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TEEN: Storm Island

Caitlin

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A fanfic written by Kimberly Prescott and Kate Wintersbite

Welcome to Storm Island! This topic contains all official chapters of the main Storm Island storyline. Storm Island details the adventures of Andrea Dennison, a travelling science analyst and novice trainer, as she travels through the southern portions of Storm Island in Season 1, and the impoverished nation of Sakala in Season 2. Joining and supporting her during her travels are a cast of friends, family, rivals, and enemies.

Storm Island started as the pet project of Caitlin. Shortly after, Prescott was brought on board as an assistant writer, and took over as the sole writer starting with Chapter 13. Blame her if the chapters are crap.

Table of Contents
Season 1: Storm Island
Learning the Ropes

  • Chapter 1 - Just a City Girl
    A chance encounter is all it takes to turn things around.
  • Chapter 2 - Hitting the Road
    Despite not considering herself as a Pokémon trainer, Andrea is forced into the role as she and Larson travel to Blueleaf Village.
  • Chapter 3 - A New Life
    With her delivery complete, Andrea is offered a position as a field researcher by Professor Ansen.
  • Chapter 4 - Departure
    All birds have to leave the nest at some point, and Andrea is no different.
  • Chapter 5 - Mad Mr. Kerk
    Andrea and Larson travel to Crystal Bay to make a delivery to a well respected oceanographer by the name of Reginald Kerk.
  • Chapter 6 - Prepare for Trouble!
    On their way into Silvermist City, Andrea and Larson stumble upon a poaching operation run by two shady individuals.
  • Chapter 7 - Overgrowth
    Larson attempts to teach Andrea the basics of being a Pokémon trainer. As usual, his plans go haywire.
  • Chapter 8 - Rising to the Challenge
    In an attempt to trick Andrea into challenging Trent Foxworth, leader of the Silvermist Gym, Larson finds himself in the arena instead.
The Blackwood
  • Chapter 9 - A Dark Place
    There are many stories and legends about the Blackwood Forest. Most of them are true.
  • Chapter 10 - Ruins of Murk Row
    Andrea stumbles upon the ruins of an old town. With nowhere to turn, she spends the night.
  • Chapter 11 - The Outsider
    Seeking refuge in Blackwood Grove, Andrea finds herself at odds with the townsfolk.
  • Rocket 1 - Arson Investigation
    A restaurant has burned down in Azure Ridge and Andrea has become the prime suspect.
  • Chapter 12 - Big Bad Wolf
    Andrea, Kamin and Raven investigate the Blackwood Logging Camp after reports of a monster lurking in the area.
  • Chapter 13 - Shadows of the Past
    After spending some time recovering from the battle with the Blackwood monster, Andrea's curiosity about the forest gets the better of her.
  • Chapter 14 - Wolftree's Legacy
    A ghost hunter recruits Andrea, Kamin and Raven for a wild goose chase. As they edge closer to finding the ruins of an ancient castle, eldritch horrors await them.
  • Chapter 15 - The Cursed Castle
    Wolftree Keep, lost to the ages, has finally been rediscovered. What lurks inside?
  • Chapter 16 - The Escape
    With news of a death cult operating in the Blackwood Forest starting to spread, the police begin to investigate. However, there's an abnormally large police presence in the forest, and Andrea is at the center of it.
Here Comes Team Rocket!
  • Chapter 17 - The Journey Together
    Despite their differences, Andrea and Kamin realize they need each other for the road ahead.
  • Chapter 18 - Slate Valley
    The road to Cinder Hill has been destroyed by Hurricane Adele. To pass the time, Andrea and Kamin decide to tour the Slate Valley quarry.
  • Chapter 19 - The Rocky Hideout
    Team Rocket had been rumored to be operating on Storm Island, but nobody knew to what extent.
  • Chapter 20 - Fate's Hand
    An escape attempt is thwarted. Was it already written in the stars, or just bad luck?
  • Chapter 21 - Ray of Light
    Different desires for the future of Team Rocket force one leader to make a difficult choice.
Back to Business
  • Chapter 22 - A City Undefeated
    Andrea's curiosity about Coordination is piqued after a chance encounter with a novice Coordinator.
  • Chapter 23 - Coordination is Key
    The first Westsea Coordination Contest kicks off! Four contestants compete for recognition and glory!
  • Chapter 24 - The Westsea Finals
    With just two contestants remaining, who will win?
  • Chapter 25 - Old Sister Mercy
    Andrea and Kamin finally get started on the task that Professor Ansen had assigned to her.
  • Chapter 26 - Mountainside Maintenance
    Andrea and Kamin continue their task on the slopes of Mount Incendia.
  • Chapter 27 - By Fire Be Purged!
    Andrea challenges the leader of the Cinder Hill Gym, Jet Barrin, to a battle.
"Vacation"
  • Chapter 28 - Conquerer of the Seas
    After all that's happened, Andrea decides to take a vacation to relax. However, not all that glitters is gold.
  • Chapter 29 - An Explosive Finale
    In the final chapter of Storm Island's first 'season', tensions mount, passions flare and some are out for blood.

Season 2: Stranded in Sakala
Survival
  • Chapter 30 - Miracle At Sea
    Andrea awakens after the cataclysmic destruction of the S.S. Beckinshire.
  • Rocket 2a - The Day After
    News reaches home.
  • Rocket 2b - The Inner Light
    Team Rocket's future looks grim, and one member refuses to go down with it.
  • Chapter 31 - A Friendly Face
    Andrea's attempts at finding civilization brings her to the campsite of a familiar face.
  • Chapter 32 - A Study on Local Wildlife
    Andrea's curiosity gets the better of her and she begins to understand the dangers of the land she is stranded in.
  • Chapter 33 - Stranded in Sakala
    Brought to the safety of a hunting safari, Andrea and Kimberly learn where they are and formulate a plan to get home.
  • Chapter 34 - Apiphobia
    What could be worse than giant killer bees?
  • Chapter 35 - Jungle Fever
    Stranded between the hunting safari and their next destination, Andrea is forced to take care of her sick friend with her limited knowledge and supplies.
  • Chapter 36 - In the Jungle You Must Wait
    With dwindling supplies and Kimberly's health declining, Andrea sets aside both her aspirations and fears in a last ditch effort to cure her dying friend.
  • Chapter 37 - Exotic Treasure
    While waiting for Kimberly's health to return, Andrea's camp is attacked by a marvelous creature of unknown origin.
  • Rocket 3 - Atonement
    In her new quest to bring down Salvatore and Team Rocket, Domino brings in some help.
Culture Shock
  • Chapter 38 - Letchworth
    Kimberly's health returns to the point where she feels she can travel again. In short order, the two arrive in Letchworth and search for help.
  • Chapter 39 - Contact
    Finally safe and with a roof over their head, Andrea and Kimberly visit the local Pokécenter to get in touch with friends and family.
  • Chapter 40 - Danger Abroad
    As they prepare for the next part of their journey to Mankala, Andrea and Kimberly learn that not just the Pokémon in Sakala are dangerous.
  • Chapter 41 - A Change of Plans
    Andrea and Kimberly are finally ready to depart for Mankala. However, Roger's advice has them reconsider which road they'll take to get there.
Mystic Lands
  • Chapter 42 - A Thousand Steps
    With a new destination in mind, Andrea and Kimberly set off for the Shenzin Monastery. They heard talk of 'a thousand steps', but surely it'll take more than that to get there.
  • Chapter 43 - Tavern Tales: How it Began
    While staying at the Southwind Tavern for the night, Kimberly recalls how her adventure started.
  • Chapter 44 - Tavern Tales: A Girl and Her Turtle
    Kimberly's story is continued as she details how she met her Blastoise, Juliano.
  • Chapter 45 - Mistweaver
    While visiting the Shenzin Monastery, Andrea and Kimberly witness what could only be described as a miracle.
  • Chapter 46 - An Ancient Art
    Curious about the art of Mistweaving, Kimberly asks the monks of the Shenzin Monastery if they'd be willing to explain the basics.
  • Chapter 47 - Theories
    For some Pokémon such as Charizard and Blastoise, their abilities to control the primal forces of fire and water are clear and understandable. But for others, this connection is a bit less clear, and Andrea starts to theorize why.
  • Chapter 48 - Fertile Farmlands
    Andrea nerds out as her journey to the city of Yulong-la continues. Along the way, she and Kimberly traverse the fertile farmlands of the Muyang Steppes.
  • Chapter 49 - The Seeds Are Blossoming
    People often visit the Shenzin mountains in an effort to gain mental and spiritual clarity. During her stay, one specific visitor was offered a different kind of clarity, a clarity she is both excited about and terrified by.
  • Chapter 50 - Words of Regret (Coming soon!)
    Andrea and Kimberly arrive in Yulong-la. Before they see the sights, however, Andrea wants to take the time do to something she feels she should have done a long time ago.
 
Last edited:
chapter 1
Storm Island
Chapter 1: Just a City Girl

"My child..." a deep, echoing voice called out.

In a bright field of dozens of different varieties of flowers, a young woman was laying down on her back, sleeping peacefully.

"Wake up, my child..." the voice said again.

The young woman's bright blue eyes slowly opened to a strange view. A long streak of stars stretched across the sky above her, the rest of the pitch black sky dotted with bright stars and celestial clouds. A crisp, refreshing breeze blew her golden brown hair lightly as she sat up and looked around. A rainbow-like assortment of flowers surrounded her, dousing the area in an alluring, spring-like aroma. She appeared to be on top of a mountain's peak, a place she didn't recognize at all. At the far end of the field of flowers was a pool of pristine, clear water that seemed to glimmer dimly under the light of the stars.

As if against her own will, the young woman stood up and walked towards the spring. The mystical sight seemed to pull at her subconscious as she slowly strolled toward it. Confused, she asked, "Where am I?" There was no response. As she reached the outer bank of the spring, a faint and ghostly shape that she could not identify rose from the center of the spring.

"My child, what is your name?" the figure said in its echoed voice.

"Huh?" she asked, even more confused. Upon receiving no response again, she answered. "Andrea."

"Andrea... Yes..."

Andrea tilted her head to the side, still perplexed at what was happening and where she was.

"You are the child I am looking for."

"What's going on? Where am I?" she asked.

"You will know soon enough." the figure said before descending back into the spring and fading from view.

Andrea turned around and looked at the field of flowers, then up at the sky. Thoughts raced through her mind as she tried to understand what the figure was, what it might have meant and why it was looking for her. She walked back out into the field as her vision slowly started to fade to black.

- - - - -​

The sun was shining brightly into the small room through the open window. A light but refreshing breeze flowed through the window, carrying with it the scent of the pristine morning ocean. In a bed in the corner of the room, frizzy golden brown hair poked out from under a pink and red blanket.

The radio next to the bed rolled over to 9:00 AM and turned on. "Gooooood morning, Storm! Island! This is your host on STAR, Eliza!"

A low and exhausted grumble came from under the covers of the bed. A hand emerged from under the blanket and aimlessly struggled to find the snooze button on the radio, but failed.

The radio continued loudly. "...tell us what's in store for today, George!"

"Another brutal day, Eliza. Temperatures in the triple digits are a given, especially later in the day with a projected high temperature of 109 degrees!"

Another grumble came from under the blanket. The blanket exploded off as the person under it pushed it away rapidly, revealing Andrea. She sat up and pressed the snooze button on the radio, then stretched and yawned. "Not another scorcher..." she mumbled to herself with disappointment. This had been the eighth straight day of triple digit temperatures across the southern shores of Storm Island. Having lived in Azure Ridge her entire life, Andrea was accustomed to the heat waves that gripped the region in the early summer, but she certainly didn't like them. She pushed herself out of bed and wandered over to the open window.

There wasn't a single cloud in sight all the way to the horizon. The sky was a deep tropical blue and the ocean was an even deeper, richer blue. The wind had picked up, blowing through the palm trees quite fiercely. As she stared out into the ocean, a small red, white and blue feathered bird dive bombed onto the window sill and hopped around, pecking at the wood in a feverish attempt to find a small seed to eat.

Andrea swatted the bird away. "Get, you... flying rat!" she shouted. As the bird flew away, she sighed, then turned around and walked over to the dresser next to her bed. As she opened it, she saw herself in the mirror. Her white and sky blue striped pajamas were a crinkled mess and her hair was frizzy and unruly. She dug around in the drawers for something she hoped would be appropriate for the hot weather. She had remembered that most of her clothes were still piled up in the corner, waiting to be thrown into the laundry, so she picked out what she had left over; a pair of shin length, olive green khaki pants along with a red and white french-striped tank top. She carried them over to a small room off to the side and disappeared behind the door.

Nearly half an hour had passed before she reemerged from the small room in her fresh change of clothes. Her damp hair dripped along the floor as she attempted to dry it with a soft brown towel. As she did so, she tried to make sense of the dream she had overnight. Not finding any rational explanations, she chalked it up to just another one of her weird dreams. Grabbing her purse, she bunched up the towel and tossed it onto the growing pile of clothes in the corner of her room and walked over to the stairs.

It was busy downstairs. The scent of freshly cut sand pears was thick in the air, as was the alluring aroma of sizzling bacon. An orange canine creature with black stripes and tufts of puffy white fur sat at the foot of the oven, panting and wagging its bushy white tail happily. It barked with joy as a woman walked over with a basket full of berries and placed them on the table next to the stove.

"Well, you're certainly full of energy this morning, Spud!" she said, kneeling down and rubbing his cheeks. "Who's a good boy?"

The creature barked again.

"Marv, come get your mutt! He's in the way again!" she called out as she flipped the bacon in the frying pan.

A tall, brown haired man walked in from the other room. He was wearing a Storm Island Police Force uniform which was covered in numerous awards and badges. "Now, now, Meredith. You know how Spud feels about being called a mutt." he said, taking a seat at the table. The Growlithe jumped up and began to lick his face with appreciation, barely fitting on his master's lap. "Did you catch the news this morning?" he asked. "Has there been any word about the Slate Valley cave in?"

Meredith pulled two strips of bacon from the frying pan and placed them onto a plate, adding in a sliced up sand pear as well. As she served the meal to her husband, she said, "There's been a few words, but they've amounted to nothing."

"It's such a damn shame," he said. "They worked so hard to get the subway system up and running, and now the grand opening is being delayed again!" he said as he raised a piece of the bacon to his mouth. Before he could react, his Growlithe snatched the bacon quickly and scurried out of the room, leaving him wide eyed at what just happened.

As the Growlithe ran out of the room, he nearly knocked over Andrea. "Morning," she said. "How are you two?"

Marvin looked up from his plate to see his daughter standing there. "I'm fine, getting ready for work. How are you this morning?" Andrea sighed upon her father mentioning his job, having been recently fired from her own. "Oooh... I guess you're still getting over being replaced, huh, sport?"

"It's just not fair..." she replied sadly. She remembered the day it happened clear as day. She had worked at the Crimson Crawdaunt as an assistant manager until the arrival of a new employee who seemed to do her job twice as efficiently. The exchange of unfair insults between her and her former boss is what she felt the worst about. "I hope I never see that spiteful bitch again," she said, looking at her parents. "Pardon my language."

"I really don't understand what Chaz sees in her!" Meredith said, beginning to speculate. "Unless..."

Marvin smirked wryly. "Let's not go down that route, dear. I'm sure there's nothing sinister going on, he just had a lapse of judgement... like usual."

Andrea could tell her parents were just trying to cheer her up, but it wasn't working. "Thanks guys, but... I just need some time to think." she said as she walked over to a rack in the corner of the room. She grabbed a black bandana and tied her hair into a pony tail with it. "I think another walk out in the park should help with that."

"Alright. Have fun, and be careful! It's going to be extra hot today."

"I know. I'll be back in about an hour, I think." Andrea said as she opened the door and felt a blast of heat surge in from outside. She stepped outside into the relentlessly oppressive rays of the summer sun and looked around. Despite it being rather early in the morning and very warm, the atmosphere around her was very alive. Children were playing on the beach in front her house, engaging in mock trainer battles and building impressive sand castles. Dozens of boats dotted the deep blue sea, sailing along under the sapphire sky. Not wanting to waste too much time watching the scenery around her, she walked down the street towards the park.

As she walked down the street, she felt a rumble from the depths of her purse. She frantically dug around inside, grabbing her cell phone and answered it. "Hello?"

A young man's voice was on the other line. "Hey Andrea, it's Larson."

"Hi! Are you still in town?" she asked.

Larson laughed. "I told you, I'm going to be here for about a month! I was wondering if you wanted to do anything today."

Andrea paused and thought. She wanted to walk through the park alone, but figured that bringing her best friend along would cheer her up, especially since she never gets to see him anymore. "I was going to go down to the park and have a walk around, clear my mind about some things. But I'd rather you come along, too, if you don't mind."

"Awesome! It'll be good to spend some time together after so long. Wanna meet at my house?" he asked.

"Well... I'm almost there, but... I'll be right over, I guess. See you soon." she said as she closed her phone and placed it back in her purse. She grumbled and shook her head as if annoyed, then turned around and walked away from the park towards Larson's house.

- - - - -​

A young man and an older man were sitting under the shade of a large palm tree that stood like a towering sentry over a large brick house. They were watching over a small, stocky, pink star-shaped creature that was sitting idly in the sunlight, looking dazed and confused. Standing above the small creature was a large purple porcine Pokémon with black patterns running along its arms, legs and belly. It glared down at the pink creature with disapproval, bouncing around trying to grab its attention.

"I think your Clefairy is a little... slow, son." the older man said. "Look at her, she's clueless. You sure you trained her properly?"

"I'm sure of that," he said, watching the Clefairy aimlessly wander around. "She's just not much of a fighter, that's all."

The older man sighed. "Let me guess. You make her do all of the menial tasks that your other Pokémon are too good for."

"Menial tasks?" Larson asked. "She enjoys cutting down small trees and lighting the way for me! Right, Star?"

Star looked at her master with a blank, serene grin on her face and nodded.

His father sighed, then laughed. "Typical. If I had a silver coin for every trainer who did that... well, I could probably retire."

"If everyone's doing it, I must be doing something right," he said as he grabbed a shiny red and white ball from his pocket. He held it in front of him as Star deformed into a blob of red, luminous energy and entered the ball.

"Just because everyone does something doesn't mean it's the correct way to do things," his father said as he grabbed a Pokéball and recalled his Grumpig. "But yes, you are doing something right. Five badges from Kanto and four from Johto is quite impressive at your age, son."

"I've always been impressive since the day I was born!" he said with a smile on his face as he ran his hand through his hair.

Larson's father walked out into the street and put his policeman hat on. "Don't let it get to your head. I'll see you later." he said as he walked off into the bustling city.

Larson looked at his watch impatiently as he ran his hand through his short brown hair. He paced back and forth waiting for Andrea, who never took this long to arrive at his house. Just as his impatience got the better of him, she appeared on the horizon. "Finally... women, huh. Always late." he joked to himself. He waved towards her, but didn't receive a wave back. "Late as always, I see," he said as she approached him.

"And you're as impatient as always."

Larson spread his arms and shook his head. "Guilty as charged," he laughed. "Let's go."

- - - - -​

As the two walked through the bustling city streets, they talked about their experiences since they had last seen each other over two years ago. Larson recalled his journey through Kanto, earning five badges before moving onto Johto.

"Only five?" Andrea asked. "I shouldn't say anything though, it's a lot better than I'd ever do."

"You never know..." Larson said, reaching around into his backpack and pulling out an ornately carved oaken box. "I know you've never been big on becoming a Pokémon trainer, but I have a feeling you'd be good at it. You're smart, unlike most people. Besides, it'd offer some stability for you."

"Travelling the world like a bum while throwing dangerous creatures into the mix doesn't sound stable to me, Lars," she replied, watching as he opened the box. An assortment of glimmering, colourful badges lined the inside of the box, but many were missing.

As the two walked along discussing Larson's collection of badges, the two passed by Dr. Spruce's Pokémon Research Institute, a large brick building shrouded under the welcoming shade of nearly four dozen trees. A tan blur moved quickly through the trees out towards the street, flying out of the last tree. The tan blur was revealed to be a long ferret like creature, covered in creamy white fur and brown stripes. The creature crashed right into Andrea, knocking her back into Larson. It walked over to her and sniffed her, then bit onto her loosely tied bandana and ran off with it.

"My bandana!" she shouted as she tried to grab onto the Furret's tail.

Larson quickly hopped to his feet and chased after the Furret. He caught up with it down the road, catching it with a diving tackle. The two fought viciously over the bandana before he was able to rip it from the Furret's mouth.

Meanwhile, the door to Dr. Spruce's Pokémon Research Institute opened up and several scientists poured out into the street to look around. The lead scientist walked over to the commotion, placing his hand to his large and bushy black beard. "So that's where that Furret has gone!" From within his white lab coat, he retrieved a red and white Pokéball and recalled the Furret, still wrestling with Larson.

Andrea looked up to see the big bearded man silhouetted against the sunlight. He offer his hand to her to help her up.

"Just my luck that you two were here! That Furret is... well, let's just say it would be a terrible thing for him to escape back into the wild." he said, pulling Andrea to her feet.

"You're welcome," Larson replied. "Unfortunately the luck was all yours, poor Andrea here went flying." he laughed.

"I must apologize, he is quite the handful sometimes," He looked around to see his scientists had all disappeared back into the research lab. "And what's your name?" he said, looking at Larson.

"Larson Reiserben, sir!" he said with excitement.

"Ah, Reiserben? You must be Jack's son! I'm Dr. Spruce, as you may know. It's a pleasure to meet you!" he said, firmly grasping his hand and yanking his arm up and down, nearly tearing Larson's arm off. "Come inside, I'd like your help, if you're not busy."

Andrea and Larson looked at each other in confusion. Andrea mumbled and looked away while Larson shrugged.

"C'mon, Andrea. A walk in the park can wait a few minutes." he said. "This is Dr. Spruce! He doesn't normally ask for help!"

She continued to grumble. "Fine."

The two followed Dr. Spruce into the research institute. The air inside was crisp and cool, a welcome change from the heat wave outside. The monotonous hum of the electricity that supplied power to all of the high tech machines lining the walls was oddly relaxing. Throughout the main room were pairs of scientists working feverishly to complete their research concerning a variety of topics.

Andrea melted upon seeing the inside of the laboratory. Ever since she was a child she dreamed of working as a scientist and being on the frontier of discovery, but she never applied herself properly. She had hoped that this might be her chance to relive that dream.

Dr. Spruce led the two to his office. He sat down behind his desk which was lavishly covered in small golden and silver trophies, awards and ribbons. The walls were lined with shelves filled with even more trophies and awards. He pulled the Pokéball out of his lab coat and slapped it down onto the table. "I can see it in your eyes. Impressive place, ya think?"

Both Larson and Andrea nodded in agreement as they marvelled at the awards and technology strewn throughout the room.

He grabbed the Pokéball and placed it onto a machine behind his desk. "Now, which one of you would like to do me a favor?" he asked as he pressed a button on the machine. An eerie green glow began to project from the machine and envelope the Pokéball.

"What is it?" Larson asked.

"I need a delivery made to Blueleaf Village. One of my colleagues is more prepared than I am for a new field of research that I am getting involved in. All of my scientists are busy working on other research projects or upgrading our equipment."

"A delivery? That doesn't sound very exciting..." Andrea said with a noticeable tone of disappoint in her voice.

"It is a bit of a boring task, I suppose," Dr. Spruce said, lowering his head. He snapped his head back up with enthusiasm and continued, "But, that is the spice of life! New things, whether boring or marvelous, should be welcomed. They keep us busy and they keep us out of trouble."

"I agree," Larson said, nudging Andrea with his shoulder. "Beats walking around in the park for the fifth time this week, doesn't it? What do you need delivered?"

Dr. Spruce picked up the Pokéball and presented it. "This Furret. My colleague and I theorize that he may hav--"

Andrea threw her hands up in the air in protest. "Not me. If you want to, Larson, be my guest." she said, turning around to leave.

Dr. Spruce was curious at her abrupt and almost vicious unwillingness. "Any specific reason?"

Larson leaned forward and talked quietly. "It's a long story. She... isn't too experienced with Pokémon."

He raised his pointer finger excitedly. "This is perfect, actually! Andrea, please, hear me out."

Andrea stopped in her tracks and took a deep breath, then turned around.

"I'm not sure of the details behind your connection with Pokémon, but I think I may have been in a similar situation to you when I was young. My father was never around in my youth... I blamed the Pokémon for this, as he had left my mother and I to become a world famous Pokémon trainer. I developed an intense hatred towards them due to the carelessness of my father. But one day, my mother gifted me with a young Phanpy. I took responsibility for it. I kept it happy, and ever since that day, my life has never been the same."

"That's a nice story, but what does--"

Dr. Spruce leaned forward in his chair, studying Andrea closely. "Human emotions are not my expertise, but I can see it in your face. Your eyes. You're... how do I put this... Frustrated and resentful of what life has given you."

"Oh hoho, you got that right..." she sarcastically said.

"That is why I am urging at least one of you to take up this task. Blueleaf Village is absolutely exquisite this time of the year. Your nerves will loosen up and your life will look brighter when you arrive."

Andrea looked at Larson and tilted her head inquisitively.

"If you won't do it, I will, and I'm dragging you along," Larson said. "He's right. Some relaxing time out in the countryside is just what you need."

"Fine," she said. Dr. Spruce tossed the Pokéball between the two. Andrea reacted quickly by grabbing it in mid air, not trusting Larson's slow reflexes. She took a close look at the Pokéball, seeing her reflection in the deep, shiny red metallic top. A slight smirk appeared on her face, visible in the faint reflection.

"It looks like you're feeling better already," Dr. Spruce said before quickly turning around. He opened a cabinet and pulled a large folded up map out, sprawling it out on his desk. He ran his finger along the map between the south eastern shoreline and a point on the map labeled 'Blueleaf Village'. "Route 301 lies between Azure Ridge and Blueleaf Village."

"We're not stupid, ya know," Larson interjected.

"Very well." he said. "So, who is escorting this Furret along to Blueleaf Village?" Larson quickly pointed to Andrea. Before she could object, Dr. Spruce continued, "The wilderness around us is filled with danger, Andrea. The tall grass is the most perilous of places for a person to travel, so do your best to avoid it. If you must defend yourself, your Pokémon are your first line of defense."

"I always thought that was cruel of trainers..." Andrea said.

"It's not cruel, it's good sport! Pokémon are highly competitive creatures, they love proving themselves in battle!" he said. He knelt down and grabbed a cardboard box from the floor and placed it atop his desk. "However, just as you or I would suffer injuries if we started trading punches, so do Pokémon," He pulled a small purple squirt bottle filled with a thick and syrupy silver liquid out of the box and handed it to Andrea. "This will help if that becomes an issue."

Andrea grabbed the bottle with her other hand and studied it.

He picked the box back up and dropped it to the floor with a loud crash, then kicked it back under his desk. "That covers the very basics. If you have any questions, I'm sure Larson here would be more than happy to explain things further."

"Well that sounds simple enough," Andrea said, placing the spray bottle into her purse. "How far away is this place?"

"It's about a day's walk, if I remember." Larson said.

Andrea's optimism dimmed to horror as she heard Larson's estimate.

"A day's walk sounds correct to me," Dr. Spruce answered. "If you have a bicycle, I would suggest using it. Much better exercise!"

"I don't... anymore." She glared at Larson. "I have someone's Charlizard to thank for that."

"Charizard," Larson corrected her.

"Whatever!"

Dr. Spruce turned around and dug through a basket full of folders and loose papers. After a moment, he found what he was looking for; two photos taken from the laboratory's security systems. One displayed a young woman with shoulder length blonde hair, holding several Pokéballs that were taken from a smashed display case. The other showed the same young woman standing behind an older man with dark brown hair, grinning widely as he reached for more Pokéballs. A large and jagged scar drifted along his face, starting under his receding hairline, jumping across his nose and ending above his left cheek. Dr. Spruce put the photos down onto his desk. "Be on the look out for these shady folks."

Larson and Andrea studied the photos. "My dad told me about these guys..." he said.

"I assume these two have skipped town already and headed west," he said, turning to Larson and giving him a look of concern. "Please, Larson. Keep Andrea and her Furret safe if you run into them. Do not try to fight them unless it is your last resort."

Larson nodded. "Got it."

"That is all. Good luck." Dr. Spruce said, taking a seat behind his desk. "Make sure you notify your parents, or whoever you're living with, of where you'll be going, you probably won't be back in the city until tomorrow night if things go according to plan."

- - - - -​

Meredith was outside of the house, knelt down in the garden. She was running her fingers through each of the bushes, checking the growth of the various berries and taking notes. She moved on to a pine tree, digging her hands into the thick branches and pulled out a fist-sized orange-red fruit in the shape of a water drop. "The firekiwis are much larger this year..." she mumbled to herself, placing the fruit into a basket beside her. She looked around to see Andrea and Larson walking towards her.

Andrea waved as she walked up.

"You're back early," she said.

"Yeah... I decided against a walk in the park." Andrea said, reaching into her pocket. She pulled out a small Pokéball, gleaming in the sunlight.

Meredith noticed the sun reflect off of the red top in the corner of her eye. She turned to study the Pokéball and looked up at her daughter with shock and surprise. "Where did you get that?"

"Dr. Spruce, ma'am." Larson said.

Andrea nodded. "Larson and I have been asked to deliver this to Blueleaf Village."

Meredith thought. She knew her daughter wasn't the adventurous type and figured it would be a bad idea, especially with the wild and reckless Larson around. "Blueleaf Village, huh... That's an awful long way away..."

"It's not that far, only a day's walk." Larson said.

"Exactly!" Meredith put her hands to her hips. "Are you sure you're up to it?"

"I think I am... Has dad gone off to work yet? He'd probably want to know, too." Andrea asked.

"He has. I'll let him know where you've gone." she said, pulling Andrea closer. "Be careful out there and try to be home tonight if you can."

"I'll be careful!" Andrea replied. "But I probably won't be home tonight..."

The two let go of each other and Meredith looked at Larson with a sharp and intimidating glare. "And you keep your hands off of my daughter! I don't want to be a grandmo-"

"Mom!" Andrea yelled.

Larson laughed with an uproar. "C'mon, Andrea. Let's go before your mom changes her mind!"

"I'll see you tomorrow." Andrea said, bowing and turning to follow Larson who had already left in a hurry.

Meredith watched the two disappear down the street and into the city. A sense of dread filled her; she didn't believe her daughter, who often complained about the twenty minute walk to and from the restaurant she worked at, would ever be able to reach Blueleaf Village. As she was about to chase after them, she stopped herself and reasoned that Larson would be there to keep her safe. "I can only hope that boy learned a thing or two while he was gone... She's gonna need it."
 
