I was tired and torn up when I finally emerged from Viridian “Hellhole” Forest, but I was alive. I marched into Pewter City triumphantly, with a newly claimed Butterfree by my side.
“Well, that was certainly an ordeal.”
It chittered in response.
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. Then that infernal Butterfree threw a wrench in those plans. Six miles had quickly turned to fourteen and I was beat, literally.
I casually tossed the Poké Ball holding my new acquisition to myself as I walked down the road to Pewter, seriously considering throwing it into the bushes beside the road.
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 next to 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. The question had definitely been on my mind for quite a while. After a moment’s hesitation, I responded. “A Dragonite. Definitely a Dragonite. What about you?”
“Dragonite? Those things so rare they might as well be legendary,” he’d said laughing. “I’d like a Gyarados -- those 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 had attacked me and my Pokémon earlier that day while we were sitting under a tree. I had been perusing my map and letting Rainer and Baron, my new Pidgey, get to know each other.
After I had woken up from my little sleep powder induced nap at some ungodly hour this morning, I had tracked down the bastard, caught it, and forced it to show me the way out.
Butterfree was a far cry from a Dragonite or Gyarados, but it was a start.
When I finally reached the streets of the city, I looked at my watch: 6 AM.
I began wandering around the city, drowsy eyed, waiting for the town to wake up. Pewter wasn’t that big of a city, but it dwarfed my home town of Pallet. There weren’t any skyscrapers or even many modern looking buildings. The red brick apartments and shops lent a quaint, old-timey feel to the place.
I decided to wander my way over to the path towards the mountain. I still had to beat Brock, the Gym Leader, 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 proclaiming, “MT. MOON – LICENSED TRAINERS ONLY.” It had been some time since my dad had taken me here to visit the museum, the year before he died, and the mountain was bigger than I remembered. Rest would definitely be necessary before I tackled it.
I stared at the densely forested peak, daydreaming of soaring over it on the back of a mighty Dragonite. It felt good to finally be out on this journey I had dreamed of for so long, fending for myself. It offered a level of independence that made me feel confident and powerful.
It was only then that I noticed a bench on the far side of the road with a dark haired girl laying on it. She had one knee up and her arms folded across her chest. I would have thought 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 crept out, so I didn’t say anything. I instead looked back down the road, where I saw a young man, probably in his twenties, walking quickly towards the city. 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 immediately perked up. She stood 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 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. It wasn’t a very big knife, but it lacked any kind of handle or binding. It was clearly weighted for throwing.
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. Confident and powerful indeed.
“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 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…
I wasn’t paying much attention as the girl took something from the man before releasing him to run back in the direction he had come. By the time I had snapped out of it, the man had disappeared down the road towards the mountain 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. Most people run away screaming. Maybe I should be impressed…”
I looked at the strange girl. She had fair skin and striking blue eyes that squinted when she frowned. She looked a couple years older than me, but it was hard to tell. She was tall for a girl, almost my height. She might have been pretty if she wasn’t so terrifying. And yet, something about the way she had stood up to a supposed Team Rocket agent made me admire her.
“I got lost in the forest, just got out. And… um…” I hesitated before continuing. “My father was killed by Team Rocket a few years ago; kind of… traumatic for me, if you know what I mean.” My voice was broken sounding, a combination of the stress of the situation and the delicacy of the topic.
Her face lightened slightly. “I do.”
I stared at her skeptically. I had never reacted well to the “I know how you feel” routine. Losing your pet Vulpix or going to your grandfather’s funeral is different than losing a parent. Pets and grandparents are supposed to die. You don’t want it to happen, but you know it will. Fathers are supposed to live. Losing someone that close leaves a gap in your life. Not just emotionally, but physically.
The girl nodded. She looked at me in a way that made me feel like she knew exactly what I was thinking. How I felt. And she empathized.
“I’ve lost…” she started, then paused. “Team Rocket and others like them have taken people from me, too. That’s why I’m hunting them.”
Suddenly I felt much warmer towards her. Team Rocket was a very real threat in the wilderness of Kanto and Johto. They had started showing up here and there a few years before, with ties to poaching and weapon trafficking. No one really knew what they wanted, but they were well organized and well equipped, a real threat for the police forces and rangers of Kanto. Attacks on the scale of the one that killed my father were rare, but not unheard of.
“What did you do with that guy?” I asked her.
“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, a vulpine fire-type with dull orange fur and a beige mane, walking beside her. It was surprising, as usually Flareon are incredibly bright and nigh impossible to miss. But this one was dirty and tired, 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 it refused to let the trainer leave its sight. I realized I didn’t even know this girl’s name, so I asked her.
“Just because we have something in common doesn’t mean I have to answer all of your questions,” she responded curtly.
“Oh…” I wasn’t sure what to say. “Uh… I understand.”
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. Couldn’t hurt…”
I followed her inside and looked around curiously.
