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Gotta Puck Them All!

Chapter Text

“Matt, Matt, you need to wake up,” Jonas urged, shaking Matt’s shoulder.

Matt groaned, swatted at his friend, and rolled over to burrito himself in his blanket in hopes of returning to slumber. He didn’t know what Jonas was doing there, but he just wanted to sleep. He had been up too late last night, unable to fall asleep because he was supposed to get his starter pokémon in the morning from Professor Koivu. In the morning.

Matt bolted upright and looked around. Blinding sunlight streamed in through his open window half silhouetting Jonas, but he could still make out the pinched expression on the other boy’s face. Jonas only looked like that when he was stressed, but didn’t want to say anything.

“What time is it?” Matt asked.

“After ten,” Jonas said. They were supposed to be at the professor’s place two hours ago. “I already went to Professor Koivu’s lab and got my pokémon. I thought you would be there, otherwise I would have come here first.”

“It’s cool,” Matt said, leaping out of bed. He dropped to the ground, looking for his pants from yesterday. There wasn’t really time to dress, but Matt needed his ID. Without it as proof he had completed his trainer classes, Professor Koivu couldn’t give him a pokémon. Matt thought that was a stupid rule, especially since his mother worked for the professor and he’d been in and out of the lab on a near daily basis since before he could walk, but Professor Koivu had always been a stickler for the rules.

“Even if you’re late you still ought to be able to get a pokémon,” Jonas reassured him. “Professor Koivu always makes a point to have extras on hand just in case.”

“Yeah, but the fire types are always the first to go and I need my charmander,” Matt said. He’d been dreaming for years of getting a charmander and evolving it into a charizard so that he could go soaring through the skies on a fire breathing dragon (even though technically charizard was actually a fire-flying type and not dragon in the slightest).

“Maybe he saved one for you?”

“Naw, Professor Koivu believes in giving everyone an equal shot without any unfair advantage. If he didn’t save a pokémon for his nephew, there’s no way he saved one for me.”

Matt finally found his pants half under his bed. Pulling them out triumphantly, he checked the pockets for his ID and then put them on before running out the door. He could hear Jonas running after him, but Matt didn’t slow down. After all, Jonas already had his pokémon.

Matt only lived six blocks away from Professor Koivu’s lab, but the run today was the longest in his life. Just as he got close enough to see the top of the lab, he was rudely halted in his tracks by a familiar foe. Jacob Trouba stood in the middle of the sidewalk with a sneer on his face.

“Didn’t think you were gonna show, Dumbo,” Trouba said.

Matt rolled his eyes. Kids had been calling him some form of dumb ever since they understood the concept of last names. Thanks to a certain movie that shall remain nameless, Matt hated phanpys—especially the flying variety—with a passion, but he hated Trouba more. He never used Matt’s real name and simply talked around it when teachers were present until Matt lost his temper and got in trouble. Jonas said he was so troublesome it had become part of his name, which always made Matt laugh, but he didn’t think that was true.

“Out of my way,” Matt said. “I’m late enough as it is and I don’t need you making me later.”

“Aww, that’s no way to treat a friend. I wanted you to meet my pokémon,” Trouba said. He threw a pokéball, sending out a totodile, which eagerly ran around him snapping its jaws. “This is Donnie and he likes to bite.”

Matt stepped forward. He wanted to just walk by Trouba, but Donnie’s snapping jaws made him leery. He didn’t want to be bitten, then he’d never reach Professor Koivu’s in time. Trouba laughed at Matt’s hesitation.

“Let me handle this,” Jonas said. He lifted up his pokéball and out shot a bulbasaur. “If you need someone’s attention, Jacob, you can have mine.”

Trouba simply glared at the grass pokémon, clearly aware of type advantage.

“Go on, Matt, Professor Koivu might still have a fire pokémon left,” Jonas said. “We’ll be fine.”

“Wait,” Trouba said, shock etched across his face as Matt ran past. He could hear Trouba shouting at Jonas as he ran toward the lab. “What do you mean Professor Koivu could run out of fire pokémon? He’s a pokémon professor! Dumbo has to get a fire pokémon, otherwise how can I beat him when we battle?”

Perhaps Trouba had more to say on the subject of Matt’s pokémon choices, but Matt had reached the lab. Rushing inside, he paused to catch his breath and locate Professor Koivu. There weren’t that many other kids around, which made sense considering the late hour; they all already had a pokémon partner. Finally Matt spotted Professor Koivu across the room in conversation with his mother. Weaving his way through the crowd Matt made a beeline for the pair.

“Matt, I was wondering what had happened to you,” Professor Koivu greeted him jovially. “We were beginning to get worried.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?” Matt demanded, glaring accusingly at his mother.

“Honey, if you’re old enough to have a pokémon, then you’re old enough to set your own alarm clock,” Mom chided. “Besides, I had to get here long before you needed to wake up to help Professor Koivu set up. If you really wanted someone else to check on you, you should have asked Dad or maybe Jonas.”

“Sorry Mom,” Matt mumbled. Now that he thought about it, he vaguely remembered her asking if he had set an alarm while he was watching Elite Four member Julie Chu crush a challenger with her aegislash last night.

“Well, now that everything’s settled, do you want a pokémon?” Professor Koivu asked.

“Please,” Matt said eagerly.

Professor Koivu led Matt into a smaller room. Even though Matt had never been inside before, he immediately recognized it as the professor’s office. The walls were covered in photos, plaques, and bookcases bursting with books, and a massive wooden desk overflowing with papers dominated the room. One top of a precarious pile sat a dozen pokéballs on a blanket to keep them from rolling off and opening.

“Let’s see what’s left,” Professor Koivu said. He bent over the pokéballs and examined them one by one. “We have a squirtle, two chikoritas, mudkip, turtwig, chimchar, snivy, tepig, chespin, and froakie. Which would you like?”

“Oh… no more charmanders,” Matt said, unable to keep the disappointment out of his voice. Even though he knew being late meant he probably couldn’t get one, he had still hoped.

“No, but there are still two fire types left.” Professor Koivu picked up two pokéballs and let out the Pokémon, revealing a red pig and a red monkey. “Tepig and chimchar are both excellent choices if you want a fire type.”

Matt eyed both pokémon. Neither one was what he wanted, but they both seemed friendly enough. When the chimchar leapt onto his shoulder and nickered into his ear, Matt knew which one was his starter. “I’ll take this one.”

“You sure? Once you pick you can’t change your decision,” Koivu said.

“I’m sure,” Matt said. The chimchar cheeped happily as the professor passed Matt its pokéball. “Now I just need to give this little guy a name.”

“Little girl, actually,” Professor Koivu corrected. “It’s rare in starter pokémon, but you have a female chimchar there. My research focuses on pokémon gender. While there is typically a 7:1 ratio of males to females in starter pokémon, I have lowered that disparity in some species. Mostly the reptiles, due to the fact their gender is determined by temperature.”

“Are you saying chimchar is a lizard?” Matt asked, feeling confused. The chimchar glared at him.

“Oh of course not. She is a monotremes, as you ought to have been taught in trainer school.” Professor Koivu rubbed his jaw. “I was simply trying to explain I have more female starters than the average pokémon professor because I’m trying to crack how to determine pokémon gender. Haven’t made much headway for the monotremes, but I can almost guarantee what gender a reptile pokémon’s offspring will be if I have control of the environmental conditions under which the egg is incubated.”

“Cool,” Matt said. That actually explained a lot of what his mom did and why she was always complaining about incubator temperature settings. “If she’s a girl, I’ll name her Princess Jasmine, Jasmine for short. She’s always been the best Disney princess.”

“Okay then,” Professor Koivu said, obviously not having any strong opinions on the Disney princesses.

“Great,” Matt grinned. He petted Jasmine’s head then attached her pokéball to his belt. Normally he’d have her ride in her pokéball, but for now he wanted to show her off. “Come on, Jasmine, I can’t wait to introduce you to Mom and Jonas!” With that, Matt ran out of the office, leaving the Professor to put the other pokémon away.


Being a pokémon trainer was harder than Matt thought it would be. It had been four days since he got Jasmine and while things started out okay, he’d been lost in the woods for three days. Despite the fact he was less than a full day’s walk—on ten-year-old legs no less—from home none of the kids he ran into in this forest were people he recognized. They ought to have been kids from school, but instead they were all shorts wearing bug-obsessed freaks. Wandering through all the tall grass and foliage in just shorts was a terrible idea. Seriously, hadn’t they ever heard of ticks?

All of the bug specialists kept challenging him to battles. It was great experience for Jasmine, but she was wearing out and Matt needed to find a pokécenter. The only pokémon he’d caught since his adventure started was a pidgey and that was right before entering this stupid forest, so he wasn’t ready for battle either. He just needed to find his way out of the woods and then there’d be a town, or a road that would lead him to a town, where he could heal his pokémon. Matt would persevere.

There was a large rustling in the bushes near him. Matt groaned. It was too big to be any of the caterpies, weedles, rattatas, or occasional oddish he had so far found in the woods, which meant it was another trainer. A lot of the bug-type trainers liked to sneak up on a guy as if that would make the fight go easier for them before crying and sulking when they lost. Matt was sick of it.

“Stop hiding in the bushes and fight like a man, you bug freak!” Matt shouted, throwing a small rock at the bushes. He refused to be ambushed again. This time he’d not only beat the other kid, but he’d make the bug catcher lead him out of the woods.

There was a strange hiss. To Matt’s horror a scyther flew out of the foliage straight at him. Screaming, Matt turned and ran. It was a mindless run fueled by fear. He didn’t know where he was going, what he was stepping on, and barely registered any major objects in his path because he was too focused on what was behind. He had seen scythers slice through solid wood like it was butter and heard they did the same with bone, which was the last thing he wanted to happen to his bones.

Eventually Matt hit blinding sunlight. Unfortunately he also hit a tree root at the same time and down he went. Pain shot through his knees while a deadly wind rushed over him. The fall had momentarily saved him from the scyther.

“Scyther!” howled the scyther, slashing at empty air.

“Jasmine go,” Matt whispered, throwing his pokéball. He needed help scaring off the scyther. Better a fainted chimchar than a dead kid, which seemed to be the only other option.

Jasmine leaped forward, putting on a better show than Matt expected considering she was badly injured. The scyther wheeled around and made a beeline for Jasmine, barely giving her time to react. Matt shouted for fire and instantly Jasmine blasted the scyther with the best burst she could manage. The scyther lit up like a bundle of straw, halting it in its tracks.

“Scyther!” the scyther screamed. It flailed, which only fanned the flames.

“Chimchar,” Jasmine said and she looked to Matt for direction.

Perhaps he could finish the scyther off, but it looked like it was in so much pain. Despite the danger he had just been in he didn’t want to kill the pokémon, just keep it from killing him. Matt dug around in his backpack to see what was there. He was out of potions and burn heals, but there was a great ball he found behind a sign in the woods. Supposedly being in a pokéball kept a pokémon from feeling most status effects, which ought to put the scyther out of its misery.

Since there was nothing to lose Matt threw the great ball. His aim was true and it hit the scyther, pulling the pokémon inside with a flash of red light. The great ball wiggled on the ground. Once. Twice. Three times and then a click.

“Yes!” Matt laughed, pumping a fist into the air. He hugged Jasmine and then limped over to hesitantly pick up the great ball. The scyther stayed inside. In relief Matt attached it to his belt. Looking around he spotted the leading out of the woods a few dozen yards away. With a sigh he headed for it, assured it would eventually lead him to a town and a pokécenter.


It turned out Matt had been more lost than he thought. Somehow instead of ending up by one of the towns near his home he had ended up on the outskirts of Jasper. Either Matt was a much more efficient walker than humanly possible, or that woods had time and space bending capability. Matt suspected the latter; it was an awful woods.

Luckily, the pokécenters worked just fine here. Matt not only got his pokémon healed, but also got a real bed in which to spend the night. In the morning he decided to explore the city and see the sights. If he remembered correctly, there was supposed to be a gym in the city. While he didn’t exactly feel like he was ready for a real gym battle, Matt wasn’t about to pass up such an opportunity, especially after catching such a dangerous scyther yesterday. He decided to practice a bit with his new pokémon and then hit up the gym. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Restocking his supplies took almost no time at all. Then Matt wandered around the city testing his pokémon on any trainers who wanted a fight. His scyther was a lot stronger than he had realized; he must have been already injured when Matt first met him. Scyther didn’t always listen to him and Matt didn’t know all of its moves, but he felt like he had a much firmer grasp on the pokémon’s powers after the mantis destroyed the third trainer’s pokémon. Pidgey wasn’t the slightest bit impressive in comparison, but Matt figured things would change with an evolution.

It was time to face the gym leader. Finding the Jasper gym wasn’t that difficult of a task, as it was an important landmark with signs directing trainers to its location, but it still took Matt a while to get there. When he finally arrived it was late afternoon. More shockingly Trouba was already standing outside the gym arguing with one of the gym acolytes. It seemed the acolyte wouldn’t let the boy inside.

“This is an outrage!” Trouba shouted. “These facilities are expected to be open seven days a week, which means the gym leader should be available for a battle right now!”

“I’m sorry, but he is unable to battle right now,” the acolyte said firmly. “If you wish to fight, please come back later.”

“Why can’t the gym leader fight? Is he ill?” Matt asked. Before the acolyte could respond Trouba whirled around.

“Dumbo, what are you doing here?” Trouba demanded, then decided to fill in his own reasoning instead of letting Matt talk. “You must have caught the bus route like I did, though I would have thought you’d head straight to Edmonton and Fujimoto’s grass gym. Bet you weren’t able to take out Quick’s flying gym in Banff like I did.”

“No,” Matt said, not bothering to mention he never actually found Banff.

“Figures,” Trouba snickered. He shot another glare at the acolyte then shrugged. “Whatever, if this gym leader can’t fight, he’s not worth my time waiting around. Off to fight Fujimoto like you should have done, Dumbo, and then maybe head home to show off my new badges. Maybe take on Wickenheiser too. I bet my Croconaw’s tough enough to beat her.” With that he stalked away.

“Now that he’s gone, could you please tell me why your gym isn’t accepting challengers right now? Is your leader sick?” Matt asked. Since he was polite the acolyte relaxed a little.

“If that twerp was willing to be a little more patient he’d be able to fight our leader tonight,” the acolyte sighed. “He’s fine—just busy watching ballet and refuses to be interrupted mid show.”

“Wait a minute, today’s the first Sunday of the month?” Matt asked. At the acolyte’s nod he groaned. On the first Sunday of every month the Public Broadcasting Channel showed a famous pokéballet in the afternoon to give the general public a taste of culture. “Aww man, I was supposed to watch this month’s Pokéballet with my mom. It’s an all eeveelution cast of Rusalka.”

“Would you like to watch the rest of the show?” the acolyte offered. “The whole gym generally watches on the training screen, so it’s like a big movie. We hadn’t even reached the sea witch yet when your friend interrupted.”

“Please,” Matt said eagerly, “and Trouba’s not my friend. He’s the worst thorn in my side I’ve ever encountered.”

“Makes sense. I’m Devon, but most people call me Dubs,” the acolyte said, bending down and offering Matt a hand.

Matt gladly shook it and shared his own name. Then Dubs let him inside and led him down several corridors until they reached a large room. It held a dozen people and twice as many beanbag chairs. Matt also noticed a lot of fairy pokémon, which probably meant that was the gym’s specialty. The room was designed facing the far wall, which was about half the size of a normal movie theater screen and prominently played the pokéballet.

“Wow,” Matt said.

“I know, it’s a great set up to watch anything,” Dubs said, though he was a bit hard to hear over the soaring music. “Do you see that guy up in front between the clefable and sylveon and surrounded by a dozen Kleenex boxes? That’s our fearless leader. You’re welcome to sit by him if you’d like, but don’t try talking to him until it’s over. That brat made me miss the rest of the first half and intermission..”

“Got it,” Matt said.

He did decide to sit by him, mostly because that was front and center where he’d have the best view of the show. The company had cast a vaporeon in the role of the little mermaid, which made sense for a dozen reasons including aesthetics, but it still surprised Matt because he had never seen her play lead before. Usually that went to a more experienced pokémon. Opposite the vaporeon was a premier flareon Matt had seen in a host of productions and together they made things absolutely steamy on stage. The story was so compelling Matt didn’t stir again until the final curtain went down and he found himself clapping with the rest of the gym.

“Magnificent,” the gym leader cried, rising in ovation. “Simply magnificent.”

“I hadn’t realized that vaporeon was ready for a leading role, but she was fantastic,” Matt said.

“Then you did not see Eela’s solo as the blue fairy in Sleeping Beauty,” he said. “I am Ilya Bryzgalov, leader of the Jasper Fairy Gym. You can call me Bryz as most people do. So you like pokéballet?”

“Yes,” Matt nodded. “My parents and I went to Montreal last year and saw Peter Pan with Sparky the Pikachu. There was a Roserade playing Tinkerbell and I think Hook was a Krookodile.”

“Ah yes, that would be the Dancing with Dewgongs Company. They put on good pokéballet,” Bryz nodded. “You came for a battle, yes?”

“Well, sort of. I came to the gym for that, but then I found out you were watching Rusalka and I wanted to see that more,” Matt explained.

“Good,” Bryz nodded. “I like you. We will battle and then win or lose you shall stay for dinner.”

“Wait, shouldn’t he face some of us first?” another acolyte asked. Bryz shook his head.

“He likes pokéballet so I will fight him. Then dinner,” Bryz explained.

That wasn’t the sort of logic Matt was used to, but he’d happily accept it. Everyone followed Bryz to the gym’s main hall where there was a proper fighting ring set up. Matt was pointed to the plainer side, which clearly belonged to the challenger, while Bryz headed to the more ornate end. The rest of the group sat down on bleachers to one side. Dubs gave Matt a thumbs up when the trainer caught his eye.

“How many gyms have you beaten?” Bryz asked.

“None. This is my first gym battle,” Matt said, feeling a little self-conscious.

“Lucky,” Bryz laughed. “How many pokémon have you caught?”

“I have three total.”

“Then I will use two.”

Bryz pulled a pokéball off his belt and hurled it into the center of the ring. Out popped a dedenne, who wiped his little whiskers and twitched his ears. Since Matt didn’t think any of his pokémon were particularly effective against fairy-type he sent Jasmine into the fray. While Scyther might technically be stronger than Jasmine, Matt trusted her far more in a fight.

“Chim!” Jasmine howled, ready for a fight. With that the fight began.

Dedenne’s tail whipped out at Jasmine and knocked her off her feet. However, she was up again clawing at the little mouse before any sparks could fly. Matt thought Jasmine’s fury swipes had Dedenne on the ropes until he let out an absolutely massive electrical charge that first fried Jasmine and then rebounded back onto Dedenne. To Matt’s shock, the fairy pokémon looked healthier after being electrified, while his own was almost wiped out. Jasmine’s flames were low, but she still managed to shoot a few at her foe. She missed. Dedenne moved in for the KO.

Suddenly Jasmine burst into bright white light. This was enough to halt the mouse in its tracks as the light expanded. It disappeared as quickly as it appeared leaving behind a larger monkey with different markings. Jasmine had evolved into a monferno!

“Quick, mach punch!” Matt shouted.

Jasmine complied and slammed a fist directly into Dedenne before he could react. It seemed to have little effect and the mouse barely moved. Bryz sighed and shook his head.

“Don’t you know anything about fairies?” he asked. “Fairies are resistant to fighting-type. You should know this before challenging the fairy gym leader.”

Dedenne hit Jasmine with thunder shock. At first Matt thought this caused his pokémon to faint, but Jasmine was still hanging on. She hit Dedenne with flame wheel and then laid into him with another round of fury swipes before he could react. Eventually though she hit her limit and fell onto the mouse. They both hit the ground and lay there.

“A double KO,” Bryz mused, raising his pokéball. “Nice work, Dedenne, return.”

Matt also recalled Jasmine. He whispered that she did a great job to the pokéball, but knew that she couldn’t hear him. Win or lose this battle he’d let her know he was proud of her as soon as she recovered. This time Matt didn’t wait to see what Bryz sent out, since of his options left Scyther was the only valid one. Bryz just shook his head at the sight of the bug pokémon and sent Clefable into battle.

“I am not so sure you should have picked a fight with me,” Bryz said. “Fairies are also resistant to bug-type. If your last pokémon is dark or dragon I will laugh until I cry.”

“Crap,” Matt mumbled. He regretted writing fairy pokémon off as too girly to bother with in school. Fairy-type was awesome, especially if it could take out dragons.

Scyther flew straight at Clefable as he was wont to do. He hacked and cut with a fury that had Clefable defensively retreating to avoid having anything actually sliced off its personage. Still, neither the fairy nor its trainer seemed particularly worried by this aggressive display, which was when Matt realized Scyther wasn’t actually doing much damage. Instead, Clefable seemed content letting Scyther tire himself out and when the mantis finally paused Clefable hit him with a dazzling gleam. Not only did it do serious damage, Scyther seemed stunned by the attack.

Matt tried to get Scyther’s head back in the game, but before he could Clefable raised a finger and wagged it back and forth. An icy wind rose and blew around the hall. Scyther’s movements became sluggish and he was clearly hurt by the cold. That was Matt’s first time seeing metronome in action. He felt out of his depth and didn’t know what to do.

“Scyther, buddy, hang in there!” Matt cheered his pokémon on. “Just like, focus.”

To his surprise, Scyther actually did as suggested. He stopped moving, closed his eyes and took several deep breaths. When Scyther opened his eyes again he seemed a little calmer and ready to fight. Even more unexpectedly, he glanced over his shoulder at Matt as if expecting direction.

“Use wing attack!” Matt shouted, hoping Scyther actually knew that move. He thought he saw the pokémon use it on a zigzagoon earlier today.

Yet again Scyther hurled himself at the Clefable. This time he smacked the other pokémon in the face with his wing and it clearly hurt. Clefable flinched. Scyther repeated the move again and again until Clefable was bloody. Matt cheered him on. He could almost taste victory and feel the shiny new badge in his hand.

Just as Scyther moved in for the final blow Clefable used dazzling gleam again. Reeling, Scyther was hit by another metronome. For the second time in as many days the poor bug pokémon was set on fire, this time with a fire punch. Shrieking in pain and anguish, the overtaxed pokémon collapsed. As he was clearly unable to continue Matt recalled him.

Clefable was clearly injured, but it seemed more than capable of taking out Matt’s Pidgey. Still, Matt sent out his final pokémon because he wasn’t ready to give up. The fairy took one look at Pidgey and started singing. Pidgey fell asleep. Matt tore through his bag looking for an awakening, but all he could find were antidotes, burn heals, and paralyze heals. Clefable advanced upon the little bird and repeatedly double slapped him until he woke up. Before Pidgey could do anything Clefable put him back to sleep with another lullaby.

Matt shouted and clapped trying to wake his last pokémon, but his attempts weren’t very effective. When Pidgey woke, again from the double slaps, he limped about the ring. Clefable opened its mouth and sang a third time. It didn’t work. Pidgey finally retaliated hitting Clefable with a small gust of wind. It was damaging, but didn’t do enough. Clefable used dazzling gleam again and while it practically blinded Matt, Pidgey dodged the attack to launch one of his own. He flew at the fairy and, with wings glinting like steel, slammed both wings into his foe. The super effective move sent Clefable flying into the wall and after a moment it fell to the floor unmoving.

“Enough,” Bryz said, calling Clefable back into its pokémon. “You win, Matt, good battle.”

“Yes!” Matt laughed. He ran up to Pidgey and gingerly pulled the hurt bird into a hug. Pidgey happily chirped back. After extensive praise Matt put Pidgey back into his pokéball for a well-earned rest. Then he walked over to Bryz, who was clapping.

“Congratulations, you have earned the Sprite Badge. This is proof you defeated my fairy gym. Collect another seven badges from Western Canada and you can challenge the Elite Four.”