Not a very eventful first chapter; it mostly mirrored the start of an adventure in the games. In the few paragraphs at the start, we are told that Andrea tried to make sense of her dream, but then couldn't find any explanation. Her reasoning would have been a great insight to her character, how she thinks, and how she interprets events relating to her own life.

Aside from that, I quite enjoyed Dr. Spruce. I found him to be a very entertaining character, and a breath of fresh air. The chapter could have been shorter. Unless the 'walk in the park' which never happened will be important to the story in the future, through actual plot or just symbolism, I feel any reference to it could have been easily cut out. The part about the mysterious two criminals seemed a little forced, but overall, the chapter was a good one; a great start for story.

Keep it up.
 
Not a very eventful first chapter; it mostly mirrored the start of an adventure in the games. In the few paragraphs at the start, we are told that Andrea tried to make sense of her dream, but then couldn't find any explanation. Her reasoning would have been a great insight to her character, how she thinks, and how she interprets events relating to her own life.
I'll be touching on that later. I struggled with the first chapter as I had so much to establish but I didn't want to make the thing too long.

Aside from that, I quite enjoyed Dr. Spruce. I found him to be a very entertaining character, and a breath of fresh air. The chapter could have been shorter. Unless the 'walk in the park' which never happened will be important to the story in the future, through actual plot or just symbolism, I feel any reference to it could have been easily cut out. The part about the mysterious two criminals seemed a little forced, but overall, the chapter was a good one; a great start for story.
I do have plans to make that walk in the park that never happened somewhat important in the future, but it's a long way off. For now, I used it to springboard Larson and Andrea's meeting, and to show how she easily gets annoyed at his neediness.

Thanks for the review. It's a refreshing sight to see some actual feedback for once! :D
 
chapter 2
hooray post 1000

Storm Island
Chapter 2: Hitting the Road

"You know, you've got it pretty good, Andrea," Larson said. "I remember when I went up to Blueleaf Village all by myself. It's a boring walk all alone."

Andrea was too busy studying the Pokéball in her hands to listen to Larson. She wondered how to open it, thinking that clicking the button in the center would do it. The Pokéball grew in size, scaring her. "Uh... how do you open these things?"

"Grip 'em like this," he said, grabbing one of his own Pokémon to demonstrate. His four fingers were wrapped evenly along the top with his thumb grasping from below. He stopped in his tracks and held it out in front of him. "Then, just say something like... 'Star, how about a little walk?'"

The Pokéball split open, revealing the complex circuits inside. A dim, colourless glow of light formed in the center, brightening and shooting forward onto the ground in front of them. After the blinding flash of light subsided, the pink, star-shaped Clefairy appeared and looked up at her master with a wide and clueless smile on her face.

"That thing is creepy..." Andrea said. "Those huge eyes and that ridiculous smile! It's so... weird looking!" She held onto her Pokéball in the same way that Larson did. "Uhh... Fur... Furret? Come on out?"

The Pokéball in her hand opened, repeating a similar light show. The creamy furred, brown-striped Furret appeared, looking around at his surroundings with curiosity. He saw Andrea and Larson standing in front of him and approached quickly. Flinching nervously, Andrea's fear subsided as he brushed up against her leg and let out a purring noise.

As she looked down at him, Larson said, "Looks like he likes you! Go on, show him he's got a good girl looking after him!"

Andrea timidly knelt down, running her hand through his silky smooth fur. It was the softest feeling she had ever felt, even softer than the Visalian silk dress she wore when she had graduated from school. Furret's purring increased as she continued to pat it.

"After all these years, I knew you'd finally come around," Larson smirked.

"What do you mean?" she asked. "I just like this guy... I wouldn't be caught near anything else, especially that... thing." she said, looking at Star. Star responded by looking back with her large, soulless and almost non-sentient eyes. "I don't see how you can stand to be near it."

"She's adorable!" he said. "But if she bothers you that much..." he said, holding his Pokéball out again. "Star, return. You can come out later."

Star looked up at her master and began to glow red. She deformed into a red blob of energy and was sucked back into the Pokéball, which made a beeping noise to indicate that she was safely back inside.

"Whatever," he started. "Let's keep moving or we won't reach Blueleaf Village before nightfall."

Andrea turned to look at the skyline of Azure Ridge. She held her hand up to block the sun, counting the various skyscrapers, remembering what each one was. She was anxious about visiting Blueleaf Village, having never been to it before. "I think this is the first time I'll have ever left the city..." she said. After a long pause, she turned back to Larson and said, "Feels good."

"Atta girl!" he said, approaching the gateway that led out into the untamed northern wilds of Route 301.

As the two passed through it, a red haired scientist who was leaning on a fence approached them. "Greetings! Are you two Larson and Andrea?" she asked. She looked at the Furret who was following closely behind Andrea. "I assume so."

Larson greeted her warmly. "Yes. And you are?"

"Dr. Beverly Pressman. I work with Dr. Spruce over at his research lab." she said, reaching into her pocket. "Dr. Spruce was scatterbrained as usual and forgot to give you two something, so he sent me out to find you."

"He did seem a little flustered..." Andrea said.

Dr. Pressman retrieved a small device from her pocket. The device was about 4.5 inches by 2.5 inches long with a strap wrapped around the bottom of it. "Dr. Spruce usually gives this to all of his employees. It's a mobile research tool with an interactive touch screen, give it a try!"

Andrea grabbed the device from Dr. Pressman and studied it. A tap of the screen caused it to light up to a blue and yellow tropical theme. A wide array of buttons appeared on the screen, ranging from trainer tips, coordinator tips and breeding tips to an encyclopedia about the ins and outs of berries and fruits. She picked random buttons until it spoke.

"Aldrysse Township, Storm Island!" the device said in a feminine digital voice. "Aldrysse Township is home to the affluent Vannedy family, descendants of the Goldwheat Clan. There are no gyms or contest halls within the town, but there are many other tourist attractions, including the Vannedy family mansion which is open to the public on weekdays, the Cold Harbor Watershed, the Go--"

"Employees?" Larson asked. "Did one of us get hired without knowing it?"

Dr. Pressman laughed. "I doubt it. He mentioned that he needed it to be delivered to Professor Ansen along with that Furret. He also mentioned something about being ahead of her... whatever that means."

Andrea continued to study the device. "What else can this thing do?"

Dr. Pressman held up her arm and rolled her sleeve up, revealing another device attached to her wrist. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a Pokéball, holding it in front of the device.

"Wesley! Species: Zubat. Trainer: Beverly Pressman, ID 87261. Gender: Male. Personality: Troublemaker. Favourite fo--"

"These are called R-Kits. They're essential to us scientists, and soon, they'll be available for Pokémon trainers and coordinators across the world. It'll really revolutionize how trainers raise their Pokémon, what strategies they should employ... all that kind of stuff." she said, placing the Pokéball back into her pocket. "I'm sure Professor Ansen will show you more about them, if you ask. I don't want to delay you all day, as there are literally that many features in an R-Kit."

Andrea wrapped the strap around her left wrist. "Wow, it's almost like science fiction."

"It is science fiction!" Larson said excitedly, gawking at the R-Kit.

Dr. Pressman bowed before the two. "I should get back to the lab. There's science to be done! ...and Dr. Spruce will have my head if my projects start to fall behind." she giggled. "Good luck out there."

The two decided to continue on with their task, passing over the city limits border. In the immediate area, tall, wavy grass blew with the warm winds. The path in front of them snaked through the foothills, visibly ending on the horizon as it climbed up the hill to the borders of Blueleaf Village far in the distance. The houses looked so far away to Andrea, like little shining dots. Distance combined with the oppressively warm weather already made her want to give up.

Larson led her over to the tall and ragged grass which reached to her elbows. "Now comes the fun part," he said, looking up and down the wall of grass in front of him. He was unable to find a way around the grass and walked right in.

"Oh noooo..." Andrea groaned. "There's going to be a bunch of creepy bugs in there, right?" she said, pushing some of the grass aside and following Larson in. Her Furret on the other hand was eager to dive into the grass, disappearing from view and appearing in front of Larson with impressive quickness.

"There might be," Larson said. "Then again it might be too hot for them. Think of it this way, too; at least you're wearing pants. Remember last time we left the town and I was wearing shorts? My legs looked like a horror show."

"Yeah..." she said, pushing through the thick grass.

"My dad would kill me if I ever let the grass grow this tall back at home," Larson said, looking back to make sure Andrea was close behind him. "Good thing I don't live with him anymore!"

Andrea was too absorbed in scanning the surrounding area for movement to respond to his joke. Before she realised it, they had both emerged from the grass, much to her relief. As she breathed a sigh of relief, Larson looked at her.

"C'mon, that wasn't bad," he said. "I'm here to protect you, anyways."

Furret bounced out of the overgrowth covered in pollen and bits of grass. He shook his fur in an attempt to clean himself off, then walked over and rubbed against Andrea's leg.

"I think that's what he's here for." she said, scratching Furret behind the ear.

The three made their way along the road to Blueleaf Village. Larson offered some tips to Andrea on how to train Pokémon properly, but Andrea shrugged his advice off with disinterest. His tales of victory over opponents in the Johto and Kanto regions were slightly more interesting to her, but again meant very little as she had no similar experiences.

"I know what'll interest you," he started. "Silph Co... Where my mom worked..."

Andrea looked at him silently, listening intently.

Larson sighed. "You'd love it. You've always been a bookworm, you've always been able to figure stuff out by looking at it. A natural born engineer. The things I saw there... you'd fit in perfectly. In fact--"

The conversation was interrupted by a thick, sticky web shooting out of the trees from above. The web latched onto Andrea's purse and pulled it away forcefully, knocking her over. As the purse flew into the bushes under the trees, a large, green spider with fat, hairy striped legs began to quickly descend from the tree, rappelling off of a thick, sticky strand of web. The markings on its back resembled a sleeping face, but quickly morphed into an expression of anger.

As Larson pulled Andrea to safety, Furret immediately leapt to action. He stood below the spider, his fur bristling with anticipation as he waited for it to land. The spider unhooked itself from its web, crashing onto the ground in front of Furret and displacing a large cloud of sun-parched dirt into the air. It raised its back up towards Furret, balancing on its four front legs. The expression on its back changed from anger to blind fury; the 'eyes' narrowed to slanted slits and the 'mouth' began to resemble a wickedly fanged maw.

Furret stood bravely between the spider and his new companions, lowering down on all fours and growling at the beast. The two circled each other slowly, watching each other, waiting for the opposition to make a mistake, ready to strike.

Larson reached into his pocket and pulled out a Pokéball. "Perfect!" he said with a smirk on his face. "Andrea, now's your chance. Give Furret the inspiration he needs to defeat that Spinarak!"

Andrea was horrified and could barely stand. The sight of the spider, which she thought reached up to her hips, sent chills down her spine. "Uhh... Y-you're out of your mind!" she said, backing away slowly.

Furret pounced at the spider, leaping onto its back. The spider quickly reacted by running around in an attempt to shake him loose but failed.

"That's right, Furret!" Larson called out.

Andrea tried to compose herself and think logically. Larson's smooth and confident reaction paired with Dr. Spruce's earlier advice strengthened her nerves a bit, but her overwhelming fear of spiders was getting the better of her. "Uhhh... uhhh..." she babbled. Looking away and almost breaking into tears, she blurted out, "Squish it!"

Furret heard the order and raised a furry paw. He balled it into a fist and began to slap repeatedly at the Spinarak's head. As Furret kept punching away, the Spinarak began to grow dizzy, zigzagging around the battlefield, bumping into bushes, tripping over roots and smacking into loose rocks. Furret jumped off of the Spinarak and whipped his tail around, sweeping it off of its legs.

"He's got the upper hand, finish it Andrea!" Larson called out with excitement.

Before Andrea even looked at the scuffle, Furret picked the stunned Spinarak up over his head and gave it a toss down the hill.

"Is... is it gone?" she asked, opening one eye and looking around.

Furret jumped into the bushes and disappeared as Larson helped her up. "It's gone. I forgot you were afraid of spiders. You're paler than freshly fallen snow!"

Andrea grumbled as she struggled to her feet. "How could you forget something like that?" Looking around for any signs of Furret, she dusted herself off. "Where'd that furball go?"

Furret poked his head out from the bushes under the trees with Andrea's purse dangling by the strap from his mouth and bounced towards them. He stood tall and proud, presenting the purse to Andrea.

Andrea grabbed the purse and continued walking along the path. "So, how much further is it until we get to this town?" she asked, fiddling with her new R-Kit. "I'm already not liking this whole travelling business..."

"I doubt we're even half way," he replied.

"Damn it..." she muttered to herself.

"Lighten up, we'll be there in no time. Trust me."

- - - - -​

A middle aged woman with silky, black hair was staring at the calendar stuck to her fridge with a magnet. She sighed as she added another large red 'X', finishing off a row of five. Next to the calendar was a photo of her family. Her husband, a tall, handsome and powerful looking man held her tiny son in a bear hug as she wrapped her arm around him, leaning on his broad shoulder. The photo brought back happy memories of the family she used to enjoy.

"Okay mom, I'm leaving again!" called a young voice from the door.

She took a deep breath and turned around to face her son, standing at the door. She walked over and removed his white and red Pokémon League limited edition cap. "I wish you didn't have to leave again, Kyle."

"I'll be in touch, don't worry!" he said, looking up at his mother happily.

"I don't want to be alone again..." she said, placing his hat back on his head.

Despite his young age, he could sense the emotional torment his mother had been going through for the past year. "It's okay, mom... I'll find dad. I'll bring him home and we'll be a happy family again."

"I should be out there with you!" she said. "But I can't..."

Saying nothing more, the young boy turned to the door and opened it. Stepping outside, he waved to his mother one last time before walking out into the dusty, cracked dirt road leading into the town. He looked around for the sun, seeing that it was setting in the northwestern sky behind Mount Hope and adjusted his hat accordingly.

"Maybe I should stay home overnight..." he pondered to himself. "Nah, that stuffy old bat is cramping my style. She needs too much and I can't give it to her."

Kyle strolled casually through the dusty, deserted roads, stopping along the way to inspect the flowers as well as the blue-leafed trees for which his hometown was named after. Having just left home, he was already fraught with boredom, so he reached into his pocket, pulled out a scratched up Pokéball and began to toss it up and down.

"I'm unbeatable~" he began to sing as he reached the town limits and the crickets began to chirp away. "Walking down this endless highway~" he continued to sing, pausing. He tossed his scratched up Pokéball in the air again and caught it behind his back, raising it above him. "With nothing but my friends beside me! We'll never give in! We'll--hunh?" he stopped his singing to listen closely.

Feminine laughter was coming from the surrounding wilderness, followed by a male voice saying, "I knew you'd love that one."

Kyle perked up and continued walking along the path. From around the corner and behind the tall grass appeared Andrea and Larson with Furret close behind them. His eyes lit up as he saw them. "Hi!" he said.

Larson greeted him warmly. "Hey there little fella!"

"I'm not little!" Kyle shot back. He rolled up his white sleeves and flexed his flabby muscles in an attempt to impress them.

Larson chuckled. "Make way for the strongman, Andrea!"

Andrea studied Kyle up and down. "Isn't it past your bedtime?"

"Don't be rude, he's just a kid." Larson replied.

Kyle laughed. "I decide my own bedtime, lady!"

"I'm just saying, it's dangerous for you to be out here this late..."

"Nuh uh!" Kyle said, presenting his battered Pokéball. "My Pokémon will protect me! I can prove it!"

Andrea shrugged. "Whatever you say..." she said, turning her attention to Larson and walking past Kyle. "Do you think Professor Ansen will still be at her lab?"

Kyle viewed her disinterest in him as an insult and decided to show her how serious he was in the only way he knew how. "Is that furry rat thing yours?" he asked.

Andrea looked at Larson, then at Kyle. "Not really. I'm just delivering it to Professor Ansen."

"So it's kinda yours? We have to battle then, those are the rules!"

Larson burst out into a quiet chuckle as Andrea looked at him in confusion. "Rules? What rules? Who's rules?" she asked.

Kyle shrugged. "I don't know. They're just the rules though."

"Look, kid, I can't reall--"

"You can't ignore the rules!" he interrupted. "Are you afraid I'll beat you?" He turned his limited edition hat around and pointed at her. "I think you are, but I don't blame you! I'm the greatest trainer this town has to offer!"

Larson joked quietly to Andrea. "For such a small town, I'm not surprised... Go on, humour him. It shouldn't take long."

"C'mon, lady!" he said excitedly.

Andrea let out an exasperated sigh. "Fine, if it'll shut you up."

Larson put his hands on her shoulders. "That's no way to start a trainer battle... Put your game face on! Get in the zone!"

Kyle studied the Furret and nodded, raising his Pokéball above his head. "Prepare yourself! Cause Kyle O'Connor's the name, being the best there ever was is my game!"

Larson laughed to himself again. "Silly kid." he mumbled.

Kyle tossed his Pokéball into the air as Furret stepped forward, ready to battle. The Pokéball popped open and an eerie wind kicked up. Floating above them was a purple orb of dark energy. Wispy slits appeared along the top of the orb and opened up into a pair of eyes. The creature grinned wickedly, showing off its sharp, cloud-like fangs.

"What the hell..." Andrea whispered. She tapped away on her R-Kit to try to bring information up on the creature in front of her, but it only displayed static. "Umm..."

Larson walked into the middle of the makeshift arena, acting as a referee. "Let's have a clean and fair fight! Kyle will be represented by his Gastly while Andrea will be represented by her Furret!" he said, making a chopping motion with his arm and stepping back. "Let's get started!"

Her unfamiliarity with properly commanding a Pokémon during a trainer battle and having never seen a Gastly before had Andrea flustered. "Alright, Furret... uhh..." she started. "Kick the crap out of that thing!"

Furret looked between her and the Gastly, confused at her command. He studied the Gastly momentarily, then charged forward. He leapt up into the air and tried to kick the ghost Pokémon, but it phased out of existence, reappearing off to the side. Furret landed on the ground but was undaunted by the miss, jumping up to attempt another kick. Furret's foot made contact with the creature, but passed through it as if it weren't there.

Kyle laughed obnoxiously as Furret continued fruitlessly to attack Gastly. "This is rich!"

Andrea looked at Larson, hoping he'd offer some advice, but all he did was shrug.

"Let me offer you a little tip, lady!" Kyle said. "Gastly is a ghost... Your Furret has no hope of touching him, as you can't touch what's not there..."

"No way..." she said, trying her best to analyze the situation. She had never believed in ghosts but took Kyle's advice. "Furret? Back off. We need to figure something out."

Furret backed away cautiously, keeping his eyes fixed on the eerie orb of dark energy. He growled in a futile attempt at intimidating Gastly, but its only response was a blood chilling, echoing laugh that seemed otherworldly.

"Is this it? Just a furry little rat?" he asked. "No matter! Let's finish this, Gastly! Shadow Ball!"

The ghostly cloud began to glow a brighter purple as a cloud of swirling, dark energy formed in front of it. With a shrieking laughter, the ghost flung the ball at Furret. Cowering in fear, Furret was unable to dodge the attack; however, the ball of energy dissipated into nothingness as it made contact with Furret.

Andrea was shocked to see Furret unharmed, thinking the battle was surely over.

"Oops, my mistake!" he said with a cheerful grin on his face and a finger in the air. "Now it's over, summon up a Dark Pulse, Gastly!"

Gastly cackled like a witch as an orb of black fire materialised in front of it. Giving Furret little time to react, Gastly detonated the orb, sending a wave of rippling, static energy outward. Furret again was unable to dodge the attack, only this time he was knocked back into some bushes.

"Score! Another notch on my Pokéball!" Kyle shouted, jumping up and down happily. He waved for his Gastly to come over to him. "I only won 'cause Gastly and I have a true bond!"

Larson stepped forward. "I guess that's it. The battle is over and Kyle is the victor. Congratulations!" he shouted, gesturing towards the young boy.

Kyle bowed graciously. "Thank you, mister!" He turned to Gastly and snapped his fingers. "Let's blow this popsicle stand!"

Gastly floated over to Andrea who was busy checking on Furret. "Boo!" it echoed, trying to scare her. Andrea turned to look at it, making eye contact. A thick, black fog began to envelop them as Gastly faded from view. A large, striped leg crashed through the darkness in front of her. The darkness lifted enough to reveal what looked like the Spinarak from earlier in the day, but much, much larger. Thick, lavender slime dripped from its massive, fanged mouth as it prepared to attack her.

Andrea screamed at the top of her lungs as she closed her eyes and her skin turned snowy white from fear. She awoke a moment later to see that the monstrous spider was gone and that the darkness had lifted. She snapped to her senses after Larson and Furret started shaking her.

"Andrea? Come on, snap out of it!" he said. "What the hell happened?

Andrea sat up and looked around, shaking. "Spider..." she mumbled.

"Come on, let's get you back on your feet," he said, lifting her off of the ground and trying to hold her attention. "Are you alright?"

She let out a deep breath and bear hugged Larson. "I think so..."

"You'll be fine... I guess he played some mind tricks on you. Whatever the case, we should keep going."

The trio walked into the town, bathed in the warm, orange glow of the setting sun. The shadows of the trees stretched across the ground, offering some relaxing shade from the still warm temperatures. The town of half a dozen houses spread apart by spacious and expansive, overgrown lawns was eerily silent, as if abandoned. Larson led Andrea up Main Street towards the lake on the northern end of the town. Along the shores of the lake were multiple, high tech looking wind mills that towered over a large, brick building.

As the group approached the large building, they noticed that the lights inside were off. "Maybe we shouldn't have bothered with that kid... Looks like Professor Ansen has gone home for the night."

Andrea studied a piece of paper that was taped to the front door, detailing the lab's business hours. "According to this, she was gone two hours ago," she said, downtrodden. "Now what?"

Larson walked to the edge of the building and looked out into the lake behind it, then inspected his surroundings. "We camp out. Unless you want to bother the locals to see who'd be willing to let us sleep in for the night. I wouldn't recommend it, though."

Andrea sauntered over to Larson and flirtatiously bumped into him. "Well, at least it's not cold out..."

"Exactly, count your blessings." he said, tossing his backpack onto the thick grass and digging through it. He pulled out a small pillow, then unhooked the sleeping bag attached to his backpack and rolled it out.

Andrea smacked her forehead as she watched Larson lay out his sleeping bag. "Duh, why didn't I think of that?" she asked. "I should have brought some of that with me..."

"Live and learn!" Larson said, laying down on it and adjusting his pillow.

Andrea stared down at Larson as he tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position. "He's not even going to offer to share with me? He can be a jerk sometimes..." She looked around but eventually decided to just sit down and lean against the building. She looked upward to see the sky rapidly fading to black as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon and the stars began to twinkle into view. An abnormally bright and slightly red star that she had never seen before caught her attention. "Hey Larson..." she said.

"Yeah?" he asked, turning to look at her.

"What is that? That bright star? I've never seen it before."

Larson sat up and looked around, then scooted up next to her. "I'm not sure..." he said, looking down at her wrist and remembering her R-Kit. "Hey, maybe that fancy thing on your wrist knows."

"Hmm..." she said, trying to navigate the various applications on the R-Kit. After a few moments, a map of the sky appeared before her. She moved around the map until she found what looked like the star in question, then tapped on it.

"Rose-b Comet." the R-Kit said. "The Rose-b Comet is the second comet to be documented and studied by Dr. Henner Rose of the Mossdeep Space Agency in Hoenn nearly twenty-seven years ago. Rose-b is currently on an approach vector towards our planet and will be at its closest next spring before returning to deep space. Currently accepted astrometrics indicate that it approaches our planet once every 468 years. Humans and Pokémon alike along the equator have used Rose-b as a travel guide for millennia."

"There you go." Larson said. "Something to look up to so you never lose your way. I've been using the North Crown since the day I landed in Kanto. I've never been lost out there."

"You also have that map I gave you..."

Larson chuckled. He watched Andrea as she looked between the sky map and the stars above her. "So how's it feel to get away from it all?"

"Pretty good... I hadn't even thought about my problems back at home since we left..."

Furret poked his head from around the corner and jumped up onto Andrea.

"Oof!" she shouted. "Watch it!"

"He wants to use you as a pillow it looks like..." Larson said, scooting back over to his sleeping bag and yawning. "Speaking of..." he said, trailing off.

Andrea attempted to reach into her pocket to grab Furret's Pokéball, but Furret had her arms pinned down. "Are you telling me you want to sleep out here instead of in your little ball thing?"

Furret made a noise resembling a cat's meow, then licked her cheek.

"I... guess that's a yes?" she said, slouching down in an attempt to get comfortable. After rolling around in the grass for a few moments, she found a comfortable position and closed her eyes. Before long, she had drifted off to sleep.
 
Obviously, I'm not the quickest when it comes to reviewing chapters.

Here we go. I thought the second chapter gave a much better insight into Andrea's character than the first one. Other characters got the focus for a few paragraphs, and even though they were short and separated, they were enough to form a general idea of the character in question. I liked how trivial game data was added into the narrative, such as Trainer IDs, characteristics, gender... etc. These things often seem forced, but I'm glad to see that they were implemented so seamlessly into the dialogue.

I found the last hallucination bit a bit awkward. It definitely worked at the start, but the end of it and the majority of what happens until the end of the chapter seemed rushed and hastily put together.

Overall, good chapter!
 
chapter 3
Storm Island
Chapter 3: A New Life

The alluring aroma of exotic jungle flowers hung thick in the air, wafting around in the crisp, refreshing breeze. The winds carried the scent over to a young woman who appeared to be slumped up against a rock in the center of a clearing. The strong smell woke her up, her ocean blue eyes slowly opening. The sight around her shocked her to her senses; was she dreaming again?

She looked around and stood up, brushing her windblown hair away from her face. In front of her was a familiar sight, a pristine pool of water surrounded by a ring of smooth stones. She approached the spring timidly, but this time of her own free will.

"I'm here again..." she said. After waiting a moment for a response, she continued. "What does this mean?" Still no response. Taking her final steps up to the pool, she stopped as a dim orb of light began to glow beneath the glass-like surface. The same faint and ghostly shape she had seen before began to emerge from the water, not disturbing the water in any way.

"Andrea, my child..." a wispy voice echoed.

"Where am I?" she asked, looking around. All that could be seen was the spring, the flowers, and the marvelous night sky showing the galaxy stretching above.

"Where you are is unimportant... What you see... is."

"Huh?"

"Gaze into the Spring of Eternity."

Andrea studied the ghostly shape in front of her, but still had no idea what it was. Without taking her eyes off of it, she slowly stepped forward, then looked down into the spring of water.

"Tell me, my child... what do you see?"

She studied the water, but saw nothing. However, she soon began to see something. She could see herself slumped over a metal railing, standing on the boardwalk of Azure Ridge. A haggard look of sadness was washed across her face, yet her expression looked dully blank. She was staring off into the sunset, a tear forming in the corner of her eye, oblivious to the fact that Larson and young woman she didn't recognize were standing behind her, trying to get her attention.

"Is this some kind of trick?" she asked.

"You will be faced with a very important decision soon, my child," the voice whispered. "Your happiness will depend on it."

"Happiness?" she asked inquisitively. Before she could get an answer, her vision faded to white as the ghostly figure sunk back into the spring.

Andrea's eyes opened again; she appeared to be back in Blueleaf Village, leaning up against the large brick building. Larson was snoring lightly off to the side and the Furret she was delivering was still curled up on top of her. She managed to wiggle an arm free and looked at the time displayed on her R-Kit. 3:40 AM. Thoughts about what she just saw raced through her mind, but she tried her best to put them out of mind and get back to sleep.

- - - - -​

It was bright and early in the morning. The singing of various birds carried loudly throughout the rural wilderness surrounding the tiny town of Blueleaf Village. The air had cooled off quite a bit overnight, yet temperatures still lingered in the upper 80s. For the residents of Blueleaf Village, this was just a normal summer, as many were out and busy, working in their gardens or in the wheat fields just west of the town. One particular resident was walking down the dirt road towards Professor Ansen's Research lab, trying to keep her sandy blonde hair from being blown all over by the wind.

Upon reaching the laboratory, she reached into her pocket and retrieved a large key ring lined with nearly thirty keys. She slid one of the keys into the lock and twisted it, then pushed the door open. As she was about to step inside, a noise from around the corner of the building caught her attention. She went to investigate, only to find Andrea, Larson and the Furret meant for her, stirring in their sleep. "What's this? A Furret?" she asked, kneeling down. She rolled her sleeve up to reveal an R-Kit that looked slightly different compared to the one Andrea had, waving it closely to the Furret. "Yep, this is the one..." she said. She tapped on Andrea's shoulder to wake her up. "Oi, wake up."

Andrea's eyes opened, blurred and still half asleep. "Huh?" She sat up and looked at the time displayed on her R-Kit, then groaned.

"Rough night?" the woman asked.

"Uhh... yeah..." Andrea shyly said. She crawled over to Larson and pushed him around to wake him.

"I suppose you're Dr. Spruce's errand girl!" the woman said cheerfully, offering her hand outward. "I'm Professor Ansen, it's a pleasure to meet you!"

Andrea stood up and stretched, yawning. "Hi, I'm Andrea..." she said quietly.

"So this is the Furret you're delivering to me..." Professor Ansen said, studying Furret as he continued sleeping. "He's smaller than I thought he'd be, that makes things easier."

"Small? He's huge!" Andrea said, remembering how he reached up to her hips when he brushed up against her the previous day.

Professor Ansen laughed. "You should see how big they usually get!" She looked over at Larson who was curling his sleeping bag up and strapping it to his backpack. "And you are?"

Larson looked up at her with sadness. "You don't remember me? I'm Larson Reiserben!"

She covered her mouth in shock. "Larson! It's been so long! I barely recognized you!" she said, studying his facial features. "Get rid of that mustache though... you look ridiculous with it."

Larson gasped and defended his thin, handlebar mustache as if his honor had just been insulted. "Noooo!" he shouted, bursting into laughter with Professor Ansen.

"How's Drake? Been treating him well?" she asked.

He reached into his pocket and grabbed a green Pokéball decorated with yellow stripes. "You bet. I could never mistreat the little guy who started it all for me."

"Good!" she said. "What kind of adventures have you gotten up to?"

"Nine badges from across Kanto and Johto, ma'am," Larson said with pride. "I'll return to Kanto after my vacation is done and sweep the rest under the rug! And then it's back to Johto!"

"I keep telling you that your pride will be your downfall, but you seem to be the most successful trainer I've seen from your generation," she said, shielding herself from the sun. "Enough, though. Let's get inside, it's getting dreadfully hot already."

Andrea pulled the Pokéball from her pocket as Larson followed the professor into her lab. She held it out towards Furret, saying, "Uhh... return, was it?" Furret began to fade red, then deformed into a red cloud of energy. As he surged back into his Pokéball, the force knocked Andrea's arm back unexpectedly. She turned her head to look down at the Pokéball which beeped. "Woah. This is cool."

