The three of us stood silently on the end of the dock, watching the blue and red monster slowly swim away as it drifted underwater. Within seconds, Criss’s Tentacruel was gone.
“Just like that?” I asked.
“Just like that,” she responded, putting her pack on her shoulders.
“But that’s so… It seems so…” Tim stuttered.
“What?” Criss looked at us. “Cruel? Sudden? Coldhearted? It’s part of my profession. The only Pokémon I have that I’m emotionally attached to is Flareon.” As if to highlight the statement, her only fire-type weaved in and out of her legs making a noise like a purr. “I have to let Pokémon go all of the time; they’re just my battling partners. I respect them, but becoming friends with them doesn’t help.”
I began to interject, but she silenced me with a wave. “That’s just my opinion. Things work differently for different people. There’s no reason to keep Pokémon for any longer than I need to. I mostly just used Tentacruel for transport anyway. Now that I’m with you guys, we can use Gyarados. Besides, I’ll be getting a replacement soon.”
It was hard to argue with her logic, especially after I had released Locustod because I felt like I was trapping it. It was more like Criss just borrowed Pokémon for a while. I made a mental note to myself that I would only ever keep a Pokémon if I became good friends with it and it enjoyed being trained by me.
Not twenty minutes later, we had clambered aboard Gyarados and set out for Cinnabar Island. The weather report that morning had said it would be mild, and I hoped that they were right. Gyarados was a powerful swimmer even when it had to keep its back above water for us, but its scales were slippery and the only thing to hold on to was the big white fin sticking up from the middle of the segment that we sat on.
The directions were simple, go south until we were out of sight of the bay, then head west until we saw the giant volcano that marked Cinnabar. Fortunately, the ride proved to be uneventful, if a little boring.
Since I was little, I had always gotten seasick when out on smaller boats, although I never threw up. I didn’t seem to have that problem while riding on Gyarados, as it charged through waves and broke them rather than riding over them. Still, land was a welcome sight when we passed our halfway mark, the Seafoam Islands.
I’m not sure why they were called “islands.” It was really only a bunch of scattered sandbars and one giant mountain of an island. It was the tallest mountain in the region, beating even Cinnabar’s volcano. The peak was so high up that it punched right through the clouds, although the snow line was still visible. Scientists loved the place, as it was such a diverse ecosystem, from the ocean to a snowy peak with a pseudo-tropical jungle in between. I looked at my feet. Dad had gone there tons of times.
We didn’t reach Cinnabar Island until late that afternoon. As Gyarados swam into shore, we got a lot of strange looks from passerby sailors working on the docks or in boats. We just waved in response.
That evening we found a small restaurant near the Pokémon Center where we decided to get dinner. After the waitress came by and took our order, Criss got up to leave.
“I’m going to go find a newspaper,’ she said.
I looked at her, confused. “For what?”
She mirrored my look of confusion. “For… the news.” Raising an eyebrow, she left.
I glanced at Tim. “Has she always read the newspaper?”
He shrugged. “I’d imagine so. You’d think it would be important in her line of work.”
Criss returned not much later and sat down with a newspaper in hand. “I take you guys don’t keep in touch with the news.”
I put my hands behind my head. “I’ve got enough problems living through my own life and my own issues without having to worry about the rest of the world. What could possibly be in the news that would affect me?”
She opened up the paper and looked at the front page. “Hmm… There’s a new champion.”
Tim and I both stared. “What? Who? Where are they from?”
It looked like my daydreams of challenging Redd McMahon, or as he was lovingly called by his fans, “Old Man McMahon”, would never come to fruition. McMahon wasn’t actually that old, only in his mid forties, but that was pretty ancient in the competitive battling circuit. He had been champion for almost twenty years now, ever since his defeat of one time women’s rights activist Chelsea Ray, who had actually been even older. Now I would be challenging someone much stronger, surely, if I ever made it to the Pokémon League.
Criss squinted at the print. “This says he’s from Pallet Town. That’s where you guys are from, right?”
I slowly nodded, exchanging a wide eyed stare with Tim.
“No way…” he whispered.
I shook my head at him. “It couldn’t be…”
“Do you guys know a… David Rose?”
“WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!” Tim shot out of his seat, nearly knocking the table over in the process. The rest of the restaurant stared at him. “Sorry,” he said in his charming manner, with a smile and a wave. He sat down, blushing slightly, and then looked at Criss in shock.
I tore the paper from Criss’s hands, nearly ripping it in half, and slammed it on the table. Sure enough, there on the front page was David, giving a thumbs up with a wink and a huge smile on his face. He was almost as tall as me, but a little pudgier. Despite the fact that he appeared to be standing in a muddy field, with rain pouring down, he was still looking classy with his ever present polo shirt and khakis. His team of Pokémon stood around him. To his immediate right was a muscular Venusaur, glaring at the camera. To think that it had only been seven months since I had seen it as a Bulbasaur with David on Route 1, where he had recommended I catch a Pidgey.
Perched on Venusaur’s giant flower was a ferocious-looking Fearow, caught in mid caw. To David’s left was a Scyther, surely a product of the Safari Zone, hovering above a maniacal Electrode. Behind them were a bulky Golem and a goofy Golduck that was winking and giving a thumbs up in a perfect imitation of its trainer.
“Dave’s the… Champion?” Tim was as aghast as I was. “Our David.”
I nodded, still engrossed by the picture. “Our David…”
Below the portrait of the new Champion and his team was a short story detailing his Gym progression, as well as a shot of the insides of the badge case his dad had gotten him for his sixteenth birthday. Eight badges shone, sparkling and new. There was the Boulder Badge, and the Cascade Badge, and the Thunder Badge, a Soul Badge from Koga, what I guessed was Blaine’s Volcano Badge, even a Rainbow Badge from Erika. He must have been really good. I nearly smacked myself, of course he was good. He was the Champion! There were two badges that I didn’t recognize.
I pointed to them. “I wonder where he got those from?”
Criss looked at the picture. “Oh! Those are Johto badges. The Zephyr and Hive Badges from Falkner and Bugsy, respectively. Assuming I’m remembering right… he really took the easy way out didn’t he? Those two aren’t too hard. Even though they are the closest…”
I stared at her curiously. “How do you know?”
Criss stopped, then squinted off into the distance like she was debating something with herself. After a moment she appeared to come to a decision and dug through her pack for a second before pulling out a worn leather booklet. She opened it up on the table to reveal not paper pages, but a full eight badges, although they looked worn and a little rusty. Two of them matched David’s unknown badges.
Tim looked at the badges, then up at her. “You were a journeying trainer too?”
She laughed. “Hell yeah. It’s a narrow and dangerous path, but it leads straight to the top.”
“So you’re from Johto then?” I asked. “Did you challenge the League?”
“I never challenge the League.”
“Why not?” Tim persisted.
“Because I would have won.” She winked at me. “And the Champion’s life isn’t the life for me.”
Tim stared in apparent admiration. “Is everybody from Johto as good as you? Is battling a lot harder over there?”
Again Criss seemed to debate revealing something before deciding that it was harmless. “I’m not actually from Johto. I grew up in Sinnoh, it’s an old family tradition that the kids go on journeys in different regions. I could have stayed, but I’d always wanted to visit Johto.”
Looking back down at the newspaper, I smiled to myself. So another piece of the puzzle that is Criss’s past falls into place.
“I’m guessing you guys will have to get one from Johto, too, even if you can beat Sabrina.” Criss said. “If I recall correctly, there are only seven gyms in Kanto, aren’t there?”
This question made me remember something that hadn’t been on my mind since leaving home.
“Sure there are only seven gyms, but there are eight badges,” Tim explained.
Criss was confused. “So what’s the eighth one? How are you supposed to get it?”
Tim grinned widely. “The Viridian City Earth Badge, which four lucky trainers get every two years at the biannual…” he looked at me.
“Spring Battle Festival.” We finished together.
“Which is…” Criss still didn’t understand.
“A tournament.” I explained. “The final four take home the Earth Badge, and the winner gets a prize. I went with my brother two years ago where the winner got a Pokédex that had detailed information on not just the regional Pokémon every Pokémon ever! I heard this year’s was going to be a Master Ball.” A slight glow grew in my belly at this thought. “But I’ve already got one of those.” I pompously put my hands behind my head again.