“Thanks,” Matt grinned, accepting the badge. It looked a little like a blue pixie. He carefully pinned it to the outside leather case of his pokédex and stuffed it back into his jacket pocket.

“Come on,” Bryz said, motioning for Matt to follow him. “Let’s get our pokémon patched up. I have a revitalization tool in this side room.”

Matt followed him into the side room. He had never seen a pokécenter set up outside of a pokécenter before, but Bryz had the same tools. Since they had only used five pokémon between them they were able to heal them all at once. As they waited for their friends to heal they made a little small talk about Matt’s pokémon journey and Bryz’s career. Eventually their pokémon were healed, which was when Bryz reminded him that Matt was expected to attend dinner.

“Do you know why I like living in Jasper?” Bryz asked as they headed to the dining hall.

“No why?” Matt asked.

“Parks!” Bryz laughed, placing a hand on the trainer’s shoulder. “This entire town is surrounded National Parkland and in fact the town itself is considered a park. You can never live in a place with too many parks. That’s why I could never live in Winnipeg, not enough parks.”

“I see,” Matt said.

Bryz continued to expound upon the qualities parks and nature even as the pair sat down at the dinner table. Matt found himself wedged between Dubs and another acolyte at the table in front of a massive spread. Everyone seemed used to their gym leader’s eccentric and listened with good cheer. It was one of the most unusual and enjoyable meals Matt had attended in a long time. Afterward Dubs walked him back to the pokécenter.

“It was nice meeting you, Matt. Everyone at the gym wishes you the best going forward. I’m certain if you ever decided to specialize in fairy-types Bryz would be delighted to take you on as a student,” Dubs said. “You did a great job dealing with type disadvantage and if you keep it up Bryz said you could end up a pokémon master.”

“Thank you,” Matt said feeling touched.

As he waved goodbye to Dubs Matt felt his spirits soar. It didn’t matter what Trouba thought of him, others had faith in his abilities. More importantly, Matt had the badge to prove he could cut it as a pokémon trainer. He didn’t know if he was headed to Banff or Edmonton next, but wherever his journey led him, Matt couldn’t wait to see what was in store.

Chapter Text

“Here’s your Ditto back,” the pokémon breeder said, handing the happy puddle of pink goo to Ovi.

He grinned broadly, cupping the pokémon happily. Ditto cooed happily as Ovi gently stroked its sides. He hadn’t meant to forget his pokémon with the daycare for so long, but he had been unexpectedly called back to the Elite Four before he could retrieve Ditto.

“I’m so sorry, Ditto, I never meant to leave you here for so long,” Ovi said. When Ditto seemed appropriately pacified he returned the pokémon to its pokéball.

“By the way, we don’t know how this got here, but we found this egg with your pokémon,” the breeder continued. “Do you want it?”

“You’re a licensed pokémon breeder and you don’t know where pokémon eggs come from?” Ovi deadpanned. He glanced at the breeder’s nametag, which said Jamie. “Isn’t that the basics for your profession, Jamie?”

“Do you want the egg or not?” Jamie asked defensively.

“Who was my Ditto playing with?” Ovi asked, nonetheless accepting the egg.

“Do you think I have time to keep an eye on every pokémon in my care?” Jamie shook his head. “I dunno. I think your Ditto mostly hung out with a magmar.”

“A magmar?” Ovi grinned. That meant his egg would hatch into a magby, which would perfectly compliment his team. He couldn’t wait for the new addition to his pokémon family.

So Ovi took the egg home and babied it to the best of his ability. Not only did he carry it everywhere he went strapped to his chest, but he also slept with it cradled between his body and his arcanine, Gera. When he wasn’t busy fending off challenges with his fully evolved crack team he’d read to the egg or sing to it, since he had heard sound was an important part of prenatal care. Sometimes he simply talked to the egg, usually about his other pokémon. Everyone couldn’t wait to meet the baby magby.

Months passed without the egg hatching. Ovi began to worry it was stillborn or that he had somehow damaged the baby pokémon inside. However, after meeting the breeder who initially gave him the egg he never bothered to take it in for a check up, figuring he could figure out more on his own with a search engine. Eventually though Ovi began noticing the pokémon moving around inside, so he figured it had to be okay. Then, once movement became something he barely noticed, the egg started emitting noises. The first time it did Gera was certain the egg must be hatching, but that baby magby insisted on staying in its shell for months after it made its first sound.

One night Roy, Ovi’s houndoom, woke him from a dream about electric sheep. At first he was upset about the unexpected wake up, but when he finally understood what was going on, he thanked Roy profusely. The egg was hatching!

On his hands and knees Ovi knelt before the rapidly spinning egg. Parts of the yellow-topped egg bulged unexpectedly before snapping back into the original form. When the cracking noises started the shell deformities remained. Eventually bits of egg flaked away until large chunks slid down like tectonic plates to reveal… a sheep.

“Mareep,” the baby Pokémon bleated.

“You’re not a magby,” Ovi said. He glanced at Roy and Gera, both seemed just as confused. Maybe he was still dreaming. There had been mareeps before, so it made perfect sense they’d pop up again.

“Mareep,” the mareep bleated again, crawling out of the shell remnants and into Ovi’s lap.

“Okay dream sheep,” Ovi laughed, deciding to play along. The last thing he wanted to do was turn the situation into some sort of freakish nightmare by getting upset. “Let’s go to sleep and in the morning you’ll really hatch.” The mareep seemed amenable to this plan and curled up on his chest, so Ovi pulled his dog pokémon to his sides and drifted away, expecting a different reality in the morning.

When he woke the mareep was still a mareep. Ovi searched all over his bedroom for the egg, frantically hoping it was simply a wild pokémon that had wandered in and his other pokémon were playing a trick on him. However, when he found the broken eggshell and parts were even in the same shape they had been in his dream Ovi had to face reality. That hadn’t been a dream. The pokémon breeder had screwed up; telling him it was a magby egg when in reality it was a mareep egg and now the fire type Elite Four member had a baby electric sheep on his hands.

Jágr couldn’t stop laughing when Ovi introduced his newest pokémon to the others over morning coffee. It was true Julie and King Henrik smiled at his mareep and the latter seemed hard pressed to stifle his laughter, but Jaromír didn’t even try. When it got bad enough, Jágr fell out of his chair and proceeded to roll back and forth on the floor, all while still laughing, Julie decided to press forward despite the ruckus. She always did her best to keep the peace among the Elite Four.

“She’s adorable,” Julie said, beaming down at the baby pokémon. “Have you decided to call her Mareep or are you giving her a different name?”

“I don’t know,” Ovi shrugged. “I was expecting a magby. What do I even do with an electric pokémon? I’m a fire type trainer.”

“If you are truly at a loss, I am seeing PK next week for our monthly judging,” King Henrik said. Now that he mentioned it, Ovi did vaguely remember his fashionable friend regularly judged super contests. “PK is an excellent trainer and runs a tight gym. He would ensure your mareep grew into a prime pokémon if you chose not to raise her yourself.”

“I need to think about this,” Ovi said, feeling guilty to even consider giving up his pokémon. It wasn’t the mareep’s fault she wasn’t a fire type, but he didn’t deal in electric types. Sending her to a proper trainer might be the best thing possible for her or perhaps he ought to send her off to be with her mother, Ditto.

“Of course,” King Henrik nodded. “Let me know what you decide. I will need to make room in my party and probably store my Kingdra or possibly my Poliwrath.”

“If you need advice call your mom,” Julie said. “Whenever I’m stuck or troubled, like when I was having issues with my Lucario, I call my mom. Your mother is likely a wealth of information as well and she’ll be much more attuned to your needs, strengths, and weaknesses than anyone else.”

“She’ll want to know why I haven’t visited recently,” Ovi protested.

“Tell her the truth, you’ve been preoccupied with this baby mareep and you’re in over your head.” Julie fixed him with a disapproving stare. “Who else would you call for advice?”

Jágr paused his laughter to choke out, “Sid?” before dissolving into laughter again.

The other three members of the Elite Four rolled their eyes. Sidney Crosby, while a phenomenal Champion, was a man of few words and fewer opinions—in part because one-word sentences were an abysmal way of imparting advice.

“Seriously, call your mom. It certainly can’t hurt,” Julie smiled. After a moment’s thought, Ovi nodded in agreement. Julie was right, calling his mother certainly couldn’t hurt.

So after work that evening Ovi called his mother. Tatyana Ovechkina answered on the first ring. “Alexander, it has been too long! When are you coming for a visit?”

“Soon,” Ovi promised, knowing she would make him keep his word. “However, I have been busy hatching an egg, Mama.”

“Oh, what Pokémon did you receive?”

“A mareep.”

“Isn’t that an electric type?”

“And that’s the problem. I was expecting a magby. She’s a cute little sheep, but I can’t help being disappointed she wasn’t what I wanted. Do you have any idea what I should do?”

Mama Ovechkina was silent for a long time before speaking. “When I was pregnant with you I thought I was going to have a little girl.”

“Oh,” Ovi said faintly, feeling his stomach drop. He didn’t think he’d like what he mother was about to say.

“We were going to have tea parties, I would teach her basketball, and give her a zorua, just like my mother gave me,” Tatyana said. Ovi listened silently. That certainly explained why she never taught him basketball, despite the fact she adored the sport. “When I gave birth to a little boy all my plans no longer applied. I did not know what to do.”

“I was a disappointment?”

“Never!” Tatyana barked. “My reality with you is better than every fantasy or daydream I ever had about that imaginary little girl. I wouldn’t trade even our worst moment together for anything. Losing my preconceived notions meant we could develop new plans that suited us better. You and your mareep are the same. So let go of the magby that never was and embrace your mareep. You will be very happy together that way.”

“You really mean it, Mama?” Ovi asked.

“Of course. I advise naming her something other than Mareep to distance yourself from that initial disappoint.”

“No, I meant about me.”

“My darling little boy, you have always been my pride and joy. I have never been disappointed in you, expect for that time you tracked muddy footprints all over your babushka’s prized tablecloth and then had Gera burn up the evidence to hide your wrong doing.”

Ovi laughed at the memory and felt something loosen in his chest he hadn’t realized had tightened. He looked down fondly at his little mareep as he listened to his mother speak and she gazed innocently back up at him. By the time his phone call ended, hours after it started, Ovi not only knew he was keeping his mareep, but also what he was naming her: Russia, after his proud family heritage, which she was already part of.

It took a little while getting used to having an electric on his team, but Russia fit in surprisingly well. Like the rest of his pokémon, she was speedy and offensively focused. After a few in depth training sessions with PK, Ovi felt comfortable wielding Russia as a counterbalance to any trainer who thought they could just blast their way through him with a water type. Of course, as soon as she evolved into a flaaffy Ovi taught her fire punch. That’s when she truly felt like part of the team. Ovi couldn’t wait until Russia evolved again. Once she was an ampharos he planned on giving her some Ampharosite so she could mega evolve and have a flowing mane that outshone Jágr’s mullet on its very best day. Then Ovi would ask him who was laughing now.

Chapter Text

"Okay, let’s try that again,” Julie laughed. The magnemite dejectedly waved a magnet and rotated its top screw. She smiled and patted the sad little pokémon. “Buck up, Gizmo, it’s rare to get a move right the first time you use it. That’s why we’re practicing.”

They spent another hour practicing. By the end of it Gizmo seemed capable of performing mirror shot and was even accurate most of the time. Both Julie and Gizmo were ecstatic by its improvement. To celebrate Julie declared they were going to head downtown and get ice cream from her favorite parlor, Les Givrés. As it was only a twenty-minute walk from their training center, Rue de Bellechasse, Julie decided they would stroll over.

Just as Les Givrés came into view Julie heard a blood-curdling scream. She halted in her tracks and scanned the street looking for the source. To her surprise she spotted PK Subban, paler than she had ever seen him, standing in front of a tailor’s shop wearing a bright red velvet suit. He was pivoting back and forth frantically looking around as if unsure which direction to dart off in. Julie had never seen the energetic and normally put together man looking so undone, which was why she jogged over to see if she could offer any assistance.

“PK, what’s wrong?” Julie called as soon as she was within hailing distance. He turned to her, but it took him a second to recognize her.

“That seviper of a man stole my pokémon!” PK shouted, becoming angrier with each word. “No, he’s worse than a seviper, he’s worse than any pokémon possible because he stole my pokémon!”

“Who stole them?” Julie asked. “Tell me what happened.”

“Marc Bergevin. He’s my gym manager and came with me today to my suit fitting because he wanted to talk to me about some remodeling plans. I ask him to watch my belt with all my pokéballs, since the tailor needed to double check my pants’ waistline, and when I came out he and my pokémon were gone!”

“I believe, PK, but surely there’s an innocent reason for him leaving? He’s worked for the gym almost four years.”

“The shop clerk said Bergevin grabbed my belt and fled the moment I left the room.” PK pulled a card out of his suit jacket. “Even more worryingly, I found this left in place of my pokémon. He definitely stole them.”

Julie took the card and frowned in distaste the moment she read it. It was a Team Corporate calling card, which was one of the successors to Team Rocket after a ten-year-old and Interpol disassembled the criminal enterprise. As an Elite Four member, Julie had a better understanding of Team Corporate than most. It was an exclusive organization made up of wealthy, mostly white, older captains of industry. They made a point of hoodwinking the poor and anyone they felt had risen ‘above their station’ out of their money and pokémon.

“Let’s hunt him down,” Julie said, crunching the card in hand.

“I would love to, but I don’t have any pokémon left to get my friends back,” PK said. He was still upset, but the color had returned to his cheeks and Julie was glad to hear him speaking sensibly. “My tailors called the police, so I’m waiting for them, since I can’t do anything else to get them back.”

“I have pokémon,” Julie said decisively. She handed back the card then gave PK Gizmo’s pokéball. “Run that card inside so that the cops get it and then we’ll hunt Bergevin down together.”

“Thanks Julie,” PK grinned. As he hurried inside to do as Julie suggested, she smiled after him. This was exactly what friends were for.

Since they didn’t know which way Bergevin had gone PK whipped out his phone and pulled up a tracking app. Julie didn’t think that would work—surely Bergevin would turn such an application off now that he had shown his true colors—but once PK had the program up and running the dot representing Bergevin seemed to be tracking. PK explained that his former manager was older and didn’t really understand technology; therefore he wouldn’t have realized they could do this. If he did know about this feature and had sent them on a wild goose chase, well, they weren’t any worse off than before.

They hopped in PK’s car to give chase. PK drove, while Julie rode shotgun with his phone in hand to navigate. His driving style would have fit into a Fast and Furious movie perfectly. It took half a dozen pinpoint turns, and Julie flinching correspondingly, for her to realize he wasn’t going to hit anything. PK’s style was speed and precision, though at first it appeared reckless. Still, even after having this revelation Julie was on edge the entire ride.

The phone led them to the docks. The moment PK threw the car into park he grabbed his phone and hurled himself out of the vehicle. Julie followed close behind. They spotted Bergevin at the port entrance. He saw them at the same time and turned tail, retreating back into the shipping area. It was a frantic chase, but there were two of them to his one and so eventually Julie and PK cornered him on the edge of a dock. From the looks Bergevin shot at the water, Julie half expected him to leap in and try swimming away, but instead he threw a pokéball, releasing an arbok.

PK sent out Gizmo to counter this. Before the magnemite could adjust Arbok bit down on Gizmo’s metal shell. Gizmo cried out, but then used spark to knock the snake off. Arbok then shot acid, but it just slid off Gizmo without affecting the pokémon in the slightest. One well placed mirror shot later and Arbok was down for the count.

Bergevin, seeing he was outgunned, turned to jump in the river, but Julie was faster. She tackled the man, knocking him to the ground, then jabbed her knee in his back to keep him there. When he struggled to break free she slammed him against the floorboards a couple times until he stilled.

“Where are my pokémon?” PK demanded.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Bergevin grumbled, not meeting his eyes.

“Bullshit.” PK hauled him to his feet and shook the man. “I left my pokémon in your care and you stole them! What did you do with them?”

“It’s not like you can do anything about it now,” Bergevin chuckled. He leered at PK. “The boat’s already left. They’ll be powering factory generators before the end of the week. Better hope you’ve raised their endurance enough; you don’t want to know what they’ll do to them in sweat shops if they can’t keep up.”

“You monster!” PK howled. He hauled off and punched Bergevin in the gut as hard as he could, which left him doubled over as PK sobbed.

“Hey,” Julie said gently. She lightly touched his shoulder then gave it a squeeze. “He didn’t have that much of a lead on us. If the boat just left we can find it.”

“How?” PK demanded. He waved at the massive river. “There’s dozens of boats out there! Which one could it possibly be?”

Julie pulled a pokéball off her belt and released her empoleon. “Honor will ferry us around until we find the right boat. More importantly, there are only a few ships sailing, so it shouldn’t take that long. Tie Bergevin up with your belt and we’ll be on our way.”

PK tied the villain as tightly as he could to a dock post, though Bergevin didn’t appear to be going anywhere. Then they hopped on Honor’s back and sailed toward the first freighter in motion. On the way PK phoned in their citizen’s arrest and let the authorities know they were in pursuit of more Team Corporate members. He didn’t give the dispatcher any time to dissuade them from their plan and then immediately hung up.

When they reached the freighter Julie scaled the built in ladder rungs. PK followed at a slower pace. Julie recalled Honor as soon as she was sure her pokémon was no longer needed as a flotation device. When they reached the deck Julie knew they had the right boat because they were immediately attacked. A man set a stunky on them, but Julie effortlessly dispatched it with Honor. In his zest taking out the threat, Honor knocked out the Team Corporate member as well.

Digging in her purse for something to restrain him with, Julie found some plastic zip ties. She wasn’t certain how they ended up her bag, but they did just the thing and he was soon hog-tied with his pokéballs removed. Digging in a pocket Julie found his wallet and ID. Everything indicated his name was Norm Green. She made a note of the name with the intent to him and all his known associates up as soon as they had rescued PK’s pokémon. It wasn’t Julie’s habit to allow criminals to run wild.

“Julie, I found a way below deck,” PK called. He held open a solid steel door.

Julie healed Gizmo with a potion and did the same with Honor. She then pulled out Lucario, since she feared they might have to fight PK’s pokémon and Honor would be at a disadvantage. The staircase was narrow and dimly lit, a perfect place for an ambush, but no attack came. Wandering around the holding bay they found cages and cages full of pokémon. Most of them lay quietly in their cages, but some cried. Julie could see they all appeared injured and uncared for, which had her blood boiling. If she had to, she’d use her life saving to see that these pokémon got the care and attention they needed. No one should treat pokémon like this.

At the far end of the hold they found a man violently trying to shove a raichu into a cage. PK growled when he saw him mistreating the pokémon and charged him. Belatedly, Julie recognized that raichu as one of PK’s prized pokémon. She ran as well, though in her case it was to keep PK from needing a defense attorney.

“Norm, help me get this rat in its cage,” the man said, not even bothering to look up when the raichu suddenly stilled.

PK slammed into the man and sent him flying. However, instead of going after the man like Julie had worried, he turned his full attention to comforting his raichu. Julie stepped forward to place herself between the criminal and her friends. If he was unwilling to surrender without a fight, she and Lucario were ready to take him on.

“What the hell are you doing on my boat?” he growled. Now that she could see his face Julie recognized him as, Michel Therrien, a known smuggler and general all around shady character. Her law enforcement friends had warned her about him, since he was suspected of pokénapping some extremely powerful and rare pokémon and that was exactly the sort Julie had. “Get off before I call the harbor patrol!”

“Why don’t you call the harbor patrol?” Julie agreed. “I’m certain they would be extremely interested to know you’re transporting stolen pokémon, which include my friend PK’s electric types.”

“I’m an honest business man. Everything on this ship is freshly caught from the wild,” Therrien insisted. “If someone sold me stolen pokémon right before my ship set sail, that’s a unique occurrence and not on me.”

“I doubt that very much,” Julie said. She reached through the bars of a cage to pull on the collar of a snubbull. He shifted a bit to reveal a nametag, which read ‘Winston.’ “I suspect all these pokémon are stolen.”

“Yeah, well who are they gonna believe, a couple of stowaways or the ship’s captain?” Therrien demanded. He took a menacing step toward Julie, which made Lucario tense up. “I bet you don’t even know how to use that Lucario.”

“Then you’d be wrong,” Julie said. “I am also fairly sure that the word of the local gym leader, whose pokémon you stole, and a member of the Elite Four carry more weight than you think.”

“Oh hell,” Therrien swore.

He threw a garbodor at her. The living trash pile smelled worse than any garbodor Julie had met before. She assumed that meant Therrien didn’t even bother to put in basic maintenance in the pokémon he regularly used, which angered her further. No one should treat their pokémon like this.

Lucario leapt forward to defend her and clashed violently with Garbodor, holding it off. He growled as the trash attempted to envelop him. Lucario’s fist blurred and he punched Garbodor faster than Julie’s eye could track, knocking the pokémon back. Garbodor hurled a lump of sludge. Lucario easily could have dodged it, but then the toxic substance would have hit Julie, so he lifted his arms and took the hit. Luckily, being steel type—like all of Julie’s pokémon—meant he was immune to the poison.

“Lucario, zen headbutt,” Julie ordered, relying on her experience as a trainer in making her decision.

Garbodor shot more filthy garbage at Lucario, but he ignored it. Instead the pokémon’s forehead slowly began glowing. All of Garbodor’s attempts to injure or distract Lucario failed, and once he was ready, Lucario slammed his forehead into Garbodor. It was super effective. Garbodor collapsed upon Therrien, making the man look like the trash monster he was on the inside.

“Good job, Lucario,” Julie said, rubbing her pokémon’s head. However, she had to quickly wipe her hands on a spare rag to get rid of the transferred poison. Just because Lucario was immune didn’t mean she was too.

“I found the rest of my pokémon,” PK said, joining her. “They’re injured and have had a bad fright, but should be okay.”

“Good. That’s the best news I’ve had all day.”

PK knelt down beside the unconscious man. He found Grobodor’s pokéball and recalled the pokémon. PK searched Therrien for clues, but he wasn’t as useful Green in that respect, then tied him up with the last of Julie’s zip ties. If she was going to get in the habit of making citizen arrests, Julie would have to buy more.

“Huh, did you notice Bergevin, Green, and Therrien all wear the same ring? I’ve stared at Bergevin’s a lot over the years and it’s definitely not a class ring. I wonder if it’s a Team Corporate identifier, since I can’t imagine these types all wearing a tacky uniform,” PK mused. He rose and dusted off his pants.

“You might be onto something. Let’s call the harbor patrol and they can get this ship moored,” Julie said. “I want them to get these pokémon medical attention as soon as possible. They need to be taken to rescues, sanctuaries, and their rightful trainers as soon as possible.”

The harbor patrol arrived in short order and took things in hand. Not only did they haul Green and Therrien in, but they sent a boat off to pick up Bergevin as well. As soon as officers made it below deck and saw the state the pokémon were in, they called for medical backup. An entire unit of medical staff met the freighter at the docks. Nurses and chanseys carrying medical equipment immediately swarmed the deck on their way to the patients.

Julie and PK gave full statements to both harbor patrol and the Montreal police department. They were also informed that they would likely have to give their story to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police , or RCMP, as pokémon smuggling of this magnitude had to be a federal affair. After that they were more or less left alone at the edge of the chaos. Julie sat quietly for a bit thinking and then she pulled out her phone. She spent the better part of an hour working on it while PK rotated through his pokémon, giving each one a five-minute hug before moving onto the next.

“Since we got your pokémon back you can go home,” Julie finally said in a light tone as she slid her phone back into her pocket.

“Uh oh, I know that tone. You’re planning something, otherwise you would have said we can go home,” PK said. He frowned at her. “What crazy thing are you planning now, Chuey?”

