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Atmospheric Pressure

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She awoke in the morning in her clothes, her laptop sitting on its side on the floor, and the power cable pulled taut between the power pin and the edge of her bed. She rolled over to relieve tension on the cable, and came down upon something with a crunching noise.

“Oh god! Oh god!” Melody panicked, scrabbling through pieces of eggshell, no sign of the Pokémon inside.

As she woke further and came to her senses better, she realised she could sense that sweet scent, stronger than ever before. She had slept without her head on her pillow, and she now rolled further onto her stomach in order to study the pillow.

There was a small being snuggled, asleep, on the pillow. The being was several shades of green, and a large leaf hung from the top of its head, acting as a makeshift blanket.

Melody’s eyes widened, and she held her breath in awe. This was her Pokémon, the Pokémon inside the egg that she had been taking care of so diligently. And she’d slept through the wonderful moment of its birth.

She pondered whether to wake the sleeping Pokémon. She decided against it, contented to lay and study it carefully. This wasn’t a Pokémon native to the Orange Islands or even Kanto; that was most of what she saw at the breeding centre. No, this must be from one of the other regions. Hoenn? Sinnoh?

Carefully Melody lifted her laptop back onto her bed, grimacing at the crackling noise made by the power pins. She’d probably have to have that looked at; the same thing had happened so many times and she really should have been more careful with the computer that had helped her earn her college degree.

She looked it up on the Internet. It was a grass type, she knew that much. She quickly filtered the results on her favourite reference site, by type and evolutionary stage, and did not have to scroll too far down to find her new baby.

Chikorita,” Melody read, trying to keep her excitement quiet, “Along with Cyndaquil and Totodile, Chikorita is one of the three starter Pokémon available to new trainers at Professor Elm’s laboratory in New Bark Town, Johto. Chikorita can spawn vines from its neck and create leaves from the big leaf on its head. Like many Grass-type Pokémon, its foliage emits a sweet odor that has calming and healing properties. This leaf also has the ability to check the temperature and humidity of the surrounding air. Oh, wonderful! Your species is in tune with the climate as well. And you’re so cute.”

She decided she’d go and post back on the same message board she’d asked about the egg. Some people were still offering suggestions on her thread, mainly that it was a nondescript grass type egg, and so she took a sneaky picture on her Pokégear and swiftly uploaded it to the website.

This is my new arrival! She was born in the night, so I didn’t get to see her hatch. I found her this morning sleeping on my pillow. Does this confirm that this egg colouration and pattern belongs to this particular species of Pokémon?

Melody’s laptop made a sudden movement, preventing her momentarily from hitting the ‘send reply’ button. She made sure to do this, thinking her laptop had simply slipped in her lap. To her surprise, it made another one. She slammed the lid down to find a sleepy Chikorita nudging it with some force for such a newborn, and she quickly set her laptop aside to welcome the new arrival into her arms.

“Hello Chikorita,” Melody whispered, “my name is Melody, and I hope we can be best friends.”

Chikorita looked up into her eyes with her own wide red ones, and then, seemingly after a moment’s consideration, gave a large smile and snuggled into her new owner.

It occurred to Melody, as she got dressed and let Chikorita accompany her during her morning bathroom ritual for sheer paranoia of ever letting her out of her sight, that she didn’t actually own any Poké Balls. She wasn’t really sure if this was necessary, as she knew many Pokémon roamed free outside the balls. In fact, she wasn’t convinced that Howie had one for Poochie.

Melody panicked for a moment and looked at her clock. Thankfully, the clock showed her that it was in fact Sunday, and Howie didn’t ask her to work on Sundays. The breeding centre was however open, and she felt she should go and show him her new arrival.

“We’re going to meet the man that gave you to me,” Melody said, quickly checking on the Internet whether she should be protecting Chikorita from the sun or not; the Orange Islands were equatorial and had a beautiful tropical climate, which was known to reach extreme temperatures in the summer. Shamouti was also sheltered by the three surrounding islands and its placement right in the middle of the Archipelago. However, it seemed that Chikorita as a breed favoured the sun as hot as it came, so she decided not to worry. As a precaution, she fished her biggest sun hat out of her closet, thinking that Chikorita could ride in the shade on her shoulders should she get too hot.

