the energy. I hated waiting.
“Okay, we’ll need something with a little more power. Water gun!” My Squirtle dashed across the field, bouncing off of boulders until it was in close proximity to the beast, and then blasted it with a powerful spout of water from its mouth. “Finish it before it unleashes the power!”
Onix shuddered and winced under the barrage of water, but didn’t react. The energy that it was relying on to win was also stopping it from defending itself. At least, for now.
Showing the ingenuity that I was lacking in my nervousness, Rainer leapt forward at its opponent and crawled up the rock-snake’s chest until it pulled itself up onto the monster’s nose. Without stopping for breath, my Squirtle blasted Onix right between the eyes with yet another powerful water gun. This proved to be too much for the rock-type. It roared and shook its head, causing Rainer to jump off and land gracefully on the ground, before it finally slumped to the ground in defeat.
Even the referee seemed shocked. “Onix is unable to battle. Brock is out of useable Pokémon, the victory goes to the challenger!” He blew his whistle one last time.
It took me a second to realize what had happened. I was in shock, complete and utter disbelief. I had won! Had I cheated? I must have, it couldn’t be possible for a beginner like me to win his first gym battle. But I hadn’t! I had won fair and square!
“Squiiiirrrrt-aaalllll,” my Pokémon exclaimed happily, leaping into my arms. I burst out laughing. Hell, maybe I was good at this!
Brock strode over to me. “That was a good battle, very fun.” Surprisingly enough, he didn’t look angry at all that he had lost. In fact, he seemed as lighthearted as ever. I slowly set Rainer down on the ground and recalled it.
I was almost shivering in anticipation as Brock reached into his pocket and removed a flat, shiny object. I’m sure the stupid grin on my face looked absolutely ridiculous, but I didn’t care. He dropped the object into my sweaty hand, held out in expectation. “That’s the Boulder Badge, an official Pokémon League gym badge.”
I looked at the piece of metal. It was silver, and shaped like a jewel. A pin on the back enabled it to be attached any sort of fabric or badge case lining. Hands still shaking, I affixed it to a white piece of fabric that hung from my belt. I had brought it along for just such a reason.
“You get eight more of those,” Brock continued, “and you can challenge the Elite Four. That’s quite a ways away though.”
I laughed and shook his hand, thanking him profusely.
A few minutes later, I left with Criss. She looked at me, “You’ve got a lot to learn, but congratulations, anyways,” she said.
Still ecstatic from my victory, I grinned at her. “Thanks. We going over to the museum now?”
“Yeah, I need to hand in these Moon Stones.” Out of her pocket she took a bag that was tied shut. She untied it and showed me what was inside. A bunch of silver, magical-looking rocks glittered up at me. “They’re used to evolve certain species of Pokémon.”
“I have a question,” I said. “Why not just follow Team Rocket to wherever their buyer is and nab him instead? Wouldn’t that be easier?”
She smiled grimly. “Well, I would, but you see, the buyer is me. I set up a Stone collecting operation in order to bait the Rockets. It’s perfectly legal to pick Moon Stones up off the ground, but the mountain itself is a protected area. Mining is strictly off-limits. When I climbed over from Cerulean earlier this week I noticed a cargo helicopter flying away. I did some poking around and found the entrance to the mine. So I planted a rumor that someone in the city was willing to buy Moon Stones at a very high price. Of course, greedy as those bastards are one of them decided to make a little profit on the side, just as I had hoped. Since I don’t have a need for so many stones, I’m going to give them to the museum to put on display or sell for themselves. Of course,” she added, “I always take a finder’s fee.” She reached into the pouch and withdrew a couple stones, which she put in her pocket.
We dropped the bag in the donations bin outside the door of the museum and began walking back towards the Pokémon Center, for it was beginning to get dark. “Tomorrow, I’m gonna go into the mountain and bust up the whole operation,” she said.
“Can I come?” I interrupted. I hadn’t realized it until right then, but a chance of revenge was what I had been secretly hoping for. My win against Brock only added to my confidence and eagerness.
She gave me another one of her calculating looks, like she was sizing me up. “You’re heading that way anyway, aren’t you?”
I had no idea what crime-fighting would entail, but I was enthusiastic nevertheless.
“I am, and I’d like nothing more than to kick some Team Rocket ass.”
She stared at my eyes. Not into them, but past them. She had amazingly blue eyes. The color that you could just stare into and get lost in. They seemed to offset her otherwise light complexion. “I suppose it’s different…” she muttered.
I pretended I didn’t hear, instead waiting expectantly.
“All right, you can come along.”