“I looked through Norm’s things when we captured him and I found some leads to his associates. Most importantly, he had his name and password for his Team Corporate account in his wallet. I’m fairly certain I know who the head honcho is now and I intend to pay him a visit,” Julie explained. “By the time I’m through there won’t be enough corporate left for a team.”

“Even if you’re an Elite Four member you can’t do it on your own,” PK said. “I’ll come along and back you up.”

“Are you sure? You’ve got a lot of responsibilities as a gym leader. I can call Ovi or Henrik if I need backup. Toronto’s a long way to go.”

“I’ll gladly go any distance with you to put this corrupt organization down for good,” PK said. “Let’s roll.”

They took the train to Toronto that very night. If it were just Julie she would have flown, but her skarmory wasn’t big enough to seat two and the only flying type PK had was an emolga, which wasn’t big enough to carry a child, much less a man of PK’s size. Ultimately Julie was glad PK insisted on accompanying her. If she had gone alone she would have spent the two-hour flight tense and upset, wholly focused on the upcoming unpleasant task. Instead, PK started telling jokes and talking about his brothers, which put her at ease. He got her to open up about her own family, eat, and even take a catnap on the train. They both needed to be at their peak if they wanted to destroy Team Corporate and that meant taking care of their own bodies as well as their pokémon.

Logging back into Norm’s account Julie set up a meeting with Team Corporate’s boss, The Commissioner. There shouldn’t have been time for news of the freighter’s arrest to get out—at least not who had been arrested—but Team Corporate was connected. He might already know this was a burned account, but Julie spun things as if Green had evaded capture and needed immediate assistance. Hopefully that was enough to get The Commissioner to show. On PK’s suggestion Julie arranged for the meeting to take place at a discreetly fancy French café near the Financial District. It was exactly the sort of place corporate type would have a clandestine breakfast.

Julie didn’t have a clue what The Commissioner would look like, but PK was confident he could recognize him. Not because the gym leader had ever met him before in this particular capacity, but rather he expected to recognize the Team Corporate ring. If The Commissioner was anything like Bergevin, PK insisted he’d wear the ring everywhere.

They didn’t have to wait long at the café. Shortly after they were seated with croissants in hand, a man in a suit as fine as any Henrik wore, though he didn’t wear it half as well, walked in. He ordered coffee and a bacon sandwich before sitting down at the largest table in the shop, despite the fact his only company was a rolled up newspaper. As soon as he was seated he opened the paper and then promptly ignored the world around him.

“That’s the ring,” PK hissed, grabbing Julie’s arm. “That’s him; that’s The Commissioner.”

He didn’t look very impressive to Julie, just a pudgy middle-aged white man with thinning hair, but her understanding was that mob bosses often weren’t that imposing to look at. They had underlings to be their muscle. Still, he was probably dangerous and completely ruthless. He needed to be apprehended, but first Julie needed to confirm he was who she thought he was.

Rising silently Julie walked over to his table. He ignored her like he probably did everyone. She decided to grab his attention, so without any introduction she quietly said, “Commissioner?”

The newspaper lowered immediately. He glared at her with slits for eyes. Julie met his gaze unflinchingly. She wasn’t afraid of him. He was dangerous, but so was she.

“Good lord, he made the Team Corporate logo into a tie pin as well,” PK laughed. It wasn’t a nice laugh. Julie could tell her friend angering again, which was fair. The Commissioner’s sheer blatancy was nauseating.

However, that was nothing compared to what he did next. Realizing that the jig was up, The Commissioner kicked over the table, which forced Julie and PK back. Then he released a muk, which slopped all over the tiled floor and immediately caused all the milk in the room to curdle.

“Mr. Bettman, what is the meaning of this?” an older woman, Julie thought she was the proprietress, demanded. “Having a muk in here like this violates at least six health codes!”

The muk belched in her direction, causing her and several customers to faint on the spot. Julie wanted to gag. This was far worse than anything else she had dealt with in recent memory and she had never encountered a muk half this large before. She was worried she would faint as well. Luckily, PK seemed unfazed and quickly had his raichu out.

“Denzel, thunderbolt!” he ordered.

Denzel’s cheeks lit up as it built up the electrical charge. The bolt hit Muk, but that simply seemed to enrage the living sludge. A wave of sludge hit Denzel, knocking him off his feet and before he could regain his footing Muk hit him with a mud bomb.

“Chu!” Denzel cried, hitting Muk with another thunderbolt. There was a disarming flash. When Denzel tried to do a third thunderbolt, nothing happened. Denzel’s thunderbolt had been disabled.

“Finish them off, Muk,” Bettman ordered.

Muk belched again, which took out Denzel. PK was also hit by the terrible burp and hit the ground. Julie was almost rendered unconscious, but she was only hit by the dispersive effects and therefore remained upright. However, she had a sense that wouldn’t remain true for long, so she called on her most reliable friend.

“Honor, clean this place up,” Julie gasped.

Her empoleon did as requested and a massive wave erupted. It carried Muk, Bettman, and most everything else through the café’s front window. After the beating it took Muk was finally down. Surf also washed away the smell and Julie was already feeling better. She went out into the street, where she could already hear sirens in the distance, and returned Muk to his pokeball. She spent the rest of the time waiting for the authorities making certain no one had drowned.

To Julie’s delight, not only had the Toronto police arrived, but they brought the RCMP as well. Specifically, that included a mountie Julie was on very good terms with, her old friend Caro. While Julie had been off chasing her pokémon dreams, Caro had been slowly rising through the ranks in the RCMP and so she was the officer of record at the scene.

“I hadn’t realized it was Inspector Ouellette now,” Julie grinned when she finally got a chance to talk to Caro.

“If you didn’t spend all of your time in Ottawa with the Elite Four you might have known,” Caro said, but she was smiling as she said it, so Julie didn’t think Caro was actually mad at her. She wished they had more time together recently, but they were both extremely busy with their vastly different careers. Julie didn’t think she had seen Caro in person since she flew her out for the National Championships last summer.

“I promise to start making up for past behavior right now.”

“Then why don’t you tell me what happened here?” Caro suggested. “We don’t usually have floods busting through bakery windows in the early morning, nor do such incidents involve people of your and Mr. Subban’s standing. Also, I already heard about one incident tonight involving you two and pokémon smuggling?”

So Julie told Caro everything that had happened since yesterday afternoon. It took quite a while despite the fact Caro rarely interrupted her. By the time she was wrapping things up PK had been checked over by EMTs and released, which meant he could fill in the details Julie forgot. When they finished Caro was silent for a long time.

As Bettman started the incident in the café, and the owner was most definitely pressing charges, he was arrested. Charges included disorderly conduct, releasing a muk in a restaurant, and assault with a deadly pokémon. From the way Caro eyed his briefcase and sent a couple of mounties along to escort Bettman to jail Julie had a feeling more charges would be filed against him once the police had gone through his things.

“Now that you’ve taken out an entire criminal organization, do you think you’ll have some free time?” Caro asked as they watched the rest of the authorities finish with the scene.

“Technically, this was my vacation,” Julie said. “I guess PK and I will be headed back to Montreal tomorrow. I can’t stand the thought of another train ride today.

“So, you don’t have any plans tonight?”

“Not really. Probably be stuck up half the night, since all I can think about doing right now is going to bed,” Julie laughed.

“Then would you be available to get dinner together after some well earned rest, eh?” Caro asked, offering Julie her best smile. She didn’t know if it was just the lack of sleep, but Julie felt her knees weaken.

“Woo yes!” PK shouted, throwing his arms around both women’s shoulders. “A celebratory dinner is a fantastic idea and I know the perfect place!”

“Umm… the dinner offer was just to Julie,” Caro mumbled.

“Oh.” PK let go of them and took a step back. He glanced between the two of them. “I see how it is.”

“Why don’t we do both?” Julie suggested, always looking for a compromise. “We’ll have a group celebration dinner and then maybe just Caro and I could get dessert together.”

“Nice, Chuey,” PK laughed. He offered Julie a fist. Giggling, Julie returned the fist bump. “Player!”

With that settled Julie and PK left matters for Caro to finish up. All Julie wanted to do was find a nice hotel room where she could sleep and then freshen up. After that she’d buy a nice outfit and get ready for tonight. She imagined PK had a similar itinerary, especially since his lovely velvet maroon suit needed a good dry cleaning. They ended up checking into the same hotel and getting rooms across the hall from each other.

“All I want to do is shower,” PK groaned. “This suit is probably ruined from all the poison pokémon.”

“I want sleep more, but yes, showering before getting into bed is a good idea,” Julie agreed.

“Oh, before I forget I want to give you something,” PK said as they stood outside their respective doors. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a disc. “This is TM 72, Volt Switch. Figured it would be a good move for Gizmo, since he could use a powerful electric move and it’s one I taught my magneton.”

“Thank you,” Julie said, feeling touched.

“No problem.” He grinned and shot finger guns at her. “And hey, I can’t wait for tonight.”

“Neither can I,” Julie laughed, which was the truth. Any night with Caro and PK would be fantastic.

Chapter Text

“Just think, Happa, in a week we’ll be off to Victoria and the Butchart Gardens,” Nana sighed.

“Vee!” Happa agreed happily. He twitched his tail and snuggled into Nana’s side. She giggled, petting the eevee’s head for a moment before reaching over to accept a teacup from her bellossom.

“Thank you, Sakura,” Nana said. She sipped her tea. “You have brewed an excellent pot. Perfectly steeped.”

“Bellossom bell,” Sakura responded, wiggling her head flowers in pleasure.

Nana cuddled both pokémon to her and looked up at the night sky. Edmonton wasn’t a great place for stargazing, what with all the light pollution, but the Fujimotos owned a few acres filled with garden, that were nearly impossible to navigate at night, making it possible. Plus, tonight the sky was unexpectedly clear and the full moon hung low in the sky. She couldn’t have engineered a better night for astronomical pursuits if she tried.

“Even though we’ll be halfway across the country, we’ll still have the same view of the night sky. Or maybe it will be different due to weather or air quality. I’ll have to ask Shannon,” Nana mused. She grinned at her pokémon. “You two will be too busy playing with Snowflake, so I guess I’ll just have to stargaze with Shannon instead.”

Both Happa and Sakura clamored happily at this, not in the least trying to deny Nana’s claim. Neither pokémon was interested in sitting still at night, though they’d always do it when their trainer wanted to despite the disinterest. She appreciated that about her pokémon.

Nana drank more tea and turned her attention back to the sky. She couldn’t wait for this trip out west with Shannon. Unlike Shannon or the rest of her friends Nana never went on a pokémon journey. As soon as she passed her trainer exams Nana received Sakura, who was then an oddish, and the Fujimoto family gym pokémon because her parents were too busy caring for her sick little sister to deal with the family business. By the time Nachi was better, the moment for journeying had passed for Nana. Plus she had turned into a stellar gym leader, though she never developed a taste for battling, so her parents just left her in charge.

Nana didn’t blame Nachi for being sick enough to cancel her journey. She wouldn’t think twice about spending her entire life in Edmonton if it meant her sister would remain happy and healthy with her former illness existing only as a childhood memory. However, that didn’t lessen Nana’s excitement about this upcoming trip with Shannon. The main point of the trip was for Happa to properly evolve, as the Butchart Gardens had a massive moss rock, but Shannon promised to show Nana all of British Columbia. It was going to be her first proper adventure and the best part was she wouldn’t have any responsibilities on the trip. Nana couldn’t wait.

Her thoughts drifted from looking at the moon with Shannon to walking on the moon with Shannon. Nana was stifling giggles at the mental image of the pair of them hopping along the crater surface in space suits when her view of the moon was obscured by a bright light directly to the right of her. It was almost blinding in the near darkness. When it finally passed Nana turned, looking for the source. To her shock, Happa was no longer an eevee, but an umbreon. He wagged his tail hesitantly.

“Oh Happa, what did you do?” Nana cried, reaching for him. Happa froze. She pulled him to her chest and ran a hand down his back, trying not to cry. This ruined everything.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Nachi asked, coming out of the house. “I heard shouting.”

“Happa evolved.”

“But what about the trip?” Nachi asked. She stared down at Happa. “I thought I thought the whole point of it was for him to be able to turn into a leafeon. Or can umbreons become leafeons?”

“No!”

Nana burst into tears at that point. Happa licked her cheeks, trying to make her feel better despite his mistake, but that just made her cry harder. It wasn’t even the fact there was no longer a point to the trip; the problem was that Happa was now a dark type pokémon and Nana a grass type trainer. She’d never be able to use him at the gym and her parents might not let her keep him now. She didn’t know what she’d do if she was forced to trade Happa away—she’d had him since he hatched. They’d both be miserable by the separation, which added a certain irony to the situation, since Happa evolved because he was unable to contain his happiness.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay,” Nachi promised. She knelt by her sister and pulled Nana into an awkward hug. “We’ll figure this out.”

“But Happa doesn’t fit anymore,” Nana said. At this Happa’s ears drooped. Seeing that was a stab of pain to her heart. She was the worst trainer ever for making him feel guilty for evolving, but she didn’t know what to do. Happa and Sakura meant the world to her and she had just failed them by not monitoring Happa more closely. She shouldn’t have been daydreaming about Shannon, especially when her pokémon had to pay the price of her inattentiveness.

Not knowing what else to do Nachi helped Nana get Happa back to her room without their parents seeing. She was able to keep Happa’s evolution a secret for a couple days, either by keeping him in her room or in his pokéball. However, this was strange behavior on her part, since all their pokémon were allowed free range in the Fujimoto household. Eventually her father grew suspicious and demanded to see Happa.

“Where is Happa?” Kenji demanded. “I haven’t seen him in three days. You didn’t lose him before the big trip or trade him away, did you?”

“How could you even suggest that, Papa?” Nana snapped, aghast at even the suggestion. She clutched his pokéball.

“Then show him to me. I need to be sure you’re fully prepared for this trip.”

Sulkily, Nana called forth Happa. Kenji stared at the new umbreon in shock. His pastry fell out of his hand into his coffee. After a full minute passed with her father simply staring at Happa, Nana glanced over at Nachi. She shrugged back, unsure what to make of the situation either. Perhaps he’d never say anything about Happa’s new form and they could just pretend Nana never got around to evolving him.

“What is that?” Kenji said, glaring. He didn’t really phrase it as a question, but Nana could pretend it was.

“Happa,” Nana answered.

“You evolved him into an umbreon? This is a grass-type family! He’ll have to go,” Kenji announced. He pushed back his chair and rose from the table as if everything was already decided. “I’ll call around this afternoon to see if we can’t trade him for someone’s properly evolved leafeon or another suitable grass type. Obviously, your trip is cancelled and you won’t be getting another eevee since I can’t trust you to properly evolve them now.”

“You can’t do this!” Nana half-shouted. Even under the circumstances she had a hard time yelling at her father. “Happa is mine. My responsibility and you can’t discharge him on my behalf without my say-so just because you don’t like what he turned into!”

“Nana enough,” Kenji said, effectively cutting her off. “Happa is going and that is final.”

He stalked out of the room before Nana could come up with an appropriate response. Growling in frustration Nana picked up Happa and buried her face in his fur ruff. So what if he wasn’t what he was supposed to be. Happa was still Happa and Nana loved him. She couldn’t believe her father was being this unyielding, especially when they already had a full compliment of pokémon to battle for a gym. They didn’t need Happa to fight; he could just remain family like he had been for the last three years. She wished she knew what to do.

“He doesn’t really mean it. I mean, he does, but I’ll get Mama to talk to him and she’ll make certain he doesn’t trade Happa away,” Nachi said, rubbing Nana’s shoulder. “I mean, I doubt he’d be able to make the trade go through since Happa’s registered as your pokémon.”

“Yeah, but can you imagine the mess we’d be in if I had to get the police involved to get Happa back?” Nana asked.

“Yesh,” Nachi groaned. “Why don’t you go to the park for a few hours? You need to get out and decompress for a bit. Have fun. By the time you get back Mama’ll have taken things in hand. Now go. Shoo!”

Nana didn’t need any more encouragement. She grabbed shoes and got out, Happa and Sakura trailing behind her. The park wasn’t very far away so they jogged as a group. As soon as they got there Happa ran off to find a suitable stick, since he loved playing fetch, while Nana and Sakura settled on top of a grassy hill. Sakura always liked to put full sun exposure to good use and would hardcore photosynthesize for at least an hour. Over the years Nana had found most grass pokémon held that mentality and always assumed Happa would be the same once he evolved. Now that would never be the case.

“Um… um,” Happa growled around the stick clenched between his teeth. He lowered his front legs and waggled his tail in the air, hoping to entice Nana into chasing him for the stick. In the past it had always worked.

“Ok Happa,” Nana sighed.

She slowly got to her feet, which was all he needed to leap back a few steps. He seemed set to make up for any lack of enthusiasm on her part with extra vigor. Watching him dart back and forth brought tears to her eyes. It was utterly unlike any of the leafeons they had spent hours watching footage of and different still from his stumbling run as a baby eevee, but she still recognized Happa’s form. It was more fleeting glancing of it than anything else—when he stopped moving with his legs just so, or the way he still slid with his back legs almost collapsing under him when he took a turn too fast—that told Nana this was still Happa. He was still the same pokémon, just entirely different at the same time. She didn’t know how to relate.

They played together for a while. It was awkward, but it could have been worse. Happa still wanted the stick thrown as quickly as possible. Nana was very good at repetitious motions and so she kept the pokémon entertained. However, her own mind wasn’t the least bit sated by this activity and so it began to wander.

As far as she knew there was no way to unevolve a pokémon. Once they made the transition that was it. Some research by Professor Rheaume suggested that evolution was such an extreme exothermic reaction, signified by the light and physical transformation, that the amount of activation energy needed to reverse the process was too high of a barrier for a pokémon to overcome. Or at least overcome and survive the process. There had been some theoretical discussions of using a nuclear reactor for the initial energy input, but it had never been done because of the obvious side effects of subjecting a pokémon to such high levels of radiation.

That meant she had to learn to live with an umbreon because she was unwilling to give up Happa. Perhaps dying his fur green would smooth things over a little more. At least he’d look like he belonged with the rest of the family. Another possibility would be developing a type of moss, or really any epiphyte, that would just grow on Happa’s fur. If nothing else, the attempt to make him more plant-like would be a great bonding experience.

“Hey, are you Julie Chu?” a guy asked.

“No,” Nana said. She turned and found herself looking up as the man towered over her. “I’m not Julie Chu, but she’s a remarkable lady and it’s always an honor to be mistaken for her.”

“Dude, not cool,” a shorter guy said. He punched the first in the shoulder, which nearly toppled him. Since they were both grinning Nana figured this was how they usually communicated. “She’s gotta be half Chu’s age and looks nothing like her. What the hell made you ask her that?”

“I just thought,” the first began.

“You thought nothing,” the second finished for him. He spun his friend about face and lightly kicked him in the rear to send him back toward a group of guys they must have originated from. Then he turned to Nana and grinned at her. “I’m so sorry about that, miss. He’s a sweet guy, but dumber than a box of geodudes.”

“It’s okay,” Nana said, not wanting to prolong this awkward situation any further. “I get that a lot. Honestly, if I have to be mistaken for anyone having it typically be Julie Chu is the best I could hope for. She’s the first Asian woman to be a member of the Elite Four and an amazing pokémon trainer.”

“Well, if you say so,” he frowned, clearly still unhappy about his friend’s mistake. Nana appreciated the fact he didn’t try to argue with her on this subject. Then his mood lifted and he grinned at her again. “I just realized why he thought you were Julie Chu. You’re the city’s gym leader, Nana Fujimoto. Wow, I was not expecting to run into you in a park.”

“Yes, that is me,” Nana said. She felt more self-conscious about the situation now that she had been properly identified.

“Jason Zucker,” Jason introduced himself, offering her a hand. When they shook he didn’t try to crush her hand the way so many men did. Nana decided she liked him.

“Umbreon!” Happa yipped. He head butted Nana’s side and dropped his stick on her foot. “Breon!”

“Yes, I see, Happa,” Nana said. She picked up the stick and he immediately latched onto the other end, trying to pull it out of her grasp. Since he wasn’t pulling that hard yet she was willing to play a little tug of war with him.

“You have an umbreon?” Jason asked. “All the guides say you’re a grass specialist. Is that true or are you branching out?”

“The Fujimotos have run a grass type gym for four generations,” Nana said. The conversation was more difficult to maintain than she was expecting, as Happa nearly pulled her off her feet. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but he was a lot stronger than he had been as an eevee. “We were all set for a trip to Butchart Gardens, but then Happa got a little overexcited a few nights ago and, well…”

“Things went off script,” Jason finished for her. Happa dropped the stick, ears drooping again. Nana reached down and scratched the top of his head. “I know exactly how you’re feeling.”

“You do?” Nana asked.

“Yep.” Jason whistled and an umbreon came bounding over. The umbreon danced around Jason a few times before leaping into his arms. “Meet Maverick. She was supposed to be a jolteon, but she didn’t stick to the plan either.”

“Oh my goodness!” Nana cried, then immediately covered her mouth with her hand. “My apologies, I simply did not expect to run into someone in the same situation.”

“It’s a surprisingly common situation. Eevees have absurdly unstable DNA and they want to switch into a more stable form, even if that means accidentally evolving into an evolution they didn’t mean to choose. Umbreons are actually really common, as far as eeveelutions go, because if they’re safe and happy they can evolve in their sleep.” Jason grinned down at Maverick and ran his fingers down her back. “That’s what she did, though I didn’t piece that together until after we started attending eeveelution support group meetings. There are chapters in most major cities.”

“I had no idea this could happen.”

“Most people don’t until it happens to them,” Jason laughed. “I mean, the night I announced we had finally saved up enough for a thunderstone we went to bed and the next morning woke up to find her an umbreon. Maverick was even more confused than I was because I could at least see that she had evolved.”

“How did you handle it?”

“Well, I was pretty pissed at first, but you can’t really stay mad with your best bud for evolving because she was happy being with you.” Jason shrugged. “It took a few months to come to terms with it, but I’m happy she’s an umbreon now. I mean sure, she’ll never learn pin missile and all my static shock pranks have gone to waste, but she can still outrun me. Plus, thanks to her black fur she can hide in plain sight and scare the shit out of my friends, which would never happen if she were bright yellow.”

“I hadn’t thought about it in those terms,” Nana said. She didn’t plan on pranking anyone with Happa.

“We learned how to make her evolution work for us,” Jason shrugged. “That’s the important thing, you gotta own it or else it’ll just make you miserable. The support group helps you learn to do that.”

“We will most definitely attend a meeting,” Nana said. She smiled down at Happa, who wagged his tail.

“Cool. In the meantime, do you and Happa want to play ultimate Frisbee?” Jason asked. “Mavy is a champ.”

They played ultimate Frisbee for the rest of the afternoon. The umbreons got along just fine and Maverick even showed Happa a few new tricks. Jason and Nana didn’t talk about any other serious subjects and for that Nana was grateful. He had already given her much food for thought. Near the end of the game Sakura even joined in as she was finally done photosynthesizing. By the time Nana was ready to go home, everyone in her party was in high spirits. Waving Jason and Maverick goodbye she could almost forget what was waiting for her at home.

When she finally got home she found Nachi watching TV on the couch. There was no sign of her parents anywhere. When Nachi caught sight of her, she patted the seat next to her, so Nana sat down beside her. She was watching some game show Nana vaguely recognized and seemed content to simply sit in silence.

“Where are Mama and Papa?” Nana asked, glancing around.

“Out for an early dinner,” Nachi said. “They had a loud discussion about Happa and Mama put her foot down. Papa can’t trade him away for any reason and you can still go on your trip with Shannon if you want.”

“Really?” Nana asked, flabbergasted. She knew Mama was good at getting her way, but hadn’t expected her to go this far on her behalf.

