19,452 characters. I'm hoping to catch a slowpoke!
There were five marks on the water bottle. Danni knew this, because she had made these marks herself. There were six bottles, and she had painstakingly taken a ruler and made sure there were five perfectly spaced marks on the each, all the way around. They hadn't started using the marks then, her and Dr. Marco, because they hadn't had to start rationing water yet. To keep herself entertained, she had tried rationing the water herself. She made a game out of it. The closer she was to the mark without going over, the more points she gave herself. Her high score was seven hundred and twelve, accumulated over three weeks of never going over.
She had been staring at these marks for several months, because as much as she was fascinated by Dr. Marco's research, she could no longer bring herself to care about how the slowpoke and slowbro wallowed in pits of mud and nibbled on grass and, as Dr. Marco put it, "Remarkably, they eat poisonous items to them. See, that plant there? They chew and swallow, and a few moments later their bodies regurgitate is on the riverbanks before it can truly enter their system. Isn't that remarkable?" To Danni, this sounded like they weren't smart enough to know what plants were poisonous.
When Danni graduated from Goldenrod University's graduate researcher program (eighth in the class, quite an accomplishment, if she did say so herself), she had expected to be taken in as an intern. She had expected that she would probably be transcribing notes and clicking away on computers and fetching coffee for people and getting yelled at because they had wanted three cream and two sugars, not two cream and three sugars. She had not expected to be snatched up by the fairly respected Dr. Marco. When she did, she had expected getting to research dragon types, his specialty.
She was watching the single dumbest species of creature to ever exist throw up poisonous plants. This was her life.
Her mind begged for a cup of hot coffee to be thrown in her face, a paper cut, eyes burning from staring at a screen, for heaven's sake, a ratata farting had to be better than watching these imbecilic creatures. They did nothing. They were not interesting. There were not millions of mysteries locked away in the slowpoke and slowbro, unless you counted the fascinating way they evolved, not that it ever happened. One slowpoke had evolved in the five months they had been crouching in the muddy waters, and they had both been asleep when it happened.
"Professor Marco, please," he said in a lilting accent.
He was staring at slowpoke and she was behind him, so she takes the moment to flip him off with both fingers, jerking them repeatedly and forcefully up in the air. Her tangle of dirty blond hair, coming loose from its ponytail, bounced with the amount of effort she put into the gesture. She crossed her arms and narrowed dark green eyes into a glare, agreeing, "Professor Marco, then. I don't...this...we're not..." She grit her teeth as she tried to find a reason beyond how bored she is to evacuate the area, and her eyes flicked back to the marked up water bottle. "We don't have enough water to stay here much longer."
"We have plenty of iodine tablets."
Yes. They did have plenty of iodine tablets. Danni frowned to herself, then blurted, "We don't."
The man finally turned to look at her, shaggy, unkempt hair falling over handsome, rounded features. He had huge brown eyes that blinked up at her, growlithe puppy eyes that seem so full of innocence even though she knew full well that he was filled to the brim with more information than she could ever hope to hold. It took her all her strength and all her self-centered need to return to a place with running water to continue, but she did it. She lied calmly, "My bag. It was raided last night while we were sleeping. I lost nearly all of the iodine tablets."
"What else did you lose?" he asked, eyebrows raised suspiciously.
Her mind turned. What could she sneak out of her bag without him noticing? She had spent two years in school aiming to be a doctor, a pokemon surgeon, and had developed her fine motor skills with healthy doses of video games and magic tricks that relied on slight of hand. It wouldn't be hard to slip most of the iodine tablets into her underwear, where it would be safe even if Dr. Marco (she didn't care what he said, he was a doctor, a professor was a teacher, and she was thoroughly, stupidly stubborn) asked her to turn out her pockets or kick off her shoes, which he had taken to doing ever since he found out that she had an annoying habit of snatching little items up and tucking them away.
She never really saw the problem. It wasn't like she ever stole anything. She just took buttons and leaves and shiny rocks. But this time, she would sneak out iodine tablets. And what else?
"Granola bars," she said quickly, too happily, then sighed. "I mean, they took them. Whatever raided the bag. Probably the slowpoke. They probably went for the granola bars and swallowed up the iodine tablets as well."