There was a fresh breeze that day as she stepped outside the door of their house. Rip had gone down to the beach hours before anyone else got up, and she could see Carol vaguely in the distance wandering along the long stretch of market stalls, picking up the day’s fresh ingredients for dinner. Sunday was a family affair for her and her sister, and she knew they’d be eating a large family meal with their grandfather later in the day.

She turned in the opposite direction to the market, still cradling Chikorita in her arms. Her stomach reminded her that she hadn’t stopped to eat anything that morning, so she paused at the very last market stall in order to buy a quick snack. It also dawned on her that she had no idea what to feed her new Pokémon, so that was something she’d have to ask Howie when she got to the breeding centre. There were plenty of stalls in the market selling Pokémon food and other merchandise, of course. She was told that the Shamouti markets rivalled those of Slateport City in Hoenn, somewhere she’d always wanted to visit; big cities in the Orange Islands were few and far between.

The heat from the sun was pleasant in combination with the cool sea breeze, and Chikorita seemed quite comfortable as well. She was taking in the sights and sounds; some of them seemed familiar but once muted, and now filled with colour and life. She murmured happily to herself as they made their way up the coastal hill to Howie’s breeding centre.

“Melody!” a familiar voice called from nearby; it could only be Cisco, “Melody, your egg hatched overnight?”

Melody beamed, holding Chikorita proudly in her arms, “It did, Cisco, isn’t she beautiful?”

Chikorita regarded this strange young lady with wide eyes and awe; she was the second person she’d ever seen up close, of course. Cisco smiled back at her, crouching down to her level and sitting her sunglasses up on her head so that Chikorita could see her face fully. She had small features, and eyes a similar colour to Melody’s, but her hair could not have been more different.

“Liran, are you around?” Cisco asked, standing up and turning away to shout so that she didn’t startle the young Pokémon, “Melody’s egg hatched!”

Liran emerged from behind a bush, holding on to a quivering egg, their two ghost Pokémon following on behind, “That’s wonderful, Cisco. I don’t think ours is too far off now either.”

Melody giggled as the two rather sinister-looking ghosts started batting at him, wanting the egg back in their own hands - at least in the Gengar’s case. Mismagius was expressing her discontent by giving a low and slightly creepy moaning noise. Liran was visibly put off by this, and carefully handed the egg to his ever-grinning Gengar.

“Do you know what it’s going to be?” Melody asked, interested in the foggy patterns on the eggshell.

Cisco nodded, “If you take a look at Professor Elm’s website, you’ll see that there are some odd rules to Pokémon eggs...it takes the form of the mother, but can take some special attacks from the father. So, this will be a Misdreavus, but it might have some of the attacks only Gengar can learn.”

Melody quickly tapped out this information in her Pokégear - plus a reminder to check out Professor Elm’s research website - and then pocketed it again. She’d need all the advice on eggs that she could get, “I don’t want to leave you guys in a hurry, but I want to go and show Chikorita to Howie, and maybe get some free Pokémon food while I’m at it.”

Liran smiled, “Melody, judging from the size of her leaf and their love of sunlight, Chikorita will probably get most of her sustenance from photosynthesising.”

Melody stopped for a moment. She hadn’t thought of that at all, “Wow...so living in the Orange Islands is probably one of the best places on earth for a grass-type like her. Lucky you, Chikorita! It’s a beautiful place to call home. You’re going to grow up big and strong.”

Melody gave her friends a cheerful farewell and made the last of her journey up the hill to see Howie. She could tell from a distance that he wasn’t out in the fenced area, so she carried on round to the front door that led to the reception area.

“Howie?” Melody called, setting Chikorita down on the front desk and ringing the bell for service, “Howie, are you here? I have something amazing to show you.”

The house was quiet, and she hadn’t seen any visitors around for some distance. She frowned, and cradled Chikorita in her arms once more. She decided after a quick and fruitless survey of the downstairs rooms that she’d check out the upstairs of the house; somewhere she’d only been the few times Howie had asked her to collect something for him. It was his private home, of course, and she didn’t want to intrude, but something just didn’t feel right.

Slowly she climbed the stairs. She’d been in this house hundreds of times, and it always felt different every time someone new had lived in it. Today however, it didn’t feel very homely. Something definitely felt wrong.