“Yeah, she said that if they had been willing to let you go on a pokémon journey at ten they should be willing to let you go at sixteen. Especially since this one was much better organized than the one you came up with then and had a more defined timeline.” Nachi looked down at her lap. “I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“For making you cancel your pokémon journey six years ago.”

“Oh Nachi, that was out of your control. You didn’t mean to get sick,” Nana said. She grabbed her sister’s hand and squeezed. “Technically, I still could have gone on my journey then, but I was too worried about you to have enjoyed it. Staying behind… well, I was able to help Mama and Papa take care of you by taking over the gym. Even if I dislike battling, it gave me a way to fight back so I wasn’t helpless, since I couldn’t do anything to directly help you. I don’t regret staying. Not in the slightest.”

“Really?”

“Really really,” Nana grinned.

“Okay,” Nachi said. She leaned into her sister. “I’ll miss you while you’re gone.”

“Be back before you know it,” Nana promised. “The trip’s only three weeks long. If I had gone on a pokémon journey I could have been traveling for up to a year.”

“Ick,” Nachi laughed. After a moment Nana joined her.

The last few days before the trip were a flurry of last minute preparations. Nana initially packed last week, but she ended up unpacking, double checking her list, and repacking at least three times to make certain she hadn’t forgotten anything. Papa never exactly apologized to her for the argument, but they were on speaking terms again before Shannon arrived. Nana made certain to hug each family member twice before running out to her best friend’s car.

“Sup, Nana,” Shannon greeted her. “I hear we don’t need to stop at Butchart Garden anymore?”

“Oh we still need to go,” Nana said after she threw her bags into Shannon’s trunk. “We just don’t need to go for Happa’s evolution anymore.”

With that she let Happa and Sakura out of their pokéballs. The other pokémon she had used for the last six years, the Fujimoto gym pokémon, were staying behind because they weren’t really Nana’s pokémon. She had returned them to her father last night, but from the way Nachi had eyed those pokéballs Nana had a feeling she might come home to find her sister running the gym.

The pokémon crawled into the backseat with Snowflake, Shannon’s marill. Nana climbed in back as well long enough to buck her pokémon in, then setting in the front passenger seat next to Shannon. They grinned at each other.

“An umbreon, eh? Nice look, Happa,” Shannon said.

“Umbreon!” Happa yipped.

“Happy to see you’re branching out, Nana. Having all the same type of pokémon might make it easier to care for them, but it makes for an awful limited group,” Shannon said. “I hope you’re up for trying lots of new things on this trip.”

“I am,” Nana said. She was.

She and Happa had managed to make it to one eeveelution support meeting. The message she received loud and clear was to not let an unexpected evolution stand in her way. One woman who had meant to get a vaporeon, the wrong evolutionary stone was dropped on her eevee, still snorkeled with her flareon because they had always wanted to go deep sea diving. They were going to live life to the fullest and try as many things as possible to find what worked for them.

“Great,” Shannon laughed. “Next stop Vancouver!”

Shannon revved the engine then pulled away from the curb. Nana laughed at that and grabbed Shannon’s arm when she went sharply around a curve out of her neighborhood. Perhaps it was a little later than she had meant it, and now for entirely different reasons than she had a week ago, but Nana was finally headed on an adventure out west with her best friend. Best friends, Nana silently corrected as she glanced in the rear view mirror to see Sakura and Happa smiling back at her. With that in mind she turned her attention back to Shannon and the road, thrilled to for once focus on the now.

Chapter Text

With a flick of his wrist Zach cast off. The hook and bobber soared through the sky, landing a few dozen feet away in the great lake. Satisfied with his line’s position, Zach nodded to himself and sat down on his folding chair. He didn’t have anything else going on that evening—Ryan was working late—so he was happy to settle for some off the dock fishing with a cup full of store bought nightcrawlers.

“Evening,” Joe said, dropping a cooler next to Zach. He set a fishing pole and tackle box on top of the cooler. Then he shook a folding chair until it popped into the open position.

“Hey, thought you had to work today,” Zach said.

“Naw,” Joe laughed. He picked up his pole and snagged a worm out of Zach’s container. “I’m taking some time off. Packing up all our junk since our lease is almost up. Ahead of schedule, so I figured I’d do a little fishing since I knew you’d be out here.”

They lapsed into silence after that, which was typical when they fished together. When he got thirsty Zach flipped open Joe’s cooler and pulled out a beer. Since Joe brought beer, he typically got all the fish they caught in exchange. Ideally, by the time they were ready to leave all the alcohol would have been replaced with fish, but that didn’t always happen. The deal suited Zach just fine since, as a professional fisherman, his fridge and freezer were always full of fish.

They caught a few magikarp and a couple of goldeens, nothing special, but at least the latter made for good eating. Zach preferred eating seaking, but he’d need a boat to catch any of those and his last one sunk when a magikarp he caught unexpectedly evolved. The blasted gyarados attacked, broke the boat in two, and took Zach’s boot, but he made it back to land in one piece. He managed to salvage most of his tackle and gear, but the boat was totaled. As it was an older ship, from the very first major fishing tournament Zach won, it had a low blue book value and insurance only paid out a pittance. Since then he’d been landlocked.

“The beer’s gone,” Joe observed, snapping the cooler shut. “Guess that means it’s time for us to pack up.”

“Sorry the haul’s so poor today. Things will be better once I get a new boat… however I manage that,” Zach grumbled.

“Don’t worry about it. I fish with you for the company, not the fish,” Joe chuckled.

Zach nodded in agreement; he wouldn’t let Joe onto his dock or his boat when he had one if he didn’t like him as well. Joe was a great fishing buddy for casual events since he was willing to chat about whatever and always brought beer. Plus, unlike Ryan, he had the patience for fishing. Honestly, if there was one trait about Ryan Zach wished he could change, it would be for him to appreciate sedate activities like fishing. Otherwise he was the perfect husband.

A spearow flew over and landed on top of Joe’s cooler. Zach thrust an arm at it, hoping to scare the bird away, but the spearow wouldn’t budge. He tried a few other tactics to drive the pokémon away—stomping, shouting, and clapping—to no avail. The bird wouldn’t budge.

“It’s no good. I guess your cooler belongs to Spearow now,” Zach said. He wiped his brow and grabbed his things. “At least we didn’t catch anything special today?”

“Look, Spearow’s got something attacked to his ankle.” Joe bent down to examine the bird’s leg further, which the spearow did not react to. In fact, all the bird did when Joe pulled the thing off his leg was groom a wing. Once he had removed the item it flew away.

“I’d heard of carrier pidgeys before, but didn’t realize you could do the same with spearows,” Zach mused.

“It’s addressed to you,” Joe said, handing over the container.

Zach looked down and saw it was indeed labeled with his name. He untwisted the top of the canister and shook out a sheet of thick legal paper. Scanning the paper his grin faded away and by the time he finished his expression was positively grim.

“What’s wrong?” Joe asked.

“My godfather died,” Zach explained. Before Joe could say anything else Zach shoved the notification back into its container, grabbed his gear, and stalked off. He had a lot to do now and the list did not include discussing his feelings. Unlike Joe, that was one of the best parts of Ryan, he never made Zach talk about anything he didn’t want to talk about. At the moment, that was what Zach needed more than anything else.


The funeral was a lovely and tasteful affair. Zach’s mom arranged everything, despite crying through most of the decision-making, because his godfather never got around to having children of his own, nor were his siblings still alive. In many ways Uncle Wallace, the title solely honorary, had been something of a second father to Mom, so Zach did everything he could to make her feel better. Mostly that entailed running all sorts of errands for her and talking to a bunch of old people he didn’t know. It was worth it if it kept her from crying.

He was more surprised when the lawyers had him sit in for the reading of the will. Zach assumed it had already happened since Mom had control of his funeral, but he wasn’t going to argue if this was how things worked out. So here he sat in a tiny law office with a lawyer who didn’t look old enough to have finished law school, much less passed the bar exam, and his mother.

Almost as soon as the lawyer began Zach tuned him out. He was just here for his mother and figured nothing in the will pertained to him. Technically, this had been his godfather, but Mom only made the choice since Dad picked Jordan’s godparents. Zach was fairly certain he’d never spent any significant time with his godfather—not even a heartfelt conversation when Dad died two years ago.

However, hearing his own name pulled Zach out of his daydream about dinner. “Wait, what was that?”

“Mr. Rau says Uncle Wallace left you a house,” Donna said. She turned to the lawyer. “Why don’t you reread that part?”

“And to my godson, Zachary Justin Parise, I leave my manor and its surrounding grounds,” Mr. Rau read. He set down the will and looked over at Zach. “I believe the last inspection estimated its value around $3 million dollars, though the building needs significant repair. As it is waterfront property, the land itself is potentially worth more, though I don’t dabble in real estate.”

“Wow, this is unexpected,” Zach said, feeling stunned. At best he would have expected a small token of appreciation from Uncle Wallace, but this was beyond his wildest imagination. Even after taxes took their chunk, the mansion would buy him a nice boat, pay for some minor repairs to Ryan’s gym, and pad their nest egg.

“You may take possession of the mansion immediately,” Mr. Rau said. He dangled a set of keys, which Zach gladly accepted. “However, we will have to sort out the inheritance tax and other bits of paperwork that typically come along with an estate of this magnitude.”

“But that can wait until later, right?” Zach asked. He couldn’t wait to tell Ryan the good news.

“I guess,” Mr. Rau frowned.

“Great,” Zach beamed, settling back in his chair. He didn’t take in another word of the will reading, instead too focused on imagining what his new boat would be like.

As soon as the will reading was over Zach called Ryan to share the news. He quietly expressed enthusiasm in typical Ryan Suter fashion by asking about the condition of the grounds. Zach promised to let him ride his mower all over the lawns until they sold the house, which of course he knew was what his husband really wanted. A short discussion ensued and it was decided that Zach would head over to the property as soon as he dropped his mother off at home and Ryan would meet him there as soon as the gym’s official operating hours were over. Ryan must be eager to get at that lawn because he even agreed to let his disciples handle the typical chores associated with closing the gym for the night. Normally, Ryan wouldn’t let those tasks be pried from his cold dead fingers.

When Zach arrived at the mansion he parked right outside of the front door. The key turned with a bit of force, which allowed the door to creak open. Zach stepped inside and shivered involuntarily, as the internal temperature was at least ten degrees cooler than outside. He fumbled for a light switch, but couldn’t find any. In the end he pulled out his phone and turned on its internal flashlight.

Sweeping it around the room Zach got a sense that the room was cavernous, but that was about it. His light couldn’t reach the walls, instead only reaching the occasional piece of furniture properly covered with a tarp. He walked around the room trying to get a sense of his new property, making a note whenever the floor creaked excessively under his feet. There was a fancy staircase at the far end of the room that still looked sturdy to hold him, so Zach decided to chance it. Going as quickly as he could, he raced up the stairs. They groaned ominously, but supported his weight.

His sense of victory from successfully navigating the stairs blew away as the front door slammed shut. Zach looked down into the pooling darkness and saw nothing. He held his breath as he strained his ears for a full minute, but heard nothing. Then he unclenched his shoulders and tried to relax. There was nothing around when he got here and save for perhaps a few rattatas, he was alone in the house. The wind and pressurization must have closed the door through some weird physics thing. Zach was safe. Everything was fine.

He took a left and walked down the hall, pushing open hall doors to peer inside. There wasn’t much to see. Everything was covered in drapes or tarps like downstairs and the windows were all covered over. Zach tried a few light switches, but nothing turned on, despite repeated flippings. He didn’t know if it was a blown fuse, burn out or missing bulbs, or if the power was turned off. In any case that was something for Ryan to look into when he arrived.

At the end of the hall Zach found the library. Unlike the other rooms, the bookcases weren’t tarped over, so he could actually examine the titles without issue. A quick swipe of his light over the titles and Zach got excited. Many of them were familiar from his childhood by world renowned authors. When he found what looked like a first edition of James and the Giant Peach he had to take a closer look. Other than being a little dusty it appeared to be in perfect condition. Zach opened it to see the original illustrations.

Out of the book flew a purple grinning specter. It flew straight through Zach’s face, which was the most disconcerting feeling he had ever experienced. Worse than brain freeze; by the time the ghost finished passing through him Zach fell to the ground shaking. Book completely forgotten, he crawled away as fast as possible while the ghost rounded back toward him.

Zach finally found his feet and ran in the opposite direction from the ghost. Unfortunately, that meant going deeper into the library. Books flew off the shelves aimed directly at him. He was able to dodge some of them, but many hit. A sharp corner caught his temple just as Zach wrenched open another door. As soon as he was through it he slammed the door shut. That stopped the books, however the ghost phased right through it.

“Haunter!” the ghost howled. Zach screamed, taking off down the unfamiliar hallway.

He tried dodging into various rooms to hide, but each one teamed with ghosts. Most of them were purple or black, but they all had slobbering tongues. The first ghost kept following him until it overshot and went out a window. Recognizing his chance Zach slipped into an empty bathroom and slammed the door. No ghost popped out at him, so he thought that perhaps he was safe for the moment.

Panting heavily he gripped the sink and stared into the mirror. He suddenly noticed a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. That was strange, because he hadn’t noticed one when he first entered the room. Eyes popped open on the chandelier and it detached itself from the ceiling, proving to be another ghost. Screaming again, Zach dashed to the window. He could see the roof of the ground floor just outside the window. He took a chance and climbed out onto the roof. The plan was to creep over to the edge, carefully drop to the ground, and flee the property. The plan went sideways when Zach’s original spook dive-bombed him.

“Haunter!” the ghost howled, aimed right at his face.

“Shit!” Zach swore, bending backwards to avoid the ghost. However, his leaning shifted his center of gravity too far and he began windmilling in a valiant attempt to stay upright.

His back hit the shingles and he slid down until he toppled off the roof. A second later Zach hit something hard, which nosily shattered. As he fell a second time he vaguely registered the fact he had passed through a ceiling of glass, but before he could process what that meant he hit the ground. Luckily it was a soft landing. Looking around Zach realized he lay on a bed of composting plants overgrown from their pots. Near his feet grew a small patch of pumpkins. He had landed in a greenhouse.

Since nothing felt broken Zach got to his feet. However, he didn’t stay on them for long as the pumpkins came to life, wrapping their leafy tendrils around his legs. He screamed and struggled to free himself, but the pumpkin ghosts held tight. Even worse, the more he fought the more the vines spread until they restricted his chest as well. Nothing he did seemed to help and the longer they held him the more Zach’s back hurt. Perhaps the fall was more damaging than he had thought.

“I am not going to be plant food!” Zach growled, but he honestly couldn’t see how he’d get out. He couldn’t even call Ryan now and warn him off from coming. Hopefully Ryan would be more sensible than him and not suffer a similar fate.

“Haunter!” Zach’s original ghost roared.

It belched a black ball onto one of the pumpkin ghosts and then punched several others until they released Zach. The spook was still harassing the pumpkins, which allowed Zach to slip back into the mansion. Soon he was in the kitchen and the only calamity that occurred there was smacking face first into several hanging pans. Still, that level of noise would draw more spirits to his location, so Zach fled from there as well.

To his delight he realized he had found his way back to the main staircase, which meant he was also close to the front door. Escape was within his grasp. At least it was until a terrible ghostly cyclops appeared blocking his path. Perhaps he could have pushed his way past one, but then two more solidified right in front of the front door.

Not only did his back hurt, but his ankle twinged as well. He must have twisted it escaping the pumpkin ghosts. Sensing he didn’t have the strength to fight his way out, Zach decided to take another approach. Ryan was still coming, which meant all Zach had to do was wait for a rescue. Perhaps after a rest he’d even feel well enough to escape on his own. A hiding spot was in order.

Looking around the room Zach noticed a small door under the stairs. Moving slowly to avoid detection he crept over to the door, opened it, and slipped inside pulling the door shut behind him. It was a tiny cupboard with some mops and boxes, but more importantly it was ghost free. He sat down on the floor and propped the bad foot up on a box. Then Zach wrapped his arms around himself and settled in to wait for Ryan. He had no idea how long it would take, but he could outwait the ghosts.


“Zach?” Ryan called, pushing open the front door. “I’m here. It took a little longer leaving the gym than I expected.”

There had never been a sweeter sound than Ryan’s voice at that exact moment in Zach’s life. He crawled out of his hiding spot and ran for his husband. Ryan took in Zach’s agitated state and listened as Zach tried to explain what happened to him, but all he could manage was babble about where and how the ghosts attacked him.

“Slow down and take a deep breath,” Ryan said after Zach’s fifth false start. He waited as Zach closed his eyes, sucked in a lungful, and then slowly let it out. “Now what is going on?”

“This place is haunted. Uncle Wallace left me a haunted mansion,” Zach said, feeling the panic rise again. “Ghosts attacked me left and right in every room!”

“Ghosts.”

“Yes!” Zach shouted, unable to keep his calm when it was clear Ryan didn’t believe him. A haunter floated up through the floorboards and ran his tongue up the full length of Zach’s back. He shivered and nearly fell over from the introduced tingling numbness. “Ghosts!”

“Oh! You mean ghost pokémon,” Ryan laughed. “Now that’s a horse of a different color.”

“You didn’t believe me,” he said flatly.

“Well, it was clear something had scared you, but it couldn’t have been a ghost ghost. Those aren’t real. Ghost pokémon, however, are completely real and a regular nuisance in older homes that have fallen into disrepair,” Ryan explained using the completely reasonable tone like he did whenever he felt Zach was being overly emotional.

“If they’re a common nuisance, get rid of them! You’re a gym leader, surely you’ve got powerful enough pokémon that you can clean this mess out!”

“No can do,” Ryan shook his head. “My pokémon are normal type.”

“So?”

“Normal and Ghost are immune to each other. My pokémon can’t affect these pests and they can’t touch mine. It’s like they’re on different planes of existence. I’m surprised you didn’t know this, since this is pokémon type basics.”

“In other words you and your pokémon are completely useless,” Zach translated.

“I wouldn’t put it quite like that…”

“What good is being married to a gym leader if he can’t do a damned thing about a pokémon infestation?” Zach demanded. He groaned, thinking about the cost of hiring an exterminator, and bitterly wished Uncle Wallace had left him a boat. “Do you know any decent exterminators?”

Ryan found a light switch and this time it turned on without a problem. An intricate chandelier illuminated the room. To Zach’s horror, hundreds of ghastlys hovered about the ceiling with dozens of other ghosts swirled into the mix. It looked a bit like a whirlpool of the damned to Zach. Staring at it for more than a few seconds left him feeling queasy inside and he quickly exited the house, sliding down to sit on the steps. Ryan joined him a few seconds later.

“I don’t know who we’re gonna call, but there’s no one local who can handle that,” Ryan said, jerking a thumb back at the house. “Can’t even think up a gym leader specializing in ghosts off the top of my head. There’s no overlap with my gym.”

“Great,” Zach grumbled. Ryan squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.

“Don’t assume the fox is already in the henhouse just because you found tracks. I’m certain we can call in some ghost type specialists from out east. If nothing else I bet Julie knows who to call, since she’s the only member of the Elite Four with a ghost type. We’ll call her tonight.”

Julie got them in touch with a group from New York and after a series of phone calls they sent a team out to see Zach’s mansion. Four women showed up in what looked like a station wagon covered in tech. The two older women grabbed some of their gear and headed straight into the house. Zach tried to follow them inside, but the tall one grabbed him by the shoulder and told him to wait while the professionals looked around. Then she pulled out a massive book on the city’s local history and ignored him. Zach stood there uneasily, waiting for news, but Ryan took things better and started chatting with the last lady about her vehicle modifications.

“Abby, would you look at that!” came a shout from the house. Zach stepped toward the house, but a firm look from the ghost expert kept him from going inside.

“Dozens of Class VI entities. Most appear to be anchored, but obviously some must be free-roaming based upon the client’s complaints and all are obviously organized,” Abby said. Zach could see her staring up at the ceiling through the front door slack jawed. “Simply magnificent. Erin, does that look like a summoning portal to you?”

“No, the readings off the PKE meter would be significantly higher if that were the case,” Erin replied. “No, they’re just going around in circles. I… I think they’re playing.”

“Any chance you could get them to play somewhere that’s not my house?” Zach asked, catching the attention of the experts inside. “I can’t do anything while it’s this badly infested.”

“Sure, we can lessen the problem, but the company doesn’t own enough traps or pokéballs for this many ghosts and we’d need to buy a whole ‘nother containment facility to keep them,” Erin explained. Zach grimaced at the bad news.

“Holtzman, we got anything that can handle a manifestation of this magnitude?” Abby called as she and Erin exited the mansion.

Holtzman pulled a sucker out of her mouth, which made a loud popping noise. “We could drop a nuke on it. That’ll solve the problem.”

Zach made a small pained noise at the suggestion. That would not only destroy the ghosts, but the house, half the town, and leave it as radioactive fallout for decades to come. Obviously not the solution he wanted, as Zach would prefer to avoid poisoning his local aquatic environment.

“Let’s consider that plan B for the moment,” Erin said. “Patty, you find out anything about the mansion for why there would be so many ghost pokémon here?”

“Well, besides falling on a ley line, it seems this town used to be a center for paranormal activity with a ghost type gym. There was a family of psychics and other spiritualists who took in lost ghosts and cared for them right here at this mansion, but it seems the family has died out if this chucklehead owns the property now,” Patty explained, jerking a thumb at Zach. “I was just checking to see if the place is on any historical preservation lists, but it doesn’t appear to be.”

“And if it was?” Ryan asked.

“You’d have more luck turning it into a museum or donating it, since you can’t mess with the basic structure of the building,” Patty said. “Considering how rare it is to have this many ghost types in one place that isn’t a battle field, it really ought to be preserved.”

“But I could still sell this place to a developer, despite the ghosts, and be done with it?” Zach asked.

“I guess, but developers would destroy the ghosts’ home to put up condos. Would you really want that on your conscious?” Abby asked. She glanced hopefully over at Erin, but the other woman shook her head.

“Absolutely not. We can’t afford to maintain property in another state, even if it does contain a wealth of ghosts,” Erin said. “I’m sorry. There isn’t much we can do under the circumstances. We’d be happy to take some of these ghosts off your hands, but it’d just be a drop in the bucket compared to your total issue.

“If you’d like to take samples, go right ahead,” Ryan said. He wrapped an arm around Zach’s waist, which was probably the best thing to happen to him since these exterminators showed up. “Zach and I won’t miss them and it’s the least we can do considering you drove all the way out here to give us a free consultation.”

Holtzman pulled a bucket of assorted pokéballs out of the back of the car and the team got to work. Most of the ghosts submitted to capture without a fight, possibly because they lonely and wanted to leave. As the balls of captured pokémon piled up Zach grinned. Surely they were overestimating the ghost problem and by the time they ran out of pokéballs they’d have solved his ghost problem. However, after the final ball was thrown—an ultra ball, which captured a cranky gourgeist—Zach was dismayed to see that ceiling still appeared to be covered in the same number of ghosts.

“Like I was saying, it’s impossible to clean this place out; you’ve got at least a dozen species’ worth of nesting sites here. This is a veritable goldmine for ghost pokémon,” Abby said.

“I guess we should get going,” Erin said once all the captured pokémon were safely secured in the back of the car. Then a small white pokémon that almost looked like it was wearing a kimono with a red sash appeared. The four ghost experts froze, staring at it intently.

“Why hello there gorgeous,” Holtzman grinned. She pulled a great ball out of her pocket. “I’m glad I kept a spare ball in reserve just for you.”

“Don’t even think about throwing that pokéball, Holtzman,” Patty ordered. “That’s a froslass and she’s an endangered species. If you capture that pokémon, you will go to prison for messing with a federally protected species. Guys, I’m sorry, but we have to report this pokémon sighting. As of right now this is considered that froslass’s natural habitat and you can’t do anything that might destroy it.”

“That means you can’t sell this place to developers,” Abby added.

