Eleven! It's the number of this chapter. *nods sagely* Gym battle, too, people! Bonus points to the first person to tell me I shamelessly ripped off the old TCG days, and even more bonus points for the person to correctly tell me that I shamelessly borrowed the main character from Hitmonchan's Diary (well, more or less). ------------------------------------------------------ The bus ride was uneventful, to say the least. In fact, Alex spent most of it asleep, Marril likewise in his arms. Tschel wasn’t so fortunate, as he couldn’t seem to make himself go to sleep, and found himself looking enviously at Alex’s sleeping form. Tschel had taken to reading and rereading the tourist information booklet the bus had about Terri City. He’d read it ten or fifteen times already, and knew not only the best places to eat, the best hotels, and the best tourist attractions, but also that there was no chance they’d lose to the gym leaders. A Hitmonchan and a Scyther was a pretty impressive combination, but he could take the former with Espeon and the latter with Flareon. He was sure he didn’t even need Alex for this fight. Although, it was true that overconfidence easily led to failure. Tschel would have to keep that in mind. He’d learned that the hard way fighting against the Rueni gym leaders, Daisuke and Satoru. A Swampert, he could understand. Those were powerful, among the best water types he knew of. However, a Pidgeot, a Dugtrio, and a Rapidash? He could understand them being powerful, but not against his Eevee evolutions. Tschel glanced again from the booklet to Alex. Dang it, the blonde boy was still asleep. Tschel envied that. “Now approaching Terri City,” the driver announced over the PA. “Passengers are advised to gather up their belongings now to ensure a quick departure. Thank you for riding Terri Bus Lines.” Tschel nudged Alex, who didn’t wake up. He nudged harder, and Alex showed signs of life. “Hey, we’re here.” “Aw dang,” Alex said. “Was having such a nice dream.” Tschel shot a look at Alex. “Mar, mar, mar,” Marril grumbled as they stood up to leave. Alex arched an eyebrow. “Really?” Tschel gave Alex a look that asked the necessary question. “Marril says it wasn’t able to get asleep the entire trip.” Tschel’s sweatdrop was roughly the size of a pineapple as he and Alex tried to not get squished by the mob of tourists exiting the bus. After eating lunch, the first thing Alex and Tschel did was challenge the city’s gym leaders. The gym was unspectacular, simply a building marked “Gym” with a main area, some rooms off to the side, and an arena. The only special thing was that the arena was a dugout pit in the center of the room, making the Pokémon battle similar to a gladiator fight. One of the gym leaders was named Stephen, and like the gym, he was completely unremarkable. Average height, brunette hair that was of an okay length but not too long, average clothes, in his early twenties… if you put him in a room with four other young adults, nobody would ever be able to identify him. That guy? No, the guy to his left. The other was named Kaze. He was a kid, compared to most other gym leaders, only fifteen years old. His dark greyish hair was tied back in a short ponytail, and he wore a green and light blue jersey that featured an Articuno on the chest, with the words “Terri Articunos” surrounding the picture. “They use a Hitmonchan and Scyther team,” Tschel explained to Alex before the match started. He glanced over the pit and at Stephen. “Stephen’s the Hitmonchan guy, and he’s the least likely to be any immediate threat. Just send out Golduck and you’ll be fine. I’ll use Flareon to take Kaze’s Scyther.” Alex nodded. The ref at arena side raised his flags. “This battle will be one Pokémon each, with no substitutions or Baton Pass. Battle will continue until one side is out of Pokémon. Weather effects are illegal, and this includes Surf. The battle will commence when all Pokémon are on the field.” The ref waves the flags downwards sharply, and Stephen sent out Hitmonchan, Kaze Scyther. Alex sent out Golduck and Tschel sent out Flareon. “Hitmonchan, Mach Punch Golduck!” Stephen shouted. “Scyther, hang back and Swords Dance!” Kaze called. Hitmonchan leapt faster than the human eye can see towards Golduck, who took the punch in the right shoulder. “Golduck, Ice Beam!” Alex shouted. Golduck opened its beak, but Hitmonchan was faster, and hit the kappa with an uppercut. “Flareon, use Fire Spin!” Tschel called out, and the swirls of fire kept Scyther from easily reaching the other side of the pit, where the fighting was going on. Kaze growled. “Scyther, just keep Swords Dancing.” “Hitmonchan, Thunder Punch!” Stephen shouted, hoping Hitmonchan could hear him over the roar of the fire. Hitmonchan did, and electricity sparkled on its mitts as it punched at Golduck. Golduck was, however, ready, and caught the punch in its webbed hands, its eyes glowing fiercely. “Hydro Pump!” Alex called, and Golduck threw Hitmonchan away and spat gout of water at it. Hitmonchan was knocked backwards and into the flames. As the flames died, Hitmonchan was not only still able to fight; it showed little signs of