"That seems unlikely."
"Does it?" she said airily. "Because their behavior seems to indicate-"
"Any slowpoke devouring that many iodine tablets would be violently ill. I've been checking their vomit, Danielle, and I haven't seen anything of the sort."
She scowled. This was the first time he had scolded her, usually keeping quiet to himself, and he seemed to think the best way to do this was by using what he thought was her full name. She began scrambling for her bags, spitting with rage as her temper got the best of her, built up over five months of being bored to death by slowpoke. "My name isn't Danielle, it's Danni. That's my full name. I didn't ask anyone to call me Dan for short because I'm not a boy! All of you! You're all the same! Every one of you stupid teachers whenever you get mad go ahead and call me Danielle, because you just go ahead and assume that it's my name even though it's-"
"Danni," he said worriedly, "you're disturbing the slowpoke."
"Oh, am I?" she gasped, bright red under her freckles. "I'm disturbing the slowpoke? Well, let's check on that. Slowpoke! Hey, slowpoke! Are you disturbed slowpoke?"
They both turned to look at the pack of slowpoke. If they were disturbed, they weren't showing it. They continued to nibble at grass and stare dreamily into the distance and be the all around idiotic creatures that Danni simply couldn't stand anymore. Not because of the creatures themselves, they seemed like perfectly nice little beasts, but because she couldn't stand another minute with aches in her joints and water seeping through the mud into her pants and no distracting, nothing interesting, nothing exciting. Just an endless train of boring, mundane slowpoke.
"Oh, my, they are upset! They're so upset!" she gasped. She dug into her bag and pulled out a pokeball, gripping it with white knuckles. "I have a suggestion for you, sir. I have a great suggestion. Why don't you take these handy devices and bring them back to your lab? You can set up cameras. Much easier than just sitting in this stupid place. You can even stock an artificial lake with shellder! Won't that be wonderful? Then you can see the Arceus damned things evolve! You can test what happens! Wouldn't that be the smart way to go about it?"
"I'm testing the-"
"I don't give a damn what you're testing you overpaid clown!" she shouted.
She spun and hurled the ball with perfect accuracy. It immediately bounced off the nearest slowpoke's head. The stupid thing didn't even have the common courtesy to look confused as it was sucked into a stream of red light, and lay wiggling slightly on the muddy bank before sealing it in. It took a few moments for the rest of the group to notice, looking where their comrade had fallen. One curiously nudged the ball, and, discovering there was nothing else to worry about, happily went back to stuffing a mouthful of poisonous berries in its mouth, only to throw it up immediately.
Danni gulped, now quite calm, and stared at her employer. Well...
"Is there any chance I'm not fired?"
Those previously huge brown eyes were narrowed into terrifying slits, and his voice shook with restrained fury as he spat, "Get. Out."
"Right," she said, starting to head through the woods to where their cars were parked on the side of the road.
"Your slowpoke!" he bellowed.
Danni froze, looking at the ball, then laughed nervously. "Oh, no. I don't have any pokemon. If I do, it's really just an invitation for everyone to battle me and I can't battle for shi-"
"Collect your pokemon, and get out of my site," he snarled, his lip curling with displeasure.
She darted into the mess of slowpoke, her feet kicking several as they refused to move out of the way. She minimized the ball and tucked it into her pocket, where it nestled cozily among a few interesting looking pebbles she had found by the river, and a few leaves off a mustard plant she could rip up and smell whenever she wanted to inhale something pleasant. She didn't bother checking to make sure she had all her things (aside from her sleeping bag, it wasn't as if there was anything important anyway) and then pounded off into the woods, jogging until she was a good ten minute walk from Dr. Marco and surrounded by birds and bugs and the wind through the trees.
Danni kicked at plants as she walked.
"Danni, the slowpoke are looking especially pokey today, don't you agree?" she said in an imitation of Dr. Marco's carefree accent, though not a very good one. "In fact, I think they are ten percent less slow than yesterday. And the slowbros! Oh, my! They are at least forty percent more broish today. It's stunning really. Look at the majestic way they puke their guts into the river, and how the fish gobble it up! This is truly beautiful, nature's way of recycling. Come look! Take notes! Draw this for me, please. I want to keep it beside my bed and look at it like a would a picture of a girlfriend, because no woman will ever love my creepy self."