Zach let off a long string of curses dastardly enough to be stricken from any official record. He was pissed they had what amounted to a super special snowflake pokémon on the land, which meant he couldn’t just sell it off. He was never getting that boat. When he finally ran out of steam he decided to look at things rationally.

“I guess I’ll just have to find someone who wants to buy a haunted mansion. Surely there’s someone out there who’d find the ghosts a bonus,” Zach sighed. The haunter who had been dogging his steps the other day appeared out of nowhere and ran his tongue up Zach’s back again. He flinched, suppressing a scream. “Not that I can see the appeal.”

“That’s the spirit,” Ryan agreed.

“Aww, that haunter likes you,” Holtzman cooed. “You should take him home. It’s obvious he picked you out as his person.”

“No thanks,” Zack said, glaring at the haunter, who stared back at him. If he didn’t know better, he’d say the haunter wagged what passed as a tail for it.


“And they really did report that froslass to the feds, so now I have to triple check my every move with an EPA goon,” Zach finished. “I’ll have to pay a boatload of property taxes on this unsellable mansion and I’ll never get a new boat!”

“It could be worse,” Joe said, casting his line again. “At least you and Ryan are both healthy. Maybe this is a sign it’s time to make a career change and become a researcher. You’ve got a houseful of test subjects.”

Zach grumbled something about where Joe could stick that idea as he dug around his tackle box. The bright silver fishing lure wasn’t working, so he swapped it out for a cyan and orange rubber worm with a hook. Hopefully he’d catch something and get his mind off the ghosts. He cast his line back into the water and began slowly reeling to make the worm dance right.

“Ghost pokémon are actually pretty cool, if they’re not trying to scare you,” Nick said. Zach turned to look at his younger fishing friend. As a teacher, Nick really only had time to go fishing with Zach and Joe in the summer, but he had such a burning passion for the sport it sustained him during the months he had to stay away. Shame he was all thumbs when it came to fishing.

“You speak from personal experience?” Zach asked.

“My boyfriend’s family specializes in ghost type. The guys like to spring ghosts on me unexpectedly whenever I go over there,” Nick explained, blushing. “It’s been a family tradition for, like, a long time. If anyone has the spooky connections to find out who wants a haunted house with endangered ghost types in it, Kyle’s your man.”

“Is that so? Well, then give me his number and I’ll contact him first thing tomorrow,” Zach said.

He passed Nick his phone, but before he could retrieve it his line tightened and pole nearly jumped out of his hand. As Zach had a live one, all three fishermen’s attention diverted to the reel in. Zach twisted and pulled the pole in an effort to disorient the fish without snapping the line as he continued reeling. After a minute’s worth of adrenaline-fueled anticipation, the fish’s struggling splashes broke through the water’s surface. Joe grabbed a net and lowered it into the water to help Zach catch it. However, when they finally had it on dry land Zach grimaced.

“Bleck, a jellicent,” Zach spat, the name sounding foul coming from his mouth. The catch was a disaster; ghost pokémon no longer had the decency to leave him alone at work. He got stung four times freeing the ghostly jellyfish from his lure before he was finally able to safely roll it into the water and each sting hurt.

“You know, if you had caught that jellicent it would have made a great present for Kyle,” Nick said.

Zach rolled his eyes, but otherwise ignored him. The cyan and orange worm went straight back into the tackle box.

Kyle’s number looked vaguely familiar to Zach, but he shrugged that feeling off and set up an appointment with him for the next day. They met downtown for lunch at a bistro near Kyle’s work. They hadn’t talked for long, basically just long enough for Zach to say he had a haunted house to sell and where they could meet, so Zach didn’t know what Kyle looked like.

Luckily, the bistro was nearly empty when Zach entered. He scanned the room looking for some guy who looked like he might be waiting for someone. Instead he found Mr. Rau, the lawyer who left him in this mess. Since it was such an unexpected coincidence he had to stop by and say hello. Especially since Mr. Rau looked equally surprised.

“Mr. Parise, while it’s true we need to set a meeting to finish the paperwork on your new property, you need to arrange that meeting with my office,” Mr. Rau said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m waiting for someone to meet me.”

“I’m also here to meet someone. That house I inherited, it’s haunted,” Zach said, feeling slightly annoyed at the obvious brush off. He felt slightly mollified by the way the word ‘haunted’ caught Rau’s attention. “I’m here to meet a friend of a friend for help selling it.”

“You’re Nick’s fishing buddy?” Mr. Rau asked, quirking an eyebrow.

“You’re his boyfriend, Kyle?” Zach asked, startled. He sunk into an empty seat at Kyle’s table. “Huh, you’re not what I expected.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “Nick filled me in on most of the situation and you seem fairly determined to unload this mansion as fast as possible.”

“Ryan and I already have a couple of properties. We don’t need a ghost-infested mansion in disrepair as well. I just wanted a nice boat.”

“And with the froslass you can’t sell the property for the land, since the buildings need to remain standing.” At Zach’s nod Kyle pulled out a card and passed it over. “This is Justin Morneau’s information. You can ignore the front of the card with all his official information, since what you want is his cell number on the back. Among other things, he’s the chapter president of the Paranormal Pokémon Association. He’s the only local person I can think of who could afford to buy your mansion and have the willingness to abide by FDA regulations that would be required of the sale.”

“Oh cool,” Zach said, flipping over the card. “Thank you.”

They made some small talk, mostly about Nick, and generally had an enjoyable lunch. Afterward Zach called Morneau and to his delight the man seemed delighted by his proposition. Of course he got a realtor involved, since Zach didn’t know the first thing about selling a house, but all they had to do was show Morneau the swirling hellscape of ghost pokémon on the main ceiling and he was hooked. Within two weeks Zach had sold the house and bought an absolutely gorgeous boat.

To celebrate Zach got the whole gang together for a fun fishing outing. Even Ryan came along, which Zach considered a coup, as his husband hated fishing trips. At least he seemed content to chill and admire the new boat. Nick’s spirits were nearly as high as Zach’s because he had helped him get his new boat, but Joe seemed oddly dispirited. Seeing the new boat did perk him up a bit, so Zach figured things would be okay.

Still, Joe seemed down even after they had been out on the water for an hour. Zach really didn’t want his best buddy bummed, which meant that they needed to talk things out. Especially since he was in a good enough place now that he could help support Joe. He left Nick and Ryan at the stern and joined Joe in the bow.

“Dude, what’s got you down?” Zach asked. He set his fishing pole down so he could properly focus. If Joe was uncomfortable with the scrutiny of course he’d start fishing again, but for now he’d give him his full attention.

“Oh, it’s nothing really. I’m thrilled you got rid of that haunted house and this is a kicking boat, but…” Joe sighed heavily. “…my husband bought a haunted mansion without telling me. I mean, we can afford it, sorta, but now he wants us moving in and I don’t think I can handle that many ghosts. If I had known Justin wanted a frickin’ haunted house I would have told him about yours.”

Zach clenched his jaw together to keep himself from laughing hysterically. He couldn’t tell Joe that his husband had bought his haunted mansion right now, but he promised he’d tell him later. For now though, he’d enjoy the little irony. Especially since Joe seemed happier than he had before spilling his guts.

For the first time of the fishing trip Zach picked up his tackle box. He didn’t know which lure he wanted, but was certain he’d find the perfect one inside. As soon as he unlatched it, the tackle box exploded. Zach screamed as he fell backwards. Thankfully, he hit the deck instead of the water, but he was still hit by a rain of lures.

Floating above the remains of his tackle box was the same blasted haunter that had been haunting him since Zach first stepped into that awful mansion. He couldn’t believe that thing had followed him all the way out here. Zach stared dumbly at the drooling ghost. Then, to his surprise, Ryan walked over and squatted down beside him.

“You okay? Any lures digging in?” Ryan asked.

“No,” Zach said. While he was covered in lures, not a single one appeared to be sunk into his skin. Together the men carefully pulled them all off Zach and piled them to one side in the boat. Then Ryan handed Zach a pokéball. “What’s this for?”

“Him,” Ryan said, gesturing toward Haunter.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Zach growled. “I am not catching that thing.”

“Haunter,” Haunter said. He floated up to Zach’s face and licked him again.

“Gross,” Zach said. “I don’t want any responsibility for it.”

“Haunter’s obviously grown attached to you. The sooner you catch him, the sooner you can train him,” Ryan said. “Not asking you to go off on a pokémon journey, just to catch the critter that obviously wants you. He’ll probably prank you less if you do.”

At that Zach grabbed the pokéball. Haunter was still right in his face, so he didn’t even need to throw it. Instead, he tapped the ball against the ghost’s face and he disappeared with a red light. The ball didn’t even shake before it clicked to indicate the pokémon was captured. Zach had his very first pokémon.

“Well, I guess that’s finally settled,” he sighed.

Haunter burst out of the pokéball, looped around Zach’s head, and then started licking his face. Zach didn’t even have the energy to curse as Ryan and the others laughed at his misfortune. Zach was never fully getting away from the ghosts, but at least he could admit life was pretty good, especially since he finally had a new boat.

Chapter Text

Henrik hummed to himself as he finished the last of his paper work. He just needed to submit a few documents and shut down his PC, then he’d be off on vacation. He could barely wait.

“Hey,” Julie said, knocking on the open door to Henrik’s office. “Wasn’t expecting to find you working late.”

“I normally do not,” Henrik agreed. “However, I didn’t want to leave an unreasonable amount of work on the rest of the Elite Four or have to deal with it and everything that builds up while I’m on vacation.”

“Totally reasonable.” She walked into his office. “Do you want me to toss that report on Sid’s desk? I know you’ve got a long plane ride to Vancouver and you’ve still got to pick up Therese and the kids.”

“I… thank you,” Henrik said. At first he was going to refuse out of habit, he ought to do all of his own work, but if she was offering it’d be silly not to take her up on it. He had promised to be home by now and if he didn’t get his butt in gear they might miss the plane.

“No problem,” Julie grinned. She held up a stack of papers. “I was already on my way there, since Sid wanted a some follow up on my encounter with Team Corporate. Try to have some fun on your vacation, Henrik, I’ll see you next week.”

Henrik wished her the best as well, passed off his paperwork, and thanked her again. Before she had even left he quit out of all his open applications and started shutdown procedures for his computer. Honestly, he didn’t really pay attention to what files were open on his desk and simply shoved them all into his briefcase. He’d sort it out after the trip or else take it along and deal with it on the plane. After flipping off the lights and locking his office door he was finally ready to leave the league.

He had just left the building when his phone rang. Figuring it was Therese, he answered without checking. “Hey babe, I’m on my way home.”

“That’s great, though I don’t think you should tell your wife about my new pet name,” PK laughed. “In all seriousness, we got a problem, Henrik.”

“What?”

“Ryan Suter came down with the mumps,” PK said. “He’s stuck at home under chansey care until he’s no longer contagious, which means we need a new third judge.”

“But Suter was our back up judge after Shea Weber went down and he only agreed to do it because he owed him! Where will we find a third judge now?” Henrik demanded.

“I don’t know, but I’ll keep working on it,” PK said. “There’s gotta be someone with coordinator judging qualifications in the Vancouver area.”

“I certainly hope so,” Henrik sighed.

While they could probably manage with only two judges for the pokémon contest, there’d be problems if he and PK disagreed on anything and—while they were both fashionable people—they had distinctly different fashion senses. Technically, the contest didn’t affect the rest of Henrik’s vacation, especially since the girls weren’t old enough to care about fashion yet, but if PK couldn’t find a third judge Henrik would be grumpy and that would put a pallor on their family outings. Therese rarely got time off from work and she did the vast majority of the child wrangling for their family—he couldn’t wreck this vacation for her.

“Look, if you can find any coordinator who didn’t already enroll in the contest willing to do it, take them. We can give them a crash course in judging and swear them in after I arrive,” Henrik said. “I don’t care who it is as long as they can act as a tiebreaker. If their aesthetics are truly appalling, then we’ll simply have to vote against them on everything.”

“Cool. I can manage that.”

Henrik sighed as he stuck his phone back in his pocket. By the time he got home and met his family at the door he was beaming like PK’s call never happened. As important as judging pokémon contests were to him and his work, they meant nothing to his family. He wouldn’t let the contest affect their vacation and honestly, knowing PK would handle things meant Henrik needn’t worry. For all of his flash and enthusiasm, PK was also reliable. Likely everything would be sorted out by the time the Lundqvists stepped off the plane.

When he turned his phone back on in the Vancouver airport Henrik was relieved to see his faith well deserved. PK had texted him stating he had not only found someone viable, but the fellow was already an accredited pokémon contest judge. There was more information about the new person, but Henrik didn’t have time to read it, Charlise and Juli were cranky from the long flight and needed a chance to burn off some energy.

As soon as they checked into their hotel Henrik left Therese in the room and took the girls down to the beach to play. That mostly involved them riding around on Nova’s, his blastoise, back. Juli fell asleep in her sling almost immediately, but Charlise insisted on navigating Nova around the bay for as long as her father would let her. She also poked at a few staryu basking on the rocks when they made it back to land. Henrik even caught a poliwag, much to Charlise’s delight and she spent the whole walk back to their hotel trying to come up with an appropriate name.

The next morning Henrik went sightseeing with his family and then parted ways with them in the afternoon. The girls needed a nap and he had to check on the preparations for the pokémon contest. Ideally, he’d also meet the new judge PK found and frankly he could barely wait. After all, there weren’t that many qualified contest judges in the country and Henrik thought he already knew them all.

Fortunately, everything seemed to be on track at the theater. The stage was already decorated, judging table set up in the orchestral pit, and lighting system had been tested. Currently, the stage crew was doing a sound check. When Henrik ambled backstage he found contestant staffers ensuring spare costumes were on hand for all the beginner contestants in the general dressing rooms. No one seemed to need his immediate attention, which was highly unusual the day before a contest, so he ambled until he found PK going over a clipboard with an accountant and a caterer.

He waited until PK sorted out the issue then slid into the newly opened space near the other judge. PK’s mind was clearly still sorting out various issues because he jumped when Henrik greeted him.

“Geeze, don’t sneak up on a guy,” PK snapped, but he relaxed and smiled after a moment. “It’s good to see you, Henrik, but I’m super busy at the moment.”

“Where’s the new judge?” Henrik asked.

“He’s around,” PK said vaguely. “I’m sure you’ll recognize him when you see him. Brent certainly stands out.”

“Brent?”

“Hey, that’s me.”

Henrik turned to find a man with a massive beard looming. His smile seemed nice enough; though the missing teeth did somewhat dampen the effect. As first impressions went, it wasn’t great—Henrik couldn’t stop staring at the lavender jeans, which Brent paired with a grey plaid sports jacket and topped the ensemble off with a knit cap. While he had never previously subscribed to the notion of fashion police before, such crimes against the eye ought to bring such an organization into existence solely to arrest this miscreant.

“You’re the new judge,” Henrik said slowly.

“Yeah dude, it’s nice to meet you,” he said. He shrugged out of his sports jacket revealing a heavily tattooed right arm, which actually matched the pants better than the jacket. They shook hands. “I’m Brent Burns.”

“Henrik Lundqvist.”

“Of course I know who you are,” Brent laughed. “We watch all the Elite Four matches at my gym. Seeing you absolutely wreck ground types is always the worst and usually sets everyone off trying to figure out how we’d beat you in a fight.”

“Well, I’m glad to provide the occasional conversation starter,” Henrik said. He couldn’t stop staring at the jean and jacket combo. “What made you decide to become a contestant judge?”

“Dude, I totally forgot I was a judge until PK called. Total blast from the past. I got certified ages ago when I was still just a kid on a drunk dare before I become a gym leader. Not certain if I ever actually used my credentials in an official contest.”

“I’m shocked,” Henrik said dryly.

“I earned the dang thing before I really felt comfortable displaying my own style, ya know, so I look forward to adding my own flare to tomorrow’s competition,” Brent grinned.

“If nothing else, tomorrow will certainly be memorable.”

“I’ll debut a new suit just for tomorrow.”

“I can hardly wait.” Henrik wondered what monstrosity would emerge out of Brent Burns’s closet for his first contest-judging event. He imagined whatever it was would be retina searing.

“Well, it looks like you guys have everything under control, so I’m gonna jet,” Brent said. “Gotta get back to the family, we’re on our annual summer road trip.”

Henrik bid him farewell and then politely waited until he had left the room before turning to PK and demanding to know where he had found this contest judge. PK waited silently while Henrik bitterly complained about Brent’s fashion sense until he ran out of steam. It was rare for him to lose his temper like this, which made it easier for friends and family to wait it out when he did.

“Listen Henrik,” PK said, wrapping an arm around Henrik’s shoulders, “Brent’s fashion is a little unorthodox, but he’s a licensed judge and we don’t have any other options here. Just give him a chance. I mean, when we first met you weren’t so sure about my dynamic style and I didn’t like how conservative your fashion choices were, but now we’re best of friends.”

“I highly doubt it will turn out like that this time,” Henrik grimaced.

“Perhaps not, but we’re professionals and we have a contest to judge tomorrow. We’ll make the best of things and hopefully no one will notice nothing’s wrong,” PK said. Henrik nodded, trying to come around to the gym leader’s way of thinking. He was right after all, they were professionals and tomorrow they’d do the best job possible even if Brent was a terrible judge. Henrik just hoped Brent’s fashion wasn’t to awful as to permanently disgrace his or PK’s name in the contestant community.


Brent showed up the next day in a green velvet suit. He looked like an overgrown leprechaun or perhaps an ent outside of his forest. It was almost like he was trying to make a mockery of Henrik’s navy three piece suit or PK’s wool spun charcoal outfit. He was about to send him home to change, but then Brent offhandedly mentioned that he almost showed up in a red plaid suit. That stopped Henrik in his tracks and silently thank the fates Brent hadn’t shown up in an even worse outfit. At least this way Brent could almost blend into some of the scenery instead of making the audiences’ eyes bleed.

The three judges took to their seats. With much fanfare on the part of the master of ceremonies, which included an overly long introduction of each of the judges, the Pokémon contest began. This particular contest had decided to group contestants by skill level, but not category in order to make the exhibition somewhat more interesting for the audience. This also meant that the theater was only half full at this point, since most contestant fans avoided sitting through the painfully gauche routines of the novice participants. The judges didn’t have that luxury. However by the time they reached the ultra and master levels the theater would likely be bursting at the seams. People took their advanced level pokémon contests serious

First up was an older lady with an igglybuff that sang off key and only knew half the steps for the electric slide. Luckily the beginner levels had a maximum performance length so they weren’t subjected to the igglybuff’s talents for that long. When the igglybuff finished Henrik and PK both gave their performance grade immediately and explained a bit about why the pokémon received such grades. Brent’s rating came shortly thereafter with no explanation, but it was in line with what the others had given. This relieved Henrik, since it suggested that while Brent may not really know what he was doing, he was ready to follow the more experienced judges’ lead and not cause any public embarrassment. They would get through this contest with dignity and grace.

Things went smoothly through the rest of the novice entries. Brent continued to score similarly and slightly behind PK and Henrik with little to no explanation on contestant performance. Once the last novice performed PK handed out winning ribbons to the seel who won the beauty category and the meowth who won in cute. Thankfully, for whatever reason, those were the only open categories in the novice category this time.

Things proceeded similarly in the super level until a larvitar performed. It wasn’t a particularly exciting performance—the larvitar broke some several piles of bricks while being sprayed with water. Henrik wasn’t impressed and clearly, neither was PK as he presented the pokémon with low marks. However, before Henrik could submit his score Brent turned in his shockingly high score. This made the audience gasp, as there hadn’t been any previous drama concerning the scoring—honestly, it had been more of a snooze fest than anything else.

“Really, you’re giving him an A- for that performance?” PK asked, giving Brent serious side-eye.

“Yes, Larry deserves high marks,” Brent said, glaring back at PK. “He’s working in the toughness category and I can’t think of a better way to prove your grit than performing under harsh conditions. There isn’t anything more difficult for a ground/rock type than being sprayed with water in a fight and yet he’s not only standing, but pulling off brick break before plugging up the water source. That is a tough little dude.”

Henrik had initially planned on giving Larry the larvitar depressingly low marks, like PK, but changed his mind upon hearing Brent’s opinion. He was right, style and pizzazz mattered the least in the toughness category, especially in comparison to grit and strength. Larry proved he had the important skills and while he may not have done it with a flourish, this was only the super level. Henrik bumped his score up by two letter grades. Brent didn’t have any more significant contributions during this level, but when they finished Larry the larvitar won the super ribbon for toughness.

They had delightfully lively differing opinions on pokémon rankings in the ultra level. Brent produced shockingly astute arguments that repeatedly made Henrik change his rating or regret his given scores and he had a feeling PK felt the same. This mostly occurred relating to the tough category, though he occasionally had interesting insight on cool and clever entries. Henrik was vaguely amused by Brent’s lack of understanding related to the cute mentality.

The master competition level was always Henrik’s favorite part of pokémon contests. Their performances were so graceful and well choreographed it reminded Henrik of the pokéballet and other high forms of art. Sometimes that made it incredibly difficult to properly judge the contestants, but Henrik had spent years studying pokémon movement and performance. Even now he felt the same excitement and wonder watching pokémon fuse moves into long complex dances as he had felt as a child during his first performance.

Glancing at the other two judges during a lull in a flabebe’s number Henrik was pleased to see they were just as invested in the contest. He had known that to be true in PK’s case, but it was a delight to see it in Brent’s eyes as well. Perhaps the ground gym leader would judge more contests with them in the future. Henrik would welcome him as long as he could convince the man to leave the plaid at home,

At much as he delighted in the master level contestants, Henrik was still relieved to see the final performance, a Mr. Mime juggling shadow balls, end. The three judges briefly conferred over the participant scores before announcing the final contest winners. It was obvious who the category winners were; the discussion was more to decide who would announce each winner.

“The winner of the master beauty ribbon is contestant #46, Felix the fennekin,” Henrik announced. The audience clapped and cheered as the little girl coordinator came up with her fox pokémon to receive their ribbon. Henrik gently pinned the ribbon onto Felix, as was tradition.

“The master cool ribbon goes to contestant #57, Lucky the pikachu,” PK said as soon as the last winners left the stage. Lucky and his owner, a dapper elderly gentleman, gladly received their ribbon. Once they were clear PK reported the master cool ribbon winner, which went to Apex the absol and her ace trainer.

“The master cute ribbon winner is contestant #119, Katie the sylveon,” Henrik announced. Katie and his petticoated lady trotted on stage to accept the award. Once they trotted off again Henrik turned to Brent. “How about you announce the last one, it is your speciality, Burns.”

“And the master tough ribbon goes to #96, Rocky the sudowoodo,” Brent said, grinning broadly. He had to almost double over to get down low enough to pin the ribbon on Rocky. The pokémon, trainer, and judge were all so overcome with emotion at the situation Henrik couldn’t tell who was happiest.

After the judges finally escaped all the end of a contest hoopla Brent invited PK and Henrik back to his RV. PK was all for a party, but Henrik declined until he found out that his family was also invited as well. He was pleased to find that Brent’s children, Peyton and Jagger, were only slightly older than Charlise and the three children were able to run around the campgrounds playing tag with the poliwag Henrik caught the other day.

“I’m sorry, what are they calling that poliwag?” PK asked as the children ran past screaming.

“Princess Buttercup,” Henrik said. “That’s what Charlise named her when we caught her at the beach the other day.”

“I think it’s a fine name,” Brent said. “Shows character. Think she’ll end up being your little girl’s starter? Peyton’s already announced she wants a phanpy.”

“Unlikely. Princess Buttercup will likely become a poliwrath in my line up since I’ve been meaning to train one for some time.”

