Author’s Note: Wow…this turned out way better than I ever anticipated.


I’d like to take a few moments to dedicate a few things to certain people. First of all, Koga to Obsidian_Blade and all the other ninja fans out there. Erika to Chatsy the Spam Queen ®™, who’s always bouncy and talkative, most of the time. The fountain to Topaz, because of the Lugia. The Eevee bench to Chatsy because it’s insane how much she likes Eevees. I’m not dedicating the Beast Bench to anyone, since I like that the most out of the entire gym area setting.



“Wow,” I said, staring at the light on top of the pillar in the middle of a lake in the middle of a giant cavern in the middle of the ground in the middle of Viridian Forest in the middle of Kanto. I stepped forward, “That-that is really impressive. How do you do that?”


Erin grinned and started forward, down the steps, “Moltres, the Fire Type. He got injured when the Engarans invaded, so he can’t fight. Now, he just sits there and shines all day long.”


I stopped, “You’re kidding me.”


Erin turned and grinned, “Nope, come on, Tyco, we’re late for a meeting with the Ruling Council.”


“Wait,” I said, still standing still, “The ruling council…of Rocket-Bane?” I asked, still staggered.


“Uh, yeah. The Abra up in the cabin detected we were coming, so he set up a meeting so we could get you joined up right away.” Erin said, looking a little embarrassed.


“Wait a minute, you had an ABRA up there? What else is up there that I don’t know about?” I demanded, incredulous at the way she was so casual about something probably reading my mind.


“A couple of pistols, a rifle, a dozen or two grenades, and some other goodies.” She laughed at my expression, “We have to be prepared, Tyco. We never know when the Kantans will make their move for Johto, and when they do, we’ll be smack dab in their path. The people that man the outpost up stairs changes from time to time, so me and Gramps will be able to be down here for a while. Now come on, before we’re even more late.”


I shook my head. This was ridiculous, and I was tired! I just wanted to sleep! But then, I also wanted to help stop the Rockets, so I didn’t have much of a choice if I wanted to go on or not. Besides. The sooner I got signed up, the sooner I’d get to sleep. I hurried to catch up with Erin, “What’s the training system like, here?” I asked.


Erin grinned, “Now there’s a question I can answer, and answer with bragging rights too! There are eight gyms in Rocket-Bane, but you have to understand that there are three levels in Rocket-Bane. There are four to Rocket-Bane total, but there are only three in Rocket-Bane proper. The top floor is the Adooptions Center, the Training Center, and the gyms. I’ll show you those later, but for now, you need to know that they’re there.”


I nodded, trying to keep up with her as my sleep-deprived mind took in the sights around me, “Right right right, so I beat the gyms, then what, is there an Elite Four?”


“In a way,” she said slyly, looking at me out of the corner of her eyes, “Our Elite Four, are Zapdos, Articuno, Lugia, and Ho-oh.”


I stopped, and she turned around to face me, “Come on, be realistic. Who’s supposed to defeat them? It’s impossible!”


“Not quite,” she said, her eyes glittering with delight, “I’ve done it, but only barely. It was a struggle to the finish, but good old Avenger carried me through.”


I shook my head as she continued on, and I followed after her, “Who’s this Avenger?” I asked, looking at her curiously.


Erin laughed, “Well, Avenger just so happens to be my Arcanine. Anyway, where was I?”


“You were telling me about your so-called ‘Elite Four?’” I prodded, wondering if she had any more fantasies up her sleeves.


“Oh yes,” she continued, “Well, I suppose I should warn you that the Rocket-Bane council, the people you’re about to meet, are the old Kantan gym leaders. Of course, Misty, Brock, and Giovanni obviously aren’t able to be in the council, so it is the other five . They decide policy, and are our judges. Sabrina’s psychic, just so you know, and Erika will probably be the first one to like you. Koga…well…he keeps to himself most of the time. Blaine used to be a Professor himself, but now he’s the oldest and wisest of them all. And Surge? Keep an eye on Surge. He doesn’t like outsiders, and will like an outsider that nobody knows much about joining even less. By the way, even though it may appear that Surge influences everyone because of his shouting all the time, Sabrina and Koga really lead the council.”


