|11/09/2012, 11:45 PM||#76|
Chapter 33 - Everyone's Price
Something about Alex’s father didn’t sit well with Terry. He couldn’t put his finger on exactly what, but the man seemed downright off the previous night. It couldn’t have been simple embarrassment at getting so caught up in the man’s insincere threats—he’d heard enough real ones to know that Richard’s was only insincere by context, not by content or tone.
No, that man was hiding something. Terry knew he didn’t have the full story behind why Alex was attacked, and suspected that whatever was so odd about Richard was directly related to that. Was Alex attacked by a Team Rocket member or something? That still wouldn’t explain Richard’s demeanour.
Terry wondered if he’d ever get to the bottom of it. He certainly didn’t have any avenues of investigation available to him. With nowhere to go, he’d have to drop it no matter how unsatisfied he was.
He watched as Eevee returned with the ball Terry had thrown for her to fetch. Training Eevee often involved simple activities rather than combat practice, and it was times like this that Terry truly enjoyed spending time with his Pokémon. It was just him, Eevee, several of his Eeveelutions, and a wide open park in the middle of a sunny day.
“That’s a good girl,” Terry said as he crouched down, took the ball from Eevee, and petted her. As he did so, his mind shifted to several of his nights with Alex, giving him all kinds of mental images he didn’t need at the moment. He thought of how often he found himself yielding to her, to what she wanted, ultimately doing as she said despite the boundaries of the scenarios she put him in. How their relationship seemed almost entirely physical at this point.
Yeah, let’s not think about that one too much, Terry thought sourly. As much as things were distinctly unequal between them, dwelling on it in his time alone wasn’t good for Terry.
Terry threw the ball again as hard as he could, and Eevee chased after it. The ball arced oddly in mid-air, and Terry looked down at Espeon. The psychic’s eyes were glowing faintly as he gave a psychic boost to the throw.
Wouldn’t want to make it too easy on Eevee or anything, Terry thought. Sibling rivalry extended even to Pokémon.
Eevee made it back to Terry after several moments’ searching for the errant ball, and dropped it at Terry’s feet. Once again, Terry knelt down and patted Eevee on the head. His eyes lingered on Eevee’s for a moment. They weren’t the usual colour or shape for an Eevee—rather than being brown and almond-shaped, they were round and black, like a Vaporeon’s. It served as external reminder of what Eevee was fated to evolve into one day. Not even an elemental stone could force her to evolve before then, or into anything else.
Terry was thankful Alex never asked too many questions about why Eevee was still an Eevee. Oh, she’d asked several times, but was always content with the answer that Terry was simply waiting for the right time to evolve Eevee. It wasn’t a lie per se—he was waiting all right, although he didn’t know how long it’d be. Flareon evolved mere days after the event. Jolteon took several months. Espeon took an entire year. Umbreon, Glaceon, and Leafeon all evolved over the remainder of the nearly four-year period since that horrible experience, with Leafeon evolving shortly before he set out for the Neo League with Alex.
Terry shook his head ruefully and once again pitched the ball as hard as he could. Espeon decided not to assist this time, so Eevee was able to catch it mere seconds after it landed. She was getting pretty quick for an Eevee fated to become a Vaporeon.
Rather than let Terry pick up the ball after Eevee brought it back, Jolteon picked it up in her mouth and threw it. It didn’t go very far compared to Terry’s throws, and Eevee was able to catch it midair.
“Hey now,” Terry said to Jolteon. “That’s my job, eh?”
Jolteon’s reply was a gruff, dismissive bark as she lay back down.
I just hope you don’t evolve with anyone else around, Terry thought for what felt like the millionth time as Eevee returned once again. Please grant me this favour, o gods. I can ask for that much at least, right?
Alex would scoff at Terry’s prayer and probably call it a waste of mental effort, but he couldn’t deny he felt a little better having made it.
Marita’s office at the Neo League headquarters was downright amazing. It was filled with all kinds of equipment Sam thought only existed in crime drama, as well as four computer monitors on her oak desk. Sam could see two distinct towers, as well as a server. Everything was kept immaculately clean, which lent an otherworldly air to the room.
Marita herself was a woman in her early thirties, with shoulder-length, silvery blonde hair and just enough lines on her face to give her a look of distinction without making her seem old. She was well-dressed, if a bit casual, with a black jacket over a cobalt blue blouse, and loose black pants. Overall, she did a much better job of exuding a “Pokémon Master” kind of aura than Sam ever did.
“Ah,” Marita said as Sam entered. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Sam. I’ve been over the data you gave me, and I think you’re going to be surprised by what I’ve found.”
“Oh?” Sam asked.
Marita indicated a swivel chair near the end of the desk. “Have a seat and I’ll show you.”
Sam moved the chair across from Marita and sat down as Marita turned one of the monitors sideways so both women could see it.
“It’s not that the evidence is bad per se,” Marita explained, indicating several items on the screen. “It’s that these documents point to something much more chilling than your original hypothesis.”
Sam scanned the screen briefly. “… He’s a Team Rocket executive?”
“That’s the impression I’m getting,” Marita said. “It would explain some of the discrepancies I’ve come across. I can’t say anything about your source, and I respect you enough not to ask too many questions about that, but unless you got this directly from Team Rocket, the only explanation that ties together how widespread and authoritative his communication is would be that he’s an executive.”
“What separates an executive from any other high-ranking member?” Sam asked.
“An executive is specifically given authority over a wide-reaching aspect of Team Rocket. We know various former executives who governed things like their research division, their criminal arm, and so on. There have even been times where executives act as the de facto head of Team Rocket—the infamous case in Johto with Executive Archer nearly a decade ago, for example.”
“I’ve heard of that,” Sam said. “That was a splinter group though, wasn’t it?”
“Team Rocket is nothing but splinter groups,” Marita explained calmly. “They have the appearance of central organization, but in reality, every executive can more or less claim to be a legitimate head of Team Rocket, with Giovanni existing merely as a figurehead. Most of the time, these executives and their splinter groups are all aligned, but when they aren’t… well… I have reason to believe that’s at the core of the gang wars here in Idama.”
“Raleigh’s group is conflicting with another group?” Sam asked.
“As far as I can tell, his name is Roland,” Marita said. “I haven’t figured out what they’re fighting over yet—the scale of this conflict can’t be something as simple as territory or money. There’s a layer I haven’t figured out yet, even with your mysterious informant giving me enough to piece together who this second executive—Raleigh—is.”
“Glad I could be of some help, at least,” Sam said with a shrug.
Marita offered Sam a slight smirk. “Actually, I was wondering if you’d help me with one more thing.”