She rushed after the two and into the lab, being greeted by a marvelous display of technology that completely outshined what she had seen in Dr. Spruce's lab. The first thing that caught her attention was a large machine in the center of the main room; A dim ring of blue light flowed from the top of it. Inside was a holographic projection of a large turtle-like creature. She approached the machine and reached her hand out to touch the hologram. Much to her surprise, the projection was solid to the touch. The grooves within the turtle-like creature's shell were rigid and had a rough texture to them. "No way..."

Professor Ansen appeared at the doorway to another room. "Ah, there you are. Looks like someone's been distracted by the hologram emitter!"

"This can't be real..." she said, poking at the blue, flickering figure.

"It's science non-fiction." the professor said. "The average every day citizen doesn't have much contact with it, but technology has advanced steadily and quickly in the past ten years! But before we get carried away or distracted again, please follow me."

Andrea followed Professor Ansen through the lobby and down a hallway. Lining the sides of the hallway were doorways into rooms filled with racks of Pokéballs, bulletin boards coated in papers, baskets of berries, bottles of medicine... Anything related to the research and care of Pokémon was in abundant supply. Professor Ansen led Andrea to the third door on the right, her office. Larson was seated patiently inside, staring up at the small shelf filled with awards, though not nearly as many as Dr. Spruce had.

"Have any trouble on the road?" she asked. "Dr. Spruce said you'd be here before nightfall, but he always has been a bit too optimistic about travel times."

"We had a spider problem, but it was easy to deal with," Larson said.

"That doesn't sound too bad. I remember I had a run in with a ferocious bear at one point, when I was just getting my career on the road..." the professor recalled.

The dismissive attitudes of the two others put Andrea at unease and taunted her inabilities and fears. She abruptly tried to change the subject, pulling the Pokéball out of her pocket and offering it to the professor. "Here."

"Thanks. I'll take that off of your hands." the professor said, swiping the Pokéball from Andrea. She placed the Pokéball onto a small device atop her desk and clicked a few buttons on it. An audible whoosh sound followed the appearance of a red glow of light that formed around the Pokéball. "I really should be thanking you, Andrea. And you too, Larson. The speedy delivery of this Furret will hopefully get me started on the next step of my current research project."

"Whatcha researching?" Larson asked.

The device beeped and the red glow faded. "Ah ha!" the professor said triumphantly. "Over the past year, I've been branching out into the research of Pokémon genetics. It's been an absolute nightmare in a half, due to the complexity of their genetic makeup, as well as the hundreds of species' I've been working with."

"And what's so special about this Furret?" he questioned.

"I'm not entirely certain just yet..." she replied. "This machine's analysis of this Furret has detected an anomaly of sorts."

"Anomaly?"

"Inconsistency, irregularity, abnormality," Andrea parroted as if she was reading from a thesaurus.

"Exactly!" Professor Ansen said, smiling.

"Is it good or bad?" he asked.

"I don't know for certain..." she said, taking a seat. She rummaged through the wreck of papers and folders on her desk, making a futile attempt at locating a specific packet of information. "A good friend of mine, Professor Oak, may have given me some information about it... somewhere..." she said. She grew frustrated as she scattered the papers, then swiveled around to look through the papers blanketing the shelf behind her. "Ugh, the life of a scientist! This place is a mess!"

"You should see Andrea's room some time," Larson joked. His smile dissipated as he noticed the sharp glare he received from her.

"Any ways..." she said as she looked around one last time. "This will be the third documented case of this genetic abnormality so far. What actual effect it has on Pokémon is up for debate, as it's only recently been discovered."

"Uh huh..." Larson said, unsure of what he was hearing.

"Kinda interesting..." Andrea added.

"Only kinda?" the professor asked.

"My Introduction to Genetics class bored me in school, to be honest. I was more into the mechanical, physics and digital stuff."

"Ah! Well, there are over a dozen different fields I work in, including some of those. I could show you around, so you can see the kind of things we do here."

Larson nodded. "Yeah, let's have a look around! It's not often people get to see what goes on behind closed doors in research labs like this."

"I don't know, Larson. I should really be getting home."

Professor Ansen was visibly distraught. "Oh... well, that... kinda throws a wrench in my plans. I had a very important question to ask you, but..." she said, trailing off.

"What is it?" Andrea asked.

"When Dr. Spruce called ahead to let me know you'd be coming, he said you'd recently been let go from your job. I have a position opened up... nothing big, really, but something I can tell you might be interested in."

"What position?" she asked, her expression lighting up.

"A research assistant. Specifically, a travelling research assistant. You'd get to help out in the lab from time to time, but you'd mainly be on the road gathering information for our research projects."

Andrea's heart sank, thinking she was about to be offered a stable laboratory job. Instead, she was given the role of a traveller, the role she already had a good feeling she wouldn't like. A role of instability and unpredictability, a role of danger. She continued to think before being interrupted.

"He also said you have a few emotional issues to work on, but I honestly don't see that. I see potential!"

"P-potential?" she asked quietly. "Umm..."

Professor Ansen picked up the Furret's Pokéball and offered it to Andrea. "This will be your first research project, if you accept."

Andrea studied the Pokéball and reacher her hand out, pushing it away.

"Are you sure?" she asked, confused.

Larson interjected, attempting to explain. "It's a long story, professor. It took a lot of effort just to get Andrea out here. She could probably explain it better than I could." He looked over to Andrea to see her head sinking and her slumping into the chair, shutting down. "Hmmph. About twelve years ago, when we were just little kids, I told her I wanted to explore the wilderness just outside of the city. Being dumb kids, we didn't really know better. We didn't understand the dangers. We found ourselves out in Route 301 before long." he said, pausing. "Well, to make a long story somewhat short, we found ourselves in a Sandslash den. They went after her before I could scare them off. To this day, I think that's what's gotten her to be so mistrusting of Pokémon, to never wanting to deal with them."

Andrea recalled the frightful memory, mumbling as she nodded slowly.

"Oh dear... I'm so sorry to hear that." the professor said. "I don't want to force it, but... I do want you to think deeply about it."

Larson stood up and leaned over the professor's desk, whispering into her ear. The two looked back at Andrea with grins on their faces, but she was too busy looking at the floor to notice.

"I have an idea, Andrea. Let's go for a little walk." the professor said. "I also run a small nature reserve behind the lab. We can talk in a more relaxed setting."

Andrea looked up at the two silently, then sighed. "Fine."

"Good!" the professor said, leaping up out of her chair energetically. She reached for her keys and unlocked the door at the side of her office. "Follow me!"

- - - - -​

The three were walking along a gravel path away from the laboratory, sparsely shaded from the sun by large trees. Professor Ansen and Larson were chatting casually about his journey through Kanto and Johto, a conversation that was largely lost on Andrea. She tried to join in on occasion, but often had little to add, so she just listened.

"Now that Larson's done talking my ear off, tell me a little about yourself, Andrea," the professor said. "What's your story?"

"Umm..." Andrea shyly started. "What's there to tell? I'm just a city girl who hasn't had life going very well for her."

"What kind of hobbies do you have? What are you good at? That kind of stuff."

Andrea thought about what she enjoyed to spend her time on, realizing that there wasn't much. Ever since finishing school, she toiled away at her old job of helping to manage the Crimson Crawdaunt. Her social life was non-existent, due to most of her friends leaving to become Pokémon trainers, and she spent much of her free time inside, away from the very things that she felt she didn't experience enough of. "Uhh..." she started, trying to break the silence.

"You seemed interested and blown away when you entered the lab. Tell me a little about that."

Andrea thought back to when she entered the lab, and then back to when she visited Dr. Spruce's lab in Azure Ridge. "I've been kind of interested in science-y stuff since I was young, I guess... Physics and mechanical engineering, mostly."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah... like... I've been following the Mossdeep Space Agency's progress in building the space station."

"Oh yeah, the space station! It's fascinating, isn't it? Relatively speaking, we know so little about our own world and we're already taking the baby steps towards space exploration."

"I guess so," she said. Professor Ansen's interest in her calmed her nerves a bit. It seemed odd to her that a complete stranger would be so friendly, so talkative. Friendliness and fellowship was something she rarely experienced in the fast-paced lifestyle in the city. "So, umm... What's it like being a researcher?"

The professor grinned. "I love it!" she said excitedly. "It may not seem like it to the casual observer, but everything we researchers do has enormous impact on the daily lives of nearly everyone. Pokémon trainers, school teachers, engineers, policemen, kids... We develop technology, techniques and ways of doing things that have put our growth as a society in overdrive. To wake up every morning and realize that what you're doing that day contributes to our evolution as a species is nothing short of humbling and inspiring." she said, placing her hand on Andrea's shoulder. "And perhaps soon, you'll experience it for yourself. But before I ask again if you'd like to work with me, I have something I need to try, first."

"And what might that be?" Larson asked, his hands in his pockets.

The group approached a stream that emptied into the lake behind the laboratory. The tall reeds that grew out of the stream shook every few moments, as if something was hiding inside of them. Before long, a pair of green frog-like creatures emerged, hopping into the water with a large splash. Andrea instinctively jumped behind Larson, as she did whenever she felt threatened or scared. Her quick and sudden movements caught the attention of the frog-like creatures; the antenna-like appendages sprouting from their heads curled up in curiosity as they tilted their heads to the side to study her.

"What are those things?" she asked.

"I've seen these before," Larson said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a Pokédex. The Pokédex spent a few seconds working to determine what was in front of them.

As the Pokédex continued to load information, Professor Ansen laughed. "Is Professor Oak still handing out those worthless pieces of crap?"

"Politoed, the frog Pokémon!" the Pokédex replied in a droll, robotic voice. "Politoed is known to gather in groups and sing songs that inspire nearby members of the species. It was once thought that a curly antenna symbolized social status within a group, but further study has disproved this theory."

The professor motioned forward as Larson stepped out from in front of Andrea. "Approach them slowly." she said.

"Uhh..." Andrea muttered as her voice cracked. "Do I have to?"

"You don't, but what will it hurt to try?" she replied.

"Ohhh..." Andrea wavered, slowly stepping forward. With each step, she tensed up slightly until she could barely move. "Deep breaths..." she said. Another step. Breathe in, breathe out. She kept a small distance and knelt down. "The professor wouldn't ask me to approach if it was dangerous, right?" she thought to herself as the pair of frog creatures continued to study her.

One of the frog creatures hopped out of the stream and waddled over to her, croaking loudly as it approached. Andrea reluctantly held her hand out. With a friendly demeanor, the Politoed's slow waddle turned into a brisk, stumbling run. It sniffed her hand and let out a loud, "CROOOOOAAAK!"

Andrea flinched, but quickly regained her composure and gently rubbed the Politoed on the forehead. "How you doin', uh... buddy?" she sheepishly asked.

The Politoed made a smile-like facial impression, then turned around to join its partner. The two hopped off into the stream and back into the reeds, disappearing from sight as quickly as they appeared. Loud croaking emanated from the reeds shortly after.

"See, not everything is vicious, Andrea," Larson said.

"I guess..." she replied, standing up.

"Let's keep going, shall we? There's more to see."

The group returned to the gravel path that snaked alongside the stream, venturing through the relatively small nature preserve. Much of the wildlife was hidden from view, trying its best to avoid the harsh temperatures, but some still lingered nearby the cool stream. As the group passed by, Andrea noticed a crustacean that she immediately recognized from her old job; Crawdaunt. The red and white shellfish was locked in combat with another of its species, fighting for supremacy. She slowed her pace to observe but was careful not to fall behind.

"So, what other experiences have you had with Pokémon, Andrea?" the professor asked. "Surely they can't all have been bad."

"Her dad is a policeman in the city, so she's been living with a Growlithe."

"Yeah... Spud. He's alright, he's well trained. I can trust him not to go berserk and attack me... But I've seen the way other people treat their Pokémon and I'm not sure when they'll snap."

"I'm sure you've seen Larson's Pokémon, too!"

"A few times... He's got that creepy... what is it, Clefairy?" she asked, trying to remember the specifics. "And his Charlizard."

"Charizard!" he said.

Professor Ansen giggled. "So, outside of that unfortunate event in your youth, how many truly bad experiences have you had with Pokémon?"

Andrea took some time to think. Admittedly, she hadn't had many bad experiences, but she had always been careful to avoid contact with Pokémon whenever she could. She'd stay indoors for long stretches of the day, avoid customers at the Crimson Crawdaunt with Pokémon by their sides and cross to the opposite side of the street whenever she'd see one walking with its trainer through the city. "Truth be told?" she paused. "Just that really... Unless you count that big horrible spider from yesterday."

"You just need to get used to them, that's all," the professor said.

Their tour of the nature preserve had come to an end, arriving at the back door where they had started. Professor Ansen dug her key ring out of her pocket and unlocked the door to her office with it. An almost arctic blast of air welcomed the group as she opened the door and stepped inside. She took a seat behind her desk and offered for her two guests to have a seat as well.

"So, Andrea, that brings me back to my first question. Now that you've had some positive experiences with the Pokémon under my care, will you reconsider that offer I made earlier?" the professor asked.

The question buzzed around in Andrea's mind, bouncing back and forth between the possible risks and the possible rewards. They bounced between what her often overprotective parents might think and what she wanted for herself. Finally, it bounced off of one last thought, her dream from the night before; It said that she would be faced with an important decision soon, a decision that would have a large impact on her future and her happiness. She wondered if this might be that decision, then wondered which answer would lead her life down a path of sadness and despair, which would lead to personal happiness. "Ummm..." she said, trying to break the silence.

"Come on, Andrea... Make up your mind." Larson muttered to himself.

"If I say yes..." she thought to herself. "I'll be stuck travelling, I'll be leaving everything behind... including my chance with Larson..." She looked up at him and smiled, studying him as she continued to think. "But if I say no... will I ever do anything with my life?" She asked herself the toughest question, "Is Larson more important than my future? Or is he my future? Happiness..."

After a few more moments of deliberation, she said, "I'll try it, I guess."

"You guess?" the professor said. "Show a little confidence, dear. Will you, or will you not?"

Andrea nodded. "I will. I'm ready."

The professor picked up the Pokéball that was resting on her desk and handed it to Andrea. "Welcome aboard! Let's get you started." she said as she dug around in the corner of the room for something.

Andrea looked down at the Pokéball in her hands. Her reflection in the red domed top showed hints of self-confidence that she had rarely seen before, but she figured that would wear off after a few minutes.

Professor Ansen placed a cardboard box on top of her desk and opened it. "Do you know which R-Kit model Dr. Spruce gave you? It looks like an early DR-X model."

"Umm..." Andrea said, looking all over the R-Kit for a model or any kind of marking.

"Here. You'll be wanting this, it's the absolute latest in R-Kit technology. I hope you like pink!" the professor said as she handed the new R-Kit to Andrea. "And one for you..." she said, digging around in the box for another, a blue one, which she handed to Larson. "And to start you off..." she said, continuing to rummage through the box. She pulled out four shiny, unused Pokéballs and handed them to Andrea. "For your research, should you come across anything interesting."

"I'm not going to have to learn all of that trainer stuff, am I?" Andrea said with a slight tone of misery in her voice as she took the Pokéballs.

Professor Ansen smiled. "The basics, yes. I'd recommend learning further, but it's not required."

"That's what I'm here for," Larson added.

"Have this, too," the professor said, handing over a leather-bound notebook. "You could probably keep all of your information and notes on your R-Kit, but sometimes it's just easier and more convenient to write things down."

Andrea took the notebook, stuffing it and her new-found treasures in her purse. "Thank you. So, what's my first project?"

"You might not like it, but... there's something I've been meaning to send one of my colleagues out to do. I need something delivered to Reginald Kerk over in Silvermist City's Crystal Bay district." she said. "It's not science, but it'll get you on the road towards something else I'll need done soon, and I can promise you that it'll be more interesting."

"Reginald Kerk? Why is that name so familiar?" Larson asked.

"He's a mad scientist with dozens of claims to fame. Pick something and he's probably involved." she said, picking up a bulging, yellow envelope. "These are some of my research notes regarding some of the aquatic Pokémon he's sent me over the past few months."

Andrea grabbed the envelope. "Umm... Where is Crystal Bay exactly? I've never really been outside of the city..."

"Your new R-Kit has a map of Storm Island in it. It'll point the way for you and even give travel directions."

Andrea looked at the pink R-Kit she had just received, studying the buttons on the screen. She tapped on the one that looked similar to a compass and a map of the world appeared. The world rotated towards a southern ocean and zoomed in; Storm Island. The map zoomed in further, scrolling from the center of the island to Andrea's current location. The level of detail on the map was impressive; As Andrea tapped on the screen, the map zoomed in further, crisply displaying each individual tile on the roof of the laboratory.

"Computer, display directions towards Crystal Bay from the current location." the professor said.

A blue line appeared on the map, stretching southward. Andrea's journey would take her south, back home to Azure Ridge, then west across the jagged cliffs of Route 302 towards Silvermist City. "Approximate travel time is estimated to be two and a half days on foot, one day by bicycle." the R-Kit said in a robotic voice.

"That doesn't sound bad, right?" Larson asked as he patted her on the back. "Two days is nothing. It takes a week and a half to get from Goldenrod City to Azalea Town."

Andrea grumbled and sighed. "It does, but I'm going to have to get used to it, I guess..."

"That's the spirit!"

Professor Ansen eyed Andrea suspiciously, clearly sensing her nervous attitude and lack of faith in herself. "Any questions, before I send you off?"

Larson quickly butted in. "Nope, ain't no one got time for questions! I'll take it from here!"

"But--"

"Trust me, Andrea! When's the last time I had a bad idea?"

"Uhh..." she said, remembering the time he strapped fireworks to the wheels of his bike.

"I'm sure you'll figure it out. It can be confusing at first, but if Larson can figure it out..." the professor joked. "I probably don't need to say this, but speak with your parents when you get home. You'll be gone for weeks at a time, possibly months depending on which projects I put you on."

"Understood," Andrea said.

"And grab something out of the fridge in the lobby before you go. It's hot enough to melt stone out there!" she replied.

Andrea looked at Larson with a blank look on her face, then raised her eyebrows as if to tell him to lead the way. It all happened so quickly that she hadn't had time to absorb what might be in store for her now. She realized she barely even had control over what she had said, but figured she had done a well enough job. "Professor Ansen seemed confident in me, so I must have done something right."

She followed Larson out into the hallways and then into the main lobby. She studied the bizarre grin on his face. "So what now, Lars?"

"We head home and prepare for the journey."

"It's just a couple days of walking, it doesn't sound like we'd need to make much preparation..."

"You'll learn," he said, stopping at the refrigerator in the main room and pointed to his head. "Think! What might you need on a long trip through the wilderness?"

"Food and water, obviously." she said, opening the refrigerator door. "Eeep!" she shouted as she jumped in fright. Inside the refrigerator sat a small echidna-like creature, curled up in a ball; A dark turquoise stripe ran along its snout and up its head. The stripe widened to cover the entire creature's back which was lined with four, glowing red holes. It slumbered peacefully, unaware that its refuge from the heat had been opened. "What is it?" she asked.

"It's a Cyndaquil, you dope! You know that!" Larson joked. "It's harmless..." he paused. "Mostly harmless."

Andrea quickly reached into the refrigerator, pushing aside a basket of berries and grabbing two bottles of lemonade. She handed one to Larson and continued her previous thought. "First aid supplies."

"Those will come in very handy..." he said, leading her out of the lab and into the blazing sun. "You should probably call your parents, let them know you'll be home shortly, but you need to speak with them about your new job."

Andrea sighed. "I suppose you're right. My mom isn't going to be too thrilled, I don't think she believes I can do anything on my own."

"Now's the time to prove her wrong," Larson said.

Andrea reached into her purse and dug around for her cell phone. She flipped it open, cycling through the numbers until she reached her parents. Three rings was all it took before the phone was picked up.

"Hello?" a masculine voice asked.

"Hi dad!" she said. "I made it to Blueleaf safely!"

"Alright, that's my girl! I knew you could do it!"

"It was only a few hours of walking, dad, it's not a big deal..." she said, pausing. "Umm... when I get home, I have something to talk to you and mom about."

"Yeah, yeah. What's the matter, is everything alright?"

"Yes. I've got big news that I'll talk about later, kay?" she replied. "I should be home in a few hours, I'm just leaving Blueleaf now."

"Already? Aww c'mon, stay up there for awhile, enjoy the wilderness."

Andrea looked around at the village of Blueleaf. The atmosphere was very different from the bustling city; There weren't mindless hordes of pedestrians roaming the streets nor was there anything particularly interesting. Just grass, fields of golden wheat, large trees, some draped with blue leaves, and rustic, grim looking people. "I don't think so. I'm not really liking the atmosphere. It's so quiet out here!"

"I'd kill for some quiet every now and then, but I won't force you. I can't!"

"I'll be going now. Can you let mom know I'm on my way home?" she asked.

"I can and will. See you soon."

"Good bye," she said, closing her phone and putting it into her pocket. She stared at the ground as she followed Larson to the village limits, thinking deeply. "Do you think I made the right choice, Lars?" she asked.

"Who can say? It's certainly better than staying at home, being angry at that guy who fired you." he replied.

"Yeah, you're right. Let's see what life throws at me this time." She raised her hand to her forehead to block the sun, finding the Azure Ridge city skyline on the horizon, then tugged on his arm. "Shall we?"
 
And we're off!

That was a rather good chapter, and Professor Ansen definitely got her spotlight. Larson mostly faded into the background, which is all well considering he got two chapters to form his personality. Should Andrea continue on the path she's on, Professor Ansen could become a very prominent character, so getting some attention will be good in the long run, even if she's not likely to make many more physical appearances.

A well-paced chapter, and there were no grammar mistakes that I could spot. I look forward to what adventures Andrea's new job will take her on, and how they will relate to the overall story; having a character be so wary of Pokémon having to take on such a job is an interesting combination, if done right. Great chapter!
 
CHAPTER 1:

Starting off with Chapter 1 I’ll say that due to the nature of the anime and games, lots of fics tend to start with an eager, enthusiastic person who just became eligible or able to become a Pokémon Trainer starting off on a beautiful day with perfect weather.

Its a nice chance to see the perspective of someone who just happens to live in this world and isn’t into raising or battling Pokémon wind up having to persue the Trainer lifestyle as a matter of nescessity in taking care of everyday business and isn’t even eager or enthusiastic about it.

I didn’t see any grammar problems, and while nothing is actually wrong with the two things I’m about to point out, perhaps they might be of some use to you.

When in the narration you described “A light but refreshing breeze”, I personally find the idea of a “light breeze” to be refreshing in and of itself. The “but” in there doesn’t seem nescessary to me, if you had described “a light, refreshing breeze” I wouldn’t have found anything amiss.

Also, I could suggest when you describe in the narration that “There wasn't a single cloud in sight all the way to the horizon.”, if there wasn’t a single cloud in sight, that would most surely include out the the horizon. What you intended was clear, but perhaps you overdescribed it a bit?

I love your invention of the “Crimson Crawdaunt” restaurant, it’s little touches like that that really make individuals conceptions of the Pokémon world worth checking out in the form of fics.

Out of curiosity, with the line “If I had a silver coin for every trainer who did that...”, are you using “silver coin” as a device to allow you to avoid mentioning any particular country’s coins and currency? If so it was a brilliant idea, and even if that wasn’t your intention, the decision to say “silver coin” rather than “nickel” or something like that interests me. Did any particular through to into that?

Also, it’s cute when Andrea messes up Charizard’s name, but also not at all unrealistic given her background.


----------
CHAPTER 2:

The encounter with Dr. Spruce was neat. It felt exactly like one of those moments from early in the game where someone from your home town gives you a key item or device, without it seeming too contrived.

The R-Kit is neat! It incorperates ideas like the PokéGear and Poketch into something even better! I’d love for the upcoming generations of Pokémon to have something like that on the bottom screen, incorporating the features of the Gen V C-Gear into something far more useful.

“Alright, Furret... uhh..." she started. "Kick the crap out of that thing!” - while obviously humorous, there’s something very honest and realistic about that moment. It’s kind of unrealistic to expect beginning trainers to always know all their Pokémon’s moves as though they are literally sitting in front of a video game screen with all the options spelled out for them. Same goes for Kyle’s goof of having his Gastly using Shadow Ball.

I’m not sure if the comment about people using the comet to navigate by is scientifically accurate since comets move fairly rapidly and wouldn’t nescessarily remain consistent in the night sky, but who cares, we just had a scene with a giant weasel fighting both a giant purse snatching spider and a ghost, some people might get hung up over that, but given the nature of this universe I would consider any serious complaints over that detail in THIS context to be seriously nitpicky.

---------------
CHAPTER 3:

As this chapter begins I consider for the first time how unusual it is in my experience for someone’s “trainer journey” to begin with inconsistent, non-ideal weather. It usually always seems perfect and sunny, its nice for it to be uncomfortably hot during one of these stories for a change.

Wow, they get new R-Kits already! Talk about moving up in the world!

Cyndaquil in the fridge! How unexpected! Have to admit, Cyndaquil is not my first choice for a Pokémon that would need to go to such extremes to hide from the heat, but hey, maybe this Cyndaquil is eccentric or something, eh? :p
 
Oops, I completely missed all of this feedback! I am a terrible author.

Its a nice chance to see the perspective of someone who just happens to live in this world and isn’t into raising or battling Pokémon wind up having to persue the Trainer lifestyle as a matter of nescessity in taking care of everyday business and isn’t even eager or enthusiastic about it.
Yeah, I'm sick of the bright eyed youths with a penchant for adventure, ready to save the world from the disasters they cause. I was so sick of it that I vowed one day to make my own Pokemon game, and how the story starts off here is pretty much how I brainstormed the start of that story. I wanted to be different, and I guess I did it.

When in the narration you described “A light but refreshing breeze”, I personally find the idea of a “light breeze” to be refreshing in and of itself. The “but” in there doesn’t seem nescessary to me, if you had described “a light, refreshing breeze” I wouldn’t have found anything amiss.
Well, I'm imagining Storm Island (or at least the southern coastline) as a very balmy, tropical place. While I myself don't live in a tropical area, my local area gets "warm breezes" on hot days which are anything but refreshing, especially if you're out in direct sunlight. I imagine this would only be worse in humid areas like in the tropics. Although maybe not. You tend to sweat a lot in these areas and the action of the wind hitting your damp skin is often refreshing.

I don't know where I'm going with this, so let's move on.

Also, I could suggest when you describe in the narration that “There wasn't a single cloud in sight all the way to the horizon.”, if there wasn’t a single cloud in sight, that would most surely include out the the horizon. What you intended was clear, but perhaps you overdescribed it a bit?
Ehhh, possibly. I do like to describe things in detail, even if it does end up being too much at times. The better question to ask is... did I overstay my welcome with details on a consistent basis, or was it only here and there that a few details less would have sufficed?

I love your invention of the “Crimson Crawdaunt” restaurant, it’s little touches like that that really make individuals conceptions of the Pokémon world worth checking out in the form of fics.
I'm surprised how much I've fallen in love with the name Crimson Crawdaunt. It was something I just pulled out of the air one day when my room mate was talking about Red Lobster. Never thought I'd like it, as I never intended to make it an important thing relating to any of the characters. But I did simply because I thought I was unusually witty with it.

Out of curiosity, with the line “If I had a silver coin for every trainer who did that...”, are you using “silver coin” as a device to allow you to avoid mentioning any particular country’s coins and currency? If so it was a brilliant idea, and even if that wasn’t your intention, the decision to say “silver coin” rather than “nickel” or something like that interests me. Did any particular through to into that?
I intentionally tried to avoid naming any specific denomination of currency, as the franchise has always been very vague about it. The famous "Pokedollar" just sounds dumb to me, so I opted for nameless coins (for now?) that come in iron, brass, silver and gold varieties.

That, and I'm still not entirely certain on Storm Islands relation to the "Pokemon Nation". It follows Sinnoh in route numbers, but other than that I never really made a connection. My only reference (which I don't believe I've made in the story yet) is that it's far to the south in the middle of the ocean, and as such may not be part of the group of regions we know.

Also, it’s cute when Andrea messes up Charizard’s name, but also not at all unrealistic given her background.
That's my daughter getting through. She only knows "Pikerchu", "Charlizard" and "Bubbysarr". If she comes up with any adorable corruptions for Pokemon names that'd fit the context of Andrea's experience level, I'll be sure to include them :D

The encounter with Dr. Spruce was neat. It felt exactly like one of those moments from early in the game where someone from your home town gives you a key item or device, without it seeming too contrived.
Mmm, looking back at it, I'm not sure how I like my portrayal of it. Parts did feel a bit forced, or maybe I did pace it correctly and I just don't feel like I did.

The R-Kit is neat! It incorperates ideas like the PokéGear and Poketch into something even better! I’d love for the upcoming generations of Pokémon to have something like that on the bottom screen, incorporating the features of the Gen V C-Gear into something far more useful.
My idea for the R-Kit was for it to be basically what the Pokedex should have been; an actual index on everything related to Pokemon, ranging from research, battle strategies, coordination skills. I kind of want it to be kind of like the computer system aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek; all knowing, can do no harm and overall just convenient.

“Alright, Furret... uhh..." she started. "Kick the crap out of that thing!” - while obviously humorous, there’s something very honest and realistic about that moment. It’s kind of unrealistic to expect beginning trainers to always know all their Pokémon’s moves as though they are literally sitting in front of a video game screen with all the options spelled out for them. Same goes for Kyle’s goof of having his Gastly using Shadow Ball.
Thanks, I struggled to find a way to portray battles properly. A lot of fanfics I read before I started to write my own were very generic with their battles, very boring. It was tradeback of "Use x, dodge, use y, counterattack with z". So I tried to imagine what it'd be like in the real world, especially to a beginner. We wouldn't have specific names for everything. If you had animals fighting for you, you'd basically just say "go kill that thing!" rather than say "tackle it! bite it! sand attack it!" This means I won't be using move names for the most part, though I'll obviously slip up every now and then. It'll make it easier for me to portray levels of inexperience among my characters, as they won't have the magic knowledge in front of them.

As for Gastly using Shadow Ball, I chose to do that to show that Kyle basically talks out of his ass about his supposed skill, and this will play heavily into his character development, hopefully.

I’m not sure if the comment about people using the comet to navigate by is scientifically accurate since comets move fairly rapidly and wouldn’t nescessarily remain consistent in the night sky, but who cares, we just had a scene with a giant weasel fighting both a giant purse snatching spider and a ghost, some people might get hung up over that, but given the nature of this universe I would consider any serious complaints over that detail in THIS context to be seriously nitpicky.
Most comets probably aren't ideal for travel, yes. They come, they go, and they disappear for decades. However, I chose to make this comet special. I imagine it's quite large in the sky, as it has an orbit that takes it very close to the planet compared to comets in our solar system.