“Why are you telling me this, and why are we going to them?” I asked, wondering why I was even there at all, since she obviously had everything wrapped up so neatly.


“Because in order to join fully, you need to ask their permission. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to join.” Erin said, never slowing in her pace.


“But what if they DON’T accept me?” I asked, fearing the answer to my own question.


“Then,” she said slowly, “You won’t be accepted, and you will either have your memory wiped and a new one instituted there and be dropped off near New Bark Town, or you’ll be given some low-priority job.”


I stopped, and grabbed her, more force-fully this time. I spun her around again, not caring if she got hurt, “That’s why you brought me here?” I demanded, “So I could get a memory wipe? If it is, then I don’t know why you didn’t just let your father’s Darnyen rip me to shreds, or just gone back to bed when I came out of my room. If my memory gets wiped, then I hope that this decision to bring me down here will stay with you for the rest of your life.”


I stopped, seeing that my shouting had brought her close to tears, “Erin, I’m sorry, but I don’t see why you brought me down here if I’m only gonna get my memory erased.”


She looked up at me, and wiped her face, “Because I saw something in you that I haven’t seen in the last dozen refugees that crossed our doorstep. I saw your humanity, and that you wouldn’t let Team Rocket conquer another country, even if your life depended on them doing so. I saw that you would treat Pokemon with care, and that you would be one of the best trainers this world has ever seen. Your compassion and your knowledge speak wonders for you, Tyco. And most of all I-“ she stopped herself, and turned away quickly.


“What?” I asked, and she started walking quickly away, leaving me standing there staring after her, “What??” I hurried to catch up to her, “What’s most the most important reason?”


She stopped, then turned towards me, tears streaming down her face, “I was the reason that Emily got killed.”


That was unexpected, and I stumbled backwards. I needed to sit down. Erin grabbed my arm and led me to a near-by bench. “What are you talking about?” I asked, badly shaken.


“I went to Viridian City to check on some friends of mine that I was getting worried about. I guess that my cover was blown, and some Rockets tracked me to your house. I was only there to call one of my friends, and when I couldn’t get a dial tone, I knew I had to get out of there. I told your sister to get out, and she ran upstairs to get something.” I shook my head, overwhelmed with everything, “I told her to get out, and I ran out the back door. Five seconds later, the house blew up. I don’t know what kind of device did it, only that there were no survivors. I went back and checked, and I found your sister, but she was beyond any help.”


I shook my head, “You. I can’t believe it. If you hadn’t been there,” I began, and Erin started sobbing more. I closed my eyes. It hurt that Erin had killed Emily, but there was nothing I could do about it. “Erin, that’s the past. This is the future. We have to get going, or I’ll be late to my meeting with the Rocket-Bane council.”


She nodded, and we both got up and headed for the Council Building. It was an impressive structure, made out of marble and sandstone. It had eight spires, and a giant arch with the symbols of all the different types there were over the entrance.


We entered the lobby, and Erin pointed me to a desk, “Erin Slate and Tyco Sanders.” She said to the receptionist, “We’re expected, but we’re a bit late.”


The receptionist grinned, “Don’t worry, they’re running late too. They’re discussing,” she looked down at a sheet of paper, then up at me, “Well, you.” She said, pointing her pen at me.


“This can’t be good,” I moaned, “They want to kick me out and give me a brain sweep!”


Erin poked me in the ribs, “I should never have told you about that.” She muttered, “Behave yourself in there!”


The receptionist rolled her eyes and led us across the giant room and towards a tall door, “Right through here,” she said, and opened the door for us. I stopped, and let Erin go through first before I went through.


Immediately, I felt six pairs of eyes boring into me. They were all there. Koga, Lieutenant Surge, Erika, Sabrina, and Blaine, plus, to my complete surprise, Professor Slate! “He’s a spy!” Surge announced, and I felt my heart drop. Brain freezer thing-a-ma-jigger, here I come! “He’s obviously a spy! I don’t know how he got your granddaughter to bring him down here, but it obviously wasn’t-“


“Hey!” I shouted, stepping forward before he could finish his accusation, “I did nothing of the kind! I know what you’re thinking, and that is definitely NOT it! I-told her a story.”