“Help me take down Raleigh,” Marita said bluntly. “Dead or alive. A Pokémon Master in Team Rocket needs immediate attention, and I can’t justify giving him any time to wait.”
“More alive than dead, if at all possible,” Sam said. “And why us? Can’t we give this over to the police and let them handle it?”
Sam knew the answer already, of course, but on some level she needed to hear it from Marita before she could begin to accept it. Melanie’s actions over the past few months were all but vigilante justice, and Sam had gone along with them in a somewhat detached manner. Now she was getting personally involved, and she didn’t want to do anything she’d regret.
“The police would either be too slow or too bought off,” Marita said simply.
“And they wouldn’t object to us taking the law into our own hands?” Sam wondered.
Marita smiled coldly. “We’re Pokémon Masters. The law is often more of a suggestion to us than a rule. All we’d need to do is demonstrate that our actions were justified—which your evidence will do quite nicely—and pesky things like charges will be conveniently dropped.”
Being able to ignore the law wasn’t the only perk to being a Pokémon Master, after all, but it was one of the most morally grey. Most benefits extended mostly to the financial, the ability to obtain funding and equipment for personal and business projects with astounding ease. Other benefits included access to the highest-quality Pokémon resources and even access to information on legendary Pokémon. The latter had even given Sam her chance to catch Shamash.
This is what happens when you embrace the title instead of reject it, Sam thought as she regarded the steely resolve in Marita’s slate grey eyes.
“All right,” Sam agreed. “But we don’t go in looking for a fight. I’m not about to let this get out of hand if I can help it. That sound fair?”
“It’s reasonable,” Marita said. “Worse comes to worst, I have my titans and you have Shamash. Raleigh wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“You’d think,” Sam said.
And you’d almost certainly be wrong, Sam added mentally, not wanting to share the thought by voicing it. Raleigh would get a fair chance to explain himself, but if he decided to fight back, it’d take more than titans and a demigod to stop him.
“So,” Ryan greeted Alex as she met him out in front of the hotel. “You ready for the riveting and exciting world of working with Team Rocket?”
Alex rolled her eyes. “I’m assuming neither of those things will be true.”
“Nope,” Ryan said. “Or, well, it might be somewhat interesting for you since you’re not used to this kind of thing yet. But exciting, not a chance in the eight cold hells.” He paused briefly, then indicated the featureless car beside him. “Well, might as well get going.”
Alex noticed the front passenger seat was empty and wondered why. Didn’t her father and Michael say there’d be another person helping them? Maybe they were going to pick him up or something. Either way, she got in the front.
“Hello,” came a voice from behind Alex as Ryan got in, catching her by surprise.
Alex turned to face the speaker. He looked like a teenager, with a round face, coarse black hair, and for some reason scars on his temples. “Uh, hi.”
“Ms. Lindstrom, I presume?” He asked. His tone was impeccable and polite, if a bit monotonous.
“Please don’t call me that,” Alex said. “It makes me feel old.”
“I understand, ma’am. What would you prefer?”
What’s wrong with this guy? Alex wondered. He clearly wasn’t doing this to annoy her. As far as she could tell, he was being entirely genuine.
“Just Alex,” she said.
“I understand,” said the boy monotonously. “My name is John.”
“He’s the help Michael promised,” Ryan said as he started the car. “Far as conversations go, I kinda preferred Adair, but John’s incapable of stabbing us in the back, so I’m not complaining.”
“Incapable?” Alex wondered as they pulled out into the evening streets.
“Yeah,” Ryan said. He didn’t elaborate.
Does this have anything to do with those scars? Alex thought. It was tempting to take another look, but she understood all too well the feeling of having people gawking at you for being different, so she resisted the urge.
Well, no reason to dwell on it. John seemed friendly enough, albeit a little awkward. Alex tried to keep any lingering curiosity out of her mind. Wondering too much about those scars would probably feel to him like someone wondering too much about her lingering masculine features.
Ryan wasn’t very talkative, only saying as much as required to tell Alex exactly where they were going and who they were meeting. Apparently, it was a fairly simple meeting with a local business owner who had New Rocket ties. He had information Team Rocket wanted, and money would ply it from him more easily than anything else, especially when it was real Japanese yen rather than the relatively unstable Rueni baht.
That, Ryan explained, was one of Team Rocket’s real advantages. Japan was an economic superpower, and Team Rocket could take full advantage of that, while the New Rockets had to make do with the economic backing of the fledgling Rueni economy.
Ryan found a parking space at the edge of a downtown sidewalk, and managed an improbably quick and somewhat startling parallel park that made Alex glad seatbelts existed. “All right,” he said once the engine was off, “let’s get going.”
John was utterly silent as they got out of the car. He didn’t even speak up once Ryan explained that the man they were meeting would be about a block and a half away and that Ryan would be bringing his Ampharos along for security’s sake.
“Should I have any of my Pokémon out?” Alex asked, apparently the only one who cared to inquire about the plan.
“If you want,” Ryan said with a shrug. “Just remember, we’re here to perform a business transaction, not to intimidate him. If you want to bring a Pokémon along, make sure it’s something low-key.”
Alex nodded and dug out Golduck’s pokéball. She considered for a moment whether or not to open it, and decided that she’d feel safer with a Pokémon of her own out.
“Duuuuuuck,” Golduck said as he looked around. Suddenly, he turned around to face John, assuming a defensive posture. “Duck! Golduck-duck!”
“What’s wrong?” Alex asked. She wished Marril was there to translate what Golduck said.
“Gol-Golduck!” Golduck said, glaring at John angrily. “Golduck.”
“Calm down,” Alex said. “John there is our friend.”
“Duck!” Golduck shouted defiantly. He raised a webbed hand and pointed it at John. His eyes glowed as if he was using his psychic powers, but Alex saw no result come from this.
“Golduck,” Alex said sternly. “Stop it. Now.”
“Gol-Gol-Golduck,” Golduck said as he lowered his hand reluctantly.
Alex decided that recalling Golduck would be the prudent course of action, since she doubted that would be the end of it were Golduck to remain out. After he was safely in his pokéball, Alex asked, “What would cause Golduck to act like that?”
“No, really. There’s no way you wouldn’t have some idea.”
“I’m a tranquilized psychic,” John said. “Pokémon with psychic abilities often react strangely in the presence of a tranquil. Please do not be concerned.”
“Right,” Alex said. She had a vague idea of what tranquilization was, but not why a psychic Pokémon would react like that. It also likely explained the scars on John’s temples. Invasive questions would’ve been rude. Still, she was left wondering if that explained John’s emotionless behaviour, or if that was due to something else.
For all she knew, the guy was autistic or something.