When I originally conceptualized the comet, I took inspiration from the Red Meteor in Game of Thrones, a ball of fire that hung in the sky, visible during the daytime, used as an omen by some people to show that the dragons had returned, and by others to show the fire god's power. The comet being highly visible and used as a travel aid during its stay in the night sky is meant to symbolize that this comet is important and will be playing a role further on.

As this chapter begins I consider for the first time how unusual it is in my experience for someone’s “trainer journey” to begin with inconsistent, non-ideal weather. It usually always seems perfect and sunny, its nice for it to be uncomfortably hot during one of these stories for a change.
All in the plan of "being different", though I think this was mostly me being so god damn tired (or maybe inspired) of the two-week heat wave that plagued my area two years ago.

Wow, they get new R-Kits already! Talk about moving up in the world!
Yep. This was a subtle hint that denied Dr. Spruce's superiority, having his assistant say that he's "ahead" of Professor Ansen. She may have a small lab and not as many people working under her, but she doesn't let that stop her from sticking it to Mr. Bigshot.

Cyndaquil in the fridge! How unexpected! Have to admit, Cyndaquil is not my first choice for a Pokémon that would need to go to such extremes to hide from the heat, but hey, maybe this Cyndaquil is eccentric or something, eh? :p
Back before I rewrote this story, Cyndaquil's presence in the fridge was originally meant to be a scary sight for Andrea, who was expecting to just find something cold. This is one of those little things that got carried over into the rewrite but lost its original meaning. I guess I could make something of it in the future, if this Cyndaquil reappears.

having a character be so wary of Pokémon having to take on such a job is an interesting combination, if done right. Great chapter!
That is my main aim, to explore how Pokemon have effects on nervous wrecks like Andrea. I fear I'll end up writing her into a comfortable position too quickly, but hopeful

Anyways, thanks a bunch for the critique, suggestions and time you've spent reading it!
 
chapter 4
Storm Island
Chapter 4: Departure

Andrea's father was in the living room of the Dennison family house, putting on his police uniform. His black twill pants were lined with a golden stripe, held in place by an ornate buckle representing the symbol of the Storm Island Police. He put his black jacket on, clasping two golden pins to each of the epaulets resting on his shoulders, then stepped in front of the mirror. Satisfied with how his tie looked, he grabbed his uniform hat and put it on his head over his brown, shaggy hair. "Another day..." he said to himself before stepping out into the kitchen.

Seated at the table was his partner, Detective Jack Reiserben. Jack was studying a folder filled with papers related to a case they were following. "I wish we could make progress on finding this person, it feels like we've been beating our hands bloody on a brick wall for the past week." he said, looking over a list of potential suspects.

"In due time. A member of Team Rocket always shows his or her face in some silly display of power... or stupidity. We'll nab 'em then." he said, sitting down. "Who's next on the list? Fat Paulie didn't seem to know anything, I think it's safe to move onto our next suspect."

"Some girl named Angela, she recently drifted into town, but nobody seems to know where she's gone."

"What's so special about her?" Marvin asked.

Jack unclipped a paper from his folder and tossed it across the table. "She's been seen hanging around some shady types in the past. I looked into her file; Two counts of aggravated assault and an outstanding warrant in Johto for attempted murder. Aliases include 'Dark Angel', 'Pink Sparkle' and 'Bright Eyes'. 24 years old, she changes her hair color often, blue eyes..."

"Attempted murder, eh? Not in my city." Marvin said, studying the file on the suspect. "No mentions of any affiliation with Team Rocket, though. Why is she a suspect?"

"She might know something. Consider it a hunch."

Marvin nodded in agreement. "Your hunches are rarely wrong."

Meredith walked into the kitchen, a notebook and a pen in hand. She studied the two officers sitting at her table. "Break time? Or are you just hiding from the heat?"

"Little bit of this, little bit of that..." Marvin said. "Just going over this case file before we head back out."

"What are you working on this time?" she asked, peering over his shoulder. She noticed the picture of 'Angela's' file. "Who is that?"

"One of our people of interest, her name's Angela."

Meredith started to think. "She looks vaguely familiar, I think I've seen her about a week ago... I can't remember exactly where, or if it was even her."

"Are you sure? Any lead is useful, even if it takes us nowhere." Jack said. "What color was her hair? Her file says she likes to change it often."

"It looked pink, now that I think about it," she said. "I don't remember much else, I didn't really notice her for longer than half a minute."

"That's a start!" Marvin said. "C'mon, Jack. We should probably get back out there, start looking for pink haired 20-somethings."

"Maybe you can put that charming personality to use," Jack joked.

Marvin sneered and kissed his wife goodbye. "I'll be back soon, okay?" he said.

"I'll be here in the garden if you need me." she said. She walked over to the hat rack beside the door and picked up a large sun hat, putting it on her head, then stepped outside.

Marvin looked at his wristwatch and sighed. "I was hoping to be here when Andrea returned, but I guess I'll see her when I'm off duty again."

"Maybe she got caught up in some silly trainer battle, or my bonehead son is wasting her time again." Jack said, laughing. "I'm sure whatever big news she has can wait a few more hours if she didn't talk about it over the phone."

"Perhaps. Patience is--" The door opened again and Meredith stepped in, followed by Andrea and Larson. "Not needed. Welcome home!"

"Thanks, dad. It was good to get out for a day!" she said. "If you're not too busy, I have something to talk to you and mom about."

Marvin looked at Jack and shrugged. "Cover my ass for thirty minutes. If the commissioner asks where I am, tell him I'm busy working on a lead."

"Yes sir." Jack said, saluting. He walked over to the door, rustling his son's hair as he passed by. "Stay outta trouble, or I'll arrest ya." he said, getting a laugh out of his son before taking his leave.

Andrea took a seat at the table, offering the seats across from her to her parents. "Well, uhh... Where do I begin?" she asked. "I did some thinking while I was up in Blueleaf Village. Probably not as much as I should have, but... Well, I have a new job!" she said.

Meredith blinked. "Come again? Job, what?"

Andrea nodded.

"Atta girl!" Marvin said. "I knew pushing you would be a good idea."

"Professor Ansen offered me the position of a research assistant. It's not mechanical engineering, but it's better than sitting at home wishing life would give me something." she said. "Now here's the part you won't like... I'll be travelling."

Meredith's expression turned stone cold as she looked at her husband. "Good idea?" she asked. She looked back at Andrea. "Andrea, darling... you're not ready for such a commitment. Just a walk in the park wears you out!"

"Now now, Meredith. She made it to Blueleaf and back without giving up. You're not giving her enough credit." he said. "So, what kind of travelling will you be doing? Where are you headed?"

"The professor asked me to deliver something to one of her friends in Silvermist City."

"I don't like this..." Meredith said, shaking her head. "I don't. Marvin, you know how dangerous the road to Silvermist is! It's rickety wooden bridges over jagged rocks for crying out loud!"

"I know. I believe in Andrea, though." he said.

"But mom--"

"Think about it, Andrea. You've never been outside of the city until yesterday. You've never spent a day in your life out in the wild. You've never had any experiences that would help you if you started to travel. The world is a dangerous place and it's not for the timid. You need some time to prepare!"

Marvin placed his hands over his wife's hands. "Meredith... Andrea's a grown woman now. She's nineteen years old, almost twenty! If she keeps listening to your advice about waiting, about being patient, about not being able to succeed at anything, she never will." he said. "You've stonewalled every effort she's made to leave and have her own life, and look what it's done to her! She's a nervous wreck, she doesn't believe in herself anymore!" He looked at his daughter and continued, "No offense, sweetie."

"I just don't want to lose my little girl..." Meredith said.

Larson sat down and joined the conversation. "Every bird leaves the nest at some point, Ms. Dennison. I did."

"And do you remember what that did to your father? It destroyed him." she asked.

"He shut down... but he got over it. My mom, may she rest in peace, wasn't there to support him, but he made it. Your husband will still be here with you." he said.

"Yeah! I'll still be here... And maybe since Andrea would be gone, we could... uh..." he said, devolving into a pile of grins and mumbles.

"Dad, please. Not in front of me." Andrea said. "I'm sorry, mom, but I've already made my decision. I can't explain it, but... This is the most important thing I will be doing with my life for the next few years. You have to trust me on this."

"Why is it so important to do it now? Why not wait until you're experienced and ready for long trips away from home?" she asked.

"Trust me. I'm never going to lead a happy life unless I do this."

Meredith blankly stared at her daughter, trying to see it from a different point of view, but couldn't. "Fine. If your happiness is more important than keeping a family together, do what you like." she said, standing up. She abruptly and quietly walked to the door, stepping outside. Silence fell over the room as the three looked at each other.

"Don't worry about it, Andrea, I know Meredith. She doesn't stay angry for long."

Andrea sighed and grumbled at the same time. "Thanks for the support, dad. It means a lot."

"You're my girl, and I'm done sitting on the sidelines while your mom controls your life. Consider me the strongest pillar of support for whatever you do now." The two got up and hugged each other. "So what now? I assume you're leaving soon."

"Yeah..." she said. "I'm gonna go up to my room and get some stuff I'll need for the road."

"Alright." he said. "Break time is over, so I'll be heading off to work again. Your mom will probably be outside still when you get ready to leave. Try not to make a mess of her, if you can."

"Thank you again." she replied.

Marvin nodded individually at both of them and stepped outside, closing the door behind him.

Larson sighed. "Don't let your mom's reaction get to you. It's always the worst thing in the world. A child leaving, that is... until they actually go through it and realize it's not a big deal." he said, leading Andrea upstairs. "When you're as old as you are, what matters is your happiness, nothing else."

Andrea silently followed Larson up the stairs, trying not to think about it, but she couldn't help it. Her mother's words about not being able to succeed at this stung her like a swarm of bees. "How could my own mother have that little confidence in me?" she thought. "I don't want to talk about it, I just want to move on."

"Fair enough." he said, leading her down the hallway to her room. He stepped inside, then turned around. "...Where'd your door go?"

"Guess who?"

"Oh jeeze. Yeah, getting out is definitely what you should be doing." he said. "Let's round up your supplies and get going."

Andrea buzzed around her room efficiently and quickly; She stopped at the dresser beside the window, picking out three sets of spare clothing for the road. She folded them up neatly and tossed them onto her bed. Inside her closet, she dug around, retrieving an olive green sleeping bag, neatly rolled up and seemingly unused. She also pulled out her old pair of tennis shoes, rationalizing that they'd offer more protection on the road than her sandals. She disappeared into the bathroom off to the side of her room, returning with a small plastic box with "FIRST AID" written on the side of it.

Larson attempted to break the silence. "So, uh..." he started, trying to think of a conversation starter. "Need some company for the road?" he coughed.

Andrea stopped in her tracks and smiled at him. "Yeah. I was going to ask if you were coming along."

"I won't be able to stay by your side for long, keep in mind. I want to enjoy my vacation here at home and not on the road, ya know." he laughed. "I'll just make sure you get to Silvermist City okay and maybe teach you the basics of Pokémon training, if you're up for that. Your next assignment will be all yours."

"Ohh... right." she said, neatly stacking what she'd be bringing along with her on her bed. She had forgotten that he was home merely for a vacation, a thought which saddened her, as she enjoyed the trips to and from Blueleaf Village because of him. "What do you think? Do you think I have it in me? Ya know... travelling alone."

"I'd hate to side with your mother, but I'm honestly not sure. You'll have a lot to learn, and learning it alone is always a bad idea." he replied. "I'd suggest looking for a travel buddy whenever you can, it really makes the time pass by and keeps you safe."

Andrea groaned. "I don't like people though..."

Larson laughed. "How you ever survived as a waitress, I'll never know."

She dug around in the corner of her room under a pile of clothes, finding her old olive green backpack that she had since she joined the Storm Island Scouts during her youth. Unfortunately, she learned little in terms of practical survival skills while enrolled; her mother felt it was too dangerous and only allowed her to participate in bake sales and donation drives. Still, just holding it gave her a shred of confidence that she might actually be able to do this. "That's everything... I think." she said as she haphazardly scooped all of her travel supplies into the backpack.

Larson sneered. "You think? What about food and water for the road?"

Andrea put her hand up after slipping the backpack over her shoulders and pointed to her R-Kit. "This thing will tell me what I can find in the wild that's safe to eat."

"Smart girl. I guess." Larson said, defeated.

"Let's get going... maybe I can slip out of here while my mom is busy with her garden out back."

Andrea led Larson down the stairs, stopping at the corner to peak around. No sight of her mother. She slowly approached the kitchen, pressing up against the walls like some sort of spy. The house was empty. She walked over to the window in the kitchen, looking out into the back yard. Her mother was there, kneeling down and inspecting a bush with bright yellow berries on it. She felt this was her best opportunity of leaving without further confrontation and took it. She grumbled as she looked at her mother. "Let's go. The sooner we leave..."

The two slinked out through the front door, walking slowly westward down the road so as to not make much noise. When they were a few houses down the street, they quickened their pace.

"Maybe you should get in touch with Dr. Spruce before you leave town, tell him his Furret's been delivered." Larson started to break the silence.

Andrea grabbed her phone and entered Dr. Spruce's phone number. The phone rang... and rang. Eventually, silence. "Beeeeeep, beep boop bop! The number you are trying to reach is currently unavailable. If you would like to leave a message, please press the number one now." Andrea did as the automated message asked. More silence. "Your request is unable to be processed at this time. Please try aga-"

"Figures... How busy do you think Dr. Spruce is?" Andrea wondered.

"Is he not there?" Larson asked.

"No... and it's like his whole phone system is down, I can't even leave a message." she said. "Hopefully he won't get too mad at me for not getting in touch with him..."

"Well, he is a busy guy, yes. You've probably slipped his mind already."

Andrea put her phone back into her pocket and sighed. "Aside from you, who hasn't?" she asked.

Larson was about to respond sarcastically, but kept his silence out of respect for her. "Let's get you out of here. Life on the road is going to be much better than the hell you've been experiencing for the past few years."

- - - - -​

The sun was high in the sky, partially hidden by a large band of clouds rising from the southern sea. The wind had picked up considerably in the past day, however the breeze was anything but refreshing; temperatures lingered at 112 degrees and the wind did little to help, instead blowing bursts of hot air around. Still, it was a preview of what was to come. A massive storm system darkened the southern horizon and the year's first hurricane was on its way to Storm Island.

Andrea and Larson were walking along the rocky path that snaked along the coastline between Azure Ridge and Silvermist City. Between them waddled the Furret that Andrea had been asked to research. He seemed eager to stay by his new companion's side, quickly scurrying towards her whenever he fell behind.

"Remind me again why that fur ball is out of his Pokéball." Larson said.

"How am I supposed to study him if he's locked up all day?" she asked. "Besides, it can't be nice in those things..."

"You're probably right... I wonder how it all works. Does time stop for them inside these things? Do they get hungry?"

"Sounds like a research project, to me!" Andrea said. "Though I'm sure you could easily find all of those answers in some sort of technical manual..."

"It's probably even in this R-Kit the Professor gave to us." Larson said, tapping away at the screen attached to it. "I should show this thing to Professor Oak when I return to Johto. He's going to flip!"

"What's it like over there? I keep hearing about it, but I've never really heard of any details outside of Saffron City." she said.

Larson smiled. "Well, for starters..." he said, looking up into the sky. "It's not so bloody hot all the damn time!"

"Don't tell me you're going soft on me..."

"Me? Soft!? That's a good one!" he retorted. "I think you're the soft one here, and we'll see for certain by the end of the day."

"You're on." Andrea said, accepting his challenge.

Larson recalled his time in Kanto: "It's alright over there. Rural countryside, bustling cities, dark forests, a fantastic coastline... The people are generally nice, too."

"So... like here?" she asked.

"Exactly, only not so damn hot."

Andrea giggled.

"Anyways... Have you thought of a name for your little fur ball yet?" Larson asked.

"Name?" she asked. "No, why?"

"Every good Pokémon trainer gives their Pokémon nicknames."

"Oh yeah? I'm sure you've named all of yours, then." she said sarcastically.

"Uh huh!" he responded. "Drake, Steelforge, Star, Blade and Albrecht. I'm sure you'll come up with a good one."

"You give me too much credit. I'm terrible with names." Andrea replied. She looked down at Furret to study him. His dopey grin was slightly unsettling to her, but she tried to focus, she tried to think of an appropriate name. "Uhh..." she said, struggling through the darkness of her uncreativity. "Well? You called him 'fur ball', so how about that?"

Larson laughed and shook his head. "You weren't kidding."

"Well I don't see you coming up with anything, smart ass!" she said, playfully pushing against his shoulder. "Furball is fine."

"Really?" he asked. "Why not something cool, like King, or Spike?"

Furret shook his head at both suggestions. He appreciated Furball. It was short, it was simple and it was easy to remember. It described him quite well, too, as he was nothing more than a ball of fur when curled up.

"I don't think he likes those, Lars," she said. "I think I'll just stick with Furball. Besides, why does everything have to be 'cool'?"

"Something cool will intimidate other trainers."

Andrea was certain that she wouldn't be facing many other trainers during her travels, especially if she made others aware she was merely a travelling research assistant. The thought that she was going to be forced into fighting others annoyed her greatly. "I'm not going to be intimidating other trainers, I'm not even going to be a trainer myself. If other people can't deal with that, too bad for them."

"Ooh, look out! Someone's growing some fangs!" Larson said mockingly. "You'll learn pretty quickly."

"Learn what?"

"You'll see."

- - - - -​

More time had passed. The sun hung lower in the sky, signaling that the evening was approaching. Andrea and Larson were meandering along the trail, attempting to find a place to set up camp for the night so that they could get an early start for the next day of travel. One look down the sheer cliffs the trail took them across was enough to send Andrea into a light-headed daze.

Nevertheless, they continued on their journey. Along steep cliffs, over jagged rocks and across the most structurally unstable rope bridges known to man. That Route 302 was a heavily travelled crossroads between Silvermist City and Azure Ridge had Andrea baffled. Did people really put their lives in danger to travel this road? Were there no others? Why hasn't anyone made this safer for novice hikers? Yet, the journey was surprisingly easy. The sun was just above the horizon, large, pink and cloud covered, burning away. Larson decided that this was as far as they could go for the day.

"We should set up camp. We're still about two hours away from the city, we won't make it before it gets too dark."

"Shouldn't we have gathered some fire wood?" Andrea asked, worried about her first night on the open road.

"Perhaps you missed where it's still over 100 degrees?"

"I want to be able to see, at least," she protested.

Larson grinned and reached into his pocket. "No problem, then," He pulled out a Pokéball and tossed it up into the air. "Star will be our light."

The Pokéball cracked open, flashing brightly with a white light. On the ground in front of the two appeared the loose outline of a Clefairy, glowing brightly as it formed into its normal shape. The light faded and those large, soulless eyes stared up at Larson. A wicked and creepy grin stretched along Star's face as she awaited orders.

Andrea shuddered at the sight of Star, creeped out over the barely sentient demeanor she displayed as she looked around slowly. She tried to put it aside, knowing that keeping her prejudices against Star wouldn't help with her inability to handle Pokémon.

"Star light, star bright..." Larson started. He looked up into the starless sky, then back at his Clefairy. "First star I see tonight."

Star giggled and clapped joyously, almost as if she were a small child.

"You're going to be our campfire tonight. How does that sound?"

Star began to sing happily, waddling around in a tight circle. She lifted to one foot, then plomped down onto the ground with an audible thud. She began to glow brightly afterward.

Andrea looked at Star, then at Larson, then back at Star. "What is this?" she asked. "It's like I'm watching a cartoon."

"That's one way to put it... she's a character." he laughed. "Come on, let's get our camp set up."

Andrea swung her backpack off of her shoulders and knelt down. Unhooking the olive green bed roll, she sprawled it out on the ground gently, making sure no obvious wrinkles were visible. She sat down on top of it, then began to take her shoes off. She breathed a deep sigh of relief as she removed them. "I'm used to walking all day, but these cliffs are just nuts."

"Yeah..." Larson said, unrolling his sleeping bag on the opposite side of Star. "This is the most rugged terrain I've come across so far, aside from the Tohjo Landbridge between Viridian City and Newbark Town over in Kanto."

"I don't even want to know..." Andrea said, leaning back against her backpack. She intended on studying her R-Kit and familiarizing herself with it. She tapped away on the screen, causing it to brighten. Several buttons presented themselves on the screen: 'PocketPedia', 'Abilities Index', 'Berries and Fruits', 'Trainer Information' 'Coordination Information', 'Technical Index', 'Local Lore' and 'GeoMap 2.0'. She tapped on PocketPedia, which brought up a list starting with #001: Bulbasaur.

Dragging her finger up and down moved the list around, but she wasn't interested in going through the entire list, so she clicked the 'random' button. A picture of a large, metallic, bipedal dinosaur-like creature appeared, named Aggron. More information about the creature followed, including its average height of 6'11" and its average weight of about 790 lbs. "Have you ever seen one of these... Aggorn--'Aggron' things?" she asked. "I'd freak if I saw one, they're huge!"

Larson scooted over to look at her R-Kit. "I haven't seen one, but I will. I've been hearing that the Gym Leader of Olivine City has one." He saw the creature on the screen. "Hooh boy... If I have to square off with that thing..."

"I know, right?" she asked. "I'm used to the idea of Pokémon being these cuddly little pets that people keep, I've never seen something so huge!"

"You think that's big? You should see a Gyarados." Larson replied.

Her interest was piqued and she began to search for information on Gyarados. However, before she could finish her search, the silence of the surrounding wilderness was broken by a cheerful and booming voice.

"Ho ho, fellow travellers!" the voice called out. A large, bearded and overweight man towered over the two, a shiny mining pick slung over his shoulder and a walking stick balanced on the ground in his other hand. "I see a Clefairy sitting on the ground there and a Furret over there behind that backpack. Are you two Pokémon trainers?" he asked.

"I am. She..." Larson started. "She's, uhh... just a friend."

"Ah, good! Perhaps you'd be willing to help me test out this new Pokémon I captured." he said.

"What is it?" Larson asked.

"A Spearow. Just caught him this morning and I've been dying to test his mettle."

Larson glanced over at Andrea, smiling. "Sounds perfect for a beginner." he said. "On your feet, Andrea, let's get you some experience?"

Andrea looked up from her R-Kit, completely unaware of the situation. "Uhwha?" She looked up at the large man who was grabbing a Pokéball from his shirt pocket. "Umm... Look I'm not really a trainer. I'm just trying to deliver something."

The large man looked back at Larson, expecting an answer.

"It wouldn't be fair for me to test out your new catch, sir. All of my Pokémon, aside from this Clefairy, have been rigorously trained." he said, looking at Andrea. "C'mon, Andrea, this is perfect. You don't often run into a situation like this as a beginner."

"Beginner? I'm not beginning anything you dope!" she snapped.

"Look, unless you want your 'campfire' to be beaten senseless..."

Andrea looked at Furball, then back at Larson and grumbled. "Fine. Just don't expect me to win."

"Winning isn't what's important, my little lass, the experience and growth is." he said, taking a few steps back. He tossed the Pokéball into the air, unleashing a torrent of light and energy. A tiny bird appeared, fluttering down to the ground as it flapped its short, red wings furiously. The short, hooked beak caught the setting sun just right to shine, bringing it to Andrea's attention.

"That thing looks very sharp..." she said.

"It could gut ya if you're not careful." the man said.

Andrea stood up and watched as Furret stood beside her. "Alright, Furball. Let's go get 'em." she said, motioning forward.

Furball took a few steps closer, studying the Spearow closely. Andrea did the same, hoping to analyze some sort of weakness, but realized she had no idea how to find one.

"Alright, my Spearow!" the man's voice boomed. "Show her that trick you used on me."

The Spearow lowered its head towards the ground, raking its foot backwards like a bull ready to charge. It stepped to the side every few seconds, starring Furball down with its angry eyes, appearing to be in no hurry to make the first strike.

Andrea figured that the Spearow was playing defensively, trying to think of a strategy that would defeat it. "Uhh..." she started. "Try to intimidate it by charging!"

Furball nodded, understanding Andrea's strategy clearly. He knelt down on all fours, shaking as he readied to pounce. After locking onto the Spearow, he leapt forward into a dash, charging straight at the rugged bird.

The Spearow stood its ground, waiting. When the opportunity arose, it stepped off to the side, disappearing from view for a split second, then reappearing to the left of Furball. It jumped into the air, flapping its wings and kicking up a cloud of dust as it latched onto Furball and began to peck mercilessly at him.

Larson clapped. "That's quite a catch there, sir."

The man smiled and bowwed. "Good shot, Spearow. Back off for now!" he said.

"What do I do?" Andrea asked as Furball retreated. "I didn't even see that! One second he was there, and the next he was on top of Furball!"

"It's a nasty trick... A feint attack if you will. I didn't even know that a Spearow had the smarts to figure something like that out."

"That doesn't..." she said, sighing. She started to formulate another tactic in her head. "Approach slowly this time, Furball! When you get there, smash him with your tail!"

Furball did as he was told, slowly approaching on all fours, keeping his eyes fixed on the Spearow the entire time. He got within two feet of the Spearow before the same thing happened; the Spearow stepped off to the side, disappearing and seemingly teleporting onto Furball's backside. Furball wiggled around, rolling around in the dirt in an attempt to loosen the bird's sharp talons. After successfully freeing himself, he retreated once more.

"You're doing good! Defense is your offense, Spearow!" the man said.

"I can tell you how I deal with situations like this, if you want. I don't think you're going to have much luck with what you're doing." Larson said.

Andrea was determined and theorized that she spotted a hole in the Spearow's defenses. "No, I think I can do this." she said. "Furball, c'mere." Furball dashed over to Andrea as she knelt down. "Alright, Furball, here's what we're going to do... I want you to charge again, just like the first time, but pay attention. The moment you see that bird step aside again, try to turn around. I'll try to warn you, but don't wait for me."

Furball nodded, turning back to the makeshift battlefield. He knelt down on all fours again, locking eyes with the Spearow.

"Charge!" she shouted.

Furball bounded forward into a quick dash towards the Spearow, watching its movements. The Spearow once more stood its ground, waiting for Furball to approach. When Furball had gotten close enough, it stepped to the side just as before.

"Now!"

Furball jumped into the air, twisting his body backwards. Instead of behind Furball, the Spearow appeared in front of him now, leaping forward, ready to dig its sharp beak into him. Furball was ready this time, grabbing the Spearow with his tiny paws and wrapping around him like a tire wraps around the rim of a wheel. The two tumbled through the dirt with Furret landing on top. He raised his furry paws, mercilessly clobbering the stunned Spearow with a rapid succession of punches.

"No! Get out of there, Spearow!" the man exclaimed. It was too late. What the Spearow had in raw power and speed, it lacked in endurance.

"I think you've done it, Furball!" Andrea said, ordering him off of the Spearow.

The Spearow rose to its feet and stumbled around. It took another look at Furball and squawked, then walked back to its trainer in defeat.

"Ah ha!" Andrea said, pumped up from her victory.

Larson patted Andrea on the shoulder. "Nice move. And you're sure you're a beginner?" he asked.

"Spearow, return." the man said, holding out his Pokéball. After he placed the Pokéball in his pocket, he extended his hand forward. "I admit defeat, my little lass."

Andrea shook his hand silently, unsure of what to say.

"I'll have to work on some strategy with my Spearow... perhaps our paths will cross again some day, hopefully I'll be ready." the man said.

"Yeah. Don't be a one trick pony, I've learned." Larson said. "Always have a backup plan."

"Will do, laddie." he said. He looked towards the horizon, noticing the sun beginning to set. "It was a pleasure, but I should be hurrying towards my destination."

"Be safe." Larson said, nodding as the man walked off. He walked back over to the 'camp', approaching Andrea who was already seated back down, leaning against her backpack. "Andrea Dennison, master tactician!" he announced.

Andrea laughed. "I don't think so. Anyone would have seen that little sequence."

"What sequence?" he asked.

"That side step the bird was making just before his attack. It just took a little learning."

"No, I'm serious. You went right in for the kill, most people are taught to fight defensively against that kind of trick."

She deflected his praise, figuring it was misplaced on her. She truly believed that her victory wasn't a big deal, even though it was her first. Her over-analytical nature and pessimistic attitude brought her back down to earth quickly to where it seemed she wasn't even excited. "I'm going to try to get some sleep, okay?" she said. She reached into her pocket and pulled out Furball's Pokéball, recalling him for the night. "Let's keep you safe."

"Yeah, I guess we should get an early start in the morning, it won't be nearly as hot at least." Larson said, laying down on his sleeping bag. He looked up at Star, who sat like a statue, gazing off into the distance with a blank stare, still glowing brightly. "Keep the light going as long as you can, okay?" he asked.

"Lllleeeeehhh." the Clefairy gibbered, smiling.
 
I like what I've read so far. A relatively light-hearted fic is a bit of a breath of fresh air. Good pacing, technically accurate, good dialogue. One thing I will say is if you're going to make references to Trainer IDs, etc, it wouldn't hurt to directly reference Pokémon's moves. I would find it jarring if you didn't, going forward. Let's see ... I felt that Andrea's feelings towards Larson were written a little clumsily. In Chapter Three there was a little hint at her seeing him as perhaps other than a friend:

"If I say yes..." she thought to herself. "I'll be stuck travelling, I'll be leaving everything behind... including my chance with Larson..." She looked up at him and smiled, studying him as she continued to think. "But if I say no... will I ever do anything with my life?" She asked herself the toughest question, "Is Larson more important than my future? Or is he my future? Happiness..."

Perhaps there's a reason for this, I'm prepared to wait and see. At this point it seems like it just came out of nowhere, and I'd have liked to see more of a set-up for it, is she is indeed carrying a torch for him.

Liked it, will be coming back to it!
 
I swear I can almost hear "between Town 1 and Town 2" music from the Pokémon "main series" games when I'm reading these traveling chapters. They're really colorful and fun to read.

And for some reason I could only imagine the sensation of being punched by a Furret as being akin to being to being pelted with cotton balls. :p

Yet another fun to read chapter.
 
chapter 5
Storm Island
Chapter 5: Mad Mr. Kerk

The sun was high in the sky, reflecting off of the silver skyline of Silvermist City. A large band of clouds stretched from the southern sky, though unfortunately not in the right position to block the sun. The temperatures were high once more, though this time didn't break 100 degrees. A strong wind was blowing in from the south, offering some vague forms of relief from the weather. The sound of gulls was loud, as was the sound of chatter from the citizens of Silvermist City.

Andrea and Larson were sitting at a table in the courtyard in front of a restaurant, enjoying their lunch. Larson was visibly suffering under the summer sun, while Andrea didn't seem to mind it. Instead, she was avidly looking over the information she was supposed to deliver to Mr. Kerk.