“Oh, and what was that?” Surge demanded, glaring down at me, “The Three little Pigs? Snow White and the Seven Dwarves? Ash Ketchum and his electric rat save the world?”


I opened my mouth to respond, to the accusations he had put before me, then I realized that it would only add fuel to the flame. I knew he was an army man, so I said in a quieter tone of voice, “No, sir. I told her how my family died, and how much they meant to me.”


Sabrina spoke up, “Before she told you her story, and then, after that, how she killed your sister, and now you have no family.”


I whirled to her, and opened my mouth to ask how she knew that, then I remembered what Erin had said, and my ire was instantaneous, “You have NO business in my mind! If you’re in there now, get out! My thoughts are my own thoughts. You have NO right to them.”


Sabrina winced. “I deserved that,” she said, her voice remaining firm but not hard, and her face devoid of emotion, “I have no suspicions that you’re a spy, unlike my companion here.” She looked at Surge, and he glared back at her. “I apologize.”


“Thank you,” I said, a bit taken aback at her non-argumentativeness.


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Slate said, trying to get back to whatever he was saying before, “This is my daughter, as you know, and this is Tyco Sanders. I have thought this matter over a great deal, and I believe that he should be allowed to joined Rocket-Bane.”


“You don’t know what you ask,” Surge hissed, “For him to go through the trials-“


“I’ve looked him up in the Rocket database. His background more than satisfies the requirements.” Slate shot back, “And I believe that the floor was mine, before these two interrupted.” I looked at Erin, and she just rolled her eyes. “As I was saying, I believe that he should be allowed to join Rocket-Bane, and possibly be given his own command when he has completed the final trial.”


“He might be better used in another way,” Erin said, stepping forward, “He has an interest in Pokemon techniques, and he told me that he has an interest in researching existing moves, and possibly creating new ones. With the permission of the council, I suggest that if he is given permission to join Rocket-Bane, he be given his own lab, so he could help us in this way.”


Surge shot to his feet, “Now, really! This I really cannot allow! It is bad enough if you decide to do so that he be allowed to JOIN Rocket-Bane, but giving him an entire lab with Pokemon to form new attacks? That would be a security nightmare!


“Security is why the Tintians were hired, Surge, now sit down,” said Koga, speaking his first words since Tyco had seen him, “Let the boy speak. Let him tell us his story, as he did to Erin.”


I swallowed, and briefly outlined the same story that I did to Erin, and I could tell that I touched all of them, except Surge, who glared at me, and Koga, who merely stared at me, expressionless. I might have gotten to him, but he certainly didn’t show it.


“No, I don’t care what his story is, he CANNOT be allowed to join Rocket-Bane! I say that he NOT be given his lab, NOT allowed his study, and NOT allowed to join us at all! I suggest a memory wipe and he be sent to Johto where he wants to be.” Surge burst out as soon as I had finished my story.


“Surge,” said the young girl who had been introduced as Erika, “Don’t be so hasty in judging the boy. I am not a telepath like Sabrina, yet even I can sense that he is a brilliant mind, capable of doing great things for us, and for his country. I say that he be allowed to join”


“He wants to help us in any way possible. He’s hurting. He’s hurting because his country is hurting. He wants to put a stop to the Engarans, even if it means losing his life.” Sabrina said softly. I looked at her, startled and felt my temper beginning to rise, but she smiled softly, “Do not worry, that much is obvious to anyone with enough telepathic skill to knock over a glass of water. I agree with Erika. Let him join.”


 Blaine looked first at Koga, who was on his right, then to Surge, who was on his left. Koga was staring at me, and Surge glaring. It was obvious that he was next. “If Sabrina says that he should join, that is good enough for me. I have no objections to your joining.”


Koga said nothing, but he nodded his head in a barely noticeable movement.


Slate grinned, “Then there’s a majority vote. Four to one. Tyco is staying.”