“Sounds like fun,” said Criss.”You said there was going to be one this spring?”
I looked at the date on my watch. “Next month, actually. Tim and I were going to enter.”
“Cool, maybe I will too.” Criss began to dig in to the plate of food that the waitress had just put down in front of her.
I looked down at my own dinner. If Criss was going to enter… maybe making the final four would be harder than I thought.
“So Keith,” Criss said after a few minutes. “I thought we could go get our fossils revived tomorrow. There’s a lab on the island.”
It took me a second to figure out what she was talking about, then remembered the dome shaped rock that sat wrapped in paper in the bottom of my pack. A new Pokémon! This would be exciting.
Tim looked confused for a moment too, before recalling the story I had told him of Criss and I’s escapades in Mt. Moon. “I’ll just go train, then,” he said.
“Which Pokémon are you going to work on?” I asked, “Gyarados, to counter Blaine’s fire attacks?”
He shook his head. “No, I want to impress him with a powerful fire-type, so I’m going to train Charmeleon.”
“That’ll be tough to do around here,” said Criss, “unless you go up towards the volcano, there are only water-types. Or is that what you’re looking for?”
Tim shrugged, “I’ll probably just be at the volcano.”
“Could you do me a favor while you’re up there?” Criss asked. She pulled a Poké Ball from the sash around her chest. “That’s where I caught my Onix. I want you to release it for me.”
“But why? You already have room on your team for whatever your fossil is.”
She smiled. “I have a hunch.”
I looked at my newest Pokémon. It was an odd creature, with golden legs and a light brown shell as hard as rock that covered its back. It had four eyes total, one black beady set on top of the shell and a glowing red pair that peered out from under it. It scuttled around on the tiled floor making strange chattering noises that scared Dratini into hiding behind my legs.
“What’d you say it was called, again?” I asked the scientist that had done the revivals for us.
“Kabuto, the Shellfish Pokémon. And quite a fine specimen if I do say so myself. If a bit violent…” he added as I once again tried to pick the bug-like Pokémon up, only to receive another set of fine scratches on my arms. It was going to be difficult to train, that much was clear. The second the scientist had opened the machine, it had leaped out and began attacking Criss’s much more cutesy and docile Omanyte, a spiral shaped shellfish with little blue tendrils. Flareon managed to separate the two, but Criss had been forced to return the Pokémon while I had tried to introduce Kabuto to Dratini. It wasn’t working out the way I had planned, so I just withdrew the water-type to its ball and placed it on my belt. Now I had a full team of six Pokémon,! I was set to take the League. With a little training of course.
“Excuse me,” said Criss, “do you think that you could revive anything from this?” She pulled a smooth, brown-orange rock from her pocket and handed it to the scientist.
“Ah…” he said. “Amber! Yes I think we might be able to extract DNA of some kind from this. It appears a bug was caught in it… interesting. Why don’t you come back in a few hours? I’ll see what we can do.”
We thanked the man and left with our Pokémon. It was a beautiful day outside the lab, hinting at the oncoming spring. Criss turned to me.
“What’re you going to do while we wait?”
“Train, I guess. Dratini needs to learn how to battle properly.” I pulled a ball from my belt and released Flareth. Dratini gave a squeal of delight at the sight of its friend and tackled it full on. The fire-type responded with a near harmless ember, and the two Pokémon began wrestling in the street. “Hold it guys,” I said with a smile. “Let’s go somewhere more out of the way.” I looked to Criss, who nodded.
“The beach is over here, will that work?”
Flareth seemed to be training Dratini all by itself, so I felt little need to intervene. The wrestled and fought playfully in the hot sand, but Flareth was careful not to go near the water. Criss and I sat down to watch them. It didn’t take long before I laid down and fell asleep, bathed in warmth.
Some time later Criss vigorously shook me awake. I blinked a couple times and sat up. She was saying something but I was too tired to actually pay attention and figure out what it was. As my mind slowly started to focus, I realized that I could hear screaming and explosions behind me. Whipping around, I scrambled to my feet and finally heard what Criss was saying.