"Couldn't we have found a place in the shade, at least?" Larson asked, fanning himself with his hand.

Andrea looked around the busy courtyard. Every table underneath the welcoming shade was taken by other customers, much like how the inside of the restaurant was also crowded with customers. As she returned to the research notes, she quipped, "If you find a better spot, let me know."

Larson groaned, trying his best to block the sunlight with his hands. "So what is that, exactly?"

"Professor Ansen's research notes I'm supposed to deliver to Mr. Kerk." she responded, keeping her eyes glued to the pages in front of her. "Something about a queen of the sea?" she asked.

"Queen of the sea..." Larson said, trying to think.

"I'm not seeing a name on it, and it almost looks like... here, just read it, you'll see." she said as she handed one of the pages over to Larson.

"A History of the Voyages of the Great Sea Queen, by Archduke Terrbal." he said, reading the title. "What the hell is this?" he said, reading further down, barely able to decipher the words, though they were still clearly of the common language that he knew. "What's this gotta do with anything?"

"I'm not sure. Looks like Clanspeak to me."

"Clanspeak?" Larson asked in confusion.

Andrea sighed. "Didn't you pay attention in your history classes? It's what our ancestors spoke before modern times, ya know, before we actually learned how to construct understandable sentences."

Larson continued to read the paper in front of him; the words were familiar to him, but he couldn't decipher their meaning. "Still, what does this..." he said, stumbling to speak his thoughts. "Scientists. I'll never understand them."

"Well, these other pages say he's researching something named Kyoga? Kayogree? I don't know how to pronounce it." she said. "Maybe that's the queen of the sea this stuff is talking about."

Larson was unfamiliar with the name. "We could actually deliver the stuff to Mr. Kerk and he could probably explain it." he said. "No big hurry, though. I'm certainly not burning alive under this sun."

Andrea finished off her salad. "It certainly seems like you are." She stood up and wrapped her backpack around her shoulders, ready to depart for Crystal Bay, then placed a few silver coins and a golden coin onto the table as a tip for the waitress. "Let's get going, Mr. Impatient."

- - - - -​

The thick shrubbery and tall trees surrounding the road into Crystal Bay were enough to cover the area in a cool shade. The breeze swept through like a wind tunnel, forcing Andrea to desperately try to keep her bandana from blowing off of her head. The two were discussing their favorite television shows when they spotted a man and a woman walking up the path.

Perched upon the man's shoulder was a small brown fox-like creature. Its large ears bounced with every step he took and it looked around in curiosity at its surroundings. The man himself was certainly peculiar looking. His shaggy tan hair covered the left side of his face, while the rest of it was kept in place by an olive green bandana. Pinned to his blue and green camouflage vest was a golden acorn. His companion was less unique looking; Blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, a dark green tanktop and a vibrantly bright pink miniskirt with frills that resembled the petals of a flower.

The two passed by, their conversation grabbing Larson's interest. He turned around to ask, "Pardon me, strange stone? Where?" The pair looked at each other, then at Larson and Andrea.

"Umm..." the girl said. "Should we?"

"Nah." he said, shaking his head causing his shaggy hair to bounce back and forth. "Don't worry 'bout it, sir. It's uhh... not that interesting, anyways."

"Alright, then. Take care." Larson replied. He watched as the two began to walk away, then followed Andrea in the other direction. "I wonder what they were talking about."

Andrea shrugged. "I don't see what's so interesting about a rock, anyways. Look around and you'll find one."

"Ehh... maybe. I just can't help but think that it's a bit strange."

"When can you help but think that?" she teased.

Before long, the two had arrived at a fork in the road. To the north was a trail leading back to Route 302, while the south led to a rope bridge that connected Crystal Bay to the mainland. Between them sat a small, run-down looking building that was covered in vines and flowers. The front window had a sign in it that read 'Crystal Bay Bike Shop'.

"Hey! A bike shop! Maybe I can get a new bike here... considering my last one went up in flames." she said, glaring at Larson.

Larson laughed nervously.

Andrea approached the building, which appeared to have not been maintained properly. The grass crept up to her knees in some places, up to her thighs in others. She wasn't even sure if the place was open, but dispelled the thought when she saw two people inside. She opened the door and entered.

Inside, the building was a lot nicer looking. The floor was clean and well kept and the bicycles that lined the walls were sparkling under the lights. Every color of the rainbow was represented by the bikes, which ranged from small to large, rugged to street-worthy. Behind the counter sat a young man and his father.

"A customer?!" the young man said with excitement. He forgot his manners and jumped over the counter, rather than walking five steps to pass through the doorway. "Welcome, welcome!"

"Easy, my boy," the older man said, still seated. "Don't scare this one off, too."

"So what are you looking for?" the younger man said, guiding Andrea around the shop with his hand around her shoulder.

"Umm..." Andrea said shyly. "A bike?" she giggled.

The younger man laughed. "You've come to the right place!"

"What do you think you'll need?" Larson asked.

"Well, I'll be doing a lot of travelling... Do you have anything suited to that?"

The young man knelt down in front of a neon pink mountain bike. "This bad boy... this bad girl is what you want, then. A rigid steel frame, rust and corrosion resistant... The only thing that could destroy it is if you were to get hit by a train, basically."

"Goodness..." she said.

"I doubt that will be an issue, though! We don't have trains anymore!" he said. "So, you like it?"

"I guess," she replied.

"Alright! Let's get this bad boy--girl over to the register." he said as he picked the bike up off of the frame it was leaning on.

As he wheeled it over to the counter, Andrea asked, "I'd like a different color, though..." she said.

The man looked at the bike, then back at Andrea, unwilling to go through the extra effort to put it back and pick something else out. "Sweetheart, I can tell just by looking at you that this is the one you will want."

"But..." she started, then groaned. "Fine. Pink will do."

"That's the spirit," the younger man said as his father shook his head.

Andrea walked over to the counter and dug through her purse. "How much?" she asked.

"Fifteen golden dragons, sweetheart."

She counted up her coins, but didn't have enough. "Hey Larson," she started. "Are you going to help pay for it, considering you melted my last one?"

"You love reminding me of that, don't you?" he asked, digging through his pocket for his wallet. "Hope you don't mind some currency from Johto. It's all worth the same." he said, placing down fifteen golden coins with a Pokéball design embossed onto them.

"You have a generous gentleman here, sweetheart!" the man said, grabbing the coins and counting them. "Just keep your new bad girl away from open flames if you can."

"Let the gentleman have one of those coins back, son," the older man said.

The younger man looked at his father curiously.

"As a discount for you being such a jackass," he said. "Sorry, folks. Y'all come back now if you need any repairs or maintenance."

The younger man grumbled, sliding one of the golden coins back across the table. "Yes, we do repairs and maintenance every day of the week if you need it, but I have a feeling you're probably off on an adventure. Just read the manual if you need to fix it on your own, it's not too difficult."

"Thank you," Andrea said. She looked at Larson and raised her eyebrow, then turned around to wheel her new bike outside.

As the two made their way down towards the rope bridge leading to Crystal Bay, Andrea questioned her purchase. "You know, I just thought..." Andrea started. "Was this really a wise investment? I'm not going to be riding it all the time, and I don't want to have to wheel it around everywhere."

Larson laughed. "A very wise investment. Here." he said, kneeling down to inspect the bike. "Well, it's the same model as mine..." he pointed to three spots on the frame of the bike and the handle bars. "It's collapsible. When you're not riding it, you could strap it to your backpack."

Andrea knelt down and studied the bike. As she folded the frame of her new bike up, she sighed. "I'm not sure I like it..."

"Why not? I think it looks awesome." Larson said.

"But I hate pink!" she protested. She strapped the collapsed frame to her backpack and slung it over her shoulders. "Ugh, I really hope I don't have to carry any more. I can barely lift all of this."

"I'm sure you'll come across more stuff you need as you travel, but you'll also become physically stronger and able to carry it all," Larson said. He rolled up the sleeve of his red and white shirt and flexed his muscles. "See?"

"Oh my..." Andrea melted upon seeing his physique, remembering back to the time when he was just a pudgy little boy. "Put those guns away, you know how I get." she said, getting a laugh out of her friend.

- - - - -​

Crystal Bay was an appropriate name for the area; The water was so clear that the sea bed could be seen. Not a single stone or sea shell dotted the pristine, beige sand. The sound of the palm trees waving in the wind and the waves crashing along the shore only enhanced the beauty of the area. In the middle of the beach sat a small hut with a thatched grass roof, supported by nine wooden pillars arranged in an octagon. An elderly man with a red bandana, a lab coat, brown shorts and sandals was sitting at a table under the hut, reading an instruction manual for the machine sitting in front of him.

"Blasted technology..." he muttered to himself as he continued to read. He put the manual down and flipped the power switch on the machine several times, cursing loudly when it wouldn't turn on. "I'd throw you into the sea, but you're not worthy!" he shouted.

He leaned back in his seat, grabbing the instruction manual once more. As he looked it over, his eyes drifted upward to see a young man and woman walking toward his hut. "Damn kids... Did my no trespassing sign blow away again?" He greeted them rudely as they approached. "Didn't you see the no trespassing sign up there on the way down?" he asked.

Andrea and Larson looked at each other. "No?"

He grumbled. "It must have, then... Anyways, what do you want?" he asked.

"I'm, umm... I'm Andrea, and this is Larson. We're delivering some research notes from Professor Ansen."

The man lowered his glasses and studied the two with impeccable scrutiny. "Research notes... Ah. You're early. I like that."

Andrea and Larson looked at each other again.

"I am Reginald Kerk, local genius and researcher. Since you're here for business, you may call me Mr. Kerk."

Andrea handed the bulging, yellow envelope over to Mr. Kerk. "It's an honor, sir."

"I bet it is," he said quickly as he opened the envelope to inspect it. "You'll have to pardon me, I'm in a bit of a bad mood at the moment." he said as he banged his fist on top of the machine on his table. "Blasted technology refuses to work."

"Have you tried reading the manual?" Larson asked, then thought about what he said. "Never mind, of course you did."

Andrea took a look at the machine. A large, clear tank sat on top a large box which itself stood on legs. Wires in a variety of colors dangled from the bottom of the machine. Across the front were about two dozen buttons and lights. On the side of the machine was a plate which read "Maintenance Access". She tried to open it, but was blocked by a screw. "Screwdriver, please?" she asked.

Mr. Kerk handed the screwdriver to her, tilting his head inquisitively. He studied Andrea as she unscrewed the plate from the machine and looked inside. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" he asked.

"I think so... I studied mechanics for an extra two years in school." Andrea said.

"She's a bookworm. While all of her friends were out travelling, she stayed in school." Larson said.

"Ah, very good."

Andrea followed the wires along the inside of the machine, trying to figure out if they might be the reason it wouldn't turn on. "Let me look at the instructions, please." she said. She looked over the instructions after Mr. Kerk handed them to her, pointing her fingers along the wires to see what went where. "Ah! I think I see the problem." she said. She reached her tiny hands into the even tinier hole in the machine, connecting and twisting the red and black wires around each other. She flipped the switch afterward, causing the machine to light up and say in a robotic voice, "Ready for analysis."

"And there you go," Larson said.

Mr. Kerk clapped happily. "So you're Professor Ansen's new research assistant?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, returning the screwdriver.

"Looks like she's made a fine choice. You're here early, you know how to work with machines and you're a smart young lady."

The praise sunk into Andrea, bringing a smile to her face and a blush to her cheeks. "Thank you, sir."

Larson interjected. "So... what's the research notes about?" he asked.

"Ah, the research notes, yes. Did you look at it?" he said.

Andrea and Larson looked at each other aloofly. "Uhh... I may have been curious," Andrea said.

"Curious?" he laughed. "Good! Curiosity is what drives science! Curiosity is what leads to discovery!"

"What's this sea queen that was mentioned?" Larson asked. "I've never heard of it."

"The queen of the seas... Kyogre," Mr. Kerk said, his posture straightening. "Master of water, bringer of rain and partly responsible for all life." He turned to face southward and took a few steps out into the sun. "You see that on the horizon? Hurricane Adele... One of Kyogre's many influences on the world."

"Huh?" Andrea asked. "How? Hurricanes are atmospheric depressions centered around low pressure systems, generated when warm ocean water evaporates."

Mr. Kerk looked at Andrea and nodded. "A smart one. That is the textbook definition, yes, and describes most hurricanes. But this one, I can feel it in my aging bones. This one is the work of the Sea Queen."

"Call me a bit skeptical... but how?" Larson asked.

"Are you familiar with the local legends, boy?" Mr. Kerk asked. "They have been forgotten by most... The legends state that the Queen of the Sea, Kyogre, does constant battle with the Earthbreaker, Groudon."

Larson shrugged.

"I'm sure you've noticed the unnatural heat wave that has gripped the island. It's his power influencing the weather. The Sea Queen is attempting to overcome him."

"Sounds like you've been reading too many fantasy books," Larson said.

Andrea shoved his shoulder. "Don't be rude."

"Kids..." Mr. Kerk grumbled. "Anyways, I'll have to go over these research notes later, I have important work to have done. Would you young ones like to assist me?"

"I guess," Andrea said, thinking back to Professor Ansen lecturing her on confidence. "I mean... yes. What do you need done?"

Mr. Kerk returned to his hut and tapped on the top of the machine. "This wretched machine's purpose is to analyze sea water down to atomic structure. Made by some... Catrianna something." he said, struggling to remember.

"Catrianna Corporation?" Andrea said.

Mr. Kerk snapped his fingers. "Yes, that's it! Years of research have gotten me closer to studying the Queen of the Sea... Analyzing the local sea water will help determine my next step."

Larson looked out into the ocean. "How? Looks like water to me."

"Are you aware of what is in sea water?" he asked.

Larson shrugged again.

After Mr. Kerk looked at Andrea again, she tried to remember past the basics. "Salt, mostly. Microscopic life forms, algae, and unfortunately the pollution we humans cause."

"Exactly. Now, look at the water. Have you ever seen it so clear?" he asked.

Thinking about it, Andrea never had seen the ocean quite as clear as today. She always remembered it being cloudy at best and murky at worst. "I haven't."

"Before your time. The last time the ocean was this clear was some thirty years ago. My research has tied these shifts to the Queen of the Sea. She is purity in it's... well, it's purest form." Mr. Kerk said. "I am hoping that my analysis of this water will show her presence. If so, the next step of my research continues."

Andrea was visibly excited over what was in reality mundane work. However, it was her first true exposure to real world science since graduating from school, a prospect that encouraged her greatly. She bumped her shoulder up against Larson's. "What do you say, do you want to be my research assistant?" she asked with a smile on her face.

Larson raised his eyebrow and pointed at Mr. Kerk. "Something tells me I'll be his research assistant."

Mr. Kerk unboxed several round, plastic cannisters and placed them onto the table. "It is going to be terribly boring, but science is like that sometimes." he said. He handed two cannisters each to Andrea and Larson each and continued. "Having you around should make it a bit less so." he said.

Andrea, Larson and Mr. Kerk made their way from the hut to the shore across the pristine beach, creating footprints that faded quickly as the wind blew the sand about. The waves crashed ashore, creating a fine and soothing mist, welcoming the three out towards the clear, blue sea.

Andrea knelt down in the water, opening the top of the cannister to let the sea water in. After it had filled, she lifted it upwards towards the sky. The water looked as if it weren't even there, the only indication of it being there was the presence of bubbles along the side of the cannister. "Interesting..." she said.

"Try to get some water from out further, if you can!" Mr. Kerk called out as he knelt down to collect a sample.

Andrea looked down into the water to see where it was safe to walk. She was still fascinated to see her feet visible even when the water was up to her hips. She looked out further into the ocean. "Maybe Mr. Kerk is right. This is unreal."

As she knelt down to collect another sample, a large fish about ten inches long approached. Attached to the back of its lemon-shaped body were a pair of fins that resembled butterfly wings. A red stripe that reflected brightly in the sun ran along its body, separating its orange top half from its yellow bottom half. It fluttered around, foraging along the sand for any scraps or sea weed that may have been left behind by others.

"Ooh... aren't you pretty?" she said, observing the fish. She raise her arm to check her R-Kit, aiming it at the fish creature and hoping that it would automatically detect what she was looking at.

"Finneon, the Wing Fish Pokémon," the robotic voice of the R-Kit said. "Finneon travel in large groups but are known to be quite selective with their grouping, usually schooling based on color. Blue is the overwhelmingly most common color exhibited by this Pokémon, often leaving other, more unique colorations to fend for themselves."

"Aww..." Andrea said. "Are you all alone?" she asked. She watched as the Finneon swam around, picking at the sand, before quickly retreating to deeper water. She saw herself in that fish, seeing herself as a bit of a loner.

As she thought it over, Larson snuck up on her, jumping, roaring and making a large splash just behind her, causing her to shout in fright. After he had finished laughing, he asked, "How's it going over here? I'm already done collecting my samples."

"Almost done, you dope," she said, punching his shoulder. She knelt down again to collect more sea water, staring out into the endless blue. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Mmmmnnnneeeeeeehh..." Larson said, stretching his words. "I guess? It's just water, Andrea, and we're in no short supply of it."

"No, I mean the ocean, not the water." she said. "Doesn't it make you feel... like..." she said, trying to find the right words.

"Like what?" Larson asked.

"Like, uhh..."

Larson could sense distress in his friend's voice, so he did what he usually does in this situation. "Water makes me feel wet. Does that work?"

Andrea laughed at his stupid joke. "Sure, why not?" she said. "I'm done, by the way. Let's get back to shore, okay?"

"Now you're talking."

As Andrea followed Larson towards the shore, she thought to herself. "Damn it, Andrea... you have a smooth way with words, don't you? That was the perfect time to tell him..."

As Andrea and Larson waded ashore, Mr. Kerk was already trying to test out his new machine. He was muttering obscenities to himself as the machine beeped in error every time he pressed a button. "Stupid technology, why do I even..."

Andrea placed her sea water samples onto the table. "Something wrong?"

"You're young, you're 'with it'. Perhaps you can figure out how to open the blasted tank on this thing."

Andrea studied the machine in front of her. "Hmm..." Beside the two dozen buttons, she saw a large hole that looked to be the same size as the sea water cannisters. She grabbed one and slid it into the hole, causing a light near one of the buttons to turn on. She pressed the button and the machine began to whir and vibrate. As it did so, the sea water slowly drained from the cannister and into the tank on top.

"I envy you kids, sometimes. I grew up in an age where the most advanced technology we had were mechanical watches, and now look at the world. Airplanes, mobile phones, analyzers of all sorts, those blue... picture things." he said. "I don't understand any of it."

"Must be rough being a researcher of your age," Larson said.

"Ha! On the contrary. Technology would indeed make my research easier, but I get by just fine without it!" he retorted. "Unfortunately, I hit a snag; I am not capable of what this machine is..."

"This is Mr. Kerk, Larson. Look at all he's accomplished from this tiny little hut."

Mr. Kerk nodded.

"So how long should this take?" Andrea asked, grabbing the instruction manual. "We should probably get back to Silvermist before it gets too dark."

"I couldn't tell you," Mr. Kerk said.

Andrea read from the instruction manual. "Once the tank is full, analysis of the sea water could take upwards of three days," she said, astonished. "Wow."

"Three days?! I guess I should move onto other parts of my research, then..." he said. "I do appreciate your help, Andrea, Larson, as well as the information you've delivered to me. Say hello to Professor Ansen for me the next time you see her, will you?"

"I can do that," Andrea said. She looked at Larson. "So, should we head back to the city?" she asked.

"Sure. I've always wanted to see what the night life is like in Silvermist."

"Scary." Mr. Kerk interjected. "Night time is when all the crooks and creeps come out. If you fancy a night time stroll through the city, stay in well lit areas."

Larson nodded. "That's probably a good idea... I imagine every big city is like that, I know Saffron City was."

"I guess this is good bye. Good luck out there and be careful." Mr. Kerk said.

The two made farewell gestures and began to walk westward along the beach back towards Silvermist City. As the sun began to set in the western sky and the orange and pink glow on the purple clouds began to fade into view, the two quickened their pace, not wanting to be trapped out in the dark late at night.
 
chapter 6
Storm Island
Chapter 6: Prepare For Trouble!

The night was unusually quiet compared to the city life Andrea was used to. The only noises to be heard were the gentle crashing of the waves in the distance, the slight breeze kicking through the leaves of the palm trees and the crickets singing their tunes. The temperature had cooled dramatically compared to the day, and large ominous clouds could be faintly seen along the horizon, brightened by the full moon that hung over the ocean. The sun had set and the only light guiding Andrea and Larson along the ornate cobblestone path were lamps that looked to be from a different, simpler era.

"So what's the night life like over in Kanto?" Andrea asked, leaning up against Larson.

There was a visible look of discomfort on his face. "Umm... I imagine it's much like the night life around here. Big, bright cities that say 'screw you' to the darkness, lots of activities..."

"What kind, though? I never get out much."

"Spectator sports, concerts, ice skating in the winter, festivals..." Larson said, sighing. "Yeah, I guess we don't get much of that around here on the island, do we? You really need to get out of here and see the world for what it really is."

"Is that an invitation?" she asked. "Oooh, but I couldn't even if you wanted to take me along. It's silly how I had all the time in the world and never wanted to do anything with it, and now this little trip has me thinking big, but I'm stuck with my new job."

"Life is cruel like that," Larson replied. "You'll get out there eventually. You've got a good 80 years ahead of you."

"Hmmm... yeah." she said, looking up ahead. A bright flash of light off in the distance caught her attention. "What was that?" she asked.

"What was what?"

"That," she said as another flash lit up the road ahead of them.

"A very good question," Larson said, quickening his pace and leaving Andrea behind. As he came closer to the source of the flashing lights, he pressed up against the neatly trimmed bushes that lined the sides of the cobblestone road. Like some sort of secret agent, he poked his head around the corner to get a better look.

On the smooth, water-drenched rocks, a young woman and an older man could be seen collecting about a dozen Pokéballs that littered the ground. The woman was dressed in faded blue jeans with a pink denim vest over a plain white t-shirt. Her pink and white ball cap shrouded most of her face as well as kept her shoulder-length blonde hair dry from the crashing waves. As she kneeled down, she looked over to her accomplice, a man in a black polo shirt and dark brown khaki pants. He looked over towards the younger woman, revealing a long and grizzly scar across the left side of his face. He shoved the Pokéballs he was holding into a pouch strapped to his belt then pointed at a blue and white balloon-like creature sitting on the rocks just by the water. As if ordered to attack, a small white squirrel-like creature with an electric blue stripe running down its back charged forward, static sparks jumping from its fur.

"What is it?" Andrea asked, making sure to keep out of sight.

"Looks like a pair of trainers," Larson said. "I can't help but wonder why they're catching so many Pokémon at once, though... Maybe they're breeders?" He studied them further, then returned to the path. "Let's leave them be."

As Andrea stayed behind to watch them, the young woman laughed as the small balloon-like creature was subdued by the electrical attacks from the squirrel creature. "Think anyone will find us?" she asked.

"I doubt it. I'm having some favors pulled in some very high places." the man said. "The police shouldn't be a problem."

Andrea motioned towards Larson. "Come back here!" she whispered.

"This is great. We've already exceeded our quota for the week." the man laughed. "Funding for this operation should be no problem."

"Good. How's your daughter doing, has she updated us on anything?"

"Nothing yet, but she's in place, scoping out a target."

"This is too easy..." the girl said, looking around. "Remember the last time things were too easy? We had two Pokémon League champions after us."

"What happened at the Lake of Rage was different. We put all of our eggs into one basket that time. Subtlety is key, and subtlety is what we're practicing here."

"But boss--"

"Listen, Domino. You worry too much. We've slipped in completely undetected so far. I'd be more worried about when we start getting our boots shipped to the island." he said, tossing a Pokéball at the subdued Spheal. "Let's just focus on our objective here, the fur."

Andrea and Larson looked at each other, confused. "Fur?"

"No idea," Larson said.

Domino stopped in her tracks and turned around, brushing her windswept hair out of her face. "Hold it, boss. I heard something." she said as she started to approach the pathway. "Don't bother hiding, I already know you're there!" she called out, not even sure of her bold claim.

"What do we do?" Andrea asked.

"Play dumb and follow me," he said and stepped out into view.

"What?" Andrea whispered in confusion before following Larson.

Domino studied the two. "Isn't it a bit late for civilians like you to be out here?"

"We're just on our way back to the city," Larson said. "Nothing wrong with that, is there?"

"I suppose not..." Domino replied. "I just wanted to make sure you're not deranged psychopaths."

The older man walked up to the group. "Is there a problem here?"

"No, sir. We're just returning to town, right?" he said. He looked at Andrea, who was staring at the scar crawling down the man's face. He nudged her with his elbow. "Right?"

"Oh, uhh... yeah."

The man looked at the two with great suspicion, but decided that they weren't worth his time. "Very well. Now move along, you're intruding on Storm Island Parks and Recreation business!"

"Yeah, gotcha," Larson said. He grabbed Andrea by the shoulder, swooping her in front of her and leading her back into the city as the other two returned to the rocks. The two looked back, seeing more and more bright flashes as they continued.

After reaching a decent distance away from them, Andrea reached into her purse to grab her phone. "Are we really going to let them get away with what they're doing?"

"We don't even know what it is that they're doing," he replied.

"I think I do," she said, looking back down the path. "When that guy looked at me... did you notice that ugly scar on his face?"

"And?"

She cycled through her list of numbers on her phone.

"What are you doing?" Larson asked.

She stopped and looked at Larson as if he were an idiot. "Come on, Larson, Storm Island Parks and Recreation? There is no such thing! The closest we have is the Storm Island Forestry Authority." As Andrea continued to search for her father's phone number, Larson bolted back down the path. "Hey! What are you doing?!"

Back in the bay, the two overheard the shouting. Domino perked up and motioned for her squirrel companion to stand by her side. "Heads up, Sal. I think we've got trouble."

"I'd say we do," Sal said as Larson slid into view on the path. He took a step forward and called out, "You should have kept walking, boy." He raised his hand upward and small wires along it began to glow brightly with a yellow light. The red and black Pokéball that was snugly hooked to his belt jiggled and floated into his hand.

"What are you doing here?" Larson asked, grabbing a peculiar looking Pokéball from his pocket. "Who are you?"

"Someone you don't want to get involved with, boy!" Sal shouted. He tossed the Pokéball into the clearing that separated the two. A large white cat with a jewel on its forehead appeared from the Pokéball, assuming an attack position and growling. "Prepare for trouble!"

"And make it double!" Domino shouted, stepping beside her accomplice. "Great, now I'm sounding like our useless duo..."

"Andrea, Steelforge and I need some help!" Larson said, tossing his Heavy Ball into the clearing between them. The Heavy Ball exploded in a burst of light and sent a visible shockwave across the area, kicking up an immense cloud of dust and mist. As it faded, the figure of a giant metallic snake-like creature gleamed in the moonlight. The creature uncoiled, raising its massive body up towards the sky, staring down at its two opponents with a devious grin on its face. Its roar was deafening and shook the air around it.

"Shit..." Domino said in disbelief. "C'mon, boss, let's get out of here. We'll never be able to take that thing on."

Andrea stared up at the massive iron snake in wonder. "Uhh..." she said, grabbing her Pokéball and tossing it forward weakly. Furball emerged in a bright flash of light, ready to defend his master.

Sal ignored his partner's advice, quickly ordering an attack. "Persian, go for the throat! Melt that overgrown snake down into scrap!"

The Persian obeyed his master's command, pouncing into the air fearlessly despite the massive difference in size and physical power between him and his target. The Persian's claws began to glow a bright red, then burst into flames as it landed on Steelforge. In a fruitless attempt, he began to try to rip into Steelforge's metallic body. Steelforge didn't respond, seemingly amused at Persian's attempts to attack it.

"Steelforge, let's make this quick. Enter a defensive stance!" Larson shouted.

Steelforge coiled back up, the Persian still attached to its neck and trying to tear away at its impenetrable metal body. White puffs of energy began to spark off of his body as he began to shine even brighter.

"I need a distraction, Andrea."

"Uhh... Oooohh..." Andrea groaned. "Furball! Uhh... Try to grab their attention somehow."

Andrea's lack of confidence did little to inspire Furball, but he attempted to do his best. He charged forward into the center of the rocky clearing, taunting the electric squirrel in front of him.

"Pachirisu, blast that little rat!" Domino called out.

As Pachirisu's fur began to bristle and spark, Furball lowered to all fours, anticipating Pachirisu's next move. As soon as he saw Pachirisu's eyes open, he dashed to the side to avoid a massive bolt of golden electricity that arched between it and where he was just standing. Pachirisu began charging up again for another attack.

"Call him back, Andrea," Larson said.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Yes. Do it."

Andrea clicked the button on her Pokéball and recalled Furball in a blob of red light.

"I'd find a place to hide if I were you," Larson said with a smirk on his face. "This ends here! Go on, Steelforge. Show them the true meaning of an iron defense!"

Steelforge rose up from his rock-hard coiled pose, grinning wickedly as he looked back and forth between Persian, Pachirisu, Sal and Domino. He surprisingly and quickly lurched into the air, wrapping himself into a spiked iron wheel. Charging about in random, seemingly careless directions, the iron assault caused everyone to run for cover. As he whipped about, he was doing massive damage to the surrounding area, grinding up the rocks, knocking down trees and causing massive waves along the shore.

"Such power..." Sal said to Domino, amazed. He poked his head up from behind the rock the two were hiding behind to see Steelforge still whirling about. "No, Persian!" he yelled as Steelforge closed in on Persian, sending him skyward as the two collided. Sal quickly pulled out his red and black Pokéball and called Persian back before he landed on the now jagged rocks.

"What do we do? We can't hope to match that kind of firepower, not with what we have with us." Domino replied, poking her head out from behind her hiding spot to recall Pachirisu.

Sal pulled a solid black Pokéball from his pouch. "We give up. Follow my lead." As the dust settled from the chaotic assault, Sal stepped out into view. "Easy there, fella!" he said, trying to calm the enraged Steelix. "Ya got us, kid! We give up." he said, motioning for Domino to follow. "You want these Pokémon we've been catching? Take 'em!"

"Sal!" Domino whispered.

"Take it easy. We've got enough to cover our operations for awhile. Let's just appease these self-righteous kids and get out of here." he whispered back. He unlatched the pouch that was attached to his belt.

Larson approached the two cautiously, yet at the same time carelessly. "Hand 'em over." Larson ordered.

Sal tossed the satchel of Pokéballs onto the ground in front of him.

"Now, stay here," he said, reaching into his pocket. He pulled a phone out and flipped it open.

"I don't think so," Sal said, tossing the solid black Pokéball towards his feet. "Run!" The two disappeared between the cloud of smoke and the cover of darkness.

Larson tried his best to escape the billowing cloud of black smoke, nearly choking on the acrid haze. "Damn it, I should have seen that coming!" he shouted.