injury. “Flareon, Swift!” Tschel shouted. “Then Flamethrower at Scyther!” Flareon’s swift attack hit Hitmonchan, but Scyther jumped over the torrent of fire. “Scyther, Slash attack!” Kaze shouted. “Then hit that Golduck!” Alex saw the only way to win the fight, and it wrenched at his gut to take the opportunity. “Golduck, take the hit for Flareon!” Golduck knew it was in for some pain, but it had known Alex for long enough to know that he was completely sure of what he was doing, and would not make such an order if victory was otherwise possible. It jumped in front of Flareon and took the initial Slash. “Disable Hitmonchan!” Alex shouted, hoping Golduck still had enough fight in it. Golduck did, and Hitmonchan was stunned as the kappa fell to the ground. Alex recalled it, and Flareon knew to take advantage of Scyther’s state of surprise and Fire Blast it without orders. Scyther was down. “That’s one for one,” Stephen said. “Hitmonchan won’t be so easy to take, however. Bulk Up!” Hitmonchan drew in a deep breath and let it loose slowly. Flareon circled around it slowly, awaiting orders. “Swift!” Came Tschel’s order, and Flareon spat a multitude of stars at Hitmonchan, who took the blows with little effort. Stephen smirked. “Focus Punch!” “Endure it!” Tschel shouted. Flareon took the tremendous punch directly, and was knocked back a long ways, visibly wounded, but still able to fight. It growled at Hitmonchan. “Fire Blast!” Tschel shouted before Stephen could say anything. Stephen swore. He knew he’d made a mistake and he knew it would cost him the match. “Hitmonchan, Haymaker attack!” Hitmonchan was unfazed by this, however, having been taught to temporarily ignore pain in order to win a fight. It leapt up into the air at Flareon, and delivered a mighty punch. Flareon stumbled but didn’t fall. Tschel smiled. “Your Hitmonchan is out of energy, Stephen. However, my Flareon can continue to climb the ladder of fire attacks. Overheat!” Stephen’s eyes widened. He quickly withdrew Hitmonchan before the waves of fire would have engulfed it. Kaze frowned. Stephen, who had apparently been holding his breath for the past while, let his breath out slowly. “Well, you win I guess,” Kaze said. “Take your badges and go.” Several minutes later, the duo was off on their way, to get to the Pokémon Center for some medical attention for Golduck. Juliet didn’t think she’d ever seen such a horrific sight. The first prototype of Tribo had been created, and the scientists had failed greatly. The thing was horrendous to behold, even after several minutes of not seeing it. Juliet’s hands were shaking, she realised. The genetically engineered Pokémon had little discernable features, being little more than a lump of ghostly flesh, its pores seeping… something. Juliet didn’t know and didn’t want to know what it was. Its high-pitched squeals were still ringing in her mind. What had gone wrong, to create such a sight? With great effort and much laboured breathing, Juliet was finally able to stop shaking. She leaned against the door to the genetic lab. Project Tribo would continue as planned. Project Mewtwo had experienced setbacks of its own, and that didn’t deter it. Setbacks wouldn’t deter Project Tribo either. Taking several deep breaths and swallowing hard, Juliet opened the door and walked into the room. The prototype Tribo had already been put down and was gone from the lab. Juliet internally sighed in relief; she didn’t think she could have taken the sight again. “What,” Juliet asked, “was the problem?” “Well,” a scientist replied, “all of our artificial genetics must have somehow cancelled each other out. We’ll have to fix this.” “Will Orthan experience such problems?” The scientist’s eyes conveyed a look of strained optimism. “I sure hope not. We’re not talking about engineering with Orthan… we’re talking about manipulating DNA structures. If Orthan experiences such a failure…” Juliet didn’t even hear the rest of the sentence. Though she worked for Team Rocket, she considered herself at heart to be a moral person. She’d never forgive herself for any such errors with Orthan. Heck, she doubted she’d ever escape the images she’d seen with the failed Tribo. What had she gotten herself into? “Well, here we are,” said Sam. “Kirara City, home of the Neo League’s Battle Tower.” David nodded. “Is it two-on-two?” Sam shook her head. “No. The Battle Tower here is actually run by the Pokémon League and not the Neo League.” David understood that. The Pokémon League had never even pretended to accept the Neo League the way it had the Orange League. Both Leagues were rivals, though nobody knew why. “Well,” David said slowly, “food first, Battle Tower later.” Sam laughed. David set off to find some place to get food, and stopped, realising he had no sense of direction at all and was more likely to get lost. Sam shook her head in exasperation and walked past David, who followed her. “Honestly,” she said, “we both have the same amount of knowledge about this town—none, so your guess for direction’s just as good as mine.” ------------------------------------------------------ That's all for this week, folks. Next chapter goes up whenever it gets written.