Well, whatever, Alex thought. The group set off a moment later without further interruption, letting Alex take in sights she definitely wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The district they were in was much different from the relatively upscale city centre which housed the gym. This was less developed, and what existed seemed run-down. The streets were paved with uneven black asphalt rather than smooth cement, and the buildings were primarily made of wood. Street vendors lined the sidewalk, selling their wares from cloth-covered carts. They weren’t a new sight to Alex, but the sheer concentration looked downright… foreign, she guessed the word would be. The Neo League was doing a good job of providing economic stimulus to improve high-traffic areas, to make them resemble Japanese cities, but their reach had its limits.
Ryan led them to a seemingly random street vendor operating a food cart. The prices listed on the hanging chalkboard were lower than anything Alex had seen in renovated areas. Similarly, the man operating it looked almost haggard, with threadbare clothes and several days’ worth of stubble on his face.
“Bao,” Ryan said to get the man’s attention.
“Yeah?” Bao asked. Then, after a moment to regard Ryan, he said, “Oh, you. Whatever. Make it quick. I’ve got customers, you know?”
Ryan made a show of looking around. “Really?”
“Shut your yap,” Bao said.
Ryan smirked. He reached into a pocket inside his jacket and withdrew a small stack of bills. Based on their face value and the thickness of the stack, Alex figured Ryan was offering the man about a hundred thousand yen. It wasn’t a small amount—it’d keep his cart stocked for quite a while, or pay off unfriendly creditors in a hurry.
This guy knows something important, Alex thought, trying to guess what it would be. If she was serious about this whole thing, she told herself, she had to pay attention and, more importantly, learn.
“Let’s make this quick,” Ryan said. “Tell me something interesting, and this is yours. We’ll walk away and pretend we never saw you.”
Bao sighed. “My brother just got called off to Vientiane. He told me Boss Linh’s planning something big, and that it’s important enough that we can just let you Team Rocket jerks run around smaller cities for a while.”
“Did he say anything about what it was?”
“Something about gathering all the New Rockets near the League headquarters,” Bao said. “He didn’t tell me what Boss Linh’s planning, just that she’s getting hundreds of guys in there for something. He left about two weeks ago, said he’d stay with his niece for a week to get settled in, you know? That’s all I’ve got.”
For a moment, Alex feared that Ryan would deem that information insufficient, but her worries were proven baseless as Ryan unceremoniously handed the man the million or so yen.
“Let’s go,” Ryan said to Alex and John.
“That was worth a hundred thousand?” Alex asked once they were out of earshot.
Ryan raised an eyebrow. “Good eye. Anyway, yes, it was. It gives us solid proof of something Michael already suspects, and that gives us our next course of action.”
“For you to continue with your League run,” Ryan said. Before Alex could say anything, he continued, “Vientiane is very much a case of ‘not our problem.’ Kenneth’s got people who can handle anything the New Rockets try. Plus your sister’s one of, what, five or six Pokémon Masters in town? They can’t try a terrorist attack on the League or anything—it’d be suicide, just like when they tried attacking Juliet’s lab.”
“Great,” Alex said. Truthfully, she was relieved that the exchange went smoothly and amicably, but she didn’t envy going back to the League circuit with Terry. Somehow, her momentum had inexplicably slowed, and it seemed nothing she could do would get it going again.
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|12/03/2012, 12:13 AM||#78|
This chapter was actually really hard to write, so I imagine it might be really hard to follow. The basic problem as I ran into it is that text isn't a good medium for chaotic battles, especially team-on-team ones. The original draft even had Marita in there too, but I cut her involvement because it just made things too messy. That's also the reason there isn't much in the ways of Protect, Stealth Rock, Spikes, that kind of thing—it just makes things too hard to follow, so I sacrificed complexity for readability (even though realistically a master vs master battle would be so full of that kind of stuff that it'd be impossible to follow... but that wouldn't be fun to read). Still, I think it's interesting to see what happens in high-level battles where the gloves are off. It really shows how restrained even type A battling is, and how being extremely powerful isn't always an advantage because you suddenly have to start checking your strength.
I also think it's a little amusing that Marita was stated to have titans on her team, but Raleigh's team is named after the actual titans.
Chapter 34 - Too Far
Sam strode down the brightly lit corridor of the Neo League headquarters. Marita led the way by a few paces, and Sam imagined that if she could’ve seen Marita’s face, she’d have seen a downright intimidating, steely resolve.
Marita rounded a corner, Sam right behind her. They were almost to the conference room where Raleigh was meeting with Neo League officials and Idaman politicians. What his goals there were irrelevant. Any questioning would be a formality, little more.
They reached the conference room moments later, and Marita threw open the wooden doors without so much as knocking first. Sure enough, Raleigh was inside, seated at a circular table. An Idaman man in a suit stood by a blackboard, making some kind of presentation or another, which was halted by their arrival. Everyone stared at the two Pokémon Masters as they entered.
“Raleigh Camulus,” Marita announced. “Come with us.”
Raleigh looked around with facetious incredulity on his face. “Why?”
“In the interest of saving face, I suggest you come with us first and question us later.”
Snorting in amusement, Raleigh said, “I have nothing to hide.”
“Very well. I’m taking you into custody on suspicion of being a Team Rocket executive.”
The mocking smile faded from Raleigh’s face. “Team Rocket?”
One of the men sitting to Raleigh’s left eyed him oddly. “Perhaps you might do well to explain your… political connections. I think Ms. Gartner’s confusion stems from a very basic misunderstanding.”
“There’s no misunderstanding,” Marita assured the man. “But sure, I’ll listen to what you have to say.”
Sam glared at Raleigh. “First, I’d like an answer to one simple question. Do these connections of yours involve a longtime Team Rocket colleague named Roland?”
Raleigh’s eyes widened considerably. Mere heartbeats later, he was on his feet, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a small pistol. He aimed a quick shot at Marita and dashed out of the room as Sam drew a pokéball.
“Go, Ishtar!” Sam shouted as she threw the ball. “Chase him down! Don’t let him get away!”
Ishtar the Garchomp was off before Sam could finish her order. Ishtar was a well-trained Pokémon. She didn’t need to know anything other than the fact that she was to pursue a fleeing enemy.
Sam spared a glance at Marita, who was leaning against the wall. Marita didn’t seem too badly injured. Sam didn’t have enough time to help Marita, so she set off, taking out another pokéball as she ran. Raleigh wasn’t a fool—he’d have his Pokémon guarding his escape path, and they’d be strong enough to stop Ishtar in her tracks.
“Go, Gilgamesh!” Sam shouted as she ran. “Follow Ishtar! Don’t let Raleigh escape!”