The Pokémon Center was different than the one I had spent the night in back in Viridian. The floor was dull grey laminated cement. Several empty couches and armchairs were spread around the room, surrounding tables laden with newspapers and magazines like Breeder’s Weekly and Silph Co.’s monthly catalog. A long reception desk ran the length of the far side of the building, behind which a pair of tired looking nurses went about their work.
I strode up to the desk and handed over my three full Poké Balls before following the girl through a doorway in the right wall of the building into the small cafeteria. It was better equipped than the Viridian Center’s, but that wasn’t saying much. I grabbed a bagel and a bottle of juice before giving my trainer ID to the cashier to be swiped. I noticed the girl paid in cash, so she wasn’t on a League-sponsored journey.
She introduced herself as Criss when we sat down at a small table by a window. She didn’t give a surname.
“I’m Keith,” I said between bites. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was. “So how long have you been fighting Team Rocket?”
She almost seemed to recoil at the question, but after a second she shrugged and said “a couple years, I think. Where are you from?”
I could tell she was trying to change the subject, but I didn’t want to estrange my first friend on the road by calling her on it. Instead I told her the story of my journey so far, starting from Pallet Town.
Pallet was a little fishing village on the southern coast of Kanto. The only thing significant about it was Professor Oak’s lab.
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 mostly lived off of his own paycheck. My brother Spencer had gone off travelling in his work for Silph Co. 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.
I gave Criss a brief recounting of my little adventure in Viridian Forest before saying, “That’s pretty much all I have to tell.”
“I can show you the way to the gym if you want,” she said. “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.”
“Yeah, that’d be great.” I agreed. “What about you? You look tired yourself.”
“I always look tired. Just go get some rest. I’ll be training.”
I nodded and slouched off towards the bunkroom, up a small staircase beside the cafeteria.
Before I finally fell asleep, I just stared at the ceiling for a few minutes, thinking about what had happened so far. I thought about calling home to let my mom know I was okay, but it didn’t really seem worth it. She had never been as encouraging as Dad when it came to Pokémon. I missed him every day.
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 spores 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 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 YOU’RE 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 there.
Still steaming about Locustod, I retrieved my backpack from the bunk room and 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, as a small crowd 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 pulled my Pokédex out of my backpack. “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. I was skeptical of how well Baron would do against Brock’s rock types, and Locustod was my only other choice for 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’s Ekans had finally managed to hit the Zubat, knocking it from the air. Criss gave it another hand signal order, grasping her fingers into a fist. 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’s Ekans hissed in pain. But then it began to glow. The crowd gasped collectively and Criss managed to somehow look pleased without smiling. I was witnessing my first Pokémon evolution.
The snake elongated, its tail curling neatly underneath it and its head reaching up even higher. The glow began to fade as a colorfully patterned hood sprouted from the snake’s neck and its fangs grew to be about the size of my index finger. The newly evolved Arbok was much larger than the Ekans had been, and much more fearsome.
“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, yellowish 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. “Congratulations on the evolution, by the way.”
”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?”
She shrugged. “I guess I’ll stay and watch you battle Brock. I beat him already, you know. I’m interested to see how someone with your Pokémon goes about it.”
“Really? Have you beaten any other Gym Leaders?”
“Yep. Erika and Koga,” she said. “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’ll probably just use a Geodude and an Onyx against you. You said you had a Squirtle, right?”
“You shouldn’t have a problem then.”
On one hand, her confidence was reassuring, but on the other hand I felt like the pressure had just doubled. For some reason I felt the need to impress this girl.
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 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 stylized 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 a couple of other novice trainers in Viridian, and even beaten them soundly, 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 very nervous up until that 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 Indigo League yet.”
I gulped and nodded before shrugging my backpack off and 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 a 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 invulnerable to most physical attacks, except the strength and precision of fighting-types. 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.
The Butterfree chittered excitedly as it burst forth onto the battlefield.
“Let the match begin!” called the referee, and he blew his whistle.
“Geodude, use rock throw!” shouted Brock.
“Dodge it!” I responded.
Brock’s Pokémon dug both of its hands into the gravel, pulling out handfuls of rocks that it hurled haphazardly at Locustod. 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. It had no apparent effect before Geodude jumped out of the cloud of spore.
“But…” That was supposed to slow it down!
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 bits of gravel being thrown its way. It was a mildly effective defense, knocking down or cushioning most of the rocks with sticky string.
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.
With more excited chattering, my Butterfree’s eyes began to glow red. Immediately, a similar aura surrounded Geodude’s body. The rock-type’s eyes widened; it was obviously straining. Our two Pokémon stood like that for almost a minute, glaring at each other and unmoving except for the fluttering of Locustod’s wings. Then, with a sudden burst of motion, Geodude broke free of the psychic hold and tore up another handful of gravel.