The five adults chatted as Brent started an impromptu barbeque. If he had known he’d be going to an outdoor cookout Henrik would have brought a change of clothes, but instead he just had to suffer looking overly fashionable. PK was in the same boat, but Brent was able to change into something more casual: a simple black t-shirt and lemon yellow board shorts. It was the most fashionable thing Henrik had seen his new friend wear yet. Despite the risk of muddying up one of his suits he was having a wonderful time. Susan, Brent’s partner, was a brilliant pokémon ranger and had some fascinating stories to tell about her work when she wasn’t caring for the kids. She quickly hit it off with Therese.

“Daddy, show them Genji!” Charlise demanded, clamping down on Henrik’s pant leg. “They don’t believe how long his tongue is.”

“Alright Charlie,” Henrik laughed. He pulled the pokéball off his belt and released his greninja, much to the children’s delight. They were all suitably impressed by the way Genji’s tongue wrapped around his neck and still had enough to trail down his shoulder like a scarf. With only a little prompting Genji joined Princess Buttercup in chasing the kids around the outside of the RV.

“He’s new, isn’t he?” PK asked, pointing at Genji. “I don’t recognize him.”

“Yes. I hatched him out of a wonder traded egg a few months ago and have worked extensively with him ever since,” Henrik explained. “He should be suitable not only for my league work, but I hope to enter him in come contests in the near future.”

“I’ll be rooting for you,” PK grinned. “It’ll be sweet for my luxio, Prince, to finally get some decent competition.” They had a good chuckle over this for a few minutes before PK glanced over at Brent. “You’re a shockingly good pokémon judge, Brent. Hadn’t expected that of a guy who’d ever judged a contest before. You’ve got the eye.”

“Thanks man,” Brent laughed. “I wasn’t certain what to expect, but you dudes made it pretty easy. I had a lot of fun. Might be worth getting the kids involved in contests in the future.”

“Are you planning to judge again or perhaps even enter a contest?” Henrik asked.

“I dunno, Hank, are you gonna pop a blood vessel at my next suit?” Brent asked. “I’m thinking teal and rhinestones. Haven’t made my mind up on whether it should be made of pleather or vinyl.”

Henrik involuntarily crushed the beer can in his hand. “I take back any insinuation I might have made implying that you might have actual taste.”

The others laughed at his reaction. Therese was doubled over and leaning into PK because she was laughing so hard. Really, that seemed like an overreaction to Henrik’s distaste. At least Brent seemed to be considering Henrik’s original question. When the others calmed down he released a marshtomp.

“In all seriousness, I think Zeus would make for a good contest pokémon. He’s pretty light on his feet and knows a lot of great moves,” Brent said. “I’d suggest Maia, my krookodile, since she’s also amazing, but with her temper I doubt she’d put up the accessorizing.”

“Zeus looks like a tough contestant. Isn’t he a water type?” PK asked. “I’m a little surprised you have one, Burns.”

“They’re dual water/ground and usually found in brackish marsh water environments,” Henrik explained. “I prefer marine pokémon, which is why I don’t have one, but it’s a solid choice rounding out a ground based team.”

“That’s what I thought,” Brent laughed. “So what do you think, Hank, will Zeus be a serious threat in a contest?”

“If you turn out to be half the coordinator that you are a judge you’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” Henrik said. “I look forward to facing Zeus or Maia in competition.”

“And I’d hate to be in the same category as both of you at the same time,” PK said.

They grinned at each other until the scent of burning meat registered. Brent swore and ran back to the grill to contain the situation. PK followed him over to offer a running commentary as Brent worked. Henrik grinned as he watch them work. He hadn’t expected to make a new friend on his family vacation and while tomorrow he’d be back to just spending time with his family, Henrik looked forward to facing Brent in future contests. It’d be spectacular, just as long as he didn’t have to look at Brent’s clothing; a fashionista he was not.

Chapter Text

“Aboma!” the abomasnow howled as it cast blizzard.

The winds were so powerful they blew the ladies back several steps toward the edge of the cliff. Amanda wanted to move away from it, but the snow blowing around her was thick and she’d been repeatedly spun around in the fight, so she no longer knew which way led to safety.

“Garchomp, flamethrower!” Noora shouted. “Take that abomasnow out before it blows us off this blasted mountain!”

Garchomp roared and lunged forward through the blizzard toward the frost tree pokémon. Flames flickered around the edges of his mouth as he moved to destroy the abomasnow in one blow, but before he could blow his flames, the wild pokémon hit him with an ice punch. Being doubly weak to ice, Garchomp instantly fainted, retreating into his pokéball. Before Noora could call out another pokémon, the abomasnow launched razor sharp leaves, which sliced through their gear cutting them badly.

Amanda unintentionally took a half step back. That was enough. The snow underneath her gave away with a shudder groan and she fell. She grabbed at Noora, who wrapped a hand around her wrist trying to keep her aground, and pulled her off the cliff side as well. Together they fell screaming into an icy chasm.

As they plummeted toward their death Amanda thought she’d see her life flash before her eyes. Instead she simply got on repeat her editor at Pokémon Geographic insisting she go on location and get some action shots of Noora Räty in the field because they were doing a massive expose on the dragon gym leader. Normally she had a no human photography policy and Amanda was regretting breaking that policy now. If she survived this job she was going to rip her editor a new one.

“Don’t you have any pokémon that could fly us to safety?” Amanda demanded as the ground rapidly approached.

“Yes, but the gorge is too narrow—they’d catch their wings on the sides, rip them off and then die with us!” Noora shouted back. “This way, they should survive the fall in their pokéballs even if we don’t. What we need is a cushion!”

That gave Amanda an idea. She pulled a pokéball off her belt and hurled it at the bottom of the gorge as hard as she could. Hopefully it’d hit the bottom a few seconds before they did and release the pokémon for them. It was their only chance for survival.

She was in luck. The pokéball split open and released a snorlax, which just barely materialized into solid matter from the red light right before they smashed into him. They slammed into his belly hard, almost sinking all the way through it to the ground underneath. The pokémon roared in pain as the ladies bounced up and down on his belly as if it were a trampoline, or perhaps a waterbed. When they finally stopped moving, Noora and Amanda both sighed in relief.

“I thought we were going to die,” Noora groaned.

“Thanks Phil,” Amanda said, rubbing the snorlax’s shoulder. “You’re the best.”

Phil grunted in response, but otherwise simply lay there. He was still conscious, but now in critical condition. Taking such a high velocity body slam took a real toll on his body. As soon as she could move, Amanda planned on dosing him with a super potion; he more than deserved it for saving their lives.

“Thank you Phil,” Noora said. She slowly sat up and then slid off his belly. “You’re quite the pokémon. Where’d you find him, Kess?”

“My brother Phil is a hiker and brought back an egg for me while I was in trainer school. That egg hatched into Phil Jr here,” Amanda explained. She dug around her pack and eventually pulled out the promised super potion. After spraying the restorative across Phil’s injured belly he sighed in relief. Amanda scratched his chin. “He spends most of his time eating and sleeping, but I can always count on him to save my bacon when I need to, just like my brother.”

“I see.”

Phil was clearly unhappy being stuck out in the cold snow and there was no way he could help Amanda get out of this gorge, so she recalled him to his pokéball. Looking around, she didn’t know how they could possibly escape this crevice. The walls were high, slicked over with ice, and what climbing equipment Noora had started with was back up on the ledge with the abomasnow, since it had severed Noora’s backpack from her person with that razor leaf. As far as she could see they were in real trouble.

“How are we going to get out?” Amanda asked. “Phil is the only pokémon I’ve got.”

“Now that we aren’t spiraling uncontrollably to our doom, we can utilize one of my fliers,” Noora said. Out of a great ball came a charizard, which roared impressively and unfurled his wings, taking up most of the crevice space.

“Impressive, but I thought you specialized in dragons,” Amanda said. It was a small dig, since charizard may look like an idealized dragon, but was actually fire/flying type pokémon.

Still, having that massive pokémon right behind Noora made for a nicely stylized image. Amanda found herself unconsciously scrambling to retrieve a camera from her bag. Her best camera turned out to be broken from the fall—that was going to set her back financially quite a bit, even with her insurance on the equipment—but her first professional camera was still intact. She took a couple of shots in the hope that they’d make it out of this adventure alive.

“I do,” Noora said, rolling her eyes. “Alright, let’s do this, Ronaldo!”

She lifted her left wrist revealing a bracelet. With a single tap of its decorative stone, purple energy formed around Ronaldo encasing him completely. After a few seconds it blew away revealing a larger blackened dragon breathing twin jets of blue flame. Noora had turned her charizard into a mega charizard X, which was a fire/dragon type. Since mega evolution rings were fairly rare, Amanda hadn’t realized what was happening and frankly, the transformation was one of the most incredible things she had ever seen. She couldn’t believe she caught all of it on film.

“Come on,” Noora said as she climbed onto Ronaldo’s back. Amanda snapped another photo. “Let’s go kick that abomasnow’s tail. I didn’t drive twelve hours and climb half a mountain only to fail now. We’ll fly the whole blasted way up to the summit if we have to.”

“We didn’t we fly up in the first place?” Amanda asked. Noora helped her clamber up onto Ronaldo’s back behind her. “And for that matter, why are we climbing this stupid mountain in the first place?”

“Flying this close to a mountain can be extremely dangerous. It’s a little safer doing it on a pokémon’s back than it’d be in a plane or helicopter, but there are still serious problems,” Noora explained as they slowly ascended. “For example, the higher up the mountain you go, the less space there is to land safely.”

Ronaldo’s ascent was far faster than their previous slog had been and before long they were within the abomasnow’s range again. As soon as it saw them, the frost tree pokémon immediately began hurling snowballs at them, forcing Ronaldo to dodge and weave. Noora expertly guided them to a safe landing, whereupon the humans jumped off Renaldo into a nearby snow bank.

“The other major problem with riding a pokémon is that you’re more likely to be attacked by wild pokémon,” Noora continued as she climbed out of the snow. “Renaldo, heat wave!”

Renaldo exhaled superheated breath toward the abomasnow. All the snow the breath came into contact with sublimated into steam and the leaves crumpled into dust. The abomasnow didn’t fare much better when the heat wave hit it and collapsed in a charred heap. Amanda photographed the entire exchange. Noora sighed in relief that the fight was over and recalled her pokémon. Dusting off her pants, she stomped back to the cliff’s edge to retrieve her climbing gear and the other items she had dropped just before the fall.

“Our little flight back up gave me a better chance to review the entire mountain. I think we’re actually about two thirds of the way up, so it shouldn’t take that long for us to reach the summit,” Noora said, reattaching her gear to her bag. “Are you ready to continue?”

“I guess,” Amanda said, “but why are we climbing this mountain?”

“I have no idea what you’re doing here, but I’m climbing it because I had a dream.”

“A dream,” Amanda said flatly. “Seriously?”

“It was more of a premonition? I dunno, it’s hard to explain, but it was more than just a dream,” Noora frowned. She started walking back toward the path. Amanda hurried after her, not wanting to be left behind on the side of a snowy mountain. “Woke up from a dead slumber three days ago knowing I had to climb this particular mountain in Nahanni National Park because someone needed me. Haven’t been able to shake that feeling, so here I am climbing the damn mountain, if for no other reason than for my own peace of mind.”

In Amanda’s opinion was a poor reason to climb a mountain, but Noora hadn’t asked her—and frankly, following the gym leader up for photos was an even worse reason—so she kept her mouth shut. They didn’t talk much hiking forward. The terrain had steepened and the path had narrower significantly, which meant their attention was mainly focused on safely navigating it. Noora kept an eye out for any more pokémon threats, this time with the mentality that the best defense was a good offense, and took out half a dozen more wild pokémon before they could attack. This included a donphan, ursaring, and several hordes of zubats. Amanda took photos of all the battles.

Despite the random pokémon encounters, Amanda was doing okay with the hike until it started hailing. Snow she could have handled, but the hail hurt. It was beginning to feel like something was intentionally trying to stop them from reaching the summit and that pissed Amanda off enough that she didn’t ask Noora if they could stop until the weather cleared. Besides, she doubted Noora would have been willing to rest; she’d barely paused since they escaped the gorge.

However, even Noora drew to a halt when their path suddenly turned into a wall of ice. It looked a bit like a wide waterfall had frozen solid. Amanda hid under a tree and took her backpack off to rub her shoulders as Noora surveyed the situation. Considering how far they had come, she almost hoped Noora found a way past this current challenge. She was sure the view from the summit would be incredible. Though in the meantime, Amanda was happy to sit down and have a break.

Something painful raked across her ear causing Amanda to yelp in pain. When she looked down, there was an irate sneasel in her lap. It hissed and lunged for her face. Amanda screamed and smacked the pokémon away into a tree. As it was momentarily stunned by the impact, Amanda scrambled away, knocking her bag over in the process. She thought about calling to Noora for help, since Phil was in no condition to fight, but then noticed an empty pokéball had rolled out of her bag. So, figuring there wasn’t anything to lose, Amanda threw the pokéball at the sneasel. The pokéball shook once before clicking.

“Huh,” Amanda laughed, picking up the pokéball. She hadn’t expected to catch a sneasel today, but she wasn’t complaining.

“I think I know how we need to continue,” Noora said.

“Oh yeah?” Amanda asked. She grabbed bag and shoulder it back on.

“We’re going to climb,” Noora grinned. She held a grappling hook in hand. “Looks like only a forty foot climb, which is totally manageable. Glad I brought gear.”

“We’re going to climb that,” Amanda said, pointing at the ice wall. It looked pretty smooth to her.

“Sure! I have ice picks and safety harnesses to go with the rope. If you don’t think you can handle it, I’ll climb up and then I can hoist you up with a rope.”

“I’ll climb,” Amanda said. The only thing she could imagine being worse than climbing the wall was being jerkily hauled up the side where she’d be smacked and scraped against the ice. “Though I’ve never done this before.”

“That’s okay. I’m practically an expert.”

To Amanda’s relief Noora had two safety harnesses in her gear. Noora having spare harnesses seemed suspiciously safety conscious to Amanda and it turned out the gym leader normally went rock climbing with a friend. Whoever her friend was had to be a pretty big, as Amanda could slip through one of the leg holes before she adjusted it to her size. As soon as she was safely fastened into her harness, Noora clipped two carabineers onto the front, which were tied to a rope.

“We don’t exactly have the time for a proper lesson on climbing, and I wouldn’t know where to begin teaching one, but at least we don’t have to climb very far. Just remember, never ever unclip both carabineers from the harness at the same time,” Noora said. She demonstrated how to lock one of the carabineers. “Before you go to take one off, you make certain the other one is properly locked like this, okay? Otherwise you might fall without a rope and if you do it just right, you’ll go bouncing down the side of the mountain.”

“Am I going to have to do a lot of clipping and unclipping?” Amanda asked unenthusiastically. Perhaps it’d be better for Noora to just haul her up.

“For forty feet when you don’t know what you’re doing? Naw, I’ll secure the rope at my end as we climb. Should be just fine,” Noora said. “You just focus on your footholds and I’ll do the rest.”

Amanda honestly had no idea what Noora was doing on the wall. She took photos of Noora climbing until she was far enough up that Amanda was expected to start as well. Up close she could see that the wall was far more ripped than it looked from a distance, just like a flowing waterfall naturally was, but that didn’t make it any easier for her to climb it. Her feet had serious issues gaining any purchase, but occasionally they would get stuck in the icy ridges. Occasionally, Noora had to pull her up a few inches when she couldn’t reach the next holds in the ice, but overall Amanda climbed the wall on her own. By the time she reached the top of the wall and Noora helped her away from the edge Amanda was sweaty and exhausted.

“There’s… more than enough room here… for us to have flown,” she panted.

“Sorry, I didn’t know,” Noora said, “and I wasn’t about to potentially climb this wall two or three times just to check. Look on the bright side, I think we’re almost at the summit.”

Looking up, Amanda was certain Noora was right. There was a low sloping path through the trees that seemed to lead to a clearing. She couldn’t see any more mountain piercing up into the sky. More importantly, she suddenly realized the hail had stopped and, oddly enough, it seemed warmer up here than it had a mere fifty feet below. Maybe there was some sort of atmosphere bubble up here making this place surprisingly pleasant or maybe she was just overheated from the climb.

“Then let’s go check it out,” Amanda said.

She scrambled to her feet and offered Noora a hand up, which she took. Together they walked up the last of the path to the clearing. It was a surprisingly wide space that looked a little like the top of the mountain had been cleaved off some time back. The entire floor of the clearing was also covered in thick lichen. It would have been breath taking on its own, but what lay in the center of the clearing stopped both women in their tracks.

A massive green serpentine dragon lay in a heap. Its body was decorated with golden circles and the occasional flipper, but it was otherwise an expanse of green scale. Its massive head seemed to be embedded in the lichen and, from what Amanda could see, multiple horns grew out of the spot where the head connected to the rest of the body. Most of them were short jagged things, which suggested they had once been much longer.

Amanda had no idea what that thing was, but she couldn’t take her eyes off it. Before she knew it, her camera was in hand and she was back to doing what she did best, snapping photos. When she decided to take a panoramic shot of the entire scene she noticed the dragon gym leader was still frozen beside her with her jaw hanging open.

“Noora?”

That seemed to snap her out of it, at least enough to shut her jaw. Still, Noora couldn’t tear her eyes away from the beast. In whispered reverence she breathed, “Rayquaza.”

“Rayquaza?” Amanda asked in near disbelief.

Rayquaza was a myth. The unconquerable primal master of the sky, this ancient dragon ended the unending feud between Groudon and Kyogre, the very forces of land and sea itself, before they destroyed the world. After quelling their anger, Rayquaza had ascended into the sky and lived forever more among the stars subsisting on nothing but dew and particles as it protected the earth below.

The legend didn’t even make sense. Nothing of Rayquaza’s described size and might could possibly survive on the insisted diet. Nor could a beast live in the sky and with the stars, though perhaps that was more an indication of the lack of scientific rigor in ancient timey astronomy—people had once thought stars were embedded in the sky, which would mean anything living in the atmosphere would be surrounded by them. It was unthinkable, but Amanda couldn’t deny the sight before her. Here lay a creature matching Rayquaza’s general description.

Noora ran to Rayquaza’s side and knelt beside it. She gently lifted its massive head out of the lichen and rested the Rayquaza’s jaw on her knee. Rayquaza made a guttural groan, which was only a ghost of the eardrum splitting roar the pokémon was fabled to have. She gently petted Rayquaza’s forehead while making soothing noises. After a little while Rayquaza opened a golden eye and ran a thin pink tongue along its red lined mouth.

Amanda slowly inched toward Noora and the Rayquaza photographing everything. It was awe inspiring to be in the presence of such a magnificent dragon and more than a little terrifying. She hoped that if the stories were wrong and Rayquaza did eat more than just dew and particles—like human flesh—that Noora would be enough to fill its belly, though it didn’t seem particularly interested in doing so at the moment. She couldn’t believe she was capturing any of this encounter on film; it had to be brilliantly vivid footage, but honestly, the recording couldn’t possibly capture the deeply spiritual feeling of experiencing this live.

‘Help me,’ came a whisper from every direction. Amanda looked around trying to determine the source. ‘Please help me.’

“What can I do to help?” Noora asked, staring intently into the Rayquaza’s eye.

Amanda was startled Noora had heard the voice. It was so soft she could barely hear it and Noora was still a noticeable distance from her. When the voice sounded again she realized it wasn’t an actual voice, but telepathy from the weakened Rayquaza.

‘Meteorite… I need… to eat…’ The Rayquaza closed its eye and let out a long shuddering sigh that left its body spamming.

“Where am I supposed to find that?” Noora demanded frantically. “It’s not like they just fall out of the sky willy-nilly.”

“Except that’s literally how we get meteorites,” Amanda said. “Wasn’t there a meteor shower a few days ago? Surely some of it made its way through the atmosphere and survived the landing.”

She looked around the clearing. She didn’t see any rocks or other debris that could have recently fallen from space. Still, Amanda didn’t give up and kept thinking. The whole place had seemed unnatural to her from the start, like the entire top of the mountain had been ripped off at some time primordial. Perhaps an asteroid had knocked it off eons ago and there were still bits of space rock left here under the lichen.

Not ready to give up this new hypothesis—after all, Rayquaza had to have crash-landed here for a reason—Amanda dug into the lichen at her feet. Her hand just kept going further and further down until she was in the plant life past her elbow. Worried she would run out of arm soon, Amanda was relieved to feel her fingers graze solid rock. Her fingers scrabbled along the surface until her closed around a fist-sized piece. When she pulled, it came free.

It was heavy, but with a bit of work Amanda pulled the rock out of the lichen. She brushed lichen bits from the rock revealing a mostly grey pockmarked lump with small patches of red on the surface. That had to be oxidized iron. She was no expert in geology, but Amanda was willing to bet this was a meteorite.

“Here!” Amanda shouted, running over to Noora and the felled Rayquaza. She handed the meteorite off to Noora, unwilling to put her own hand so near the dragon’s mouth.

Luckily Noora had no such compunction. She shoved the meteorite into Rayquaza’s mouth and down its gullet. Rayquaza’s eyes widened and the rest of its long body thrashed around. Eventually the pokémon swallowed. Amanda could see the lump of meteorite travel down Rayquaza’s throat until it passed its chest plate. Rayquaza panted heavily, but lifted its head unaided.

‘More!’ Rayquaza demanded in a much stronger voice. ‘I need more!’

“Where did you find that meteorite?” Noora asked.

“I dug. There’s meteorite under the lichen,” Amanda said.

Noora burrowed into the lichen, ripping hunks of plant matter and hurling it over her shoulders as she searched for the meteorite underneath. Half her body had disappeared into the hole when she shouted in triumph. Amanda crouched down beside the hole and looked in to see Noora had her hands on a large hunk of meteorite. It looked to be the size of her chest. The gym leader strained trying to lift it.

“Help me get it up. This thing is heavy,” Noora grunted. Amanda reached down to assist her, but she was at a bad angle and couldn’t reach far enough into the hole to touch the meteorite. They’d have to rearrange things.

Ultimately they ended up having to widen the hole and both climb into it in order to get the leverage they needed. On the count of three Amanda and Noora hoisted the meteorite up out of the hole and set it down the lichen surface. The lichen sagged, ripped, and for a moment Amanda thought the rock would tear all the way through the plant material, but it held.

Rayquaza leaned down and bit into the meteorite. Sparks flew as its teeth tore through the iron and rock, but that only seemed to make the dragon eat faster. By the time there were only crumbs left of the meteorite, Rayquaza was practically hoovering up the fragments. When it finished, Rayquaza stretched and rattled its scales. Then Rayquaza roared and burst into purple energy, which blew away to leave a much larger serpent with fully re-grown horns and long flowing golden whiskers.

‘Thank you, Noora, for heeding my call,’ Rayquaza boomed inside their heads. ‘I had weakened soaring through arctic skies when I was hit by a rocket. Fearing it was a mortal blow, I went in search of a restorative, what you call meteorites. When I landed here I was too weak to reach the meteorites buried below.’

‘It’s an honor to have helped you, Rayquaza,” Noora said, staring up at the legendary dragon.

“I helped too,” Amanda grumbled, though she felt petty even as she voiced her opinion.

‘True,’ Rayquaza growled, turned toward her. Amanda was frozen in fear, worried it had decided to eat her after all, but instead Rayquaza briefly pressed its forehead to hers before repeating the gesture to Noora. ‘You are both a credit to your species.’

Then Rayquaza looked skyward. A current of air formed around the dragon and the gold circles along Rayquaza’s body glowed. With another roar Rayquaza soared into the night, corkscrewing as it rose. Both women watched as Rayquaza’s form became smaller and smaller until it was just a dot, and then it was gone.

“That was dragon ascent,” Noora said, still staring up into the sky where they last saw Rayquaza. “I never thought I’d see that move in my lifetime.”

“Yeah?” Amanda laughed. She looked down and noticed a green stone in Noora’s hands. “Hey, what’s that?”