Sure enough, Ishtar was entangled fighting a Ferrothorn and a Skarmory only a hundred metres or so away. Gilgamesh the Dragonite didn’t stop to fight them, instead charging through both opposing Pokémon with a blazing aura surrounding him. Sam took the opportunity to slip by as Ishtar leapt upon Ferrothorn, slashing and biting it ferociously.
Sam caught up with Raleigh a minute or two later, near the entrance to the rear training arena. It made sense for Raleigh to head there—it gave him a defensible position near an exit, perfect to discourage Sam and Marita from pursuing and allowing him to fight the both of them on even footing should they catch up.
As if to prove that point, Gilgamesh seemed hopelessly outnumbered against a Tyranitar, Blissey, Gliscor, Magnezone, and Heatran. The five Pokémon circled around Gilgamesh, each hesitant to make the first move. Finally, the Tyranitar leapt at Gilgamesh, provoking the start of what would certainly have been a gruesome defeat.
Time to even those odds.
“Go, Enkidu! Sin!” Sam shouted, throwing two pokéballs. Enkidu the Salamence and Sin the Hydreigon materialized in front of her. Sin didn’t have to wait for orders, instead rushing off to aid Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh, wrestling with Tyranitar, was unable to defend himself against a thunderbolt from Magnezone, nor a subsequent flamethrower from Heatran. A well-aimed pulse from Sin’s left mouth struck Tyranitar in the face, knocking it away from Gilgamesh and giving the Dragonite a precious moment to recover.
“Enkidu, Draco Meteor!” Sam shouted. As Enkidu took to the air, Sam grabbed Gilgamesh’s pokéball and withdrew him. A second later, several meteors struck the battlefield, dazing the opposing Pokémon but knocking out none of them.
“Cronus, Hyper Beam her!” Raleigh shouted.
Sam barely had time to run out of the way as Cronus the Tyranitar spewed a beam of energy directly at her. It hit the wall behind where she’d just been, causing it to explode into a burst of shrapnel, some of which struck her, cutting into her. She felt the heat convection from the beam along her right arm, blisters and burns forming on her skin.
Most Pokémon battles were highly ritualized, kept within strict rules that ensured both trainers and their Pokémon would remain safe. Sam and Raleigh were free from such hindrances, which meant that attacking the other trainer directly was the quickest route to victory. It was battle at its most raw, its most brutal. Sam could almost appreciate the freedom to unleash her skills to their fullest.
“Go, Gilgamesh!” Sam shouted. “Extremespeed Blissey! Sin, Dragon Rush Gliscor!” She hesitated a brief moment before adding, “No quarter!”
The only restriction on type A battles was that you couldn’t kill your opponent’s Pokémon. This simple rule altered strategy in ways not even masters could fully understand until they’d fought free of that restriction. Her goal wasn’t to tire out Raleigh’s Pokémon, to make them yield, to cause them to faint. She was free to kill every single one of them if it meant capturing Raleigh, and they were free to do the same.
Sam was undisputedly weaker than Raleigh at type A battling, but the question remained: Did that advantage carry over to their current battle? He certainly had the numerical advantage. Even if Ishtar returned, she was outnumbered over two to one against Raleigh’s entire team.
“Hyperion, Zap Cannon that Dragonite!” Raleigh shouted. This was his first mistake, and Sam didn’t even need to capitalize on it—everything was set up in her favour already.
The blast of electricity caught Gilgamesh hard on his left flank, throwing him off the wounded Blissey. Raleigh’s Heatran was busy with Enkidu, however, and with Raleigh’s attention focused on Gilgamesh, Sin had the time required to deliver the first fatal blow of the fight.
A loud, screeching cry came from behind Sam, but she couldn’t afford to turn to see what it was. Against every one of her instincts, she forced her focus to remain on Enkidu. That Heatran would give him more trouble than Hyperion would give Gilgamesh.
Rather than give Heatran a chance to cause any unnecessary damage, Sam recalled Enkidu. “Gilgamesh, Fire Blast!”
Gilgamesh inhaled deeply and breathed a torrent of fire at Hyperion the Magnezone. Despite that Hyperion was made of metal, it was overall less durable than Gilgamesh, which was made apparent as Gilgamesh increased the intensity of his flames, heating Hyperion’s metal body so much it began to glow.
“Blizzard!” Sam shouted. As she did, she felt a gust of wind from behind her, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Ishtar run by, headed towards Blissey. Heatran couldn’t get to Blissey before Ishtar sunk her claws into the happiness Pokémon’s soft flesh.
The icy blast from Gilgamesh’s wings froze Hyperion’s heated metallic body, contracting the metal fast enough that it audibly snapped in parts. This wouldn’t necessarily kill Hyperion, but it would take it out of the fight.
“Thea, no mercy!” Raleigh shouted, enraged at the permanent loss of another Pokémon and the temporary loss of another. “Magma Storm! Cronus, kill that Hydreigon!”
Sam snap-recalled Ishtar before the swirling fire could engulf her. She winced at the effort it took to move her right arm. Switching Pokémon left-handed took more time than doing it right-handed, and that time could easily cost her. “Go, Enkidu! Dragon Dance towards that Heatran and Outrage!”
Enkidu flapped his wings several times and took to the air, swirling and rolling, building up speed and momentum. He dodged another swirl of fire from Thea the Heatran, and Sam turned her attention towards Sin, who was keeping his distance from Cronus, periodically shooting ineffectual pulses of energy at him from various mouths.
“Go, Ishtar!” Sam said. “Dig under the arena and hit that Tyranitar from below.”
Sam would just have to trust that Sin could hold his own until Ishtar joined the fight. She watched as Enkidu sped directly through a wall of flame and struck Thea over the head. He followed by tearing his claws through Heatran’s iron hide.
“Enkidu, Hyper Beam!” Sam shouted.
“Cronus, Earthquake!” Raleigh yelled. As the tremors shook Sam and probably slowed or even stopped Ishtar from surfacing, he returned his attention to Thea and swore loudly. He tried to recall the Heatran, but Gilgamesh blocked the beam. Swearing some more, Raleigh dug out two more pokéballs. “Go, Tethys, Themis! Save Thea at all costs!”
Tethys the Cloyster stayed near Raleigh and shot wave after wave of spikes at the enemy dragons while Themis the Lucario dashed towards them. Gilgamesh took several spike hits directly, one even piercing his hide at the shoulder. Sam winced as she saw this, but Gilgamesh succeeded at buying Enkidu the time he needed to end Thea.