A Pokémon was flying over the city, spewing hyper beams left and right, destroying anything in its path. It was dark grey in color, with purple-ish wings. “What is it?” I asked.
“I have no idea! Get out your Pokédex!” she yelled frantically. Flareth and Dratini were both staring at the beast, one growled threateningly while the other whimpered in fear. I scrambled through my backpack before withdrawing the device and putting the pack over one shoulder. I pointed the Pokédex at the attacking Pokémon and pressed the “Identify” button.
“Aerodactyl,” the computer stated in its robotic voice, “an extinct flying-type Pokémon. Little is known about it, although it is thought to be carnivorous.”
“So it eats people?” I slammed the Pokédex shut and glared at it. “That was so helpful. How is an extinct Pokémon… flying… around.” The truth slowly dawned on me.
“I think it’s mine, it must have escaped after being revived,” said Criss. “We have to do something!”
I’m a thinker, a planner. Before I go into battle I always sit down for a while and figure out what I’m going to do and how I am going to do it. I’m no good at acting on the spot, which was just what I had to do. For that reason, I made a very poor decision.
“Baron, come on!” I pulled a Poké Ball from my belt and tossed it upwards. My majestic Pidgeot burst from its container and spread its wings in front of me. I ducked under one of the outstretched wings and clambered on to the bird’s back. I had only flown on it once before, and that was for a brief second immediately after it had evolved. I honestly had no idea what was doing. In theory, I was only riding so that I could communicate properly with Baron.
I watched the flamethrowers of police Growlithe trying to reach the Aerodactyl, but it would just dodge or fly out of range, then continue its angry rampage. “Let’s go!” I shouted, and Baron took off with two beats of its mighty wings.
“Keith, wait!” Criss yelled, but I ignored her.
Baron called out a challenge to the prehistoric Pokémon as we raced toward it. The cry obviously got its attention as we were hit in the next second by a hyper beam.
I could feel the heat of the blast on my face and arms, but I could barely guess what it felt like to Baron. We spun out of control as my Pokémon cried out in pain. I was afraid we would fall right back down. The jolt almost shook me off of Baron’s back, but I just barely managed to hold on with one hand. Unfortunately the hand that lost its grip was connected to the arm that was currently holding my pack. I grasped at the bag, but it fell towards the beach below.
We resumed our course a moment later, albeit at a much slower pace. This was going to be difficult. With me on its back, Baron had very limited agility. Since speed was the flying-type’s number one advantage, that limit was crippling. Why hadn’t I just stayed on the ground and relayed my commands psychically to Baron through Psyke?
We attempted an aerial ace that failed completely. Baron was just too slow. That was relative, of course, as we were actually travelling at an incredible speed. Wind whipped through my hair and threatened to tug me off as we banked around for another pass. The wing attack failed just as miserably and a second later we were out over the ocean. Behind me I could hear the roars of the beast, angry that it had been challenged.
Baron opted for a loop turn this time, which was quite frightening to me. I gripped its feathers tightly with my hands and knees as I hung upside down for a second before my Pokémon righted itself. I looked around its hair-like head feathers just in time to see a final, fatal hyper beam.
Baron didn’t recover from this hit, it was just too much. The only sound I heard was the howling of the wind. I couldn’t even discern my own yells as I was thrown from my Pokémon’s back and sent falling downward towards the waves. My stomach lurched as I picked up speed and I barely had time to take a deep breath before gravity plunged me deep into the sea.
I had no idea how far away from the shore I was, as the waves tumbled me I didn’t even have any idea which way was up. Every time I tried to open my eyes I was punished by the burning of salt water. My chest felt like it was going to burst and I was just about to take in a lungful of ocean when I felt something grab the back of my shirt. I let out a bubbly scream as my mind was filled with images of ferocious Gyarados and carnivorous Tentacruel. Would being eaten be better than drowning? I doubted it.