Andrea emerged from her hiding spot, climbing over a fallen tree as she approached Larson. "You really are an idiot sometimes, ya know that?"

Larson grumbled as he tried to disperse the smoke with his hand.

"Look at this place, it looks like a bomb went off!" she scolded. "I was going to call the police, but... but..." she started.

"Alright, look. I screwed up." he said. "Wouldn't be the first time."

Andrea noticed the pouch that was sitting on the ground and knelt down to pick it up. "Hey! That guy dropped this!" she said as she opened it up to look inside. Several black and red Pokéballs and some jet black Pokéballs were inside.

"Give me some of those," Larson said. He began to toss them out into the water as Andrea handed them to him, freeing multiple Spheals from captivity. One by one as Andrea and Larson threw the Pokéballs into the water, Spheals, Sealeos and Walreins popped out, roaring and squeaking in appreciation. The last one that Andrea released was a Spheal with a star-shaped pattern along its back. It bounced up and down back towards them, looking at Andrea expectantly.

"What's up there, little fella?" Larson asked, grabbing its attention with his voice.

The Spheal turned its attention back to Andrea, licking at her ankle and squeaking like a chew toy. "Get!" she said, softly kicking it away. The Spheal rolled around to avoid her foot, then rolled back into place and cried out in happiness. "Come on, I can't stay forever... go back to your family."

"What should we do with him?"

"Let's just go..." she said, turning around and abandoning the Spheal.

"But Andr--" Larson started.

"Nope! Don't care." As the two continued along the road into Silvermist City, Andrea stretched and yawned. "What a day, eh?" she asked. "I can't wait to get off my feet, they're killing me."

"Welcome to life on the road." Larson said with a laugh. "Don't worry, you'll learn to appreciate the pain."

She groaned softly, thinking of what to do for the night. She knew next to nothing about Silvermist City and was hoping that Larson could guide her. "So... where are we going to stay tonight?"

"How about the Silvermist Hot Springs?" he asked.

"Now I know how much you want to see me with very little on..." she started jokingly. "But, umm... I didn't bring any clothes meant for that."

"A dip in the springs is optional, silly. It's more of a lounge area for people to enjoy."

The two spent nearly ten minutes stumbling through the darkness along the dimly lit pathway before they reached the brighter beach side suburbs of Silvermist City. It was surprisingly quiet for such a lovely night, as the streets seemed mostly abandoned aside from a few people here and there. They walked through the brightly lit street, past the entrance to the Silvermist Boardwalk and past the Crystal Cove Lighthouse. Each shared memories past, Andrea talking about her days as a waitress at the Crimson Crawdaunt on the Azure Ridge Boardwalk and Larson recalling his visit to the Olivine City Lighthouse in Johto. Before they knew it, they had reached the center of the city, split in half by a large stone plateau that stretched outward to the sea.

A jagged and crooked cave entrance stood before the two, labeled as the Silvermist Hot Springs by the sign next to it. Steam poured out of the entrance, floating off into the sky, giving the moon a rainbow-like aura.

"Well, here we are." Larson said.

"Have you been inside before?" Andrea asked.

"It is the only way to the western side of the city, so... yes."

"Oh..."

Larson led Andrea into the hot springs. Inside were about a dozen pools of cyan colored water, bubbling lightly and ejecting a thin haze of steam into the air. The area was largely empty compared to most nights, with only a dozen people relaxing in the springs or enjoying a late dinner at one of the many picnic tables that lined the rocky walls. A surprisingly cool breeze tunneled through the spires that stretched down from the ceiling, pushing the steam out through the exits.

Larson led Andrea over to a picnic table and sat down across from her. "I'm surprised at how much has happened today..." he said.

"Uh huh," Andrea said, not listening as she dug through her backpack. "Hey, I'm going to change into some new clothes, all right? Watch my stuff please." she said, pulling some new clothes out of her backpack.

"Yeah. Sure thing." he said, leaning back against the wall as she disappeared into a changing room on the other side of the cavern. He twiddled his thumbs as he waited, offering a friendly nod to those who walked by. As he waited, the idea came to him to call home about what happened with the two mysterious individuals earlier. He reached into his pocket and grabbed his phone and began to dial his father's number. The phone rang three times.

"Y'ello?"

"Hey, dad," he said.

"What's up, son?" his father asked.

"Not much, I'm over in Silvermist with Andrea. I made sure she arrived safely."

"I'm so sorry, she must be a handful."

"Oh, no, she's really not. She's handled herself pretty well so far. She hasn't complained much or been a bother."

"That surprises me... She's usually been a pain whenever I've been around. Maybe this new job opportunity of hers has set her straight."

"I think it has," he said. "Hey, dad, what was that thing you and her father were investigating? That break in at Dr. Spruce's lab last week."

"Yeah, Marvin and I have been working on that, why?"

"What were the descriptions on the criminals? Dr. Spruce showed some photos to Andrea and I but I was conked out and didn't pay attention."

"Uhh... let me look." his father replied, followed by a moment of silence. "Security cameras caught two people. One is a young woman, probably in her 20s. Blonde hair... I can't make out the eye color on her. About as short as Andrea from the looks of it. The other guy is older, probably in his late 40s. He's got a giant scar over his left eye, brown hair and brown eyes. I'd say... six foot tall?"

"I think I found them earlier tonight," Larson said. "Andrea and I were walking back into the city when we came across a pair of suspicious people."

"Oh yeah? What were they up to?"

"Catching lots and lots of Spheals in Crystal Bay... something about fur and reaching a quota."

"Mmm."

"The guy had some weird device on his hand. He used it to grab his Pokémon off of his belt without touching them."

"What?"

"I don't know what it was... it looked like some sort of high tech glove out of sci-fi."

"You don't think..." his father said, trailing off. "What kind of Pokéball did he use?"

"Black and red."

There was another moment of silence. "Get home soon, son. I think you and Andrea may have just broken the case wide open."

"Gotcha. I'll probably be home with Andrea tomorrow or the day after, depending on what the Professor requires of her."

"Stay safe and keep an eye out."

"Oh, I should probably mention this... Don't tell Andrea's mom what I just said."

"Why not?"

"She has some issues letting go. She'll use any excuse she can to try to force Andrea to stay home."

"Oh, weird. Meredith never really struck me that way... But you have my word." he said. "That all?"

"Yes. Good night."

"Night."

Larson closed his phone and returned to waiting for Andrea to change into her new clothes. As he sat there, he wondered what his father was thinking about when he mentioned the strange device Sal was wearing on his hand, and why it was so important to return home. The thought kept crossing his mind; just who were those two mysterious individuals? He soon pushed those thoughts out of mind as he saw Andrea appear from the changing room.

Andrea's new wardrobe was simple, yet odd for the hot weather. Her hair was down, covering the upper half of her black button-up shirt that was lined with orange trim. Her pants were now white, yet the same style as her previous ones. She walked over to the picnic table and sat down next to Larson, leaning up against the wall alongside him.

"You know... I never realized how nice you look." Larson said.

"Oh stop."

"No, really! When I left two years ago, you looked like an awkward nerd... no offense. Now look at you."

"It's amazing what two years can do, I guess?" she replied, unwilling to take the compliment. "Actually, it is. What about you?"

"Oh yeah? What about me?" he asked in curiosity.

"When you first got it, you could barely control your... Charizander?"

"Charmander."

"Whatever! And then that... thing. That monster of yours, you were so in control, so sure of yourself." she said. "I don't understand how Pokémon trainers do it."

"It's not easy, I'll say that much. Let me teach you the basics at least."

Andrea was silent, uninterested in learning. She felt that the level of control, mastery and confidence she'd seen displayed by others was out of her impatient reach.

"You have no idea how crucial it would be to your job, Andrea," he reminded her. "Scientific research covers a lot of things. Technology, history, chemistry, physics and Pokémon. I'm sure somewhere along the line you're going to come across a Pokémon that you think the Professor would be interested in researching. Or something she wants you to bring to her to study."

"I guess..."

"And how are you going to do that? Throw a Pokéball and cross your fingers?" he said, bringing his hand down on the table. "No! You'll have to fight it first, weaken it, command it... That is where being a trainer will come in useful for you."

Andrea looked at the table and sighed. "Why could I have just stayed in school longer to become a mechanic..." she joked.

"Look, you'll find out on your own how important it will be. But let me give you some basic training so you're not totally screwed if you find yourself alone in the future."

"I guess it won't hurt," she said. "Just don't get your hopes up that I'll actually learn something."

Larson leaned back against the wall again, resting his head on his hands. "Alright, it's settled. Tomorrow morning, we're going down to the Silverridge Caverns. That's where I learned the basics." He reached into his backpack and pulled out an ornate oaken case with a large Pokéball etched into it. Opening it, he revealed his collection of gym badges. Five from the Kanto Region and four from the Johto region. "All of this started in that old mineshaft..."

"You can keep collecting your fancy little pins, I'm not interested in that," Andrea said. She yawned again, ready to pick up her belongings and find a nice motel.

Larson could sense what she was thinking and responded by kicking his feet up onto the table. "Tired?" he said, adjusting himself so he was more comfortable.

"You've gotta be kidding me... We're in a city! Let's find a motel or something!"

"You wanna pay for it?" he asked.

Andrea objected, but realized that she had no way to pay for a night's stay in even the most run-down of motels. Instead, she quickly admitted defeat and sat down next to Larson, checking the stony wall behind her. The wall was indeed hard as a rock, offering little in the way of comfort. "I miss my bed already..."

"Put it out of your mind... You'll be without one for awhile unless you're lucky or the Professor decides to pay for you."

Andrea groaned in horror, resting her head on Larson's shoulder. "For science."

Larson looked over. "Hmm?"

"I'll suffer for science."

"That's the spirit," he said, closing his eyes.

Despite her adversity to the location Larson decided to choose in comparison to a comfortable motel, Andrea's exhaustion began to get the better of her. She watched as people came and went to the hot springs, counting them each to help her sleep. Eventually, she lost count and fell asleep.
 
I meant to review the last chapter as well. Right so ... a smooth read. I wasn't thinking about awkward sentences while I was reading, and that's a good start. I like the pace of the story so far. The battle felt a little choppy - I get that you're not going to be referring to moves by name, but as a result it was a little hard to follow what Steelix was actually doing. On the plus side, Steelix leaving its Poké Ball was a great piece of description
 
chapter 7
Storm Island
Chapter 7: Overgrowth

Physical discomfort greeted Larson as he woke up. He could barely move, but he could easily think. The first thought that crossed his mind was why he decided to sleep sitting up against a stone wall. He opened his eyes and looked around. A early morning golden glow gushed in through the entrance to the hot springs, followed by a cool breeze. He looked down to see Andrea curled up next to him, resting her head on his lap. "Glad one of us is comfortable..." he groaned. He pushed at her shoulder to wake her up. "Come on, sleepy head."

It took a few forceful nudges to wake Andrea. She was still half asleep when she opened her eyes and looked up to see Larson. The dopiest smile appeared across her face followed by a giggle. She sat up and stretched, looking at the R-Kit to see the time. 7:37 AM. "T's a bit, uh, early, right?" she slurred.

"You try sleeping with a jagged rock digging into your back," he said, rubbing it. "Besides, I'm sure you woke up this early all the time when you worked at the Crimson Crawdaunt."

"Mmm," she said, nodding and yawning. "Guess I'm used to sleeping in until noon, now."

"You hungry?"

"Not really," she replied.

"We can get out to the caverns now, if you're up for it."

Andrea, still half asleep, tried to remember what he was talking about when it hit her. She didn't want to, but figured that learning was for the best. "Oh... Sure. We'll be back in town before nightfall though, right?"

"Most likely," he said. He stood up and stretched his sore back, groaning loudly as he did so.

"Are you up for it?" she asked.

"I've climbed a mountain while in worse shape. Let's go."

- - - - -​

The sun was low in the northeastern sky, casting long and deformed shadows against the ground and showering everything else with golden light. Andrea, Larson and Furball were on their way towards the Silverridge Caverns entrance just outside of Silvermist City on Route 302. The early morning songs of the local birds pepped the two up, as well as signaled the start of the day; the tall grass began to move with the critters that roamed in it and the flowers opened up in preparation for a warm day in the sun. Down the precarious silver cliffs, one could see the ocean, sparkling and clear as day. Off in the distance could be seen large and ominous rain clouds, lumbering over the horizon. Hurricane Adele would soon be arriving.

Andrea was carrying a rapidly melting ice cream cone. She tried her best to contain the ice cream as it streamed through the textured lines of the cone. "So how far is this place?" she asked.

Larson watched as the ice cream dripped down the cone, over her hands and down onto the ground. "I don't know what made you think that was a wise purchase." he said. "Anyways, the cavern entrance is just around this bend in the road if I remember."

As Andrea prepared to finish off the ice cream that rested atop the cone, Furball perked upwards, pecking at the cone with pinpoint accuracy. Opening his mouth wide, he gobbled up the entire cone in one bite.

"Hey! You little..." she squealed.

Larson erupted into laughter. "There's your first lesson in becoming a Pokémon trainer. Always keep your eyes on your food."

The two came across a sign indicating the entrance to the Silverridge Caverns. Flimsy, weather-worn wooden planks held a literal ton of dirt and rocks out of the way of the cave entrance, a sight that made Andrea uneasy about venturing into the cave. Dangling from the main entrance was an old oil-burning lamp with broken glass, indicating to Andrea that the area was not maintained. Broken planks painted with yellow and black stripes littered the floor of the tunnel.

"Well, here we are. Silverridge Caverns. It's been years since I've been here... Hopefully there won't be too many people asking for trainer battles here, it's been a popular hangout for trainers of all skill levels ever since they shut the mine down."

"They reopened the mine six months ago, didn't they?" Andrea asked, trying to remember a largely forgettable event.

"Looks abandoned to me," Larson remarked, studying the dilapidated interior. Along the entry tunnel was a rusted out mine track with a cart sitting at the end of it, covered in dust and gravel. He took a good look at the entrance to judge if it was safe, then walked inside. "Let's get started."

Andrea was simply too afraid to venture any further. When she was told that she would be going through the caverns, she pictured something a lot safer looking, something brightly lit, something filled with beautiful stone formations. Instead, she looked into the dark and dreary mine shaft and felt that certain death was staring back at her.

"Come on, you'll be fine. I'm here to protect you." he said.

Andrea felt a push from behind her as she tried to steel her nerves. She entered the mine shaft, ducking under a large cobweb. The look on her face was that of distress, as she looked like she was on the verge of a mental breakdown. "I hate the darkness... Always have." she said. "And you're absolutely sure that this is safe?"

"Yes," he stated with confidence. "This will help with the darkness." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Pokéball, tossing it ahead into the tunnel. After the flash of light subsided, there stood a small, pink and stocky star-shaped creature.

"Not that creepy thing..."

Looking back at Larson with a devious grin on her face, she showed her small fangs and fluttered her tiny wings. Without even a simple command, she began to glow brightly, lighting up a large section of the mine shaft around her. The brightness reflected off of the spider webs that lined the corners of the support frames.

Andrea's fear of darkness was no longer an issue, but now her fear of spiders was starting to bubble up to the surface. "I'm done. Get me out of here."

"Nahhh..." Larson said, pushing forward through the spider webs. "This'll help you toughen up. Especially when the wild Pokémon start crawling all over us."

Very uncomfortable, Andrea reluctantly nodded and followed Larson and Star down the tunnel, occasionally looking behind her whenever she heard anything. She groaned in discomfort the further they ventured into the tunnel.

"It's fine," Larson said. "I know what I'm doing, Andrea, I'm an expe-AAAH!" Not paying attention, Larson walked straight into a hole that Star had waddled around. He acted quickly to grab the ladder that stretched down to the floor, but the force of him falling and the age of the ladder did little to stop his fall. The ladder crumbled into splinted wooden shards, kicking up a cloud of dust. Larson landed hard on the cold, squishy ground with an audible splat.

Andrea, Furball and Star crowded around the hole. "Are you alright?" she asked.

Larson picked himself up, astonished that he was mostly unharmed from the fall. "I think so," he said as he looked around. Unfortunately, he couldn't see anything except for a yellow glow ahead of him. "Hey, Star. C'mere, I can't see."

Without hesitation, Star hopped to the aid of her master, falling down the hole without the slightest bit of grace as she tumbled down.

"No, no no!" Andrea said, trying to grab Star as she jumped down the hole. "Great, now I can't see anything!" Behind her, a sinister slithering noise could be heard, sending a bone chilling shiver down her spine. "Help! How do I get down there?!" she shouted. Larson didn't respond, instead walking out of her light of sight. "Hey!"

Larson returned with a large, grassy vine which he tied into a lasso. "Catch!" he shouted as he tossed it up the hole. "See if you can tie that to anything."

Andrea grabbed the vine and frantically clawed her way through the darkness. She stumbled on a stalagmite and hurriedly tossed the vine around it, then scrambled back to the hole and made her way down. She breathed a sigh of relief as she entered the welcoming glow of Star, almost wanting to hug her. As she composed herself, the sight that was before her took her breath away. "Woah..."

It was indeed a peculiar sight. The floor of the tunnel was covered in thick and dewy, green grass. Thick vines poked out of the grass, choking the walls as they climbed upward to the ceiling, wrapping around a multitude of colored mushrooms the size of a person, as well as around gigantic, green hexagonal crystals that jutted from the walls. Old, broken bits of wood and twisted rusted metal poked out of the rampaging overgrowth, presumably old mine tracks. Every now and then, the mushrooms would shake, releasing a cloud of luminescent spores that dissipated quickly. The smell of decaying plants was heavy in the air, making it difficult to breathe.

"What is this?" Larson asked, having never seen anything like it in all his travels.

Andrea's curiosity got the better of her. She slogged through the wet grass to inspect the vines along the walls. "This is so gross!" she said as she tried to tip toe through the grass. The vines were shiny, covered in a thin coat of slime, but coarse to the touch. The vines seemed to flinch as Andrea touched them.

"What's going on here?" Larson asked.

"What are you asking me for?" she said, just as confused as he was.

"You're a researcher now, aren't you? Go on, science the hell out of me."

Andrea racked her brain as she tried to think of what could possibly be responsible for the plant growth. As the two tossed ideas back and forth, the vine that Andrea had climbed down earlier started to slither back down. It coiled up behind Larson, latching onto his wrist tightly and pulling hard.

Larson yanked back. "What the hell?!" he shouted as he tried to unwrap the vine around him. "Get it off, get it off!"

Andrea quickly acted, grabbing the vine and attempting to untie it from her friend's arm. The vine fought her every move, slithering around as she tried to grab the end of it, determined to stay attached to its new toy. "This isn't good!" she said, grabbing onto Larson as the vine pulled harder. She looked back at Star, shouting, "Do something!

Star looked at Andrea, puzzled, then back at Larson as he struggled against the vine, all while having a bemused look on her face.

"She's not much of a fighter..." Larson said. Tired of being wrangled by the vine, he pulled his arm towards his face, chomping down onto the vine and growling viciously. The vine's grip loosened on him, retreating back into the wall and dripping a thick, gooey substance. As he rubbed his wrist, he was in agreement with Andrea. "Ok. I'm done too. Let's find a way out of here." he said, looking up to inspect the hole he fell down. "Unfortunately, our only way out slithered back into the wall... We'll have to find another way."

Andrea whimpered. "I knew this was a bad idea..."

"I have lots of bad ideas, but I make the best of them. Come on, before that... thing... decides to come back."

Andrea, Larson, Furball and Star decided to move on, approaching the yellow glow on the horizon. They tromped through the wet grass, keeping an eye out for any suspicious vines that might drop from the ceiling to attack them.

She tried her best to calm down, thinking. "There has to be some logical explanation for this." she said as she studied the damp, thick vines and other vegetation that had the stone walls of the cave in a choking strangle hold. She decided to see if her R-Kit might have any idea of what was going on, tapping away at the screen. She turned her attention to a large green gem that poked out of the floor. She wanted to resist the urge to touch it, but grabbed it anyways; the gemstone was warm to the touch and filled her with a relaxing and soothing feeling. "Woah."

"What is it?"

Andrea clicked away at her R-Kit once more, not even sure of what she was doing. It beeped and a light shot out of the side of it, scanning the crystal up and down. "...Alive..." she said in disbelief as she studied the information that appeared on the R-Kit.

"What? What do you mean 'alive'?"

"My R-Kit says that it's organic. Chemically, it's stable, but it's producing its own energy... more than it can handle. It seems to be venting that excess energy into the environment."

"Huh." Larson quipped, not understanding a word that she said.

"It'd probably explain the plants... maybe."

The two continued down the tunnel towards the source of the yellow light, entering a large, circular pocket cave. The room was large enough to get lost in and if one wasn't careful enough, could easily do so. The room was covered from floor to ceiling with thick vegetation; hanging vines, giant mushrooms, overgrown grass, glowing globes of fruit and even trees. At the center of it all, above the plant life, was a swirling cloud of luminescent gas, glowing brightly and showering the area with a golden-orange light. Giant bat-like creatures swooped through the room, moving from tunnel to tunnel. Scattered near the entrance to the room was what looked like an abandoned and wrecked mining camp.

The small group approached the camp. The tent was covered in mildew and slime and many of the boxes containing mining equipment and other supplies had collapsed. Atop the desk was a journal that was simply labeled 'Reliable Excavation and Demolition'.

"This breaks every law of nature that I know of," Larson said as he looked up at the swirling cloud of gas that lit up the area.

"What does?" Andrea asked, picking up the log book and opening it.

"This... this entire place. The glowy air, the vines, the crystals..."

"Mmm... no it doesn't." Andrea said, recalling her days of studying the basics of biochemistry. "Certain gaseous compounds are known to glow in energy rich environments. My guess is that these crystals are responsible in some way... I just don't know how."

Larson laughed. "I wish I were as smart as you. I never was much of a bookworm." he said, walking over to her. "What is it?"

"It's a log book it looks like," she said, studying the contents of the pages. She began to read, "Foreman Clayburn's Mining Expedition, Tuesday, July 7th. Something strange is in this cave. As we were digging an exploratory tunnel, Johnson found something amazing! As he dug into the northern wall of ET-B, it began to bleed with a strange, purple sap-like substance. As we investigated, a thick vine protruded from the hole, latching onto our drill. Within minutes, it was dismantled! After a few hours, the cavern was overrun by plant life!"

"Cool," Larson quipped.

Andrea flipped the page, brushing the dirt off. "Wednesday, July 8th. Things have taken a turn for the worse. Johnson has gone missing... Others are saying that the plants have turned violent! We've moved the camp back twice today and we're losing precious resources and time to this... this... thing. What is it? What is going on?" she read, flipping the page. "Thursday, July 9th. I sent word yesterday to corporate HQ. They'd decided to end this expedition after hearing of Johnson's disappearance. Perhaps it's for the best, we may have uncovered something that was best left locked away behind these stone walls. I've ordered my men to collapse the tunnel with TNT in hopes that it will contain the growth."

"Clearly it hasn't," Larson said.

Andrea flipped the page again. "Thursday, July 9th. This will be my final entry. Corporate HQ has informed me to instruct my men to keep quiet about what's happened here. I'm not sure I have the conscience to do so... but I feel it might save a lot of curious lives. But what if the growth--"

"What if?" Larson asked.

"I don't know. It just... stops." she said, closing the book and putting it down. "I don't like this place, we need to find a way out."

"Yeah, this isn't a safe place to learn the basics," he said. "So stupid, we could have just... Let's get moving."

The four progressed further into the large, jungle-like room, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. They approached the small grove of trees in the center to get a better look, noting that the room they were in branched off into old mining tunnels in several different directions. As they attempted to decide which tunnel to go down, Andrea noticed a steady stream of liquid pour down from the ceiling above her.

As she looked up, she saw a vibrant yellow plant that was shaped like a bell with a pink ring along the bottom of it. Every few seconds, it would open up, dumping more of the liquid down to the ground in front of them. "What is that?" she asked.

"Looks like a Weepinbell. I'd be careful, it's dropping highly corrosive acid."

Andrea took a deep breath and sighed, realizing that she should have listened to her previous instincts to avoid the cavern. "Why do I listen to you all the time?" she asked.

"That's a good question, I'd have figured you would have learned your lesson by now."

Not wanting to be doused in acid, Andrea made the decision to move along, leading Larson, Furball and Star down a tunnel off to the side of the room. The tunnel was obviously man made; Rotting wooden support posts held up the vaguely square shape of the tunnel, and broken bits of rusted metal poked up out of the grass every now and then. As they went down the tunnel, they spotted the remains of another mining camp.

This camp was a bit larger than the previous one, indicating that the mining team had perhaps left in a hurry, abandoning most of their supplies. Several wrecked tents lined the walls, covering boxes of equipment, supplies, rocks and all sorts of now-forgotten ore. There was another desk, this one with a miner's helmet on it. The flashlight on it was still on, but very dim.

"Hey, check it out," Larson said as he picked up the helmet. "This light couldn't have been on since July... Someone must have been through here recently." He handed it over to Andrea and cupped his hands around his mouth. "Hellooooo! Anyone here?"

An echo was all that greeted him.

"Or maybe something turned it on..." Andrea muttered. "Why would anyone be down here?"

"Well, we are. It's not out of the question." he said. He followed the remains of the mining track to a large pile of rubble, kicking at it and scattering the loose stones. "I have an idea."

"Oh boy, please tell me it's not a stupid one."

Larson was silent as he returned to the camp and rummaged through the wrecked tents. Picking one of the crates up, he tossed it into the mining cart that sat on front of the pile of rocks. "I've always wanted to do this." he said as he pushed the rusted cart forward with all of his might.

Andrea inspected the crate as it slowly rolled by. Adorning the side of the box was a large skull and crossbones and a warning label. "No, no, no. You are not doing this."

He ignored Andrea's protest and reached into his pocket, pulling out a Great Ball. He then led the others back down the tunnel to what he thought was a safe distance. He held the Great Ball out in front of him. "Albrecht, I could use some help."

As the Great Ball opened and the contents burst out, the shape of a feline creature emerged. Its black and blue fur bristled with raw electricity, the golden rings on its paws sparking as it investigated its surroundings. Its large, rounded ears perked up as its master called out to it.

"Albrecht, think you can blast this minecart with some electricity?" he asked, pointing at the cart.

Albrecht locked onto the minecart and nodded. Without even giving a warning or assuming an aggressive stance, a large bolt of white lightning arced between it and the minecart.

"Cover your ears!" Larson shouted, pulling Andrea down to the floor with him.

After a brief moment, the crate of TNT exploded. The shockwave sent a cloud of dust, mist and shredded plant matter down the tunnel towards them. As the blast wave hit them, it took their breath away and caused their hearts to skip a beat.

As the carnage faded and the dust settled, Andrea looked at the aftermath. The minecart was reduced to nothing more than a twisted wreck of jagged metal in the center of a large crater. Much of the plant life that clinged to the walls was blown off of them. The pile of rubble remained, but a large amount of it had been cleared, enough for the group to squeeze through to the other side. "I can not believe you just did that." Andrea scolded.

"Relax, I know what I'm doing... kind of." Larson said as he recalled Albrecht. "Look on the bright side! Light! We may have found a way out!"

Andrea noticed the beams of light that were poking down from the ceiling of the room that had just been opened up. She was so overcome with excitement at the idea that she'd be escaping from this horrible place that she dashed down the tunnel carelessly, hurdling over the loose gravel. As she entered the room, she looked upward at the source of the light, a large hole that offered a glimpse of the cloudless sky. Her excitement got the better of her, not paying attention to the vines that were creeping up on her. The vines snatched her by her left ankle, pulling her airborne.

"Andrea!" Larson shouted as he scrambled over the pile of rocks. "Uh oh!" he shouted as another set of vines appeared and grabbed ahold of her hands and other ankle.

"Get me out of this thing!" she shouted in a panic, trying to look around as the vines slowly lifted her to the ceiling.

Larson tried to jump up towards her in an attempt to rip her down, but she was just out of reach and steadily rising. "Hold on, I will!" he said as he looked around to see what he might be able to do. Unable to find any rocks, sticks or other objects he could use to potentially get her down, he looked back at her to see a vine reach down from the ceiling and wrap around her neck.

"Hurry!" she grunted, finding it harder and harder to breathe.

Larson pulled a Pokéball out of his pocket. "I know she hates bugs, but..." He dropped the Pokéball to the floor and it opened with a flash of light. The shape of a large insect creature with a giant spotted orange mushroom attached to it appeared. Its eyes were pure white, cold and dead, devoid of any emotion or intelligent thought. It rose up on its four thin legs, waving its pincers around, ready for action. "Blade, I need you to get Andrea down from there. Be quick about it!" he shouted.

Blade stood there like a statue, looking as if it wasn't intent on moving. However, just as if it looked like he ignored his command, Blade sprung into action, flinging itself high into the air with its surprisingly powerful legs. It latched onto the vine that was wrapped around Andrea's neck, and in a blur of movement, shredded each of the vines that were holding her up.

Andrea crashed to the ground, landing in the soft, muddy grass and creating quite a splash. However, she felt far from safe, noticing Blade fall right on top of her. In another panic, she stumbled to her feet as fast as she could to escape him.

"Woah, woah! Easy there Andrea!" Larson called out. He held out his Pokéball to call Blade back. Approaching Andrea, he held his hand out to help her up. "You okay?"

Andrea was defeated. She was done with their little adventure. All she wanted was to get out of the caves, no matter where it took her. "I'm done. Get me out of this place, now. I don't care how." she said.

"That's the idea..." Larson said as he looked up at the hole in the ceiling. "I wonder if Drake would be able to fly us out through there..."

"It looks big enough. Let's go."

As Larson reached into his pocket for Drake's Pokéball, he noticed some strange movement coming from a tunnel that branched off of the room they were in. A strange, clustered mass of tentacle-like vines was slowly shambling towards them, rolling like a tumbleweed. "Hold on..." he said. "Is that..." He pulled out a strange device that was largely unfamiliar to Andrea, one of Professor Oak's Pokédexes.

"Tangrowth, the Vine Pokémon." the Pokédex said in its monotone robotic voice. "Tangrowth are known to take refuge in caves or heavily wooded areas. One should take care around a Tangrowth, as they aggressively ensnare and strangle anything that intrudes upon its territory."

"I've never seen one of these before," Larson said. "Help me capture it, Andrea. I'm sure Professor Ansen would love to study it."

"No, let's just leave. Screw this place." Andrea replied.

Larson looked between Andrea and the slowly approaching Tangrowth. He wanted to listen to Andrea's advice, but at the same time his own confidence started to get the better of him. He chose to ignore her advice. "This is perfect for you, though. It'll teach you how to command Furball in a battle. Star and I will assist."