The Hyper Beam tore through Thea’s wounded hide, sending chunks of iron and flesh flying. Thea howled in agony, a deep roar that chilled Sam with how much suffering it conveyed. Had this been a type A battle, Sam would have simply ordered Dragonbreath, and Enkidu would have known to hold back. Now, however, her Pokémon were free to hit as hard as they felt like, and with that came the freedom to inflict horrible amounts of pain. Exercising this freedom was a terrible thing.
After several more tries, Raleigh was able to shoot a recall beam past Gilgamesh, removing Thea from the battlefield. Themis reached Gilgamesh and leapt up, aiming a kick at the dragon’s face. Gilgamesh beat his wings and flew back and upwards, dodging the blow. Themis landed easily in front of Enkidu, who was temporarily too tired to take advantage of Themis’ tactical blunder.
“Gilgamesh, Double Team!” Sam shouted. “Enkidu, rush that Cloyster! Hit Raleigh too if you can!”
“Oh no you don’t,” Raleigh grunted as he threw another two pokéballs. “Go, Phoebe! Psychic! Mnemosyne, Ice Beam!”
Phoebe the Espeon’s eyes glowed brightly, and one of the illusory Dragonites around Gilgamesh faded away. Mnemosyne the Starmie shot a beam at Sin, striking the dark dragon from behind. Sin roared in pain and spun around, firing a snapshot energy pulse at Mnemosyne, which was blocked by a shimmering barrier.
“Cronus, Stone Edge!” Raleigh shouted, seeing the same opening Sam did.
With Sin’s attention away from Cronus, he couldn’t stop the bigger, heavier Pokémon from rushing at him at exceptional velocity, tackling him to the ground. All three of Sin’s heads screamed at once, shocking Sam to the point that she fumbled Sin’s pokéball. Sin took a hard blow to the back of his primary head before Sam could recall him. That hesitation meant she couldn’t send Sin out again, lest potential brain injury result in his death.
That left Gilgamesh and Enkidu alone for the time being. Again, Ishtar’s return wasn’t something Sam could rely on. Was it time to summon Shamash?
No, Sam thought. I can still pull this out of the fire without relying on a god.
“Enkidu, point-blank Draco Meteor!” Sam shouted. “Gilgamesh, send a second wave of meteors immediately after!”
Enkidu was barely off the ground before he summoned a wave of meteorites that struck the ground evenly around him. He was barely out of range of the shrapnel from Gilgamesh’s meteors when they hit. Themis was able to escape in time, but Tethys wasn’t, one of the meteors even striking her shell directly.
As the smoke cleared, Sam saw Phoebe lying on the ground, unmoving. Tethys’ shell was closed, which meant the shellfish wouldn’t have been injured. Well, one out of two wasn’t bad, although it meant Enkidu was dangerously close to Cronus.
“Enkidu, up and out!” Sam shouted. “Dragon Dance!”
Enkidu managed a nearly ninety degree upward turn, spinning as he ascended. Sam was thankful that Ishtar had already taken out Raleigh’s only flying Pokémon, since flight was the only tactical advantage she had. Everything else came from raw strength, thorough training, and trust in Sam’s orders.
“Mnemosyne, shoot an Ice Beam at that Dragonite!” Raleigh shouted. “Cronus, stay close to me. Themis, Swords Dance! Prepare for Salamence’s descent! Tethys, watch for that Garchomp’s re-emergence!”
The corner of Sam’s mouth twitched in annoyance. She’d hoped Raleigh wouldn’t dedicate a Pokémon entirely to watch for Ishtar, as that meant Ishtar would be ambushed the moment she came out of the ground.
No time to think about that now, Sam thought as Gilgamesh narrowly dodged the Ice Beam. “Enkidu, Outrage!”
“Themis, High Jump Kick!”
Being far larger and more massive, Enkidu would have knocked Themis aside easily had their collision been head-on. Instead, Themis leapt to Enkidu’s side, delivering a sharp axe kick to the dragon’s wing joint. Enkidu crashed into the ground, and was immediately struck by an Ice Beam.
“Gods damn it,” Sam muttered as she recalled Enkidu. This was serious now. She reached for Shamash’s ball, but Raleigh’s shout stopped her cold.
“Themis, kill Ms. Lindstrom!”
Only the sudden emergence of Ishtar from the ground in front of Sam saved her life. Several of Tethys’ spikes bounced off Ishtar’s hide as she clawed and bit at Themis, who was barely fast enough to dodge. Themis held his hands out in front of him, a glowing aura sphere growing around them. The sphere then shot at Ishtar, knocking her backwards slightly and exposing her underside, which was promptly pierced by several more spikes. None went deep enough to be fatal, but they’d restrict Ishtar’s movements to the point where she’d be useless in combat.
Sam ignored the searing pain shooting down her burnt right arm, recalling Ishtar at the same time as she drew a master ball with her good left arm.
All right, that’s enough, Sam thought. She was hesitant to call out her final and strongest Pokémon, hoping that she could win without needing to rely on the power of a god, but such a victory was looking increasingly remote. She held the master ball tightly in her grip for several lengthy heartbeats, and then threw it in front of her.
A giant white dragon materialized in front of Sam, shining feathers and plume adorned by the blazing aura surrounding it. It roared as it took in its surroundings, bright eyes keenly observing every detail of the battle.
Shamash the Reshiram opened its mouth and shot a blue-white flame at Themis, too fast for him to dodge. The blast incinerated the Lucario too quickly for Raleigh to recall him.
“Gilgamesh, withdraw to me!” Sam shouted. “Shamash, break up their defensive line! Fusion Flare!”
The blazing aura around Shamash coalesced into a great sphere of fire, tearing across the battlefield. Mnemosyne the Starmie leapt in front of the attack, a shimmering barrier in front of it. The barrier withstood the Fusion Flare for a moment, then shattered under its intensity. Raleigh recalled Mnemosyne before it could be incinerated like Themis.
“Go, Oceanus!” Raleigh shouted. This was his final Pokémon unless he had any that defied his naming scheme. Oceanus turned out to be a Tentacruel, which Sam figured might be able to withstand an attack from Shamash, maybe two. Raleigh smirked and nodded to Cronus. “This is what we’ve been waiting for. Bring down that Reshiram!”
Cronus roared and began to charge. The ground shook with every step he took, and radiant energy crackled around the spikes on his back.
“Shamash, Flamethrower,” Sam ordered. Shamash breathed flames in front of it, which burned and smouldered on the arena floor. As Cronus burst through them, Sam followed this order with, “Blue Flare!”
The jet of fire hit Cronus’ rocky hide like a blowtorch, and though Cronus staggered from the force of the impact, he retaliated with the single brightest Hyper Beam that Sam had ever seen from any Pokémon, including her own. It struck Shamash in the chest, halting its attack and eliciting a brief cry of pain from the god.