I could see Erin out of the corner of my eye, breathing a sigh of relief. Koga’s staring unnerved me, and I wasn’t sure what else to say, so I said, “Uh, thanks!” like a total idiot.


“Don’t just stand there!” Erika said, “You’re part of the family now! Group hug!” she got up and moved towards me, and I looked at Erin for help. Sabrina wore a wry smile and got up and moved towards me as well, and I got the feeling that Erika did stuff like this all the time.


Blaine sighed, “Well, I’m not getting any younger.” He got up and shuffled towards the small group, looking embarrassed..


Only Koga and Surge didn’t get up. “This was the last order of business for the day,” Surge said, “Or should I say, night, so I’m returning to my quarters.”


Koga got up after him, but in a more dignified manner, and followed Surge to the door. But as he passed me, he stopped, and extended his hand. I took it, and he gave it a quick shake, and bowed low over it. “Be a warrior. Be a tiger. Avenge your losses, but maintain your honor. Good luck to you, Tyco, I shall keep track of your progress.”


With a final bow, he turned and left the room. Erin punched me in the arm, “Did you hear that? Koga’s gonna be keeping track of you! You’ve impressed him!”


“Yeah,” I said, as everyone else still in the conference room squeezed in around me, “But what am I gonna do next?” I gasped for breath. Group hugs weren’t all they cracked up to be.


Erin grinned, “Sabrina, you’ve got a place for him to stay?”


Sabrina nodded cordially, “Indeed I do.”


Erin grabbed my arm, “Then the next thing is to go check out your new place! I’ll show you around, come on!” With that, she dragged me out the doors and towards the elevator


“Hey!” I protested, “Easy on the arm!” I heard Erika giggle at that as the doors to the council room closed.


Erin punched me in the arm with her free arm, “I think Erika likes you.”


That made me stop in my tracks, “What, me? Are you kidding? ME? You must be joking.”


“Just a feeling I get,” she said, beginning to walk forward again, “But let’s drop it for now.”


“Good.” I said, “So,” I said, trying to distract Erin and make her loose her grip on my arm, “What do you spend most of your time around here doing?”


Erin shrugged “Well, aside from training, I spend most of my time in the library, or the one movie theater we have down here, or, for half the year, school.”


“Wait a minute,” I said, still trying to free myself from her grip, “You mean school, school?”


“Yeah, it’s just about to start in a few days. You’re lucky. You get to be in it from the start of the year. There are only a couple other kids besides us. After you’ve gotten into a routine down here, I’ll introduce you to them, if you haven’t met them already.”


Finally we got to the elevator, and we entered, and she finally let go of my arm as she pushed the button for the second floor. “So what’s on the third floor?” I asked, curiously.


“Oh, the gyms, the Adoption Center, the Training Center, stuff like that.” Erin said, and the elevators opened, and revealed rows upon rows upon rows of houses, stretching for several miles.


Erin looked down at her hand, at some keys that Sabrina had given her, “You’re in house number 2-6.”


“So how far are we gonna have to walk?” I demanded, not sure if I could walk much more without sleep. I glanced at my watch. It was almost dawn on the surface.


“Only about a half mile.” She said, taking a left and striding quickly, and I had to hurry to catch up, “You’re in row number two, house number six.”


“Oh,” I said, feeling much relieved that I wouldn’t have to walk several miles to reach my house.”


“You’re on what the people down here haven taken to calling the ‘Magikarp Road,’ because the people who are just starting training invariably get assigned to row two. As you get better, you’ll get moved around to different houses, and you might end up on the ‘Mew Road’ if you beat him and the Legendary Beasts.”


I stopped, “What?” I demanded, completely astonished.


She turned around and grinned, one hand on her hips, “They’re our final Elite Four. If you beat them, then your place in the army is assured. You can get into the army other ways, but that way is the easiest.”


“Just perfect.” I muttered to myself, “I’ll be here until I’m sixty-four. Then I’ll be too old to be in the army, and Kanto will have been freed.”


Erin slapped me on the arm good-naturedly, “That’s the spirit! Come on, let’s look at your house!”