It was dark in the stairway, but she could see light coming from one of the open doors. She could hear low voices; Howie and one other person she’d never heard before. Curiosity got the better of her, and so she crept up to the doorway and looked in. Howie had his back to her, and he was speaking to a man on his computer via a webcam and microphone; the same software that phones used in Pokémon centres and other public buildings, a larger version of the one used on the Pokégear and C-Gear portable phones. The man appeared to be in his fifties, and he sported black hair and a large black beard. He was dressed in a blue shirt, and seemed to be talking quite seriously and intently to Howie. She hadn’t really been concentrating on the words.

Melody decided she might get caught if she spied any longer, so she knocked gently on the door. Howie spun round in his computer chair in surprise and annoyance, minimising the window on the computer as he leaped up from his chair, “What are you doing here, Melody? How much did you hear?”

She looked surprised, “I’ve just got up here Howie, what’s the matter? I wasn’t listening in on your call, if that’s what you mean. I just wanted to show you this.”

His look softened slightly as he remembered that he could trust her, and he smiled as he looked down at Chikorita, “So this is what came out of the egg I gave you? She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”

Melody, satisfied that she wasn’t suspected any longer, sighed a little with relief and then nodded, “Yes, I think she’s wonderful. Thank you for giving her to me.”

Howie looked back at his computer for a second, something that confused Melody, and then back at her, “So, are you going to register for the Orange League?”

She was taken aback, “Why do you say that?”

Howie ran a hand along Chikorita’s back, something the Pokémon was not sure if she should enjoy or take offense to, “Well, Chikorita is one of Johto’s starter Pokémon, and she’d be a wonderful first Pokémon for your journey.”

Melody looked down at her, then at the floor, and back at Howie, “I don’t know if that’s what I want to do with my life.”

“It doesn’t have to be what you want to do with your life; not everyone is a league trainer forever. You should go for it. There’s no time limit, no obligations; nothing. It’s just permission to participate in league battles, collect winnings from other registered trainers, use the Professor’s storage system, and participate in the finals.”

She bit her lip and wondered. It had been one of her options, but not something that really appealed to her. She loved looking after Pokémon, but would feel bad about sending Chikorita - or anyone else, for that matter - into battle, in case they got injured.

“Well,” said Howie, noticing her hesitation, “Why don’t you take a day off to visit Professor Ivy and decide what to do? She’s on Valencia Island.”

“Do you know how far it is to Valencia Island, Howie?” Melody asked, pulling an amused face, “You can do boat day-trips to Pinkan Island from here but not Valencia unless you take a passenger plane. And let me tell you, I don’t have the money for a commercial airline.”

Howie waved his hand, “A week, then. take a week off. You can chain your way there from Pinkan to Valencia, right?”

Melody thought about this, “I suppose I could, yes, Pinkan is a popular destination for visitors so I suppose there must be regular trips to and from there from most of the surrounding islands.” They stood in silence for a moment, and then Melody remembered something, “I’m sorry, you were making a phone call, I should leave you alone.”

A voice from the computer chuckled; the man had been silent all this time, probably listening in, “That’s quite alright, young lady. I have to assume you’re a young lady, anyway. Congratulations on receiving your first Pokémon. Howard tells me all about you.”

Howie and Melody made brief eye contact during which Howie flushed a pink colour and turned away, “Sir, please, that’s not appropriate.”

“You never call me ‘father’,” the voice lamented with a hint of amusement.

“Your father?” Melody asked, interest piqued, “Could I say hello?”

This was the first time that Howie had even come close to seeming like had a family, and so she was immediately intrigued. Howie did not seem too pleased about this, but the computer answered again, “It’s best that you don’t know who I am or what I look like, young lady.”

Melody raised one eyebrow in confusion, not letting on that she’d seen a brief outline of him earlier. Howie simply averted his eyes and nodded, shrugging his shoulders, “Come on, I’ll show you out. You have planning and packing to do back at home.”

Her walk downstairs followed by Howie was a silent one. She had lots to think about. And just how much was it going to cost to get to Pinkan and then Valencia Island? Was she going to have to stay on Pinkan overnight? Was there an extra charge for that?

“Keep me updated, won’t you?” Howie requested, giving her a reassuring pat on the back as she left the front entrance.

“You’re sure you don’t need me for the next week?” Melody asked, still apprehensive.

Howie smiled and nodded, “I’ll be fine, Melody. You’ll be fine too. Have a good time.”

And just like that, the door was shut on her.