Cronus’ chest glowed reddish-yellow from Shamash’s attack, but this didn’t hinder his movements in the slightest as he ran at Shamash, tackling it with a Giga Impact.
Sam ducked away from Shamash, bidding Gilgamesh to follow her. Once she was a safe enough distance away, she shouted, “Shamash, Draco Meteor!”
Unlike her other Pokémon, Shamash didn’t need to take flight in order to summon a meteor strike. Also unlike her other Pokémon, Shamash only summoned a single meteor, albeit one significantly larger than any she’d seen even from Gilgamesh. The meteor hit Cronus in the back, snapping several of his spikes and pinning him to the ground. He rolled away with alacrity a creature of his mass shouldn’t have had, and with another roar leapt again at Shamash, biting the god’s wing and attempting to tear away feather or even flesh. Shamash flapped the wing contemptuously, shaking Cronus free.
He’s got to give me an opening soon, Sam thought. Shamash is just going to sweep him otherwise. Not even Cronus is going to win in the long run.
The only question was whether or not Raleigh had truly expended all his Pokémon. If he had, then Oceanus moving away from him would leave him open to a counterattack from Gilgamesh. If he hadn’t, then he could easily call out another Pokémon to block her dragon’s advance and probably take one or both out of the fight.
Raleigh looked between Gilgamesh and Shamash. “Oceanus, Hydro Pump that Reshiram!”
A rush of elation surged through Sam. This was it. Oceanus would have to move away from Raleigh to get to the optimal distance to shoot from, which gave Gilgamesh a perfect opening. It was a calculated risk on Raleigh’s part, and now a calculated risk on Sam’s. If Oceanus was able to get back to protect Raleigh before Gilgamesh could reach him, there was a strong probability Oceanus would take down Gilgamesh. If that happened, she’d be defenseless.
But she had to try.
“Gilgamesh, Extremespeed! Now!” Sam shouted.
Gilgamesh’s feet left the ground not even a half second later, and he flew at Raleigh with blinding speed. Raleigh couldn’t react except to widen his eyes slightly, and Oceanus was too slow in moving to protect him. Gilgamesh struck Raleigh at full speed, lifting him up off the ground. Raleigh flew back from the impact, and for a brief moment Sam thought he was going to be okay, right until he landed. Raleigh’s head jerked back and rebounded off the ground and his body went limp. As Sam had feared, Gilgamesh couldn’t help but apply excessive force, even when he tried not to.
The shock stunned Oceanus for several seconds, long enough for Gilgamesh to leap into the air, summon several meteors to strike him, and land with an Outrage attack that cracked Oceanus’ shell. A blow from Gilgamesh’s tail sent Oceanus to the ground.
Cronus wouldn’t be going down so easily. Battered, broken, and burnt, the Tyranitar still had every bit the rage and fury he entered the fight with. He had an indomitable spirit, which meant Sam had no choice but to have Shamash kill him. Oceanus might surrender. Cronus wouldn’t.
“Blue Flare!” Sam ordered again. She wasn’t going to be charitable or sporting. Blue Flare was Shamash’s most powerful attack, and she’d have Shamash use it over and over again until Cronus was defeated. “Gilgamesh, make sure Oceanus doesn’t get back up, but don’t kill him unless you have to.”
Shamash’s fire glanced off Cronus’ side, melting the rock armour on his left shoulder. Cronus howled and stomped his foot on the ground, raising broken shards of the arena floor into the air. Eyes glowing, Cronus shot a beam of light at Shamash, which barely caused the god to flinch. The glow didn’t leave Cronus’ body.
“Again!” Sam shouted.
Cronus charged through the fire, good arm raised, electricity crackling around it. This time, the fire burned through the armour on his right midsection, but again wasn’t enough to stop his advance. He leapt forward and punched Shamash, tendrils of electricity erupting from the impact point. Grabbing Shamash one-handed, Cronus hefted the god to the ground, and struck it with its tail.
“Again,” Sam said.
Lying on its back, Shamash easily aimed another Blue Flare at Cronus, this time catching him full in the chest. Cronus staggered back, and Shamash got up easily.
“Again,” Sam repeated.
This time, the Blue Flare penetrated Cronus’ chest armour, striking his innards. Cronus roared defiantly one last time, energy crackling in his mouth as if preparing a Hyper Beam. However, his injuries were too great, and he finally collapsed to the ground, dead but not defeated. Even at the end, his spirit had been unbreakable.
Sam leaned back against the arena wall. She cocked her head at Oceanus. “You’ve got two choices, Oceanus. Surrender and I’ll make sure you’re not put down. Or try your luck against Shamash.”
Thankfully, Oceanus didn’t try to call Sam’s bluff. Killing in the heat of battle was one thing, and Sam could live with that, but executing a combatant after the battle was over was beyond her. Killing someone who couldn't fight back was unthinkable. Oceanus wasn’t responsible for anything worth punishment, anyway. He was simply a Pokémon fighting at his master’s command. He and whatever other survivors were in Raleigh’s pokéballs were too valuable to put down.
“You did good, Shamash,” Sam said with a feeble smile, and recalled the Reshiram. She slid down the wall, finding herself unable to stand, and sat against it for what felt like forever, though realistically, it couldn’t have been more than ten or fifteen minutes.
Several police officers led by an Officer Jenny emerged from the rear entrance. They were followed by Eli Howe, another of the Pokémon Masters in Vientiane. Officer Jenny surveyed the scene for a moment, then sent one of her men back out. He returned with several paramedics a moment later.
Eli was the first one to reach Sam, and he extended a hand to her, which she took and let him help her to her feet. “I’m just gonna be blunt,” he said. “What happened?”
Sam nodded at Raleigh’s corpse. “Marita and I discovered he was a Team Rocket operative. When we confronted him, he fled, and when I caught up with him, he tried to kill me. I… acted in self-defense.”
“Gods among us,” Eli swore. “This is a real mess, you know that?”
Sam shrugged. “If I hadn’t done this, we’d never have caught Raleigh.”
“I believe you,” Eli said. He nodded over his shoulder to Officer Jenny. “But I’m afraid you’re going to have to answer a few questions first. Then we’ll take you to the station so you can make an official statement.”
So you wanna be a master of Pokémon? The lyrics to a pop rock song Sam enjoyed listening to in her early teens floated through her head. Understand the secrets and have some fun?
“Yeah,” Sam said distantly.
Put myself to the test to be better than all the rest, Sam thought. She’d certainly done that much. Would she have chosen to pursue her adolescent dream of becoming a Pokémon Master if she knew this is what it would entail? Probably not.