This did not make her feel better. It made her feel stupid. So she stayed quiet and continued the hour hike to the car, snatching up fresh mustard leaves to rip up and smell. She spent most of the walk alternating between sniffling and full out crying, berating herself for letting her temper get the best of her. It had been a silly thing to do, a silly thing to get mad for, and this whole internship should have been something she expected. Hadn't they warned her that research could often take months, even years of studying a single group of pokemon? Hadn't they warned her how tedious it could get?
And now she was out of a job. She had spent all those years of training, for what? For nothing. she wouldn't get another internship anytime soon, not with how she had blown up at Dr. Marco for something so silly. He was respected enough that his condemnation of her would keep her from getting a job anywhere in her field. By the time she got to her car, a faded blue van that was turning brown all over with rust, fished out her keys, and turned on the engine, she was too hysterical to drive. The radio blared some stupid pop song, which she hated, which made her cry even harder, before she finally calmed down and dug into her pocket, finding the minimized pokeball.
She fiddled with it, eyes a bit too blurry to work it right, until her hands stumbled across the button and released it on the seat next to her.
"Hey, buddy," she smiled weakly. "Where do you want to go?"
It stared at her a very long while, long enough for another song to come and pass, then declared, "Poke."
"To the supermarket to pick up some ice cream with my last paycheck? Great idea!" she said with very fake enthusiasm, and switched the car to drive.
There were far nicer places than the supermarket to get ice cream in good old Mahogany town, much closer too, but those places were far more pricey than a cheap knock off brand gallon at the store. she locked slowpoke in the car while she grabbed something that had the word "chocolate" in it multiple times. Once she was back at the car, she ripped off the lid and dug right in with her fingers. She kept the windows rolled down so warm summer air flowed in, carrying the scent of a couple fast food restaurants and soothing fresh cut grass. Slowpoke, about five minutes after Danni had rolled the windows down, slowly heaved itself up and leaned over the window, seeming to enjoy the hot breeze just as much.
"Don't run, you silly beast," she scolded lightly, sucking the cold from her fingers. "You won't last a day in the city."
"Slow?" It asked curiously, turning its big dopey eyes back to hers.
"Don't worry, sleepy. I'll trade you away the second I get a chance." She dug her fingers in again, and spoke around a mouthful of ice cream. "And don't think I'm keeping you. Sleepy's not a nickname or anything. It's an insult. I don't like you or any of your kind. In fact, I hate you even more than the rest of your kind, because I have to figure out how to get rid of you."
The slowpoke waddled over to her silently, and rested its head on her leg. Its eyes slid closed, seemingly delighted to have been captured and sitting in a car with a girl on the brink of tears, stuffing mediocre ice cream into her gaping jaws with fingers that were pink and aching with cold. A small, "Aw..." escaped her lips, and her mind spun as the adorable pokemon slid out a tongue to lick her ice cream. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to keep it. Maybe she could just keep it as a pet, because surely slowpokes weren't that interested in battling and exercise anyway. She could just curl up with it at night and cuddle, and why on earth had she ever thought a slowpoke could be terrib-
The slowpoke, apparently allergic to chocolate, immediately vomited the mess back into her gallon of ice cream, bile and ice cream and even some long water reeds mixing in a disgusting soup that slopped over the container and into her lap.
She gave a scream of disgust and tumbled out of the car, "I swear! The first person who asks gets to keep you, you overgrown brute!"
That's not a very good thing to say in Mahogany Town.
Danni was still rubbing her pants clean with her sleeping bag when the man showed up. He was about her age, mid twenties, with a rather attractive mop of black hair framing blue eyes, and sharp features. He cleared his throat, and Danni glanced up, immediately coloring. She dropped the sleeping bag and tried to fix her hair, not that it made much of a difference. Crying had made her eyes red and puffy, her face blotchy, her nose practically shining red. To top it all off, The mess that spread from the bottoms of her khaki shorts down to her socks didn't help her image either.