“Ow,” I said, looking mock-offended that she’d slapped me, “Yeah, let’s go before you hurt me more.”


When we arrived at 2-6, I walked up the sidewalk and opened the door. It was huge! It was mine it was-“Why isn’t there any furniture in here?” I asked as I walked in, “I see a fridge, a couch, a bed, a table and some chairs, but where are the bare essentials?”


Erin looked at me, leaning against the doorjamb, “Those would be?” she asked in an amused tone.


“TV, Computer, computer games, X-Box, Gamecube, Chocolate, Potato Chips, and cookies, and MAYBE a couch!” I said sarcastically, “I mean, Where’s the microwave?”


Erin laughed, “Come on, you just got assigned to this place. Give them a chance to move everything in before you start complaining in earnest.”


“Fine, fine, what should I do, then, sit on the couch and count backwards from one billion?” I asked, slumping down onto the couch.


Erin snorted, “No, I was gonna suggest you get your first Pokemon.”


I leaped from the couch as if catapulted, “I’m in? Where do we go?”


Erin grinned, “Third level.”


“WAHOO!!!!” I yelled, “I FINALLY get to see what it looks like!”


“You’ve only been here an hour or so,” Erin pointed out.


“That’s not the point,” I said, rolling my eyes and already moving towards the door, a chuckling Erin behind me.


It didn’t take long to reach the elevator, and THIS trip to the elevator, I didn’t have Erin grabbing my arm the whole time, so it wasn’t as painful.


“Third floor!” I crowed as the elevator doors shut, and someone in front of the elevator looked at me strangely, and Erin could only look at him apologetically.


“Will you knock it off?” Erin said when the doors were fully closed, “You’ll have plenty of time to explore Rocket-Bane when you’ve gotten everything.”


“But what about school?” I demanded, suddenly remembering that tiny detail, “When that starts up, I’ll have VEEEERY little time to explore!”


Erin sighed, “We take field trips, okay? And part of our training is a survival week. Every month.”


I brightened, “Really?”


The elevator doors opened, and I saw a path leading to what looked like a circular square, with a fountain in the middle, and beyond that, a low, squat building that looked very large. The size of this floor was significantly smaller than the other two, with only room for the two large, single-story buildings.


I ran forward, and found myself in a circular square, with a fountain in the center, two benches facing the exit towards the elevator and the other building. The fountain was a large sculpture of Lugia standing with wings outstretched and a foot on one of Latios’ and one of Latias’ shoulders. The two twins were standing back to back, with water coming out of all three mouths and over a plethora of Water types, from Lapras to Magikarp, and Krabby to Gyrados. The benches, I saw, were carved from the finest limestone. The one nearest the elevator was carved with Entei and Raikou serving as armrests on either side, and Suicuine lying down, facing the Ice-type Gym, with a contented look on its face. The other bench was carved out of obsidian that shone as if it had been polished thousands of times, and on one end, body facing towards the other building, with its head turned towards the Dark-side gym, was an Umbreon, with its head serving as an armrest. The other armrest, whose body was similarly facing the other building, was an Espeon with its head turned towards the Psychic type gym. The back of the bench was carefully carved, even I could tell at this distance, and had the figures of Vaporeon, Jolteon, and Flareon looking at their respective gyms, and an Eevee atop them all, with one paw on each of the three elemental Eeveelutions that formed the back, and a paw raised up as it looked at the fountain with what could only be described as pure curiosity, awe, and wonder. This entire area had a cobblestone floor, except the stones were limestone, shale, slate, and obsidian


On the right side of the circular square, from the nearest to the elevator to the nearest to the other building, was the Water Gym, the Ice Gym, the Electric Gym, and the Psychic Gym. On the left half were the Fire Gym, the Grass Gym, the Dark Gym, and the Fighting Gym, in the same order as on the right.