The real world never did live up to adolescent fantasy.
|01/07/2013, 01:14 AM||#79|
There's a reference to a specific work in this chapter that I can't explain on here (hint: it's something Alex says), but I just want to say that anyone who gets it is automatically awesome.
This is also one of the chapters where my self-imposed restriction of not letting myself use words like "straight" or "bisexual" is kind of clunky, but I'm sticking to my guns anyway.
Chapter 35 - Seventh Evolution
As far as Terry was concerned, sometimes there simply wasn’t anything better than spending time with Alex. Sure, their relationship could be a little rocky from time to time, but he still loved her, and when things were good, they were really good.
The two of them were at a Pokémon park, though not for training. Pokémon were like any other living creature, and some time out from training and from their existence in their pokéballs was nice. Terry’s Eeveelutions certainly enjoyed it. Most of Alex’s Pokémon did too. Meili was off brooding in the shade of a tree, shooting death glares at the occasional passerby.
Terry sat on a bench beside Alex, watching Flareon and Gastrodon have some sort of conversation he couldn’t possibly understand. As far as he knew, Alex hadn’t learned how to speak Gastrodon, so she probably didn’t have any more idea than he did.
Alex, meanwhile, was engrossed in watching Gyarados fly around in figure eights. Gyarados had no obvious flight mechanism, so Terry could appreciate how odd a sight a flying serpent was.
“It’s Phayao next, eh?” Alex asked.
“Yeah,” Terry said. “Then it’s off to Vientiane. Assuming they don’t call off the League entirely because of your sister.”
“Because of Sam?” Alex wondered. She took her eyes off Gyarados to give Terry an incredulous look. “Because of Raleigh Camulus is more like it.”
“Hey, I’m not denying that Sam had good reasons for tearing up one of the battle arenas and killing Raleigh,” Terry said. “It’s just a problem that she gets to do that and get away with it. You just know that if it had been me there instead of her, I’d have been arrested on trumped-up charges for even daring to fight a Pokémon Master. Winning would just get me a Kangaskahn court. But since it was another Master, well, they just look the other way.”
Alex shrugged. “Isn’t that what we’re in this League to do, though? Win Master titles? The Japanese government will even recognize our titles if we win.”
“It doesn’t mean I agree with the fact that Masters basically get to ignore the law,” Terry countered. “Sam didn’t for the most part. I actually respected that. Now… now she’s no better than the rest of the overprivileged elites.”
“I think you’re being a little too harsh on them,” Alex said. “Outside of Raleigh Camulus, name one Pokémon Master who actually abuses their title.”
“Sam Lindstrom,” Terry replied dryly. “But seriously, Marita Gartner. And I’m not referring to how she helped Sam a few days ago, either. She makes hunting Team Rocket a lifestyle. On my tax yen, no less.”
“She’s effective,” Alex pointed out. “Didn’t she catch that Executive Stein guy a few years back?”
“Arrested him and held him without trial,” Terry said. “It was only after significant backlash that she turned him over to an Officer Jenny.”
“If it got the job done, then sure, I can get behind that,” Alex said. “And as far as detainment goes, Pokémon Masters do get to detain someone lawfully if they have a reason for it.”
“That doesn’t make it right!” Terry exclaimed. “That’s the part you’re not getting. Yes, the law is set up so that Masters are the upper class. It’s the remains of a feudal system where power went to the warlords with the strongest Pokémon, and to the warriors who served them. All we’ve done in the modern era is awkwardly stick a parliamentary government in there. But tradition is tradition, and the League and its Masters are the ones with the real power.”
“You’re skipping over the part where that’s a bad thing,” Alex pointed out.
Terry sighed. “You don’t see anything wrong with all that power concentrated into an oligarchy?”
“They do a good job.”
“Raleigh,” Terry said firmly.
“Okay, devil’s advocate,” Alex said. “What, exactly, did Raleigh do that was so heinous?”
“He was with Team Rocket.”
“What, exactly, did he do?” Alex repeated.
“Did he arrange people’s deaths? Did he use League resources for criminal activity? What?”
“I don’t know,” Terry said. “But Sam clearly found something, or else she wouldn’t have gone after him.”
“Maybe she approached Team Rocket with the same mentality you have,” Alex suggested. She sat back. “Just because someone’s in Team Rocket doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. It’s big enough that most of its members probably don’t need to do anything criminal anymore. Is membership alone so wrong? Does it make you bad?”
“Yes,” Terry replied without hesitation. “Because you’re still contributing to their overall operations, which are just as criminal as ever.”
“All right, so what if I got hired at some company and another division committed some kind of crime because the executives told them to. Would I be a bad person?”
“Even though I still contributed to their overall operations?” Alex asked, raising an eyebrow.
Terry hesitated. As much as he didn’t like to admit it, Alex did manage to catch him contradicting himself. His first thought was to argue that Alex’s hypothetical company wasn’t intrinsically criminal, but that was a trap he was smarter than to fall into. Of course it would be intrinsically criminal if its leadership was wholly corrupt, if it was created to act as a front with honest people being duped into working for them.
“Can you at least see where I’m going with this?” Alex asked. She took Terry’s hand. “I know you’ve got your past with Team Rocket. I can only imagine looking at your Eeveelutions is like me looking at Meili—a reminder of something you wish you could go back in time and fix. But don’t let yourself start judging people as a result of it—Sam as much as anyone else.”
Terry nodded solemnly. He wondered when he ever told Alex that he specifically regretted the incident with his Eevees, but it probably came up at some point. Plus she was smart enough to piece things together on her own. He’d probably have to tell her the truth at some point, but for the time being, he knew she wouldn’t take it well even in light of her recent arguments.
“It’s just not the same with Team Rocket, I guess,” Terry said. “I see them differently. It’s not something I can just get past simply because I know I do it. It’s like how you have trouble getting past looking in the mirror and seeing a male face even though everyone else…”
“Sun stone,” Alex said abruptly.
The disconnect between the usual circumstances in which Alex said that and the current ones made Terry’s mind hiccup for a moment. He’d trained himself to stop whatever he was doing in response to it, no questions asked, but even so, saying it in this context meant Terry probably crossed a line a lot farther than he thought he might have.
“I’m sorry,” Terry said.
Alex shrugged. “It’s fine. Not like I ever get to hear you say moon stone.”
The use of uncommon words as an unconditional stop signal wasn’t anything Terry would have thought of himself. The idea came from Alex, though Terry thought up the actual words. It made certain subjects much easier to broach without having to worry about accidentally hurting the other. In fact, it managed to be one of those things that was so useful and so obvious that not only should Terry not have been surprised the first time Alex explained the concept to him, he shouldn’t have been surprised at its use outside its primary context.