Noora looked down and nearly dropped the stone in surprise. Fumbling, she swore and pulled the sphere to her chest.

“Seriously, what is it?” Amanda repeated.

“It’s the Jade Orb,” Noora explained. “Legend states that if you have it—that is, the real Jade Orb—you can meet Rayquaza. Or perhaps in our case, meet Rayquaza again.”

“I’ve never heard that legend before.”

“You aren’t a dragon gym leader who has spent years specializing in the field either.”

“Touché.”

Amanda looked around the clearing. It was a lot darker now that Rayquaza was gone and the hail had started up again. She shivered and regretted being on the top of a mountain after dark. “I guess we should start the climb down. Damn, I didn’t get any photos of Rayquaza after it woke up and… I dunno, was that another mega evolution?”

“It was and it had to be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Noora laughed. She pulled a pokéball off her belt and released a dragonair. “Come on, let’s fly back down to Fort Providence. It’s not like we have to worry about the landing.”

Amanda climbed onto the dragonair’s back and Noora slid on behind her. With a single command the dragonair floated up, soared forward, and then started a slow descent toward the lighted city far below. Amanda pulled out her camera and took a few aerial photos before safely stowing it back in her bag. After all the photos she had taken, there was no way she wanted to damage her last camera. To her surprise Noora pulled out her phone and took a selfie of the pair of them.

“What? Maybe I want some photos from today as well,” Noora said when Amanda turned and looked at her.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Well, you were thinking something.”

“Right.”

They rode the rest of the way to Fort Providence in silence. Amanda vaguely wondered if she ought to ask Noora for her number. After what they had just experienced, it seemed like they ought to keep in touch. At least, she’d like to see Noora again. When they landed Noora recalled her dragonair and they stood awkwardly in front of a Pokécenter.

“Bet you got enough photos for that article,” Noora said.

“Yeah. Pokémon Geographic is gonna flip when they see the Rayquaza photos,” Amanda said. “Or maybe I should keep those photos to myself; it’s not like I want to start a massive hunt for that poor dragon. Ugg, this is going to be a dilemma; I almost wish I had stuck to my guns refused to do anymore people shoots like I swore after the Julie Chu exposé.”

“But you don’t regret going on this adventure?”

“No.”

“And what do you think about dragon pokémon now?”

“I had always thought they were overhyped. Until fairy type was discovered a couple years ago—and how the heck did they overlook that for so long—they were absurdly overpowered; almost unbeatable.” Amanda scratched the back of her head. “I guess I’m coming round to them now.”

“Good,” Noora said. She pulled off her backpack and dug around. “I’m keeping the Jade Orb, but I’ll give you something else to remember our journey.”

Noora pulled out a large blue-grey egg and handed it over. Amanda was so surprised she nearly refused to take it, but Noora was persistent.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” Amanda demanded.

“Hatch it,” Noora grinned. “I’ve been carrying it around for a while, was planning to raise the thing myself, but I want you to have it now. Come look me up in Yellowknife when it hatches and I’ll teach you how to train a dragon pokémon.”

“What even is it?”

“Consider it a mystery. But I promise it will have great stats; it came from one of my dragons after all.” Noora winked at her. “I’m gonna wonder if I don’t see you within a couple of weeks.”

“Fine, I’ll be seeing you then,” Amanda promised.

Somehow in less than a day she had tripled her potential pokémon total, seen a legendary dragon, taken Pulitzer Prize winning quality photos, and set up future private dragon training lessons. She had no idea what kind of dragon was in this egg, but as Amanda watched Noora stroll away she couldn’t wait to find out.

Chapter Text

If you were interested in the past, the Burgess Shale was the place to be. Marco wasn’t interested in that, but he liked his pokémon like he liked his cars—flashy and fast—and the Burgess Shale was also supposed to have some of the coolest pokémon around. However, all he’d found so far was a bunch of rocks.

With a groan Marco flopped on the dirt. His friend Jared didn’t even bother glancing up from her work. At least, not until Marco flicked several pebbles at his back. Even then it was simply an irritated glance in Marco’s direction.

“Where are all the flashy pokémon, Spurge?” Marco whined. “That professor swore we’d find gobs of pokémon if we came on this dig.”

“We have found gobs of pokémon, Scandi,” Jared replied.

“When?” Marco demanded, sitting up.

Jared gestured at the display of tagged rocks sitting in front of them. Some have some weird dents in them that almost looked like patterns, and one was rather cylinder shaped, but they mostly just looked like rocks. Marco rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue in disgust, which earned a similar reaction from Jared.

“If you had bothered to stay awake in class, you’d know that the Burgess Shale is full of fossilized pokémon. These are pokémon fossils, dude.”

“But I was promised flashy pokémon; these aren’t flashy!”

“They’re flashy when they’re brought back to life. That’s the whole point of this research—find extinct pokémon fossils and revived them so that they can be studied in present day,” Jared patiently explained. “Professor Gáborík also reiterated this when we got to the dig site after signing up for this project as well as mentioning this every week in class for the entire semester. How did you miss all this basic information?”

“I’ve had a lot of stuff on my mind, Spurge,” Marco said defensively. “Don’t judge me.”

“I wasn’t going to,” Jared replied. He turned back to his work and picked up his brush again. “I’ve gotta get back to work, Scandi.”

“Fine,” Marco whined, rolling on the ground. “I’ll suffer and then die of boredom on my own.”

“Stop being so over dramatic. The work isn’t that bad and the I’d say the season bonus is worth it.”

“What’s the bonus?” Marco asked, sitting up.

“Each member of the team gets to revive one pokémon from the fossils,” Jared explained. “It’s an incentive to do a good job, since Professor Gáborík gets to decide if you’ve produced enough good fossils to keep a fossil intact enough for the revitalization process. Considering the fact the Burgess Shale Formation is chock full of 508 million year old fossils, it seems reasonable to expect a summer’s worth of hard work to produce enough.”

“Oh dude, that’s awesome!” Marco exclaimed. “Do you know what you want?”

“I was thinking maybe a cranidos or a lileep, but I’ve got all summer to figure that out,” Jared shrugged. “Ready to get back to work?”

“Heck yeah!” Marco laughed. “Let’s get back to work!”

To both men’s surprise, Marco stayed focused on the work for most of the summer. It helped the team quickly realized Marco wasn’t meant for intricate detail work and quickly put him on running packages or the initial digging that required picks and muscle. He even got to do a little work with explosives, but that was only under Professor Gáborík’s supervision—and he kept them under lock and key so Marco couldn’t practice on his own. Marco was surprised to find he seriously enjoyed the work. It wasn’t anything he wanted to dedicate his life to, but he was certain he’d always look back on this summer with fondness; especially when he played with his flashy fancy fossil pokémon.

Really, there was only one true downside to the dig. Well, okay there were two Marco had to admit, but he had an unlimited data plan with hotspot ability, so the lack of WiFi wasn’t a big deal for him. No, the big problem was Steve Ott. To most of the crew Ott was perfectly pleasant—perhaps a little smarmy, but not unbearably so—but everything he did drove Marco up the wall. He was too perfect and made a point of pointing out everything Marco did wrong, which tended to be everything when Ott was around. It left Marco on the defensive a lot, which wasn’t his style at all.

At least the dig was almost over now and Marco would never have to deal with Ott or his stupid masters in archeology ever again. Jared told Marco he was making mountains out of molehills, but he wasn’t the one getting everything he did corrected by that guy. Until he went through something similar he’d never get it.

“Can you at least play nice for a little longer?” Jared hissed as they changed into clean clothes in their tent.

Today had been the last day of the dig and Professor Gáborík was throwing a party for the crew. It was being held in the lab, the only actual building on site, since they’d spent the day packing up all the tools and samples. Tomorrow everything would be loaded up into the university trucks and hauled away, but tonight they could play.

Unfortunately, outside of halfway decent booze, these academics didn’t know how to party. Marco couldn’t get any dancing or karaoke going and the only thing anyone seemed to want to talk about was paleontology. At least he was able to get a decent buzz going and when the conversation finally turned to their future fossil pokémon he could participate. Everyone was happy to share first and second picks and listen to what the others wanted. Most people wanted tyrunt, since it was essentially a tiny dragon tyrannosaurus, though one person wanted a shieldon to be like Julie Chu. Marco talked with almost every member of the dig and as far as he could tell, he was the only one who wanted aerodactyl.

“It’s gonna be so epic when I finally get my aerodactyl,” Marco gushed. “I’ll fly everywhere on my grey pterosaur, unless I get lucky and it turns out to be a shiny pink one, and teach him ice fang. My cousin says he can hook me up with some aerodactylite so I can mega evolve him.”

“I’m happy for you man,” Jared said, patting his back. “It’s clear you put a lot of thought and hard work into making your decision.”

“I really have,” Marco agreed. They might have said more, but Professor Gáborík was tapping his fork against his beer can to draw everyone’s attention.

“Alright guys and gals, now’s the time you’ve all been waiting for,” Professor Gáborík’s said. He gestured at a tabled covered with fossils. “Everyone may pick one fossil from this table to take home. In my experience, all of these fossils are in good enough condition to produce a single revived pokémon. Choose wisely.”

Everyone rushed to the table. Marco was at the far end of the room and ended up at the back of the rush. He could see the fossils on the table, but couldn’t get close enough to reach any of them. Eventually the crowd thinned as the fossils were scooped up and he finally reached the table. Marco eagerly scanned what remained in hopes of finding an aerodactyl fossil. Professor Gáborík promised there’d be at least one out for him. However, nothing looked particularly pterodactyl-like to him.

“Hey, does anyone see any aerodactyl fossils on the table?” Marco asked. Jared and a few of their friends started scanning for one on his behalf.

“Oh, you mean like this?” Ott asked, picking up a teardrop of old amber that had been half under a shell. “Sorry, Scandi, but this appears to be the last one. I’d happily give it to you, but I promised my baby cousin one and I can’t disappoint it. Better luck next time.”

Marco suppressed a frustrated growl. Ott knew he wanted the aerodactyl fossil, Marco had been talking about it for days, and yet he never mentioned also needing one. He was certain Ott made up this totally BS reason at the last second just so that he could screw him out of his first choice fossil. Still, he had to be an adult about the situation and pretend the situation was okay. He wouldn’t get any fossil if he caused a fuss.

He scoured the table a second time before checking with Professor Gáborík to confirm there had only been one piece of old amber. Glumly, Marco leaned heavily on the table and looked over the slim pickings for a suitable replacement. He had been so sure he’d get his first choice he never bothered designating a second one.

“Why don’t you take this?” Jared offered, poking Marco in the shoulder with a slate blue rock. Marco plucked it out of his hand and turned it over, noting it appeared to be a perfectly preserved feather. “It’s a plume fossil. You can get an archen from it.”

“Why would I want that?” Marco asked. “Isn’t it a tiny bird pokémon? Why would I want to downgrade from an awesome pterodactyl to a chicken?”

“Dude, don’t knock archen! It’s the flashiest fossil pokémon around.”
“You promise?”

“Scandi, it’s a mishmash mess of primary colors that looks like something my three-year-old colored. I promise you there isn’t a flashier flier in your pokédex,” Jared continued. “As cool as aerodactyl is, it’s all grey, which isn’t remotely eye catching. You’ll be much happier with archen.”

“Okay, I’m convinced,” Marco laughed, pocketing plume fossil.

The next day they finished tearing down camp and went home. Back at the university Professor Gáborík introduced Marco and Jared to the pokémon restoration lab. They weren’t allowed inside due to patenting law and sterilization procedures, which Marco thought was BS, but after several hours of waiting in the lab’s anti-chamber turned lobby, they were gifted with new pokéballs.

Marco had his new pokémon out of its ball in an instant. A bird slightly larger than a chicken appeared, but it was even more brilliant than Marco had hoped. However, instead of the primary color disaster he had been lead to believe he’d get, this archen was yellow, orange, and lime green. Naturally, Marco felt a little confused seeing his new photo, since this archen didn’t look particularly like any of the birds he had seen with a Google search on his phone.

“What the heck’s going on which this archen?” Marco asked

“Oh, congratulations, you got a shiny archen,” Professor Gáborík said excitedly. “Those are extremely rare!”

“Oh cool,” Marco said and smirked, thinking about Ott’s reaction to his new pokémon. “I guess I’ll name you Tweety Bird.”

Tweety squawked and flapped his wings. Jared rolled his eyes, so Marco demanded to know what Jared was naming his pokémon. In response, Jared sent out his resurrected pokémon. It was a blue long necked sauropod pokémon with massive white eyebrows that looked like sails. Jared bent down and petted the amaura’s head.

“This is Noah,” Jared said. “I ended up picking him because they’re a peaceful species and supposedly good with kids.”

“Noah,” Marco scoffed. “That’s a person name. You can’t give pokémon people names. That’s just silly! Isn’t that right, Tweety?”

“Arrack!” Tweety squawked, flapping its wings. Yeah, his pokémon totally agreed with him. As Marco picked his bird up he knew this was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Obviously, Marco wanted to take his new buddy everywhere on his shoulder in style. Tweety was too gorgeous not to be on display. However, unexpected complications quickly arose. For one thing, Tweety Bird absolutely shredded the shoulders of all of Marco’s t-shirts with his big raptor claws. They went through them like tissue paper and Marco soon found himself wearing a leather jacket at all times to keep the pokémon from turning his shoulder into hamburger. Tweety also had an unfortunate habit of pooping whenever he felt like it, which left a semi-permanent stain down Marco’s back. At least he liked being called a pirate.

Tweety also had a lot of weaknesses to weather related issues. Rain, hail, and lightning all did his little buddy in and the poor bird was also weak to rock and steel moves. The worst part though was that Tweety had an uncanny ability to suddenly go from being okay to horribly weakened when his health was significantly weakened. Marco looked into this issue and eventually found out that it was an innate ability called defeatist and it was the signature ability of archen and its evolution. After learning this Marco finally understood why his pretty bird had gone extinct in the first place.

So ultimately Tweety was a fragile pretty boy. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but all pokémon had their weaknesses and this one flashed the fanciest feathers Marco had ever seen when he grooved out to Marco’s mixes. Indeed, as soon as he was back on campus Marco quickly incorporated Tweety into his DJ Mystify persona and he loved watching the little bird dance around his records as he dropped hot beats. He was fairly certain he could teach Tweety to break dance, since he’d already seen the bird stand on its head and do other acrobatics.

Perhaps the most surprising perk about Tweety was that Marco’s grades went up. He had never had the greatest of attention spans and Tweety did a great job entertaining him briefly when he got stumped on his homework. Unlike past distractions, the archen would dance or sing for a few minutes and then direct his attention back to his assignment so that he couldn’t get lost in a several hour TV binge or spend the night dancing at a club. Marco turned almost all of his assignments turned in on time and even finished the semester with a 3.0 GPA, the highest he’d ever received. Even better was that he seemed to be on track to do the same spring semester.

One night just after spring break Marco and Jared were walking to the latter’s house after an evening class when a torrential downpour unexpectedly hit them. They took shelter under an awning with another fellow, hoping it would soon let up. After politely ignoring him for several minutes as they made minimal chit chat, he spoke. That was when Marco realized he knew him.

“Weren’t you kids on Professor Gáborík’s dig?” Ott asked. He jabbed a finger in Marco’s face. “I remember you, you were the one who wanted an aerodactyl.”

“And you took the only one,” Marco replied testily. “How did your cousin like it?”

“Turned out he had already gotten one for his birthday,” Ott shrugged. “What did you end up with instead? A kabuto?”

“Hardly,” Marco grinned. He glanced up at the awning for leaks before deciding it was safe to release Tweety from his pokéball. This was finally his chance to show this smug grad student up for once. Tweety appeared and flapped his beautiful shiny colored wings before landing on Marco’s shoulders. “I got my archen, Tweety, instead. We make an amazing team.”

“He’s a shiny,” Ott said, staring at the pokémon. “Look, I’ll do you a favor. I know how much you wanted an aerodactyl, your own rideable pterosaur, right? You had a moveset picked out and everything. I will trade you my aerodactyl, Butch, for your archen. Deal?”

“Absolutely not,” Jared cut in. Marco was a little alarmed to realize his best bud was furious. “You took that old amber fossil specifically to mess with Marco. Now that you realize he found a diamond in the rough you’re going to try and sucker him out of that? Tweet is exactly what he needed to get his life on track and you are not taking that away from him. Come on, Scandi, we’re leaving. I don’t associate with coprolite unless it’s fossilized.”

With that Jared grabbed Marco by the arm and hauled him out into the rain away from Ott. Tweety squawked in protest and it took Marco several tries to successfully recall his pokémon as Jared continued to drag him. Once they cleared the block Jared slowed their pace and they momentarily paused in a different building’s doorway.

“Dang, Spurge, I wasn’t expecting such a sick burn from you,” Marco laughed, lightly punching his buddy in the shoulder. Jared grinned and shrugged. “You rock!”

“I remember what he did to you this summer, which was unprofessional, but I wrote it off at the time, since it’s not like you’re going into paleontology as a career. Figured you’d never have to deal with him again,” Jared explained. “But I couldn’t let him pull that crap on you again and I got so mad that he even tried. Hope he fails his dissertation.”

“Totally,” Marco agreed.

“As cool as it was walking out on him, I got us both soaked. Want to run home with me now? I bet Dani’ll have towels waiting for us along with dinner,” Jared said, referring to his wife.

“Gotta be better than standing here shivering while waiting for the rain to let up,” Marco agreed. He took off running, shouting over his shoulder, “Last one there’s a rotten gloom!”

With that Jared raced after him. The men ran all the way to Jared’s house at a neck and neck pace, but neither one won because they tripped over some toys in the front lawn, which turned things into a wrestling match. In the end Dani had to shout at them to come inside before they totally wrecked the grass and they sheepishly filed inside. Jared’s predictions were both proven to be correct and Marco not only managed to dry himself off, but Tweety as well. Then over dinner Marco was able to regale the entire Spurgeon family with the story of their walk home. All told, it was the perfect way to end his day. Not due to getting one over on Ott—though Marco had to admit that was nice—but because he was reminded that he had the best of friends.

Chapter Text

“So this is Hawaii,” Jocelyne said.

“Seems to be,” Monique agreed.

“Hmm,” Jocelyne sniffed, looking around. “Let’s hope it looks better further away from the airport.”

“I’m sure it’ll be lots better at the hotel. Shake a leg, let’s go.”

By the time they reached their lodgings, both women were sweaty and out of sorts. It wasn’t that they were out of shape—that was the last thing that could be said about either Lamoureux—but that the weather wasn’t a great fit for them. They could handle the heat, but it was devastatingly humid. Monique found herself pinching her arm and being vaguely surprised there wasn’t a gush of water seeping out of her skin. She felt like an overly full sponge and from the way Jocelyne was grumbling, she felt the same.

“Who knew a tropical island would be so moist?” Monique joked once they were in their room and the air conditioning was on full power.

“I hope we get used to it. Otherwise this’ll be a miserable two-week vacation,” Jocelyne said as she flopped onto her bed. “The whole point of this trip was to stop feeling bad about ourselves.”

“I know,” Monique agreed. She fell onto her own bed and looked at her sister, but Jocelyne rolled away to stare out the window. “Is sucks the gym threw us out.”

“You mean, threw me out. You didn’t have to quit in protest.”

“Of course I did! You’re my sister, my twin. We’re a package deal. Besides, it’s absurd a fighting gym threw us out for fighting. I mean, that’s literally what they’re all about, right?”

“Right,” Jocelyne agreed, but she didn’t sound convinced. Monique sighed and considered suggesting they nap, neither one had ever been able to sleep well on a plane, but Jocelyne suddenly sat up and moved to the window. “Mo, I think I see a sharpedo fin in the bay!”

“Really?” Monique asked, eagerly joining her. Jocelyne was right; she could see a fin lazily circling around the bay just outside their hotel. Any thought of sleeping off her jet leg was immediately banished as she excitedly grinned at her sister. “Looks like there’s only one sharpedo out there. What do you say we try to catch it?”

“What, are you feeling a little constrained by our pure fighting type teams?” Jocelyne grinned. Before Monique could argue against that she added, “It’s probably a good idea, actually. I’m sick of getting my butt handed to me by flying and psychic types. Don’t you feel the same?”

“I guess?” Monique said, but she hadn’t run into that problem. Her hitmonchan, Jackie, knew thunder punch and thief, which solved most type difficulties. Unfortunately Jocelyne’s hitmonlee, Bruce, had a more specialized move set that completely revolved around kicking. If she thought Jocelyne would actually use it, she’d happily get her a technical machine with poison jab, earthquake, or rock slide for Christmas.

“I don’t think there’s a special sharpedo variant in Hawaii, but I’ve never seen a wild one before. Let’s go check it out!” Jocelyne said, eagerly heading to the door. Monique had no choice, but to follow her.

By the time they reached the beach the sharpedo was gone. However, they found several sleepy pyukumuku and a sandygast instead. They briefly poked at the beached sea cucumber pokémon, but agreed they were too boring and ugly for either one of them to want to add any to their team. Jocelyne tried catching the sandygast, but Bruce’s moves had little effect on the pokémon and it soon fled the battle by melting into the very sand of the beach.

“Rats,” Jocelyne grumbled, but she didn’t seem that bummed about losing the pokémon. Battling always made her feel better—that was true for both of them, so Monique didn’t know why she hadn’t thought to try it sooner.

“Like you really wanted a sentient sand castle on your team,” Monique laughed. “Let’s see if we can’t find some badass local pokémon to add to our teams.”

They wandered around the area for an hour or so looking for more wild pokémon. Sticking mostly to the beach, on the grounds that they may as well enjoy the view as they hunted, the twins ran into more pyukumuku and a few yungoos. In some ways it might have made sense to capture the yungoos—they were a failed experimental imported to counter the rattata and raticate problem after those invasive species had been introduced, but had instead wrecked havoc on the native bird pokémon population by eating their eggs—but they had this nasty fluff of fake looking yellow fur over their foreheads that Monique couldn’t stand. They also saw a few pikipeks, but neither girl wanted to train one until it evolved into a toucannon.

“Do you want to keep looking?” Jocelyne asked after Bruce kicked yet another yungoos out into the sea. “I’m tired of these local pests and I’d rather nap or change into our swim suits. I can’t believe we forgot to do that before leaving the room.”

“Totally,” Monique agreed.

“Sure as I’m not wearing sleeves, you ladies can’t leave,” a voice warbled. As Monique turned around she caught sight of a young man flanked by two hot topic rejects blocking the path back to their hotel. “You haven’t paid the toll, so why don’t you do that before we’re all old? Like you!”

“Ohh!” hooted the lackeys. They squatted and flailed their arms for a moment and crossed them across their chests before resting their hands against their hips. Monique thought it had to be a salute; otherwise it didn’t make sense for all three of them to do something so stupid.

“Did that little punk just call us old?” Jocelyne asked

“I think he did, Joce,” Monique confirmed. Jocelyne grinned as Monique started cracking her knuckles. They had tried being respectable while they were official employees of a league-sanctioned gym, but old habits ran deep. Now that they were unemployed, Monique couldn’t see a single reason not to beat these punks into a pulp. After all, they had started it.

“Yo, yo, yo,” the lead punk said, holding up his hands and backing away as Monique advanced. “Don’t you want to know what the toll is?”

“Not particularly,” Monique said, raising her fist. He flinched.

“Dude, like aren’t we supposed to pokébattle, yo?” he yelped. “Or are those balls on your belt just decoration?”

Monique paused. He had a point. To be fair, now that she was legally an adult, she probably shouldn’t actually beat up teens, even if they were annoying. She looked over at Jocelyne, who was shaking one of the flunkies by an ankle. When they made eye contact Jocelyne shrugged and dropped the kid. If these punks wanted to fight with pokémon instead of fists, they were down with that. Jackie and Bruce would save Monique from busted knuckles.

