Wow, 52 already. Assuming one chapter a week, this means SS is having its first birthday. Seems like just last week Sam had met Tschel for the first time and wondered what Alex was doing with him. Seems like just yesterday Marril was actually a Pokémon instead of an Orthan-enhanced unwilling Rocket test subject. Seems like just an hour ago Sam had just gotten beat by a Lickitung. Oh wait, that was just last chapter. Silly me. ---------------------------------------------------- “Oh Goddish,” Sam said desperately. The power having gone out to the Indigo Plateau, with her stuck in the elevator near the Pokémon Center, she wasn’t feeling very brave, to say the least. She managed to remove one of the roof “tiles” in the elevator and crawl up into the shaft. She somehow opened the door to the level right above her, and stepped uneasily into the somewhat darkened room beyond. Somehow, Sam had managed to get right to the Pokémon Center, though she’d sworn it was on the floor below her. “Oh, thank goodness you’re here,” Nurse Joy said plaintively, though Sam felt it was really a stock line. “What?” Sam asked. Joy indicated a Pokémon that was laying on an operating table through the OR doors. A rather sick-looking Growlithe breathed shallowly, in the middle of an operation that left its stomach unstitched. “Growlithe’s just had a stomach operation,” Joy explained. “The building’s backup power gives priority to the Center, but I can’t operate when there’s barely enough power to keep the room lit.” “So you want me to help?” Sam asked. She didn’t feel qualified to help. Sure, she was brilliant when it came to Pokémon biology, she’d been told that many times. Her rather… embarrassing stint helping Team Rocket genetically engineer a Pokémon only helped that, though she never wanted to admit it to anyone. “You can help by getting me the backup light source from the storage room over there,” Joy pointed. Sam didn’t quite like how she didn’t even say yes or no. Sam walked over and opened the door. Inside were boxes and boxes of spare supplies, ranging from surgical supplies to things that would make electricians confused. Sam grabbed a box labelled “Surgical Lamp” and brought it to Nurse Joy. “All right,” Joy said, holding down Growlithe, “set it up so I can finish the operation and get Growlithe here stitched up.” The power flickered on again for a second, then off again. Joy groaned. Sam shook her head as she set up the surgical lamp. “I see what you’re doing here,” Sam thought aloud. “Something infecting Growlithe’s pylorus.” Joy nodded, and went to get the disinfectant and antibiotics. “If you want, I know something that’ll help,” Sam offered. “Oh?” Joy asked. “This is a very delicate operation after all, and if anything goes wrong…” “I can handle it,” Sam said, slightly more confident. The power flickered again. She didn’t want to add that she’d only seen it done, and it wasn’t even on a dog Pokémon. In fact, all she knew about Pokémon digestive tracts came from Tribo’s design. She’d watched some of the Rocket scientists work out several problems, a few of which were directly related to the pyloric sphincter. “All right,” Joy said uneasily. “I’ll be right here if anything happens.” Sam nodded and took a look at what was ailing Growlithe. The sight of a Pokémon’s innards seeing the light of day was—to put it mildly—unsettling. Sam controlled her breathing and tried to remain calm. “What I’ve seen was…” Sam tried to think of how to describe it. “Well, it looks like Growlithe’s took a blow to the stomach, caused some swelling. There’s the quick way to relieve the swelling, and keep the haemorrhaging to a controllable level, and there’s the medical textbook way of going about it.” “I know what you’re referring to,” Joy said, “and it doesn’t work on Fire Pokémon because their fire sacs…” “Don’t matter,” Sam finished Joy’s sentence. “It sounds like it’ll get Growlithe killed, but if I remove the chemicals in Growlithe’s fire sac and give it a temporary inhibitor, we don’t need to worry about Growlithe burning itself to death.” “It won’t breathe fire again if you do that!” Joy exclaimed. “Just trust me!” Sam snapped. “Quick, Chansey, get in here!” Chansey stepped in, looking quite concerned, having heard the exchange. “Chansey, hold this here,” Sam ordered. Chansey held Growlithe still as Sam went about starting the operation. Joy looked horrified as Sam finished what she’d described, gave Growlithe a complete cocktail of medicines and other chemicals, and sat down, unmoving for the next while. “Exemplary,” Will told Sam. “Your complete disregard for medical sanitation is at best shocking.” “I’m sorry,” Sam apologized. She was sitting in a chair opposite Will in his office, yet he was standing, perhaps for effect. “Growlithe’s conscious again,” Will read the medical report to Sam. “Half the time Joy said it’d be, and it’s able to breathe fire just fine.” “That’s… good to hear,” Sam said. “Is there