Terry drew Alex in close and hugged her. “I know you’d stop instantly if I ever did say it.”
Alex returned the hug, albeit a little halfheartedly. “It shouldn’t have set me off anyway. I thought I was past it, especially since… you know.”
Terry did know, and Alex was referring to one of the few things that made things at all awkward for Terry. Although that awkwardness was completely drowned out by the effect it had on Alex. Besides, Terry found himself not minding after a little while.
Terry gently stroked Alex’s shoulder. “I guess that trigger’s a bit harder to get past than we thought. Just remember that no matter what, I’m here if it ever gets difficult for you.”
Alex smiled as she and Terry parted.
The two of them spent a while talking about subjects decidedly unrelated to the previous ones, which felt quite forced, but Terry couldn’t complain. Besides, it was nice just to relax and not have to worry about getting stressed out by all the crap they had to put up with.
The downside to this was that Terry got so distracted that he almost missed noticing Eevee’s fur getting shorter and bluer.
Now? Really? Terry thought. Unlike most evolution, which happened extremely quickly, his Eevees evolved slowly. Physical changes occurred so slowly that visually processing each one was possible. In this case, it was very fortunate, since it meant Terry had some warning before his Eevee would suddenly evolve into a Vaporeon without a water stone anywhere nearby.
“Hey, um, Alex,” Terry said. The direct approach was best, and honesty was always the best policy. Though this time it’d have to be creative honesty. “Eevee’s not looking very good. Mind looking after the rest while I take her to a Pokémon Centre?”
“Uh, okay,” Alex said, blinking.
“Thanks,” Terry said as he stepped over to Eevee, crouched down, and picked her up. He wasn’t sure what effect, if any, a pokéball would have, but he wasn’t in any hurry to find out.
By the time Terry reached the Salavan Pokémon Centre, Eevee’s ears had started to flatten out and turn yellow. The beginnings of a fin crested her head, and a dark blue ridge was forming along her back. Nurse Joy would have been aghast at the sight, so Terry resolved not to let her see anything. All he needed was some privacy, which he could get out back, and easy access to medical services if anything went wrong.
He set Eevee down on the grass and petted her head gently. Eevee flinched away from the touch. Slow evolution probably meant some amount of physical pain. Eevee’s breathing was steady for the time being, but Terry didn’t have any way of knowing if that would keep up.
“Don’t worry, girl,” Terry said. “The rest of you went through this just fine. It’ll be okay, I promise.”
Eevee’s tail wagged back and forth in acknowledgement. Terry could see the tip bifurcating into a fin.
“See?” Terry said. “Nothing to be afraid of.”
The Pokémon before him gave something between an Eevee’s yelp and a Vaporeon’s growl. The sound was likely something Terry would never get the chance to hear again, and he committed it to memory for curiosity’s sake.
The whole evolution process took another few minutes, and by the time it was done, Vaporeon was so tired that she could barely stand. After a moment of examining her new body, Vaporeon laid down in the grass, tail curled up around it.
Terry smiled. “Just like I said.”
He drew a pokéball from his jacket and recalled Vaporeon. Explaining this to Alex would’ve been impossible, of course, so he simply had to hope she wouldn’t ask too many questions.
The worst part about pokésitting was that Alex couldn’t really do anything productive at the same time. Terry’s Eeveelutions were well-behaved, though, which meant the only Pokémon she needed to pay special attention to was Gyarados.
Terry better come back with that Vaporeon soon, Alex thought. Explaining to Terry that she knew about its slowed and innate evolution would’ve been impossible, but thankfully Terry was more worried about keeping it a secret than she was about keeping her knowledge a secret.
Honestly, she wouldn’t have been too concerned about that fact even if she didn’t know the full story behind them. Eevees’ volatile genetic structure was common knowledge, and mutant Eevees existed. They were rare, but Alex could’ve accepted Vaporeon at face value.
She couldn’t have accepted both Flareon and Jolteon’s evolutions being natural as well, but she didn’t know that before recently.
“How’s it going, Marril?” Alex asked, looking down at the Pokémon sitting beside her on the bench.
“Mar,” Marril said. “Marril-mar-mar-Marril-mar.”
“Do the Eeveelutions know what’s going on?”
“Mar,” Marril said. She explained that they knew what had been done to all of them, and in fact could tell that they’d known Eevee was going to evolve for at least a week. They simply hadn’t told Terry because Terry couldn’t understand any of them to the degree that Alex could understand Marril.
“I wonder if Terry’d be fine with me knowing about his Eevees if I said you told me what they were talking about,” Alex mused.
“Ril,” Marril said. “Ril-Marril-ril-mar.”
“Oh, I wasn’t actually going to try telling him that,” Alex said. “At least not unless there’s some kind of reason to.”
“Still,” Alex said. “I think I can get Sam to stay quiet about it. And I’m really curious about what she’ll say. I mean, the woman designed a Pokémon from the ground up. I’d be surprised if she couldn’t tell me exactly what the situation is just from the fact that they had predetermined evolutions.”
“Ril-Marril-ar-ril-Mar,” Marril said.
“Mar,” Alex said flatly. “Marril-ril.”
Marril laughed. Alex couldn’t speak Marril’s language as fluently as she could understand it, but it was always good for a laugh whenever she did try speaking it. Inflection was much more significant in Pokémon languages than in most human languages, so Alex couldn’t say much, but a few basic phrases were easy enough.
“But seriously, though,” Alex said. “He has to know eventually that I know, or else he has to tell me at some point. Those kinds of secrets aren’t healthy.”
“Ril?” Marril asked.
“Really,” Alex said. “Imagine if I’d tried getting into a relationship… you know, before.”
“Ar-ril-Marril-Marril-mar, ril-mar-Marril. Marril-mar-mar,” Marril said.
“Oh, can it,” Alex grumbled. Yes, it was true that she actually had tried it once, and that it had failed spectacularly because, as it turned out, most women didn’t like their “men” to be quite so feminine, but Alex couldn’t have helped that. Still, the thought nagged the back of her mind at the time that it could’ve worked if only she’d found a woman who liked both men and women…
It was a stupid thought, and it made Alex cringe nowadays, but it illustrated the mental contortions you could go through in order to deny things you couldn’t admit.
“Tell you what,” Alex said. “I’ll ask Sam about this, and I’ll say nothing to Terry. Sound good?”
“Mar,” Marril said faintly.
And that’s probably the best I’ll get out of her, Alex thought. But it’s better than nothing.