"Come on!" Andrea said, clearly frustrated that her chance at immediate escape was being thrown away. "If I get killed, it's on your head! My dad will make sure of that."

"You won't, trust me."

"Are you out of your mind?!" Andrea shouted as the tangled mess of vines shambled closer. "I need to stop asking that... you clearly are... What do I do?" she asked, waving her hand for Furball to stand by her side.

"Maintain a distance, first and foremost," he said, backing up as slowly as the Tangrowth approached. "Most trainers start out by assigning names to commands... like... I don't know, I called my Charmander's first fire attack 'Ember'. He seemed to understand what I meant."

"I've never heard you do that," Andrea said, keeping an eye on the Tangrowth.

"After awhile, things start to evolve to where you don't need to give commands by name. Try it."

"Umm..." she started. "What do you suggest?"

"How about a Tail Slam?"

"You heard him Furball," Andrea said.

Furball dropped to all fours, ready to pounce. He dashed ahead, dodging side to side as the Tangrowth raised its thick and thorn-covered vines and smashed them down into the muddy grass. The ground shook with each impact, sending bits of grass and water into the air. Furball deftly circled the Tangrowth, approaching from behind and jumping in to the air. With a quick circular motion, he whipped his tail straight into the creature, but it seemed to have no effect.

"Battling against a wild Pokémon isn't just calling out attacks. It's also about strategy and tactics. Analyzing your opponent." Larson said.

Andrea followed his advice, watching the Tangrowth attempt to pound Furball into the ground. She noticed a pattern; Every time Furball got close, the Tangrowth raised its vines and slammed them down where he stood. "Furball!" she called out, formulating a plan in her head. "Stand on top of it and be ready to dodge!"

Furball was skeptical of the plan, but followed it anyways. He slowly approached the Tangrowth, dodging three more vines. He climbed up the slipper vines and stood atop the Tangrowth, keeping a watchful eye on two vines that ended in spiky clubs, rising above him. A twitch in the vines caused Furball to jump out of the way, as the spiked clubs pounded back down onto the Tangrowth.

"There ya go, now you're doin' it!" Larson said. "Quick, toss a Pokéball at it while it's stunned!"

Andrea reached into her pocket and grabbed one of the Pokéballs that the Professor had given her. She held it in her left hand and cupped it with her right hand. Pulling her leg up, she threw it like a baseball with pinpoint accuracy. However, before the Pokéball reached the Tangrowth, it lashed out like a whip, deflecting the Pokéball into a wall, shattering it into dozens of pieces. The Tangrowth once again started to shamble towards Andrea and Larson, retracting some of the vines that covered its face. Beneath the shaggy vegetation was a pair of eyes, glowing red with rage.

"Oh, snap," Larson said. "Try that strategy again."

"Go on, Furball. Get on top of him again."

Furball listened, boldly charging towards the Tangrowth. He dodged another vine attack as before, but was knocked out of the way by another as he attempted to jump on top. After crashing into a wall, he got back up, ready to attempt again, but was constricted by some vines that had shot out of the wall towards him.

Seeing the tide of the battle turn, Larson reached into his pocket and pulled out a Pokéball with a green and yellow swirl on it. "That's a good start, but you can't win them all." he said, tossing the Nest Ball out towards the Tangrowth. The ball exploded in a bright flash of fire, revealing a large, orange dragon-like creature. It roared angrily and flapped its wings, kicking up a gust of wind that knocked the grass surrounding it flat. "Show us your fire power, Drake!"

Drake took a few lumbering steps towards the Tangrowth, shaking the ground with each one. He turned his head to the side, spitting a small fireball out of his nose in cocky defiance towards its opponent. It took a deep breath and expelled a large cloud of fire breath onto the Tangrowth, setting it on fire. Set ablaze, the Tangrowth abandoned its zombie-like speed, quickly sprinting throughout the room in a desperate attempt to put out the fire. Before long, however, the fire proved too much and the Tangrowth stopped moving. Drake approached and breathed more fire onto it.

"Alright, Drake. That's enough." Larson said. "You might kill it if you're not careful."

"Drake is quite vicious..." Andrea said, hiding behind Larson and peaking over his shoulder.

"Only when he wants to be. You're safe, believe me."

Drake obeyed the command, ceasing his fire breath and walking back to his master triumphantly.

Andrea looked at the charred lump of vines laying lifeless on the floor. "Maybe now I can catch this thing..." she said. Taking one of remaining Pokéballs, she tossed it at the Tangrowth in a manner similar to before. The Tangrowth was sucked into the Pokéball, which fell to the ground and shook gently. After a brief moment, a loud beep was heard. The capture was successful! "Whoo!" she exclaimed, dashing over to pick it up. As she did, the vines surrounding Furball loosened, allowing him to escape.

"Not bad for a beginner," Larson said.

Andrea picked up the Pokéball and looked at it, brushing off some dirt and a blade of grass that was stuck to it. "I'm glad that's taken care of..." she said, looking at her surroundings. The vines dangled peacefully and lifelessly, dripping with moisture from the cave ceiling. "You think we're out of trouble, Larson?"

Larson held out a Pokéball and recalled Star. "I don't want to stay and find out. Come over here and recall Furball."

Andrea did as she was told, recalling Furball back into his Pokéball and placing both him and her new Tangrowth into her pocket. "Now how do we get out?"

Larson pointed at Drake. "He can fly, ya know. Hop on."

Andrea timidly approached Drake as he growled deeply while looking at her out of the corner of his eye. Despite his mistrust towards Andrea, he did as his master told, kneeling down and allowing Andrea to climb onboard. He stood up as Andrea grabbed on tight, then began to flap his wings slowly. He took a large leap upward, slowly but surely ascending towards the hole in the ceiling of the cave. Drake then sped up, taking her skyward.

"No! Bad! Stop, put me down!" she shouted. Drake ignored the command but slowed his ascent. Andrea tried to calm down and look at her surroundings; among her many fears, heights weren't one of them. She was greeted with a beautiful sight. A large waterfall was cascading off of a nearby mountain peak, creating a lake in the densely forested area that surrounded the hole into the caves that she had just left. The skyline of Silvermist City could be seen below her to the west and the skyline of Azure Ridge was seen on the eastern horizon. "This is incredible..." she said, then began to scream in terror as Drake dive bombed towards the ground. "Stop, up, up!" she shouted, but to no avail.

Drake continued his descent, but pulled up just before he slammed into the ground, gently hovering back down to the ground. He knelt down so that Andrea could safely climb down, but her shock at what just happened caused her to fall off instead. As she looked back up, Drake stepped out of her sight, jumping back into the hole to retrieve Larson. Dazed, she stood up and dusted herself off.

After a brief moment, Drake came soaring out of the hole again with Larson onboard. He again landed on the ground gently, kneeling down to let Larson off. "There we are, thanks Drake." he said, holding out Drake's Nest Ball. Drake spit a small fireball to the side as he nodded and slipped back into the green and yellow Pokéball. "So now what?"

"I catch my breath... Your Charlizard--Charizard is a monster." Andrea said, adjusting her bandana.

"Wild ride, eh? It's a good thing I don't do that very often." he said. "So, where are we?" he said, looking around.

Andrea tapped on her R-Kit's map feature, bringing up her face and pinpointing it onto the map of Storm Island. The two were located just north of Route 302 in an area that was, according to the map, the rocky slope of a mountain. "Not even this thing knows."

"Well, let's look around," he replied.

"Let me wash some of this dirt and slime off of me first," she said as she walked towards a crystal clear pond that was covered in lily pads and surrounded by tall weeds. She dunked her dirty hands into the water, scrubbing them clean, then scrubbing her arms and face clean as well. She realized that her clothes were a lost cause, so she shook her hands dry as best she could. As she did so, she noticed a familiar faint outline in the water, one that she couldn't quite identify. She shook her head and blinked, but still saw it. "Hey Larson, come look at this."

Larson walked over and stared into the water. "Find something?"

"I don't know how to describe it, but... do you see anything in the water?" she asked.

As Larson studied the water, the outline faded. "No. I think you're going slightly crazy from stress."

Andrea sighed, thinking he was right. Looking across the pond, she saw a rickety old sign that was covered in moss and vines next to a faded, dirt trail that was covered in leaves and permeated by unruly tree roots. "Do you know what's up that way?" she asked, pointing.

"I didn't even know there was a forest here." he said. "Wanna check it out?"

"Sure." she said, splashing through the long, ankle deep pond. She approached the sign and brushed the moss away, revealing bold black letters. "Jadestone Point?" she asked. "Where have I heard that before..." she muttered. "It should be just up this..." she started, trailing off as she visually traced the overgrown dirt road that faded into the wilderness as if it wasn't even there. "...path..."

"And you're sure we won't get lost?" Larson asked. "I mean... I said that before... nevermind. Lead the way."

- - - - -​

Nearly an hour had uneventfully passed since Andrea and Larson began their peaceful hike along the dilapidated trail. Andrea was visibly distressed, fearing that she had gotten the two lost. Larson attempted his best to reassure her and calm her down. They continued, but not for long before they were greeted by a peculiar sight. Ahead of them was a large pond, shrouded by the thick forest. In the center was an island with a strange, green pillar of smooth and weather-worn stone rising from it.

Peering into the clearing from behind a tree, Andrea and Larson saw another pair of travellers standing on the island, inspecting the stone pillar. Getting a closer look, green, crystalline formations similar to those in the cave sprouted from the ground around the stone and small orbs of light fluttered around the area much like lightning bugs. Atop the man's shoulder sat an Eevee.

"Hey... aren't those the two we saw as we headed into Crystal Bay?" Larson asked, recognizing the characteristic hairstyle the man sported.

"I think so," she said. "We should--"

Before she could finish, her attention was grabbed by a bright flash of light as the Eevee hopped off of the man's shoulders and onto the moss covered pillar. Globes of energy began to swirl around it as a faint, pale green glow began to radiate off of its plush fur. Then, another surge of blinding light enveloped the area, kicking up a moderate gust of wind. As the light faded, a larger, yellowish fox-like creature with broad leaves sprouting from its ears and tail stood atop the pillar. Letting out a howl, it hopped off of the pillar into the spring, splashing violently as it playfully returned to the man's side.

"Well I'll be damned, it did work!" the man said excitedly, turning to his female companion. "Audrey, you were right!"

"Mhmm." she said, nodding graciously. After writing some notes down in a notebook, she continued. "Perhaps it's time we get back to the gym? I'm sure we have plenty of people waiting to challenge you."

"Yeah... I didn't plan on spending the night out here just to find this place again." he said, grabbing a swirly green and yellow Pokéball from his belt. "Baxter, return!" he said as the new Pokémon slipped into the ball.

"Maybe you can rename him, too... I never did like Baxter." Audrey said, grabbing a Pokéball of her own from her purse. As she tossed it into the air, a large, golden Pokémon appeared, wielding a twisted and mangled iron spoon in its claw-like hand. "Take us home, Kadabra."

The Kadabra raised the spoon in the air in a triumphant pose with purple wavy energy emanating from it. Foxworth and Audrey began to glow a pale shade of pink then disappeared with a flash and an audible 'Whoosh!', followed quickly behind by Kadabra itself.

"What was that?" Andrea asked, having never seen such a sight before.

"That was what we trainers call evolution."

"But evolution from one species to the next happens over millions of years..."

"I didn't come up with the term, dear."

Andrea walked out into the clearing, walking across the rickety wooden bridge that led to the island in the center of the pond. She approached it cautiously as it loomed over her, standing at least twenty feet tall. "I guess this is Jadestone Point?" she asked. She retrieved her phone from her purse and began dialing a number. "I'm going to call the Professor, see if she's heard anything about it..." After a few moments of ringing, an automated message greeted her.

"Hello!" Professor Ansen's voice said. "I'm currently not in the lab at the moment and all of my staff are either busy or too lazy to pick up the phone. If you could leave a message or call back later, that'd be great, thanks!"

"Figures, she's not there..." she said. Andrea tapped on the encyclopedia function of her R-Kit and searched for the term 'Jadestone' but no results came up. However, other information came up on the screen as she pressed the scan button. A blue beam of light emitted from the top of the R-Kit, scanning up and down the strange stone. As she read the information, her face lit up in surprise.

"What is it? Is this thing 'alive' too?" Larson asked jokingly.

"No, but... its energy content is off the charts!" She looked up at the top of the stone, trying to figure out just what they had found. She was curious about the energy readings and decided to touch it. "Come over here and grab me... just in case."

"In case what?"

Andrea closed her eyes and held her hand out. She reluctantly placed her hand on the smooth, rounded spire. The sensation was unlike anything she'd ever felt before; Warmth and happy thoughts flooded her mind. The lingering frustration she felt with Larson over what had happened earlier in the day faded. Her sore legs felt as if they were well rested. For the first time since she was a young child, she was experiencing true peace of mind, a feeling that scared her but reassured her at the same time.

"Well?" Larson asked.

Andrea opened her eyes and looked around as she pulled her hand back. "That... was the most amazing... what is this thing?" she asked in astonishment.

Skeptical, Larson also placed his hand on the pillar. Warmth and happiness flooded his mind as well; memories of his mother, whom he hadn't seen in person in over thirteen years, returned as if he had experienced them just yesterday. A tear formed in the corner of his eye as the memories began to fade.

"What do you feel?" she asked.

"My mom... I saw her clear as day." He said with a long sigh. "And now she's gone again."

Andrea was unsure of how to react to her friend's experience. She decided that a comforting hug was probably all that was needed and grabbed him to do so. "It's okay." she said.

"She's in a better place. I could feel it."

Letting go, Andrea decided to take pictures of the area and send them to Professor Ansen for analysis when she returned to the lab. She aimed her phone around, taking pictures of the stone pillar itself, the crystal clear pond, the crystals that grew on the ground as well as the abnormally tall trees that surrounded them. Wading through the water to take more pictures, she stubbed her toe lightly on a small green gemstone that was sticking out of the dirt below the water. Kneeling down, she looked closer at it; the gem was pristine and flawless, rigidly shaped as if already fashioned into a piece of jewelry. Inside the fist-sized gemstone was a beautiful red maple leaf, encased since ages long forgotten. She swung her backpack off of her one shoulder, unzipping it and dropping the gem into it as she walked back to the pillar. "Umm, Larson." she said. "You can take your hand off of it, now."

"Oh... yeah..." he said distantly, as if he were being sucked in by his memories. "If you and the Professor figure out what this thing is, I'm interested in knowing."

Andrea nodded. "Hopefully we do." Unsure of what to do from here, she continued. "Well... maybe we can make our way back to the city now, eh?"

"I agree," he replied. "I doubt you want to walk back, of course."

"Through that horrible cave? Not a chance."

"There's only one other option, then," Larson said as he pulled out Drake's Nest Ball, then tossed it up into the air. A blast of flames erupted from the ball, enshrouding Drake as he appeared and roared. "Drake, I'm going to ask you to do something you've never done before. Do you think you're able to lift two people?"

Drake flexed the muscles on his stubby, weak looking arms and nodded.

"Well all right then! Let's try." Larson said, turning to Andrea. "Hop on!"

Once again, Andrea timidly approached Drake. "Try not to do anything crazy this time, okay big guy?" she said, climbing onto his back.

As his master walked over towards his back, Drake turned around and shook his head.

"What?" Larson asked before being violently grappled into the surprisingly strong grip of Drake's small arms. "Wait, no, stop!" he shouted as Drake leapt towards the sky and began flying.

With Larson firmly held in his arms and Andrea resting comfortably on his back, Drake flew skyward to the south west toward the gleaming skyline of Silvermist City, flapping furiously to keep afloat. Regardless of the extra weight, Drake persevered, leading his master and new friend back to the safety and security of the bustling city.
 
I enjoyed this one. Loving the sense of adventure - Storm Island is a vivid place, the geography is consistent and vibrant. I have no idea where the story is going, and in the context of pokémon fanfiction that's a very good thing. I do wonder why nobody seems to be doing anything about that hurricane though ...
 
Chapter 8
Storm Island
Chapter 8: Rising to the Challenge

Panic overtook the busy street of Continental Avenue in Silvermist City. A large dragon-like creature was dive bombing out of the sky, causing many bystanders to take cover or try to run away. Just as it seemed that the Charizard was about to crash into the ground, his speed of descent dropped rapidly as his wings flapped with fury. Beneath his stubby and bony arms was a young man who looked stiff as a board. On his back was a young woman, who seemed to have enjoyed the ride. The Charizard landed in the middle of the street, releasing his grip on the man and dropping him onto the brick road.

"Now... what were you saying about a wild ride?" Andrea jokingly asked after she hopped off of Drake's back.

"Bloody hell..." Larson said, holding out his Nest Ball to recall Drake. He stumbled to his feet and looked around at the crowd that had gathered. "The hell are y'all lookin' at?"

Despite lingering confusion and elements of panic, the crowd dispersed to go about their day.

"So what's next?" Andrea asked.

"I'm not sure. Maybe you should get in touch with Professor Ansen?"

"Maybe..." Andrea started, tapping away on her R-Kit's screen. Information about Silvermist City popped up for her to read. "Oh, hey! Before I do that, maybe we should go down to the Silvermist Arboretum and Nature Center, see if anyone has a clue about what we saw in the cave."

"Smashing idea," Larson said. "I think the local Pokémon League Gym is there too, if I recall. You could watch a few trainer battles if you'd like."

"I don't know about that..." Andrea said, clearly not too interested. "I think I've had my fill of this trainer business for the week."

"Heh," Larson started. "It won't be that bad. I mean, I sat through your softball games in school and I didn't die."

"And what's that supposed to mean?!" she asked, playfully shoving him.

The two walked down the bustling street of Continental Avenue towards the Arboretum and Nature Center. There were noticeably less people on the street than when they arrived the day before, and many shops along the street had closed, possibly in preparation for the oncoming hurricane. People pushed and shoved each other impatiently as they tried to enter the few remaining shops that were open, a scene that was oddly hilarious to the two.

Before long, the two had arrived at the Arboretum and Nature Center. The exterior was beautiful, combining an old mansion that had been renovated to be a museum and a circular glass greenhouse. Inside the greenhouse could be seen what looked like a sports arena with people and Pokémon inside of it, battling. Larson led Andrea to the front door, into the refreshingly cool air inside.

Andrea approached the front desk, looking for anyone who worked there. The lobby was abandoned however, and a sign that read 'Nature Center temporarily closed. Please check in later.' sat on the counter.

"Of course nobody is here," Andrea said. "That's my kind of luck."

"By the looks of it," Larson started, motioning towards the glass door that led to the greenhouse, "Everyone is out there, watching the gym battles. Let's go." he said as he walked over to get a better look. Larson opened the door to be greated with a blast of hot air from inside of the greenhouse.

As the two joined the small crowd spectating the battle, a man with thick, tan hair that hung over his left eye yelled, "I knew this would be too easy!" Standing before him was a Leafeon, and on the other side of the arena was a young boy that Andrea recognized. The boy was clearly losing based on the crowd's reaction, but seemed determined to turn the tide of the battle.

A young woman stepped into the center of the dirt circle. "In this three on three match, our challenger Kyle is down to his final Pokémon. Can he pull out a surprise and turn this around?"

As the young woman returned to the sideline, Kyle turned his red and white official Pokémon League hat around. "Igglybuff, you can do it!" he shouted as he threw the Pokéball he was holding onto into the ring. In a shower of sparkles, a small, pink circular creature with a puff of skin atop its head appeared. It looked up at its opponent, jumping in fright and retreating to its master's ankle.

"Oh no..." the gym leader said. "C'mon, kid. Don't make me do this..."

"I have faith in Igglybuff!" Kyle said, kneeling down to pat his snivelling companion.

"No. I refuse."

"You can't!" Kyle shouted.

"Yes I can." he said, walking toward the center of the ring. When he reached the center, he motioned impatiently for his opponent to come closer.

"Aww man..." Kyle said, kicking at the dirt. He sulked over towards Trent, moaning and complaining to himself.

Trent knelt down, placing his hand on Kyle's shoulder. "Listen, Kyle. You're not ready for the big leagues yet. You barely even put up a fight. You lack experience." he said, looking down towards Igglybuff. "Throwing your Pokémon away in a battle you'll never win doesn't show any courage, skill, or even determination."

"But--"

"I know what you're going to say. No, your Igglybuff won't surprise me. Look at her! She's too scared to even compete."

"But I've never been defeated..." Kyle sulked.

"Well that's one thing you know, how to pick an easy fight," he said. "I'm ending this challenge. Gain some more knowledge, talk with experienced trainers, study how battles work. When you've done that, you can return to me and challenge me as many times as you like. Does that sound like an idea?"

Kyle let out a long sigh, hanging his head dejectedly. "I guess so, mister."

"That-a boy. Keep your chin up." He stood back up and turned to the small crowd that was watching. "Let's give him a hand for trying!" The crowd cheered with limited enthusiasm over the one-sided battle as Kyle walked in shame over to the doorway.

As Kyle left the greenhouse, Trent turned to the crowd. "Do we have another challenger?" The crowd was silent. "Step up!"

Larson looked around the crowd who were cautiously silent. It appeared as if no one wanted to offer a challenge. He raised his left hand and pointed it downward to Andrea.

Trent noticed. "Ah, good!" he said as he stepped towards Andrea and Larson's side of the arena. He stopped short of stepping onto the bleachers and said, "Come down, ma'am." as he looked at Andrea.

"Uhh... excuse me?" Andrea asked, perplexed.

"You've been volunteered by the young gentleman next to you."

Andrea turned to look at Larson, frustrated. "What is with you today?" she asked.

"You always told me that in order to learn something, you needed to be pushed in the right direction and shoved," he replied.

"When I'm ready! Or did you forget that part?" she scolded.

"C'mon, what's the worst that can happen?"

Andrea grumbled in anger.

Foxworth crossed his arms, then looked at his watch. Tapping his foot impatiently, he called out, "Unless anyone else wants to have a battle! Anyone?" After a moment of no volunteers, he walked over to Andrea. "What's your name?"

"Andrea," she replied.

"Tell me, Andrea. Why are you here if you don't want to challenge me to a battle?"

"This dolt brought me here," she said, looking at Larson. "So that I could learn something about being a Pokémon trainer, I guess."

Trent fixed his gaze on Larson, looking him up and down to get a good sense of his character. He saw an arrogant young man sitting before him. "And you. What's your name?"

"Larson, sir."

"Larson, you've got a sick sense of humor, you know that, right?" he asked. He paced back and forth, then addressed the crowd. "What do you say? Should I battle Andrea or should I battle Larson?"

The crowd murmured in anticipation. "Probably Larson." a quiet voice called out.

"One vote for Larson!"

Andrea looked at Larson and whispered to him. "Why do you do these things to me?"

"Because I want to see you succeed." he replied.

As Trent counted up the votes the crowd offered, five went to Larson and two went to Andrea. "There you have it, Larson. Do you accept my challenge?"

"Hmmph," Larson said with an arrogant smirk on his face. "I am on vacation... but I'll play your game."

"Good," he said, pointing to the right side of the arena. "Now march, smartass."

Larson and Trent walked to opposite sides of the arena. The two faced each other as Audrey approached the center to recite the rules for the match.

"Standard League rules, gentlemen. Three Pokémon each, calling one back eliminates it. Any external interference from the challenging trainer or leader will result in automatic disqualification. Understood?"

The two nodded.

"Let's get started! Trent, do the honors of calling on your first Pokémon." Audrey said, leaving the center of the arena.

Trent silently buried his hand into his pocket, retrieving a standard Pokéball and tossed it into the center of the ring. It exploded in a splash of water that muddied the dirt circle, revealing a peculiar looking blue tadpole-like creature. On the sides of its round head were two purple antennae, wiggling as it looked around. It was sitting on its tail, rocking back and forth as it looked at Larson with a large grin and a look of ignorant serenity on its face.

"A Wooper, eh?" Larson said to himself. "No problem." He tossed a Great Ball into the makeshift arena, exploding into a shower of electrical sparks. Albrecht the Luxio appeared, lowering down into a defensive position.

Andrea tapped on her R-Kit. It whirred with a digital sound, analyzing the environment around it, locking onto the Wooper. "Wooper, the Water Fish Pokémon!" it chimed. "When walking on dry land, Woopers leaves behind poisonous footprints. Great caution should be taken around wetlands and marshes when walking barefoot. The antennae are thought to be the source of the venomous film that coats the body of it."

"Lightning won't work very well here..." Larson said, calling back on a previous experience with a Wooper. "It's a good thing you're a tough guy though, Albrecht. Knock him out of the park!"

Albrecht hopped forward towards the Wooper, who didn't respond at all to his advance. Albrecht sparked with energy as the blade-like star shaped puff of fur on the end of his tail began to glow intensely. Albrecht swung around with immense speed, slamming his tail into the Wooper and sending it flying. To the observing crowd, it barely looked as if he even moved.

The Wooper sailed through the air like an airplane, and an audible squishing noise could be heard as the Wooper collided with the wall, deforming slightly before popping back into shape, still keeping the large grin on its face. He waddled back over to the arena slowly, still keeping that bizarre and freakish grin on its face. Albrecht was now gnawing on its tail which was covered in a thick coat of poison slime, completely distracted.

"Help him out, Deedle," Trent said. "He appears to be covered in your poison!"

Deedle the Wooper stood on the tips of its rounded feet, opening its gaping mouth. A deluge of water began to form in front of it, swirling around like a twister. The sheer amount of noise generated by the whirlpool caught Albrecht's attention, however, allowing him to avoid it with ease. The whirlpool continued in a straight line until it crashed into the wall, losing its form and splashing down onto the grass.

"So a physical attack isn't going to do anything..." Larson said, trying to figure out his next move. "Albrecht, fight him in his own territory. Bring him to that pool of water over in the corner!"

"Ha! Are you kidding me?!" Trent called out mockingly.

Albrecht listened to Larson's command, leading Deedle over to the reed-choked pond that sat in the corner of the greenhouse. He jumped over to the other side and turned around, roaring at Deedle to dare step closer. As Deedle inched closer and closer to the pond, setting foot in it, Larson fixed his attention on Trent.

"Big mistake. What doesn't play well with water, Trent?" he asked.

"Deedle, no! Get out!"

Deedle's pace quickened as it swam through the water, but it was too late. A massive bolt of lightning arced off of Albrecht, electrifying the water and wilting the reeds that were growing out of it. Deedle floated to the surface, completely motionless.

"D'oooooh..." Trent said.

Audrey stepped up from the bench she was seated on, motioning over towards Larson's side of the arena. "Deedle is unable to battle. The point goes to our challenger, Larson!"

"Impressive, I will admit. I had thought that Deedle's natural resistances to electricity would help him out, but I overestimated your knowledge." Trent said, recalling Deedle. "Now I know your little trick. Brute won't disappoint in that regard." He reached down towards his belt which was lined with five Pokéballs, grabbing a peculiar lime green one with a leaf on it and tossed it out into the arena.

As the Pokéball opened up, it exploded into a storm of ethereal leaves that faded after a few seconds. Sat on the ground was Brute, a rugged dinosaur like Pokémon, his teal skin covered in even darker teal spots. Atop his back was a large, pink flowering plant that rested on four fern leaves that radiated outward.

"Ivysaur... This should be interesting." Larson said.

"Don't even give him time, Brute. Use your vines to your advantage!"

Without a moment to lose, Brute stood firm as thick, grassy vines emerged from his back. They shot out across the arena and over the pond towards Albrecht, quickly constricting him. Albrecht tried to break free with a blast of electricity, but it seemed to have little affect on either Brute or his vines. Brute yanked Albrecht closer, dragging him through the pond and across the dry, sandy floor. With his prey close, Brute screamed and whipped Albrecht around effortlessly like a toy, tossing him to the side into the bleachers, sending the crowd running for cover. Albrecht tried to stand up, but was too weak to stand. He tumbled down the bleachers and landed face first into the grass, defeated.

Audrey stepped into the middle of the arena. "Brute has quickly and easily eliminated Albrecht! The challenger is down to two Pokémon!"

Larson grumbled has he recalled the motionless Albrecht. He reached into his pocket and pulled out another Pokéball. "You can do it, Blade!" he shouted as he whipped the Pokéball out into the arena. The ball exploded into a cloud of glowing spores that faded after a few seconds, revealing Blade the Parasect. Blade was hunkered down, silently and motionlessly analyzing his target. "Do your usual, Blade. Play defensively." he said.

"Ah, a very smart trainer... experienced." Trent said. "But I am even more experienced! Brute, show that overgrown bug who's boss!"

Brute nodded and did the same as before; Thick grassy vines began to extend out of the plant attached to his back, shooting quickly towards Blade. Blade stood motionless until the vines approached, quickly reacting as they reached him. With deadly speed, he raised his massive claws, slashing through the vines as they attempted to coil around him. The vines kept extending almost endlessly as Blade cut them apart, but eventually Brute could extend them no further.

"Brute! Try your razor sharp leaves!" Trent commanded.

A storm of green leaves erupted off of Brute's back, floating around him delicately like a shield. The edges of the leaves shined in the sunlight like sharpened knives. Without moving himself, Brute shot the leaves towards Blade in a wild spraying motion, creating an unavoidable wall of pain and misery. Blade stood his ground, raising his claws once more to shred and deflect the leaves he could reach. A few were out of his reach, cutting deeply into the mushroom sitting atop him, something that seemed to have no effect on his statue-like appearance.

"What is this..." Trent muttered to himself. "Any ideas, Brute?"

Brute turned around and looked at Trent imploringly, as if to say that he was clueless about what to do as well.

"Go on, Blade. Show him those sharp claws of yours! Give him a hug!" Larson said.

Like a robot that just received a command, Blade sprung to life, lifting off of the ground and stepping towards Brute with a quick pace.

"Keep your distance!" Trent shouted.

Brute backed up, then turned around to run when he realized he wasn't fast enough to escape. In a futile effort, Brute led Blade in a circle around the arena before being pounced upon by the insect. Blade latched into the flower atop Brute's back, digging his point feet into his back and raising his claws. His claws began to frost over and emit clouds of water vapor. He thrust his claws downward onto Brute's head, slashing away in a vicious barrage of careless melee. After his bloodlust was sated, Blade hopped off of Brute triumphantly.

Trent had years of experience under his belt, certainly enough to see that the injuries his Ivysaur had sustained were too critical to allow it to fight back, and so he recalled him.

Audrey stepped forward again, motioning towards Trent. "It appears Brute is unable to battle! Trent is down to his final Pokémon! Can he turn things around?"

"Just you watch, Audrey," he said. He patted on his leg and the Leafeon that he used earlier to battle Kyle walked over. "Alright, Leaf. Make me proud. Show me your new power." he said as he pointed out towards the center of the arena. "Your little bug is in for a world of hurt that it can't defend against, Larson!" he taunted.

"We'll see about that. Same strategy, Blade. Keep your guard up."