"What a shame," the man said.
She stumbled over her words. "Wh-what?"
"Someone made an angel cry." He smiled softly and stepped forward. "I heard you yelling about that slowpoke. Someone dumped it on you, didn't they?"
Danni nodded, and not wanting to seem like a silly girl in front of him, explained, "It...it's the reason I got fired."
"Fired?" he said, eyes widening. "For what?"
"I had been studying slowpoke for once. It was boring and...I don't know. I lost my temper. I ended up catching that slowpoke, and I got fired. And...and I've gone to school for years for this!" Tears had started now, making her voice tremble ad wetting her face. "All that money went to waste. I won't be able to get a job anywhere else. I'll...I'll have to work at some fast food place or bag groceries. I went to college! I'm better than that! I don't mean that I'm better than people who do, but I'm better than that! I graduated top eight in my class!"
The man swept her up in his arms, and the contact made her weep openly into his shoulder. He soothed her and stroked her hair. "Oh, sweetheart. I can't believe someone would go and fire you for that. My employers, we value differing opinions. We definitely value the initiative in catching pokemon. We'd never fire you over something like that." He lifted her chin, smiling that sweet smile again. "I certainly couldn't fire someone so passionate over showing their passion. The man who fired you sounds like an idiot."
She wiped her nose, frowning. "It was Doctor...sorry, professor Marco," she spat the correction bitterly. "With him against me, I'll never get a job in my field."
"Dr. Marco is an idiot." The man swept her tears away with his thumb. "He hasn't earned the title of professor."
"That's what I said," Danni said eagerly. "I don't...your company, do they feel the same?"
He chuckled. "Of course they do. My company isn't made of idiots."
She giggled in return. "Good to know the whole world isn't stupid."
He looked around, biting his lip. She found it adorable. His eyes found hers again, and he dropped his voice to a whisper. "Listen...what's your name?"
"Danni? That's beautiful." He smiled. "Mine's nothing so nice. It's Albert."
She finally smiled back, shyly and cautiously. "I think it's a nice name."
"I hope I can live up to how nice it is, then." He swept a business card out of his pocket. "My company works in the business of pokemon collection and trading. We do quite a bit of research too. I think that branch may have an opening or two, though you'll need to go through some extra training. Still, it pays pretty well. Nice enough that you should be able to upgrade your run down car, and you won't need to worry about finding a nice place to live and feeding yourself well. Do you think you'd be interested in that?"
"Please!" she gasped, clutching the card. She looked down, reading it quickly. "I've heard of this. Something from Kanto about a year ago."
"In that region, we were taken down by a pokemon liberation terrorist." Danni made a face, and Albert laughed. "I know. I hate them too. We're starting over here, in Johto. We need all of the help we can get. Someone as smart and passionate as you Danni, well, you'll fit in perfectly, I think."
"You'll do this for me? For nothing?" She eyed him suspiciously. "You aren't after...you don't want me to sleep with you, do you?"
"Oh, no!" he gasped, as if the idea was appalling. She scowled. "As much as I'd love to, I prefer to take girls out to dinner first." And the smile returned. "No, all I want is that slowpoke of yours. I don't need it, but, well, I don't mind taking it off your hands and entering it into my company."
He had barely finished his sentence when Danni had withdrawn the pokemon and shoved the pokeball into his hands. Albert tucked it carefully into his pocket. The two chatted, exchanged numbers, made all sorts of small talk, and then Danni drove back to her small apartment, thrilled that soon she would have a better paying job, and that she had gotten rid of the slowpoke, and that such a charming, handsome man had asked her out even when she was teary and covered in slowpoke vomit. It seemed almost too good to be true.
Of course, once she had driven away, Albert had proven it was. He twirled the pokeball on his finger and smirked to himself. He was astoundingly pleased, and had quite the reason to be. After all, with every new sign up he would get quite a nice bonus check, not to mention the amount of money he would get off the slowpoke Danni had just handed over to him. He smoothed his black shirt, straightening the R that spread across the chest in large, red print. He slammed the door to his sports car, turned to his female counterpart, and sneered, "That, Anastasia, is how you recruit a Team Rocket member."