It was simply amazing, because each of the gyms had decorations that pertained to their respective types, most split in half, half on either side of the door. The Fighting-type Gym had training uniforms, training blocks, weights, and other paraphernalia from half a dozen countries decorating the exterior. The Ice Gym had ice miniatures of all three levels of Rocket-Bane, though not in the same vertical order, and each had minute details behind the glass screen that kept in the cold. The Electric Gym had glaring neon lights, a generator, and flood-lights illuminating electric wires snaking across the front side of the gym. The Water Gym had an aquarium from the floor to the top of the front of the building, filled with water, and fish of all sorts inside the water. The Psychic gym, meanwhile, was, in stark contrast to all the other gym entrances, completely bare, except for a small sign that looked like a description of the gym leader and what Pokemon he used, a table  beside the door with a stack of papers on it, and a bored-looking Alakazam sitting on a chair behind the table. The Fire-type Gym had two fake volcanoes on either side of the door, with some kind of liquid that looked almost exactly like molten lava flowing to either side of the door, through what looked like a maze of quartz, granite, and slate, with an outer casing for both of limestone. The Grass-type Gym had what was almost a meadow, complete with wild-flowers and tall grass on one side, and what appeared to be a jungle on the other. The Dark-type Gym, like the Psychic gym, was completely bare, except the wall was painted entirely black, and the entrance was sculpted to look like the entrance to a cave, complete with stalagmites and stalactites, and looked like there was some kind of light dampening field in place, because it was completely dark, except for a half-moon glowing in the miniature cave, but the half-moon didn’t provide enough light to see anything besides the half-moon.


For several seconds, I stood, staring in awe at the beautiful craftsmanship of the fountain, benches, and the Gym-fronts admiring the obvious care taken to make this the most beautiful place that they possibly could. It was obvious that the sculptors, decorators, and anyone else who worked here took pride in their work, and, more importantly, in Rocket-Bane itself. “Wow,” I said quietly, totally overcome by the beauty of it all, “Wow.”


Erin took a step forward then turned back to face me, “That’s how I felt at first, too. It took years to complete everything up here.”


“How do they do that?” I asked Erin, pointing at the bubbling liquid in the fire Gym’s display. “Are they constantly making more? What is it?”


Erin laughed, “No, actually, it’s recirculated by pumps, and there’s always more being made, and it’s actually a form of tomato soup, though it is kept at a boiling temperature, so I wouldn’t recommend eating-er, drinking any. They actually added the slate because Gramps was one of the founders of this place.”


I moved on down the left side of the circle-square, and curiously approached the Grass-type Gym’s exterior. I peered into the tall grass, but pulled back abruptly as an Arbok lunged out of the grass, stopping a fraction of an inch from my face. Shaken from that encounter, I walked over to examine the jungle part of the Grass display, and an Asfiriath that looked a little older than the one I had made a friend of on the surface, stood up from where it had been lying down and had been completely camouflaged, and stretched its head out for me to scratch it.


I moved on to the Dark type gym, and took a closer look at the half-moon. I stepped forward, and suddenly the air around me was much, much darker. I looked over my shoulder, and it was still as bright as ever. Only near the gym was it dark. It was strange, but I had to find out what the half-moon was. Suddenly the half-moon rose up and started moving towards me. The light from outside the light-dampening field reflected off of two eyes that were approaching slowly. “Eon,” I heard and started, having not expected to hear anything, “Umbre, umbre umbreon.” Suddenly, the half-moon disappeared, and I felt something rubbing against my leg.


Erin grinned, “Her name is Umbre [pronounced umbrey]. She found her way down here somehow, and is the only Dark type we know of that, wherever it goes, darkness follows, like an aura.” The Umbreon continued to rub against my leg, and I bent down and scratched it behind the ears, “She used to be on the First Floor, but when Umbre was there, it was always dusk, dawn, or night, never pure day. So when we started the gyms, she volunteered to serve as a door-guard and mascot. She’s not that good at battling, because of an injury from the Engarans, and she was the runt of her litter, anyway.”


I nodded and scratched Umbre for a few seconds more and moved on, and looked at the outside of the Fighting-type Gym. “Doesn’t look all that impressive,” I muttered, “I mean, where are stuff that Pokemon would use?”


Erin grinned, “Well, in the Fighting-type Gym, you DON’T use Pokemon.”