"Show him the power of the sun, Leaf," Trent said.

Leaf bounded out towards the arena, taking a seat opposite from Blade. She closed her eyes and lifted her head towards the sky. A slight, barely noticeable glow began to form around Leaf.

"Huh?" Larson said, looking up at the sun. "Sunny Day? Why?"

Leaf absorbed more and more of the sun's rays and the glow became more and more noticeable.

"That's not... uh oh." Larson said. "Blade, get out of there!"

Before he could react, Blade was showered in a ray of intense, golden light. An instant later, the entire greenhouse was covered in a blinding surge of light and a deafening explosion. The glass panes of the greenhouse above Blade shattered into a million pieces, raining down onto him. As the blinding light subsided, a crater had formed where Blade was standing, covered in freshly grown grass that wasn't there before. Sitting at the bottom of the crater was the smoking, motionless body of Blade.

"Holy shit..." Larson and Trent said in unison.

The crowd erupted into a frenzied cheer at the awesome display of power. Andrea was still catching her breath after the unexpected explosion.

Larson recalled his charred and smoked Parasect. "Time to put this one in the bag. But how..." he said, thinking which Pokémon he would use next. Would he use Charizard, which would give him a clear offensive advantage? Or would he use Steelix with his superior defense? Would Steelix even fit inside the greenhouse? In the end, he reached into his pocket and pulled out Drake's Nest Ball. He tossed it out into the arena, causing an explosive fireball to erupt over the crater.

With a Charizard stood before him, Trent carefully weighed his options. "I may have to concede defeat... I'm certainly at a disadvantage here." he said, adjusting his now sweat-covered bandana. "But I like a challenge."

"Bring it on!" Larson said.

Andrea was sitting on the sidelines, getting swept up in the spirit of the crowd, truly enjoying herself and the battle unfolding before her. For the first time in her life, she was enthused about the intricacies of Pokémon training. "You can do it, Larson!" she shouted. The crowd joined in her cheering, some chanting "LARSON!" while others chanted "TRENT!"

Drake growled with anticipation as Larson chose his first attack carefully. He realized that every final match-up in a gym battle has the highest stakes, not just for him, but for the defending gym leader as well. Even though he was at an advantage, Larson knew that his lack of experience in contrast to Trent's wealth of experience certainly wouldn't help him. The pressure was on. "Drake... We're going to have to be careful with this one." he said. "Let's start off with some basic fire breath."

As Drake charged at Leaf, the leaf atop her head twitched and separated into nearly four dozen leaves. The leaves circled around her like a flimsy, hole-ridden shield. She stood in front of him defiantly as he lifted his head up and took a deep breath. Drake exhaled, sparking a flame at the back of his mouth that sprayed out like an explosion. The flames enveloped Leaf and travelled down the arena towards Trent. He jumped out of the way, tumbling into the dirt.

"That must have done it..." Andrea said, sure that nothing could survive a blast of fire quite like that. To her amazement, however, Leaf was unharmed and the swirl of leaves around her not weren't even singed as Drake stopped his attack. In fact, it appeared as if Drake only stopped his attack because the flames were reflecting back towards him as well.

"Good start, Leaf!" Trent said. "Now hit 'em hard with a counter attack!"

Leaf quickly bounded around the sluggish and lumbering dragon, reaching his backside before he could react. She aimed for his tail, kicking up a choking cloud of dirt that smothered the flame on his tail.

Andrea studied the technique, puzzled. She raised her R-Kit once more and tapped on it. As it locked onto Drake, it beeped and displayed information about his species. "Charizard, the Flame Pokémon! Revered as the most popular evolved form of the Kanto Trio's Charmander, Charizard's power is said to come from the flame on its tail."

Compared to Leaf's quick pace, Drake became even more sluggish and appeared distracted as the flame on his tail began to flicker and falter. He responded to her circling motions by lunging towards her with a flap of his wings, but was unsuccessful in catching her.

"You'll never catch her, big guy!" Larson said. "C'mon, fire breath!"

Drake locked eyes with Leaf, keeping her in his sight. He lurched upward, taking in a deep breath and breathed out in a massive burst. The searing flames swept over the dirt arena, charring it and burning it. Leaf was too quick, however, narrowly avoiding the flames that would most certainly spell the end of the gym battle. She led him in circles, confusing and dazing him.

"Alright, think we can finish it, Leaf?" Trent asked.

Leaf broke off from her circling motion, kicking one last batch of dirty sand at Drake. She dashed a sizable distance, turning around and sitting down. She raised her head and closed her eyes. The sun began to shine slightly brighter, the band of clouds stretching over the sky dissipating.

"Don't fall in the same trap, Drake!" Larson shouted.

"It's not the same trap..." Trent pointed out into the arena triumphantly and shouted, "Starfire!"

Leaf stood up and ran over to Trent's side. As she turned around and sat down, the air in the greenhouse began to feel warmer. A beam of light surged down through the shattered glass roof, shrouding Drake in bright light. As he tried to evade the beam, the area around him flashed into a blast of white fire, consuming him and the entire arena. As the fire subsided, Drake was laying on the ground with his wings flapped over him. He opened his eyes and struggled to lift his head, but fell in defeat.

"Woah..." Larson said. "What was that?"

"A technique my father worked on with his own Leafeon... he called it Starfire." he said, patting Leaf on the head. "I've been trying to train her to do that for years... I guess all it took was an evolution."

Audrey stood up to address the awe-struck crowd. "That certainly was amazing! It appears that Charizard is no longer able to battle! With all three of his Pokémon knocked out, Larson is defeated!"

Larson and Trent approached the center of the destroyed arena and shook hands, pulling each other into a brotherly hug. "Good fight!" Larson said.

"Hell yeah! It's been weeks since we've had this kind of reaction from the crowd!" Trent said. "You really know your stuff. Some rookie mistakes here and there, but I can tell that you'll be a big name in the future if you keep at it."

"Thank you, sir." he said.

"Come back any time. Both of us will grow in experience from it."

"When I'm done with Kanto and Johto, you'll be first on my list!"

Trent chuckled, then turned to the crowd. "Let's hear it again for our challenger!" The crowd continued cheering, having not stopped from before. The two bowed before the crowd and waved. As Larson returned to the crowd, he said, "Alright, uh... Sorry folks, but I think we're done today. We're going to have to fix the damage that's been caused before any new challengers can step forward."

"That was amazing!" Andrea said excitedly as Larson stepped up the bleachers to join her. "It's a shame you didn't win, though..."

"Nah, I've learned a lot. That's what matters." he replied. "How about you? Did you learn anything?"

"I think I did."

"Good!" he said with enthusiasm. "Let's go to the Pokécenter, I need to get my little warriors patched up."

- - - - -​

The Pokécenter was oddly empty for an area as populated as Silvermist City. Only a few tourists and locals were seen waiting on benches as their Pokémon were tended to and healed from their injuries. Andrea was sitting on one of those benches, twiddling her thumbs and waiting, counting the number of tiles that made up the floor. She lost count at around 150. Larson was standing at the front desk with his five Pokéballs resting atop it. The nurse behind the counter took them one by one, placing them into a machine that scanned them.

"Oof, what did you do these guys?" the nurse asked.

"I challenged the Gym Leader here... Well, he challenged me." he replied.

"Ah, I see..." she said as she read the information that began to appear on the screen. "This could be awhile, maybe a few hours."

"Thanks. I'll find something to do in the meantime." he said. He turned around and began to walk towards Andrea, then took a seat next to her. "It'll be a few hours."

Andrea nodded. "So what's the plan for tomorrow?"

"I'm heading back to Azure Ridge... My dad said it'd probably be a good idea for you to come, too."

"Umm... home?" Andrea stuttered. "No. I'm not going back yet."

"I understand that you don't want to get into a little disagreement with your mom again, but my dad warned me that those two suspicious people we met the other day might be out looking for revenge." Larson said. "Besides, you don't have anything the Professor wants done, so--"

"Ah! I should probably tell her that I made the delivery. Maybe she'll have something new for me to do..." Andrea reached into her purse to find her phone, then searched through the numbers for the Professor's number.

After three rings, a voice on the other end picked up. "Hello, you've reached the Blueleaf Research Institute. How may I help you?"

"Hi! It's Andrea."

"Andrea! Good to hear from you, what's up?"

"I've made the delivery you asked me to."

"Already? Wow, you're a quick worker!" Professor Ansen said. "So how's the old coot doing?"

"He's quite a character... But I think he's thankful for the notes you've given him."

"Good, good. It takes a lot to make that miserable old man happy."

There was a short pause as Andrea tried to think of how to respond. She thought about bringing up what she had seen in the Silverridge Caverns. "Uhh... Have you heard anything about the Silverridge Caverns recently?"

There was another short pause on the line. "No, I don't think I have. What about it?"

"You'd have to see it to believe it. Hold on." she said as she tried to figure out how to access the photos on her phone. "Umm, how do I send you some of the photos I took?"

"Most Pokécenters have communication hubs in them. You'll have a far easier time with that than figuring out your phone."

Andrea stood up and looked around. She saw a large booth with a screen and several cables attached to it in the corner. "Gimme a moment." She briskly walked over to the booth and saw a silver scanner on the table with 'Place phone here' written above it. "I think I found it." she said, placing the phone on the scanner. The large screen in front of her lit up and the scanner began to hum as it read the data on the phone.

After a moment, Professor Ansen appeared on the screen and waved. "Looks like you found it. Brilliant, eh?" she asked. She began typing away at the computer on her desk. "I'm getting your pictures right now..." The expression on her face changed to bewildered as she flipped through them. "What... What is this?" she asked. "You found this in the Silverridge Caverns?"

"Yes. I thought it was supposed to be some old, abandoned mine..."

"I thought so too... What did you find?" she asked, looking through more of the pictures. "Crystals, vines, mushrooms... Is this why they shut the place down last month? We never did get an explanation of why."

"The crystals--"

"Are... alive? Am I reading this physical data set correctly?" the Professor asked. "I'm going to have a lot to go over tomorrow, it seems. Good work!"

"Thank you."

"Where were these last pictures taken? Outside of the cavern system?"

"Yes... At a place called Jadestone Point."

"Never heard of it," she replied. "This stone formation looks familiar, though..." she said. "Did you find anything else?"

Andrea dug around in her backpack for the strange gemstone that she found near the pillar. "This thing." she said, holding the stone up to the screen.

"Looks like a Leaf Stone. They're radioactive stones that cause genetic instability in certain species' of Pokémon. I have enough of those laying around in my storage room, you can keep it."

"Uhh... radioactive?" Andrea asked, placing the stone onto the table and sliding it away from her.

Professor Ansen laughed. "If it were a dangerous dose of radiation, you'd be feeling it by now. It's no more radioactive than a banana."

"Oh... good." Andrea said. She reached into her pocket and retrieved the Pokéball that held the Tangrowth she captured, presenting it before her. "I think I found something you'd be interested in studying as well... I'll drop it off the next time I'm at the lab."

"You can actually send it now, if you want. Do you see a round hole in the table to your left?"

Andrea slipped the Pokéball into the hole, then pressed the button next to it. The Pokéball began to fade in a blue shower of sparkles, disappearing from view.

On the other end, Professor Ansen picked up the Pokéball and showed it on the screen. "Got it!"

"No way..." Andrea said in disbelief.

"Believe it. Teleportation technology isn't science fiction anymore... well, kinda. It's a long story for another time." She took the Pokéball and held it out in front of her. The Tangrowth inside popped out and began to wiggle back and forth. In a panic, she flew out of her chair and out of sight, screaming. Shortly after, the Tangrowth turned into a red blob of energy, being sucked back into the Pokéball. The professor took her seat again. "Wow, I was not expecting that! Interesting find, I'll get to work on him right away."

"That's everything I've found these past few days."

"Good! Ready for your next assignment?"

Andrea's eyes lit up and she nodded eagerly.

"Have you ever heard of a place called Cinder Hill?"

"I've heard of it, but I don't know anything about it."

"It's a city on the western shores of the island, built under the shadow of a dormant volcano. I have a few seismograph instruments set up on the slopes out there that have stopped sending me some information that I need. I want you to head out there an see what the problem is, and if possible, fix whatever problems have come up. I've got a two week deadline to meet, but I'm sure you'll be out there far before then if you're as fast a worker as you've shown yourself to be."

"I'm on it, Professor."

"Great," she replied. "I'll be hard at work figuring out what you found out there in that cave. If you need anything, feel free to give me a call. Over and out!" The screen faded to black as she hung up.

Andrea picked up her phone as Larson walked over. "I've got a new assignment."

"I heard!" he replied. "Hey, let's grab some dinner, I'm starving!"
 
Chapter 9
Storm Island
Chapter 9: A Dark Place

"...We go live to our weather center here on Storm Central. Tell us, Georgia, what do we have coming for us over the next few days?"

The TV switched to show Georgia in front of a large radar map of Storm Island and the surrounding ocean. To the southeast of Storm Island was a massive tropical cyclone labeled Hurricane Adele, large enough to engulf the entire island and then some. "Thanks, Mary-Anne. We've got quite the storm coming for us." Georgia said. "We've got a bit of luck on our side, though. Our current forecast shows that Hurricane Adele will not be making landfall on Storm Island." she said as she traced the route of the storm. "The outer wall of the eye of the storm will reach as close as twelves miles off the eastern coast of the island."

"Certainly sounds lucky, Georgia."

"It is, but this storm will still be a dangerous one. We're already seeing torrential rain over Aldrysse and Ambervale, and as the storm moves closer, we'll see even more rain hitting some of the major cities across the island. I want to stress to those who will be doing any travelling across the island that this is listed by the International Weather Bureau as a category four hurricane."

"So folks should still stay inside starting tonight?" the host asked.

"That would be wise."

Andrea's attention was fixed on the television as she enjoyed her pancake breakfast. "Oh no... I guess I'll be stuck here for a week..." she said to herself as she studied the storm's path on the map. "What am I going to do for an entire week? I'm gonna be late with my next task..."

"You'll figure it out..." Larson replied. "Well, I guess should get going if I'm gonna get home before the storm hits."

"Yeah... It was great seeing you again. You've changed a lot since we last met... for the better." Andrea reached into her purse and grabbed a few silver coins, placing them on the table. Both her and Larson stood up and pushed their chairs in, heading for the doorway that led outside.

The temperature had cooled off considerably compared to the previous week, lingering in the mid 70s according to Andrea's R-Kit. The rain had just started to fall, lightly coating the road in front of the restaurant with a silky sheen. The wind had kicked up enough to be an annoyance, blowing Andrea's hair all over her face.

"Hold on, let me tie my hair down..." she said as she unwrapped her bandana.

"Don't worry about a few extra moments with me. I'd get along if I were you," Larson said. "You wouldn't want to be late for that assignment Professor Ansen gave you, would you?"

"Huh?" Andrea asked. She pointed to the ominous clouds stretching across the sky. "Perhaps you've forgotten, but Hurricane Adele is going to be here tomorrow. There's no way I'm being caught outside."

"Blackwood Forest is only about three hours away. I don't think you've ever been, but you can trust me when I say you'll be safe from any weather while you're there."

"What? How?" Andrea asked inquisitively. She wondered what he meant, having never experienced Blackwood Forest for herself. She'd heard stories of how dark it is in the deepest reaches of it, but how would that protect her from the weather?

"I went through the Blackwood when I left for Kanto... It's unreal, the forest is so thick that neither rain nor sunshine reaches the forest floor. It's like a whole 'nother world." he said, reaching into his pocket. "Speaking of... here." He grabbed her hand and opened it, dropping three golden coins into her hand. "Buy yourself a lantern before you go. Consider it a late birthday gift. You'll need it."

Andrea studied the coins and took his advice to heart, feeling a newfound dread about her trip to Cinder Hill. The darkness was one of her biggest fears, and she questioned whether she'd ever be able to make it through even a mile of the forest. "Uhh... Thanks." She looked up at the sky. "I think an umbrella would be a better idea."

"You won't need one where you're going," he replied. "Before you go into the forest, please, please find a travel partner. The forest can be quite dangerous at times... probably not something you want to hear, but I won't sugarcoat it."

"I will."

The two stared at each other for a brief moment, thinking of what else to say before they parted ways. Larson offered his hand out and then pulled her in closer for a hug. "Be careful out there, Andrea. I'm proud of you for finally stepping up and doing what you want with your life." he said.

"You too."

Larson watched as a couple hurried down the street with their arms filled with groceries. "Now go on, get going if you want to beat the storm." he said as he let her go and turned around, heading for Route 302.

As Andrea watched her friend walk down the street towards the eastern end of Silvermist City, a nagging feeling started biting at the back of her mind. "C'mon, this is your chance, do it!" she thought. She thought about how much she wanted to tell him about her feelings towards him, and how she's missed so many chances over the past few years. Her hopefulness gave her a sudden boost in confidence. "Hey, Larson!" she called out.

Larson turned around. "Yeah?"

"Uhh..." she said, her sudden burst of confidence wavering in the wind. "Uhh... Just be very careful on your way home. I know how careless you can be sometimes..."

Larson laughed. "Okay, then." he said, turning around again.

Andrea sighed. "I wish I had the courage..." she muttered, watching Larson disappear into the windswept wilderness. "Maybe some other time I can tell you." She turned around and began walking in the opposite direction. Beyond her stood a short walk through Route 304, stretching towards the ominous looking forest that sat on the horizon. She took one deep breath to steel her shaky nerves and began her walk towards the woods.

- - - - -​

Nearly three hours exactly had passed uneventfully as Andrea fought her way through the wind and the rain towards Blackwood Forest. The various paths and trails leading up to the edge of the forest had been mostly abandoned, a fact that made Andrea question whether braving the wild during this weather was a wise choice. Nevertheless, she felt she had come too far to turn back now as she approached a lone building that stood before the towering, thick trees of Blackwood Forest. The building was a combination of a Pokécenter and a general shop, a welcome sight to her.

Andrea entered the building, taking a right turn into the store half. She didn't spend much time searching before she found the lantern that Larson had suggested for her. It was old and rustic looking, but the thousand hour battery life label on the side proved that it would be an ally towards any traveller. She brought the lantern to the front desk, placing the three coins that Larson had given to her on it as well.

"Ah, someone going through the forest. You're a brave woman to be doing that now." the shopkeeper said.

"Yeah..." Andrea said shyly, not interested in talking to the man. Instead, she was looking for someone who might be willing to travel through the forest with her, but the building seemed empty besides her and the employees. "Do you know if there's anyone else here?" she asked.

"I haven't seen anyone come out this way since the hurricane was upgraded to category three, ma'am."

Andrea sighed. "Right, thanks." she said, grabbing the lantern and walking over to the Pokécenter half of the building. She looked around the room, but found no one. "Great. Just great."

She returned to the door, pushing it open slightly and looking outside. The rain was coming down a bit harder now, turning the dirt road that led into the forest into a muddy mess. She took one last look inside, thinking about whether she really needed to reach Cinder Hill as fast as possible. "I hope I don't regret this..." she thought to herself before stepping outside into the rain.

It was a short journey through the rain towards the edge of the forest. The giant, sable toned trees stretched upwards and outwards, shielding the ground from much of the rain. As she made her way into the forest, she noticed that the deeper she went in, the drier it became. Larson wasn't lying when he said that the rain didn't reach the forest floor, yet at the same time, the dirt path was still soft and moist under her feet.

She had arrived in the forest just in time. She looked behind her to see the road into the forest disappear into the mist as the rain began to fall heavily. She looked up at the dimly lit branches of the trees, amazed at how much they protected her from the no-doubt dangerous weather. Unfortunately, the very canopy that protected her from the weather also blocked the light from reaching the forest floor, leading to perhaps the greatest of her fears, a fear of the darkness. Before she ventured any further into the impossibly thick forest, she retrieved the lantern and lit it.

The lantern produced a welcoming golden glow as it flickered on. The brightness of the lantern lit up the surrounding area almost as bright as a sunny summer day, soothing her fears and making her feel much safer. "This isn't that bad..." she said to herself as she waved the lantern around, illuminating the nearby trees.

She pressed onward, slowly and quietly marching westward, keeping a vigilant eye on the eerily silent and foreboding forest. She'd heard rumors about the forest before, about how it was cursed by one of the false kings during the island's bloody and war-filled history, rumors that on the darkest nights, the dead walked the land. However, being a woman of logic and reason, she decided not to believe any of that. What mattered to her is what she saw, and she saw nothing of the sort; just a quiet, dark forest.

Before long, she found herself in pitch darkness. What little light that poked through the trees along the horizon had faded. As she walked ahead, she studied the trees. The flickering shadows created by the light from her lantern danced oddly along the backdrop, unnerving her. Perhaps it was the branches or her own imagination playing tricks on her, but the shadows seemed to project images of unspeakable monsters onto the trees.

Her pace slowed as she looked around at the shadows her lantern was creating. "You're not real... You're not real..." she muttered to herself. "Just shadows caused by oddly placed leaves and branches..." Trying to reassure herself seemed to be a fruitless task, so she decided instead to bury her attention in her R-Kit, navigating to the encyclopedia section. She decided now was a good time to learn what the forest really was about.

Blackwood Forest apparently had a rich history. Some of the first human settlements on the island were started in the forest, nearly a thousand years ago. In fact, the forest hadn't always been so dark and foreboding, it had only earned its reputation in the past two hundred years. Some sources state that the forest was cursed by a mad wizard, while other sources pointed towards more scientific explanations, such as climate shifts. Whatever the reason, the once highly populated forest that boasted seven villages now only had one major inhabited settlement, Blackwood Grove.

Andrea studied the history of Blackwood Grove, likely her next stop on her journey. Blackwood Grove is a small village about an hour away from Storm Island's only active lumber mill. There isn't much to see or do in Blackwood Grove, but it is home to a Pokémon League Gym, led by the mysterious Raven Duskwillow, a migrant from the far away lands of Unova. She questioned why such an establishment would be in the middle of nowhere, in the darkest depths of a dangerous and scary forest. Besides the gym, the only other notable fact available from the encyclopedia is that it was once a spiritual center during an age long forgotten.

Before long, she had become lost in learning about the history of the island. She had briefly touched on it during her school years, but never really paid attention to it. It almost seemed unbelievable to her, like it was inspired by works of fantasy fiction. The history before modern day Storm Island was filled with bloody wars, traitor kings, ambitious heroes and powerful families and clans. She wondered why all of that history seemed to have faded to the ages; perhaps during the industrialization and modernization of the island, the people stopped caring about petty arguments over a chair in a dusty castle, she thought.

Not paying attention to where she was going, she walked straight into a rock hard branch that hung low over the path, falling over into the soft earth. As she lifted herself off of the ground and dusted herself off, she noticed the branch twitch, then bend back towards the tree it was attached to. She picked the lantern up and shined it at the tree to see that the tree had a face on it. The eyes peered down at her, shocking her.

"What the hell?!" she shouted, backing away from the tree-like being as it started to slowly change its position.

The creature stood up, revealing a pair of stumpy legs. It creaked and grumbled as it began to approach her and the eyes begun to glow a wispy blue.

"Oh shit!" Andrea yelled, running down the path beyond it. She looked back to see the creature following her, shaking the earth with every monstrous step it made. "What is that thing?!" she thought to herself, too busy running in terror to analyze it with her R-Kit. The creature was gaining on her slowly, lumbering through the darkness without care.

She ran through the forest, placing trees and bushes between her and her pursuer. The creature didn't care what obstacles were in its path, bulldozing the bushes and deftly dodging the trees. The creature roared as it gained on her, uprooting a large tree as it pushed it aside.

Her heart was racing as she thought of how to escape the creature. She looked at her surroundings, noticing a large rock ahead of her. It was a massive risk, but she felt that hiding behind that rock would be her only hope. As she closed in on the rock, she shut off the lantern, covering the area in complete darkness. She dived over the rock, not even thinking that a cliff might be behind it until she was already in the air.

The creature's rampage through the forest was unhindered by the darkness. The stomping came closer and closer to the rock she was hiding behind, but then passed by. She felt the wind blow against her as the creature put its massive foot down about a dozen feet in front of her, continuing straight into the distance. She waited until the rumbling and the shaking stopped, taking a moment to reassemble her sanity.

She turned her lantern on again and peaked above the rock she had taken cover behind. She appeared to have lost the creature among the trees. She breathed a deep sigh of relief and turned around, ready to find the path through the forest again. As the lantern illuminated the forest in front of her, a shadowy figure stood before her. Petrified, she backed up against the rock as the figure stood there like a statue. The figure was in a tattered looking black robe with golden trim along the sides of the robe that shined brightly as the lantern illuminated them.

"Yes..." the figure said. "Fear is a good thing. A lovely thing."

Upon hearing the voice of a fellow human, her sense of dread began to fade. "I need help, please." she said.

The figure stepped closer, pulling the hood that was over its head back. There was a handsome face behind the hood, yet one that was oddly unsettling at the same time. A crooked grin stretched across the man's face. "My, my, what a pretty young lady..."

"Where'd that thing go?"

The man ignored her question. "A gift from the heavens..." he said.

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Come with me, traveller. Your destination and safety is mine to ensure."

Andrea was unwilling to trust the strange man. "No... I'd rather travel alone..."

"You are sure? Safety in numbers, traveller. You have witnessed the beasts of the forest, yes?"

Andrea didn't want to admit it, but the strange man was right, it was safer to travel with someone else. Larson had warned her about the forest and she ignored his advice, though she didn't have much choice at the time. Still, the man's strange demeanor puzzled him. Why was he dressed in such bizarre robes? Why did he have a strange way of speaking? Why was he in the middle of the absolute darkness, unafraid, seemingly waiting for her?

She decided that she had little option and followed him. The two quickly returned to the path, resuming her original journey westward. He seemed to know the forest intimately, leading her fearlessly through the dark and foreboding forest. She tried to engage him in conversation to get a feeling for who he really was, but each time she asked a question, he responded only with, "All will become clear in time."

The two had been walking for nearly half an hour in silence when they came across a fork in the road. One path led north, the other led south. The sign that had guided travellers through the forest had fallen over and shattered. She decided to check her R-Kit for a map, but was unable to receive a signal on her whereabouts. The complexity of the trail system throughout the forest made it impossible to determine where she was.

"Which way leads to Blackwood Grove?" she asked.

The man silently took the road to the left, prompting her to follow him.

More time passed. As she studied the man, she began to worry that he might not be as friendly as he initially seemed to be. Thoughts crossed through her mind about the strange way he spoke, remembering her history classes in school. Was the way he was talking Clanspeak? Who talked like that in this day and age? Someone unwilling to let go of the past? Someone unwilling to accept the changes that have occurred over time? As she pondered the questions, she noticed a faint glow in the distance. As they got closer, she could see structures between the trees. She felt safer, knowing that she had reached some form of civilization.

The man led Andrea into the little village, up the main road. To each side were crudely fashioned houses constructed of uncut lumber and jagged stones, held together by dirt and mud. Rustic torches lined the street, illuminating the area. Ahead of her was a massive bonfire in the center of a clearing with people gathered around it. Oddly shaped woolen and burlap dolls hung from the trees and bizarre shapes were carved into the bark of the trees. A tattered banner with a golden mountain embroidered onto it hung between two branches over the bonfire.

"Arrival is at hand..." the man said. "Come, the mayor will speak with us."

Andrea studied the individuals that passed by. They all stared at her intently, with the same strange and crooked grin that was stuck to the man's face. They all wore similar robes. She tried to justify their strange behavior; Maybe since they were so deep in the forest, they had developed a different social structure than the rest of the island. Maybe they were so interested in her because she was an outsider. Maybe they just lived a simpler life. Or maybe there was something more sinister going on.

She stopped following the man as he continued down the road, taking a moment to analyze her surroundings. The strange folk continued to stare at her, muttering to each other and pointing. What little sense of safety she felt when she initially entered the village had faded. All she wanted to do was turn around and leave, no matter how dangerous the forest might be.

"Come, come!" the man called out without turning around. "The mayor will speak with us."

"You've made a big mistake, Andrea..." she thought to herself. She turned to walk out of the village, coming face to face with a robed young woman with the same crooked grin on her face that she saw on everyone else.

"Going somewhere?" she asked. "Like you, I was once lost... Go. The mayor will speak with you."

Andrea tried to step around her but was blocked. "Outta my way!" she shouted, pushing the woman aside. She started to run towards the edge of the village, hearing the villagers start to shout and yell behind her. She looked back to see several of them pursuing her. "Oh shit..."

One of the men caught up to her, grabbing the collar of her shirt. "The mayor will speak with you!"

"Hands off me, asshole!" she shouted, jamming her elbow into his chest and stunning him. She continued on the path out of town, but didn't make it far before she was restrained again by three others. She screamed at the top of her lungs in an attempt to catch the attention of anyone who might be around, but her voice faded after she realized that it was most likely hopeless. She struggled against her attackers as they dragged her back into the village, but she couldn't break free. She was pulled all the way back to the bonfire and tossed to the ground.

An elderly man with his hood pulled down was waiting for her. "Yes..." he said. "Do not be afraid." He stood up and addressed the group. "Our lord presents us with a virgin sacrifice for the true king..."

"The true king will rise..." the crowd said in a monotone, almost emotionless drawl.

"A heart of purity..." the old man said.

The man opened his robe and pulled out a tarnished silver dagger. "We must not delay. The true king begs for a return. To the altar with her."

The words sent a chill down Andrea's spine as two of the men grabbed her by her arms. It was now or never; Fight or become a sacrifice in some bizarre ritual led by even more bizarre people. With a burst of energy, she pulled herself away from her captors. She put up her fists, backing away. She had never defended herself before, but she didn't care. She would try her best, even if her inexperience led to her demise.

"This is not purity!" the old man shouted as Andrea let loose her right fist, landing in the center of one of the men's faces. "But transgressions must not go unpunished!"

Andrea turned to face another one of the robed men, swinging her fist at him. The adrenaline that was pumping through her gave her an unparalleled amount of focus that she had never experienced before. While her aim could use work, her wild style of fighting caused the people around her to maintain their distance. "Let me go and I won't hurt anyone else!" she shouted.

"Bring her to me!" the old man said. "A penance must be exacted!"

Two more of the robed folk approached her slowly from opposite sides. As they neared her, a deep roar could be heard coming from the forest. The roar was distant but loud. The strange individuals began to look at each other in panic. Most of them began to flee, rushing to the crudely built cabins.

"Run!" several of them shouted.

Andrea wasn't sure where the roaring and howling was coming from, or what was causing it, but she decided to take advantage of the confusion that it caused. She pushed her way through the stampeding men and women, rushing out of the village again on the same path she took before. She knelt down to pick up the lantern that she dropped, continuing as fast as her legs would take her. As she made her way back down the road that led her to the village, she heard the screams of the villagers continue in the distance. Despite what she had just experienced, her mind was blank except for one thing; escaping and surviving.
 
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