Whatever it was dragged me through the water with a slow lurching pace. A second before I would have blacked out from oxygen deprivation, my head suddenly broke the surface. I spluttered and gasped, looking around to see my apparent savior. My eyes were blurred with water, though, so I couldn’t make out who or what it was. It released its hold on my back for a moment, causing me to panic, before it came up from under me, right into my arms. Whatever it was, it was huge, a couple feet around at the least. It had long, wet, matted fur that felt uncommonly warm. I hugged it tightly and let it swim me to shore, which was only a little ways away.
My feet soon met sand, and I was unceremoniously dumped from my rescuer’s back on to the beach. I blinked and rubbed the water from my eyes. Turning around, I looked at what had saved me.
It was a huge, regal Pokémon, at least four and a half feet tall at the shoulder. A beige colored mane surrounded the mighty head and chest, while the rest of the quadruped body had orange and black stripes. It was unmistakably an Arcanine. Seeing one in person, I could tell why they called it the Legendary Pokémon. It growled at something over my shoulder before walking protectively to my side.
I turned back around to see Criss approaching with Flareon not far behind. “Easy there, Flareth, remember me?”
I gaped. “Flareth? You mean this is mine?”
“Absolutely,” she replied, “a Fire Stone fell out of your pack when you dropped it. When you fell into the water, Flareth jumped for the stone, evolved, and then swam out to get you.”
I looked back at the fire-type in awe. It was still glaring at Criss, but behind it I could see Dratini gazing at it in admiration.
“Why doesn’t it trust you anymore?” I asked Criss.
“Sometimes a Pokémon’s personality changes when it evolves, depending on the emotions it was having during the evolution. Flareth was feeling unmistakably protective at the moment so I would bet that it will take a long time before it trusts anyone except for you.”
“That could be a problem.”
“Makes for a loyal partner, though.”
A thought suddenly struck me. “Where’s Baron?”
Criss pointed over my shoulder. I whipped around to see the bird Pokémon crumpled in the sand. I rushed over to its body and knelt down beside it. The flying-type was still breathing but was obviously injured. It let out a soft coo as I brushed the hair-feathers on its head. “We need to get you to a Pokémon Center, buddy.” I pulled its ball from my belt and returned the Pokémon. Criss approached from behind me with my pack, which looked a little worse for the wear.
(Dragon Rider - Two Steps From Hell
“We still have a problem,” she said, gesturing to the skies above the city. And indeed, the Aerodactyl continued to circle, blasting at the streets and buildings with the occasional hyper beam. Flareth, who hadn’t left my side, growled menacingly.
“Hopefully Blaine can help, I’m all out of ideas.” I shook my head.
Here was a moment’s pause before Criss suddenly pointed into the air, “Look!”
A silhouette had appeared against the setting sun. It was a flying Pokémon, with someone on its back. A deep roar was heard as whatever it was approached Aerodactyl. The prehistoric Pokémon stopped its rampage to look at the new challenger, but appeared to be blinded by the sun. The new Pokémon slammed into the rock-type and brought it down onto the roof of a building with an explosion of dust and rubble.
Without a word, Criss took off towards the crash with Flareon by her side. Withdrawing both Dratini and Flareth, I followed. A couple minutes later we scrambled up a pile of rubble to where the battle was now taking place. A blast of fire could be seen, accompanied immediately by searing heat. We poked our heads out to see something that I had both expected and not expected.
Aerodactyl lay crippled and burnt on the cement roof, unmoving. Across from it was an enormous orange dragon with blue-green wings with its arms raised in victory. It roared as it unleashed a blast of flame into the darkening sky. Behind it, in a similar pose, was none other than my best friend Tim.
With a laugh I looked back at Criss to see her reaction. She was gone. I looked around to see her approaching an Ultra Ball that gently rocked back and forth where Aerodactyl had been lying.
Before anyone says anything, no, Redd McMahon isn't the Red from the games. It was a not so subtle reference.
I've got a little guessing contest for you guys, the winner gets an OC featured or whatever they want. All you have to do is guess the final four of the Spring Battle Festival Tournament. I'll give you a hint, one of the trainers has only been mentioned once or twice, very subtly. Take a look back and think of characters that we know exist but haven't seen.
NEXT: Battle vs. Blaine! I'm not at all in the mood to write a battle scene, but I'll have to tough it out.