Before either Locustod or I could react, it was being pelted with rocks. The Butterfree whimpered as the gravel rained against its delicate wings. Geodude kept up the barrage, never giving Locustod a chance to escape. It wasn’t long before it fell to the ground, no longer able to keep afloat in the hail of rocks. Geodude didn’t stop throwing until Locustod had fallen over backwards, unconscious.
The referee gave a shrill blast on his whistle. “The challenger’s Butterfree is unable to battle! Choose your next Pokémon!” he cried out.
So much for that. I hadn’t really expected Locustod to do terribly well, but the thought that I now only had one Pokémon left to Brock’s two.
“L-Locustod, return! Come on, Rainer!” It was actually 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 at Geodude defiantly, sharing my same newfound courage.
I tried to clear my mind and think about the battle at hand. Geodude had used a lot of energy fighting its way out of Locustod’s psychic grip, so it shouldn’t take much to finish it. Brock would probably play defensively, ordering long range attacks and trying to do something, anything, before Rainer took down Geodude. So all I needed to do was catch him by surprise.
“Tackle!” I cried.
Rainer immediately dashed forward. Both Brock and Geodude seemed to have been expecting some kind of water-type attack, and so were caught off guard by the sudden bull-rush, just as I had hoped. The little Squirtle turned just as it reached its shocked opponent, bashing into Geodude with its shell rather than its body. That was a little maneuver I had seen a trainer use on TV, and I had wasted no time in teaching it to Rainer back in Viridian.
Geodude’s eyes rolled back into its head as Rainer bounced away.
“Brock’s Geodude is unable to battle! Brock, choose your next Pokémon!” called the referee, blowing his whistle again.
“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. “Rainer, use bubble!”
Rainer jumped on top of a boulder and spewed a barrage of bubbles out of its mouth into Onix’s face. It roared in dismay, but didn’t counter.
Rainer let loose another cloud of bubbles. Again, Onix hardly reacted. I knew bubble wasn’t a terribly powerful move, but it was still a water-type technique. 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 the Onix’s eyes appeared to be almost glowing red they were so bloodshot. It growled in anger, a rumbling noise that sounded like an avalanche.
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. “Rainer, watch out!”
But it was too late. Imbued with the stored energy of Rainer’s attacks, Onix swung its mighty tail at Squirtle, sending the little turtle ricocheting off of a boulder. I watched, stunned.
When Rainer fell back to the gravel floor with a crunch, I thought it was all over, but the tenacious little Pokémon rolled over and pushed itself shakily to its feet, using its curly tail for balance.
“Nice! We’re still in this!” I said excitedly.
“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 storing of 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 fly off and tumble onto the gravel.
Squirtle pushed itself back up, out of breath but unbeaten. Onix, on the other hand, was in quite a bit of pain. Water softened the very bonds that held the stony flesh and skin of rock-types together and rested in the cracks between the rocks that made up their bodies, weighing them down. Getting sprayed right between the eyes would be an uncomfortable experience, to put it mildly. I just hoped it was enough.
Onix’s roar subsided to a groan. Its eyes were shut tight and its head was beginning to sway back and forth. After a suspenseful second, it finally collapsed, its huge bulk spraying gravel everywhere as it hit the ground.
The referee blew his whistle three times. “Onix is unable to battle. Brock is out of useable Pokémon, the victory goes to the challenger!”
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!
Rainer gave its strange gravelly cry in excitement as it rushed towards me and jumped 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. Hands still shaking, I affixed it via a pin on the back to a white piece of fabric hanging from my belt that I had brought it along for just such an occasion.
“You get seven 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 canvas bag. She opened 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 about a week ago I noticed a cargo helicopter flying away from the mountain. 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 of stones, which she put in her pocket.
By then we had arrived at the museum, a huge four story brick building with wide granite steps leading up to the doorway. I sat down on a bench just outside the entrance as Criss went inside to drop off the stones.
I looked at my watch. It was already around dinner time. I had slept most of the day. The sun was slowly making its way down towards the Alizarin Mountains in the west, casting ever longer shadows. I stood up and looked out, thinking about my journey so far, and this strange girl I had found. For some reason, I felt like I had to prove myself to her, as a kind of test for myself. Her vendetta against Team Rocket was something I could definitely get behind. I found myself hoping I would run in to Team Rocket on the road sometime. I would fight them, and put them in their place for what they did to my father. My win against Brock only added to my confidence and eagerness.
I heard the sound of the door opening behind me. Criss walked up next to me.
“So,” I said tentatively. “What’s your plan now?”
“Tomorrow, I’m gonna go in to the mountain and bust up the whole operation,” she replied quietly, almost to herself.
“Can I come?” I said quickly. It was just the chance I had been hoping for.
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.”
“Do you know how to fight?”
“Uhhh… my Pokémon do,” I said slowly. “Besides that, I did wrestling for a couple years in school.”
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 wasn’t sure if she was waiting for me to say more, so I just stared back.
“I suppose it’s different…” she muttered.
I pretended I didn’t hear, instead waiting expectantly.
“Alright, you can come along.”