a reason for calling me here?” Will nodded. “As you know, the final test is to put each candidate into an unknown test situation suited to their abilities.” “So this was mine?” Sam asked, looking disgusted at the fact that it had involved a Growlithe in medical danger. “No,” Will smiled hollowly. “We’d intended to do a similar thing, but then one of the Electrodes in our power plant exploded. What we are doing, however, is gauging your reactions to this real-life encounter and weighting them as if they were a test.” “How did I do?” Sam asked, hoping she didn’t sound too tense. Will shook his head. “I’m sorry, Ms Yasashii. You’re an exceptionally bright young woman, and you’ll probably be professor of medicine at Pokémon Tech some day if today was any indication, but odds are you aren’t going to be in the next Elite Four. It’s not a foregone conclusion, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.” Sam nodded sadly. “I understand.” Will shook his head. “You should be proud, though. You were in the running and you’re only fifteen years old. Nobody else here is younger than thirty.” Sam shook Will’s hand and stepped out of the door to his office. Well, she figured, it was time to break the news to David. He wasn’t the sort to rub it in her face, which was a good thing. Ironically, she was probably taking it better than he probably would. It only took Sam a minute or two to track David down. It wasn’t particularly hard. “How’d it go?” David asked. “Will was at least honest,” Sam left it there. “Oh,” David said, the previous few words having shut him up. “I see. Well, at least you tried.” “No I didn’t,” Sam didn’t realize she felt that way until now. “I didn’t study at all for the written test, and I put no effort into the battling at all…” “You did better than a lot of the candidates,” David tried to find something to say. “Yeah, and now that’s going to be a mocking point,” Sam suddenly found that she was mad at herself. “What in the name of Goddish are you whining about?” Alex asked over the phone. The time zone difference was rather biting, since it was seven in the morning where he was. He wasn’t sure what a “seven o’clock” was, but it couldn’t have been good—seven came before ten. “I told you, I lost,” Sam repeated. “So you lost,” Alex was incredulous. “Big deal, at least you made it into the damn thing. At least you’re a Pokémon Master.” “Mmrph,” Tschel mumbled from behind Alex. He didn’t think Tschel was actually awake. Alex’s conversation with Sam was probably just kind of loud. “Well, what’s David saying about this?” Alex asked. “Same thing you are,” Sam didn’t sound happy about it. “It’s just… you’re just rubbing it in my face. Heck, I expect it from you, you’re my brother! But you and David both? That’s just a bit much.” “I don’t think so,” Alex smiled wryly. He was glad that this wasn’t a videophone conversation, or Sam would have really gone at him for the look that was probably on his face. “Remember, when we fought last League final, I lost. I didn’t whine about anything.” “I know I’m not perfect like you, Alex!” Sam shouted. Alex had to hold the receiver away from his ear. Another “mmrph” came from Tschel. “What’s that mean?” “You know!” “No I don’t,” Alex could imagine what Sam would say, but it sounded stupid even in his head. “You’re the one who goes and has all the fun, gets to go places without having to worry about Team Rocket… hell, everyone who knows us agrees you’re prettier than me! And you’re my brother!” Alex tried not to laugh at the last one. He knew what Sam meant, but it was really something she shouldn’t be worrying about. “Look, Sam,” Alex tried to offer some advice. “The point is you shouldn’t compare yourself to me. If I were over there instead of you, you’d be whining at me for being better than you or something.” “No I wouldn’t!” “So you’re whining because you’re doing better than me,” Alex pointed out. Sam didn’t reply. “Trust me, you’re doing great.” “Okay, okay, Alex,” Sam said, sounding exhausted. “Bye.” Sam hung up, and Alex shrugged and hung up himself. “Well, you are prettier,” Tschel mumbled. Alex laughed. Alex went back to his bed and lay down, trying to get back to sleep. It got him a lot quicker than he’d thought it would. “Hey, at least they said you probably wouldn’t make it,” David shrugged as Sam hung up. “Didn’t say it’s impossible.” “So?” Sam asked. She brushed past David and started to storm off. “Just stay around, you never know,” David shrugged, not bothering to follow Sam. He’d heard the phone call, and Sam really didn’t know what she was talking about. Alex was not prettier than her. ---------------------------------------------------- That's it for this week, folks. Next chapter goes up when it goes up. Until then, remember that it takes a lot of dedication to manage a weekly series for a whole year, plus even more weeks and months to come. This reminds me, I should, you know, update the site sometime, or something.