“Fine, not like it’ll make much of a difference in the final outcome,” Monique said.

“If we win, we get your pokémon!” the leader added.

“My boy, Ryan!” one of the flunkies hooted. “Check these fools!”

“Does that mean we get whatever trash you dug up when we beat you bloody?” Jocelyne asked. She grinned at her sister. “This wasn’t quite how I imagined us adding to our collection, but maybe we could wonder trade their junk off for something interesting.”

“Not cool, brah,” Ryan said, clearly unnerved by Jocelyne’s musings.

“Either back your mouth up with your pokémon or get out of our way,” Monique snapped. “You’re wasting our vacation and we can’t abide punks who are all talk.”

“Fine!” Ryan snapped.

He threw a pokéball revealing a salandit. The toxic lizard hissed and lashed its tail. Monique raised an eyebrow. She was impressed. Sure, those things were endemic to Hawaii and were probably slithering over the rocks on this very island, but it looked wicked cool and she had expected this guy to just have a rattata or something. The others released their pokémon as well, revealing a drowzee and a raticate. The raticate was the Hawaiian variant and its cheeks were so puffy she was vaguely worried the pokémon was in the middle of an allergic reaction.

Still, her job wasn’t to worry about their pokémon, so Monique sent out Jackie. Jocelyne had Bruce out as well. There was just enough time for one of the lackeys to swear before their fighting pokémon sent their enemies flying. The punks stared in shock at the twins and then they ran away. Ryan was slower than the others, as his baggy pants slowly slid down his rear before completely falling down and tripping him. As soon as he scrambled back to his feet he pulled them back up and shouted at the women.

“You won’t get away with this!” Ryan shouted. “We’ll be back, Team Skull is hard as bone!”

Before either woman could respond to that Ryan ran off after his flunkies, clutching his pants to ensure they wouldn’t fall again. Monique turned to grin at her sister, but Jocelyne didn’t seem amused about their victory. She wasn’t sure what her problem was because beating up punks like this was their favorite childhood activity. This ought to put her in a good mood.

“Seriously, what’s your deal?” Monique demanded, elbowing Jocelyne in the side. “You used to love trashing pokémon thieves like that.”

“I still do, but you hear what he said, right? They’re part of Team Skull, whatever that is, which means we’ll probably be stuck squashing those snots for the rest of our vacation. Total downer.”

“Oh, I doubt it’ll be that bad.”

“We’ll see,” Jocelyne said.

It turned out Jocelyne was right. Over the next week Team Skull members kept popping up and challenging them to fights. It got bad enough that they couldn’t leave the hotel without battling through a sea of the little creeps. The worst part was that all these punks had the same weak, boring pokémon. Monique was so bored of facing the same three pokémon species, especially when they were critters she regularly saw back home. She’d kill to see another salandit, or heck, even something new, like a crabrawler or a rockruff. Monique was ready to start smashing Team Skull’s skulls.

In the end Jocelyne came up with an unexpected solution. She booked them a pair of seats on a tour bus that would take them out to see some of the endemic jungles on the island. Not only would they get to see some local wildlife, but it’d get them away from Team Skull; the teens all seemed to be urban punks. Monique couldn’t wait. From the way Jocelyne bounced in her seat, she knew she felt the same. As identical twins, it made sense they were interested in the same things.

As soon as they were allowed off the bus Monique and Jocelyne got as far away from the rest of the group as possible. They’d never find any wild pokémon if they stayed clumped together with twenty over tourists and, since their disastrous attempt on the first day, it had been a mission for the pair to each catch a cool pokémon before they left Hawaii.

“Think we’re far enough out we can start searching?” Jocelyne asked after the sound of the other humans had died away.

“Naw, we need to go a little further,” Monique replied. She pointed at a particularly dense looking thicket. “Let’s go through that and then start looking.”

Since Monique had picked the direction, Jocelyne lead the way. This sort of sharing had been essential to their relationship dating back to when they were in diapers. It was how they had stayed equals in a united front against their older brothers instead of devolving into bitter infighting. So when Jocelyne suddenly disappeared when she stepped into the thicket, Monique was scared for her other half.

“Joce!” Monique shouted, rushing to the edge of the thicket. When she bent down and pushed away the bushes, she was horrified to find a steep drop off on the other side of the bush.

Looking over the cliff she spotted her sister lying on a pile of half submerged mossy rocks. Her eyes were shut and she wasn’t moving. It was about a twenty-foot drop and Monique didn’t see any easy way down, so she grabbed onto a thick tree root coming out of the cliff and slowly slid down the side. As soon as she reached Jocelyne’s side, she bent down and ran her fingers through her hair, feeling for any damage.

“Joce? Jocey, speak to me,” Monique said. She’d try to shake her awake, but she was scared that might jar her neck, hurting her further.

“Hey Mo,” Jocelyne groaned. She started to sit up, but Monique halted her movements. “I think I hit my head.”

“Yeah, you’ve got a serious bump forming on the back of your head. I’m going to feel along your spine, okay? If you’re hurt, I don’t want you moving.”

“Last thing I need going home is a debilitating injury,” Jocelyne laughed bitterly. “That’ll make it real easy to find another job.”

Monique’s chest hurt, but she didn’t say anything as she felt along Jocelyne’s spine. The good thing about heir rough and tumble lifestyle full of contact sports and martial arts was that they had learned how to check for injuries. Jocelyne patiently waited through the examination and seemed to be okay, though a concussion might not show up for a while yet. Still, Monique felt incredibly guilty about the fall. Not only had she sent her sister off that cliff, but this whole stupid trip had been her idea in the first place. Rejection hurt and she just wanted to get their minds off being kicked out of their old gym, but ever since they arrived in Hawaii they had been harassed by Team Skull and unable to accomplish anything. It left her feeling worse than she had at home.

“I think you’re okay, but we’re gonna go slow getting back to the road.”

“Sounds good. I can already feel the bruises forming on my butt,” Jocelyne laughed. “Maybe I should get Bruce to carry me up.”

“That’s… actually a great idea. Guess that means your brain’s still functioning,” Monique said. Jocelyne slapped Monique’s shoulder, but she seemed to be in a good mood. Monique’s mood was certainly improving as well. That tended to happen whenever they escaped serious injury after a bad scare.

Before either woman could release their pokémon for assistance, a howling scream split the air. A dozen passimian leaped into the clearing and moved threateningly toward the women, only stopping at the water’s edge. They must have landed in the passimians’ watering hole and the troop was not happy about this. A particularly large passimian threw a coconut at them and this triggered the rest of the troop to pelt them with berries. Being hit with one or two berries wasn’t painful, but dozens hurled with pinpoint accuracy, and the occasional coconut, was a different matter.

“Jackie, target the leader, sky uppercut!” Monique shouted as she hurled her pokéball straight at the lead passimian.

The pokéball hit the passimian in the face, bounced off and released her hitmonchan. Jackie had clearly heard the command, as he drove his fist straight into the passimian’s jaw, and sent the pokémon flying. This move scattered the rest of the troop, but the leader was back on his feet in a moment. He beat his chest, howled, and smashed a rock onto Jackie’s head. Jackie swayed, but remained upright.

“Thunder punch!” Monique shouted.

Sparks crackled along Jackie’s fist as he drove it into the passimian’s chest lightning fast. The lemur’s body shook slightly and Monique could see sparks crackling along the pokémon’s body. Jackie had paralyzed him. Since the passimian wasn’t moving, but she could still see revenge in his eye, Monique had Jackie deliver another thunder punch. Barely hanging on, the passimian struggled to his feet.

Monique dug around in her fanny pack, looking for one of the spare balls she had brought along for the hunt. Her fingers closed over a familiar cool globe. Without looking at it, she hurled the ball straight at the passimian. For the second time that day, she hit the passimian in the face with a ball. It sucked the pokémon inside, shook once, twice, thrice, and clicked. Monique had caught the leader passimian.

This caused the rest of the troop fled into the jungle. None of them wanted to tangle with these scary humans or their hitmonchan. It was a pity really, Monique decided as she rose and retrieved her new pokémon. She was fairly certain Jocelyne would have liked a passimian as well. If she remembered correctly, passimian were not only teamwork pokémon, but fighting type as well.

“Blast, I used my friend ball,” Monique said, looking at the green ball holding her pokémon. It was a rare type of pokéball she had meant to bring back as a souvenir.

“At least you caught the passimian, instead of it breaking out,” Jocelyne said. She stretched and groaned before climbing to her feet. “Though it’s just my luck you’re the one to get the new companion. Come on, let’s get a move on. I want to find the gentle sloping path back to the road.”

“No rock climbing for you?”

“Not today.”

Hand in hand they slowly made their way into the foliage looking for a safe path. This time, fully mindful of potential dangers, they carefully checked before moving into any area that wasn’t fully visible. It was actually quite nice out and the women found themselves enjoying the walk. After all, they were supposed to be exploring this chunk of the jungle and they couldn’t possibly be that far from the rest of the group. They’d eventually make their way back. Besides, Monique couldn’t imagine the tour bus leaving without the both of them.

As they wandered the pair chatted about Monique’s new pokémon. Most of their questions couldn’t easily be resolved at the moment, since neither had a pokédex, but Jocelyne swore she’d look them up as soon as they had an Internet connection again. They weren’t that deep in the jungle, but it was enough to put them out of range of any cell towers. After a spirited discussion, Monique decided to name her passimian Julian after the lemur king from that movie series, in honor of his former position in his troop.

“Hey, is it just me, or are we lost?” Jocelyne suddenly asked. Monique came to a halt beside her. “The trees seem a lot denser than they were and I’m pretty certain we should have run into the road by now if we’d been going in the right direction.”

“I think you’re right,” Monique agreed, feeling her heart sink into her gut. “Shit.”

“If we turn around now, I’m sure we can find our way back to the cliff,” Jocelyne said. “We haven’t wandered for that long and left a trail of broken leaves and branches that we could totally follow.”

“Definitely.”

“Perfect example right here,” Jocelyne continued, smacking her hand against a nearby tree that they had accidentally broken a few small branches off. The tree shook and swayed from her actions before something large, purple, and white fell out of it.

“Guru!” The pokémon shook and slowly rose so that it was leaning on its hands and feet. Belatedly, Monique realized it was an oranguru. Clearly, it was not happy Jocelyne had knocked it out of the tree.

“I think you’ll have to deal with this, Joce,” Monique said, stepping back. Still, she placed a hand on Jackie’s pokéball, ready to step in if her sister was too out of it to get the job done.

Jocelyne sent out Bruce and the hitmonlee kicked the air a few times as if stretching. Monique wasn’t certain what kind of pokémon the oranguru—she really only knew her fighting types, and Hawaii natives had never been a particular interest of hers—but the purple suggested it was either a poison or a psychic type. When the oranguru blasted Bruce with a purple telekinetic force, which let him confused, that answered that question. Bruce spun around in circles, uncertain which direction to attack.

“Hang in there, Bruce! I know you’re weak to psychic types, but if we work together, I’m sure we can get through this!” Jocelyne shouted, trying to cut through the confusion with her voice. The oranguru taunted Bruce, but he didn’t fall for it and instead waited for Jocelyne’s command. “Okay, Brucie, blaze kick now!”

The command came just before Bruce was facing the oranguru, so when he leaped into action the fiery kick smashed into the orangutan’s face. It was a direct hit. The oranguru was clearly hurt, but it still landed an extrasensory. Jocelyne tried to pull off the same maneuver with Bruce, but he was still confused and hurt himself. The oranguru taunted Bruce again.

“Let’s try another blaze kick,” Jocelyne ordered. Monique was sure she didn’t know what else to use—the rest of Bruce’s moves were fighting type, which weren’t effective against psychic types.

Bruce shook his head and suddenly his eyes were clear again. The confusion had passed. This time he kicked the oranguru hard enough to send it flying into a tree. The oranguru groaned and sank to the ground. Jocelyne whipped out a pokéball and threw it at the oranguru. A moment later she had captured her first non-fighting type.

“Yes!” Jocelyne cheered, picking up the pokéball. She hugged Bruce then returned him to his pokeball. Monique shot her a double thumbs up. “I’m going to name him Librarian.”

“Why?”

“Because the Librarian in Discworld is an oranguru,” Jocelyne explained.

“Okay weirdo.” Monique grinned. Jocelyne was in the best mood she’d been in since they got fired. Perhaps this trip was the right decision after all.

Capturing Julian in a friend ball turned out to be serendipitous. It left the passimian immediately trusting them and he happily led them back to the road instead of deeper into the forest. Often newly captured pokémon liked to test their trainer’s limits and patience before following their orders. At the moment Monique didn't have time for that. Especially when it turned out the travel company had forgotten about them and they barely caught the bus before it drove off without them.

When they reached the hotel all Monique wanted to do was sink into a nice hot bath. Jocelyne was in a similar mood, especially since she had fallen down that cliff. So they dropped their pokémon off at the in-house pokécenter and went to the spa. After a relaxing hour of being pampered, they headed back to the pokécenter to pick up their pokémon. However, there was a problem.

“Where’s my other pokémon?” Monique demanded when she only received one ball from the center. It was the friend ball. Jackie was missing. “I dropped off two balls, where’s my hitmonchan?”

“Bruce is missing too,” Jocelyne said. She smacked the pokécenter countertop. “What happened to our pokémon?”

“I’m sorry,” the nurse said, clearly unsure how to handle the two irate women. “There was a robbery not twenty minutes ago. Several punks broke in, stuffed their pockets full of pokéballs and ran off before security could arrive.”

“What did these punks look like?”

“Black baggy clothes, brightly colored hair… I didn’t really get a good look at their faces,” the nurse admitted. He rubbed the back of his head. “We should be able to catch them with the hotel’s footage.”

“That’s not good enough.” Jocelyne ground her teeth. “By the time the cops catch them they could have already sold off our pokémon!”

Monique met Jocelyne’s eyes. At her nod, she asked, “Which way did they go?”

“Down the hall toward the back door,” he said, pointing.

They raced away, quickly passing a series of disgruntled hotel staff members. They paused at the backdoor, but chose to go right after Monique found a pokéball lying on the ground. However, that was the only ball the punks had dropped, which quickly left the trail cold to human senses. Luckily for the twins, a passing local was not only sensitive to their plight, but gave them his ride pager, which could summon a stoutland that would sniff out Team Skull.

“Are you sure?” Monique asked. She wanted to get back to the hunt, but ride pagers were rare and it wasn’t like they could easily return it after they’d finished.

“Totally,” he grinned. “Lu knows the way home. Soon as you’re done, he’ll lead you back to my restaurant and you can return it. Then I’ll treat you to some tacos. Make sure they’re victory tacos!”

“Of course,” Monique promised. They wouldn’t rest until they got their pokémon back. While she talked with him, Jocelyne used the page rider and summoned Lu the Stoutland.

“Thanks, Eddie!” Jocelyne shouted as they climbed onto Lu’s back. The stoutland briefly sniffed the ground and took off before Eddie could reply.

Lu moved in a blur of fur and jowl. Occasionally he’d pause to sniff in circles, but he stayed in motion until reaching a dilapidated factory, whereupon arrival he promptly sat down and panted. After they slid off Lu’s back, Jocelyne petted him while Monique looked around. This had to be the place she decided; not only was the building covered in graffiti skulls, but two Team Skull members stood guarding a door outside.

“This is Skull territory, you dig?” the boy shouted, waving his arms the same way they had seen past Team Skull members do. “You wanna fight or something?”

“Or something,” Jocelyne said, which seemed to stump him.

The girl elbowed the boy in the side hard enough to make him yelp. She moved to block the door and snapped, “Then you’d better step off! Otherwise put them up!”

Since she was holding a pokéball, Monique figured she wanted a pokémon battle and not a fistfight. However, it was rather hard to tell, since all these kids used such physical terminology and it wasn’t like they were the ones fighting. Maybe she and Jocelyne were just getting old—in her day they called a pokémon battle a pokémon battle and veiled threats of physical violence referenced an actual knock down, drag out fight between human beings.

Monique released Julian to counter the girl’s zubat. It screeched, but Julian dodged the supersonic projection and punched the bat. The zubat bit into Julian’s shoulder, trying to leech out his life force, but the passimian quickly shook it off and punched again. Before long the zubat fainted. Monique turned to see that Jocelyne and Librarian had dispatched a multicolored grimer with similar ease.

“Why didn’t you take them out?” the girl demanded, turning on her companion. “I thought you said you were an ace trainer, Chad!”

“I lied?” Chad shrugged. “I only joined Team Skull so I wouldn’t have to fight people.”

Monique ignored the rest of their argument in favor of kicking down the door with her sister. Perhaps it was unlocked, but they wanted to make an entrance and the best way to make an entrance was with an over aggressive display of force. It kept all the small fry from challenging them, always such a time waste, which got them to the big cheese faster. Monique had learned this when they used to bust dojos in high school. It had the same effect here, as most of the teens scattered when the door fell.

“Alright you little pyukumuku, return our pokémon and we’ll only slightly hurt you,” Jocelyne shouted.

“Otherwise we’ll completely wreck you,” Monique added, cracking her knuckles.

One big fellow, who was clearly older than the rest of the rabble, came forward acting as if he could squash this interloping menace. Monique smirked and exchanged a glance with Jocelyne. If he wasn’t the boss himself, then he was his second in command.

“Sparky’s here now, so you’re gonna get it!” one punk shouted from his hiding place behind a couch. Several others started chanting ‘Garret,’ much to Monique’s amusement.

“You’re going to regret coming here,” Garret growled.

“Return our pokémon or you’ll regret being born,” Monique snapped. In response he sent out a charjabug. Monique reached for Julian, but Jocelyne laid a hand on her arm.

“I got this.”

She sent out Librarian and immediately blasted the charjabug with extrasensory before Garret realized the battle had started. Charjabug crunched down on Librarian and the oranguru howled in pain. Monique grimaced; Julian would be able to make short work of this pokémon, but Jocelyne seemed insistent on finishing this fight herself.

“Librarian, rock slide!” Jocelyne shouted. Both Monique and Garret startled at the command, then boulders rained down on the charjabug. It immediately fainted.

“When the heck did you teach him that?” Monique hissed.

“Found the TM while we were beachcombing the other day. You want to borrow it?”

“Later.”

“Oh man, you flipped the script!” Garret wailed. “The boss man is not going to be happy!”

“Does he have our pokémon?” Monique demanded. “And the others from the hotel?”

“Yeah, you can find Hacks back there,” Garret grumbled, waving a hand dismissively toward the rear. “Whatever, I’m out. Later losers.”

“Sit your ass down. You’re not going anywhere until we get our pokémon back, punk,” Jocelyne growled as she hauled Garret off his feet by the collar and hurled him onto the couch. “None of you are.”

“I’ll suss out the leader,” Monique said, already heading toward the back. She knew her sister would keep everyone in line.

When she entered the backroom she found a man sprawled across a couch snoring softly. Since he was sleeping, Monique decided to search the room for the missing pokémon before interrogating him. Rummaging around, she finally found the stolen pokéballs in a box under a stack of empty takeout boxes. She was just about to start opening them when a voice demanded what to know what she was doing.

“Ahh, you’re awake,” Monique said, turning to look at Team Skull’s leader.

“What are you doing with my stash?” he demanded.

“Taking back the stolen pokémon.”

He released a houndoom and it lunged straight for her. Before she had time to react, Julian released himself from his ball and slammed his hard head into the houndoom’s belly, knocking it off course. Houndoom snarled, but Julian was unaffected and he punched the houndoom’s skull with shattering force. Flames licked at the houndoom’s mouth as it prepared to do some sort of fire based attack, but Julian made a scary face then leaped onto the dark pokémon’s back. He punched the pokémon until it fainted.

“Cujo!” Hacks shouted, rushing to his pokémon’s side. He growled, grabbed a stolen pokéball from the pile and threw it. “Take them out!”
However, the newly released hitmonchan was having none of that and instead embraced Monique happily. Laughing, Monique hugged him back. “I’ve missed you so much, Jackie!”

“Hitmon!” Jackie agreed. He turned to stare down Hacks, who immediately paled. Never try to fight Monique Lamoureux with her own pokémon.

“Sky uppercut,” Monique ordered. Jackie sent Hacks flying into the ceiling hard enough to break several tiles. Monique carried the box of pokéballs out to Jocelyne as Jackie dragged the gang leader behind her.

“You seriously started stealing pokémon because you couldn’t win battles?” Jocelyne asked as Monique made her triumphant return. Clearly she had been talking with the captives while Monique took out their boss. “Don’t you know that not even weedles would resort to such underhanded tactics? It didn’t work for Team Rocket and it hasn’t worked long-term for any gang since.”

“But it works for a little while and what else are we supposed to do?” Garret demanded. “None of us passed the island challenge and Matt, the strongest of us all, couldn’t hack it as a captain.”

“Train! That’s what Monique and I did. We used to be lowdown skuntanks like you—okay, we were never as pathetic as you fools—but we wouldn’t have gotten any better if we didn’t work our butts off.”

“Winning isn’t just about battles,” Monique added. “It’s a mentality. So do you want to be rats or rat catchers?”

“Catchers of course,” a girl said. “But how do we do that?”

“Retake the island challenge and if you fail, so what? There are other adventures out there and, even if pokémon battling isn’t for you, if you keep trying different things, you will eventually find your niche,” Jocelyne said.

“Now, we’re taking these pokémon, and this better be all the stolen pokémon, but we won’t call the cops,” Monique said. Jocelyne nodded in agreement. “Straighten out your acts or next time we won’t be half as forgiving. Understand?”

“We’ll be good,” Garret promised. He rapped his knuckles on his head. “Team Skull’s skulls aren’t that thick, yo.”

“Great,” Monique said. They left after one final glare.

Lu carried them to a Mexican restaurant named No Lack of Tacos and Eddie met them at the door with a platter of nachos. Seeing the box of pokéballs, he declared them victorious and stuck the sisters in a corner booth. After they returned the ride pager he bustled back to the kitchen, promising to bring them more victory tacos than they eat and call their hotel about the recovered pokémon. Monique laughed and turned to look at an unexpectedly pensive Jocelyne.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Monique asked.

“I think we should stay.”

“What?”

“Think about it,” Jocelyne said, slapping her hands to the table. “Home hasn’t been home since our folks sold the homestead and the only reason we were living in that last city was because of the gym.”

“Which has since fired us.”

“Exactly.”

“How does that translate into us staying in Hawaii? This place isn’t exactly cheap.”

“Not long term, obviously,” Jocelyne said. “Just a few months until we’re sure these punks are flying right. That’s the least we can do, considering how much effort Julie put in getting us on the right track. Remember?”

Of course Monique did. Julie Chu not only gave them a heartfelt lecture after the beat down of the century when they were teens, but also took them under her wing. She spent two years teaching them that there was more to life than strength and might. They had forgotten those hard learned lessons, and perhaps that was why they were now here.

“I suppose she’d say staying to help two dozen troubled teens was the right thing to do,” Monique sighed, giving into her sister’s whim. “Do you think we can get someone to pack up our apartment for us?”

“Definitely. Mario and Pierre-Paul own us from all the times we’ve moved their stuff for us and they can store it at Jacques’s or Jean-Philippe’s,” Jocelyne said, referring to their four older brothers. “Come on, Mo, this’ll be fun! Don’t you want to try that island challenge they were talking about?”

Eddie came back and set down two plates piled high with a mixture of soft and hard shell tacos. Monique could see a gleam of excitement in Jocelyne’s eyes and suddenly the feeling ignited in her as well. This was an exciting new challenge and a Lamoureux never turned that down. She grinned at her sister as she picked up a taco.

“Sure, why not? After all, it’d be hypocritical if we didn’t at least try this island challenge they all failed. Of course, we’re going to kick ass,” Monique said.

“And take names,” Jocelyne grinned. They smashed their tacos against each other in celebration of their new plan then dug in. Monique and Jocelyne were finally back in action.