I stared at her, “What? Then how do I beat it?”


She rolled her eyes, “You don’t. You can’t beat it. Muscles has a class in there that everyone takes on self-defense, and when he deems you ready, he gives you a test, and if you beat it, you’ve beaten the gym, but you have the option of continuing the class if you want to.”


I shrugged, “I’ll check it out later, but I want to check out the others first.”


Erin smiled amusedly, “Don’t you want to get your first Pokemon?”


“Later!” I said, “I’ve got to explore this place, since I’ll be spending most of my time up here.”


“Except for school and whatever technique research you wanted to do.” Erin said, now grinning openly.


“Oh, darn. I’d forgotten about the school part of this whole deal,” I muttered.


Erin laughed, “It’s not THAT bad. We just have to learn a bunch of dead languages, advanced math, and other fun stuff like that.”


I groaned and moved over towards the Psychic Gym. The Alakazam looked up at me and nodded majestically, then looked back down at its papers. Curious, I picked up a set of papers and looked it over. It had background information on the Gym Leader, her Pokemon, and the Psychic Type in particular. It also held Gym information-“Wait a minute,” I said, looking up from the sheet of paper, “I have to schedule my challenge?”


“No,” she said, rolling her eyes, “You can make your challenge any time. You just have to schedule your matches.”


I groaned, “Why is that?”


She considered that for a second, then brightened, “I’d tell you if I were a psychic.”


“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered, and moved on to the Electric Gym. Aside from the wires and generators, neon lights and other lights I had seen before, I saw a small transceiver tucked away in a corner, a sleeping Pichu guarding it. “What’s that for?” I asked, pointing at the radio.


“Oh, he’s just the Gym mascot.” Erin said, shaking her head.


I glared at her, “I was referring to the radio.”


“Oh,” she said, “That’s so he knows you’re there and he can disable his electric shock booby-trap.”


I looked at her, “Are you serious?”


“Uh,” she said, “No, why don’t you go and say hi to the Gym Leader?”


“No thanks,” I replied, and moved on to the Ice-type Gym. “That is really nice,” I stopped to admire the ice sculptures, “Do they keep their mascot in their to keep it cold?” I inquired.


“You’re catching on,” Erin tapped on the glass, “But there are actually two mascots for the Ice Gym. One for each side of the enclosure.”


I shook my head, “They’re beautiful, but we should probably move on.”


Erin walked ahead of me to the Water Gym, and stared into the aquariums, and wrapped her arms around herself, “This is where I go,” she murmured, “Whenever I’m depressed. Somehow the colors, or just knowing that there’s this much life somewhere inside these rock walls—it cheers me up.”


I moved up next to her and looked into the aquarium. It was odd, it did have a calming quality to it. The fish moved towards the back for a moment, and I caught a brief glimpse of a Starmie on the bottom of one of the two halves of the display. “Uh, you probably know that that’s because of the Starmie, right?”


She smiled slightly, and put her hand up against the glass, “I know it is. Eyes used to be mine, until she was injured badly in a fight against the Electric gym leader. I wanted to keep hir on my team, but s/he insisted on another Pokemon taking her place. Now I come here whenever I get the chance.”


“Hir? S/he?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.


She rolled her eyes, “It’s better than calling hir it, isn’t it?”


I shrugged, “I guess.”


I watched as Erin closed her eyes for a moment, as if reliving something, then she began talking without turned towards me—her eyes still on the tank, and her hand still firmly placed against it, “Starry Eyes was my first Pokemon. I never wanted to give hir up, but s/he insisted, and I didn’t have the heart to refuse hir.” Her eyes closed for a moment, then she slowly, reluctantly—almost sadly—removed her hand from the tank and turned towards me, but her eyes were cast downwards, “Let’s go get you your first,” she said quietly, and began walking towards the building on this floor I hadn’t been to yet.


Like I said, it was a low, squat building, but was very long, and it extended into the rock face of the edges of the chamber itself. “You mentioned a Training Center here?” I asked, looking around, “I only see the elevator, the Gyms, and whatever this building is.”


Erin grinned, “Be patient! You don’t even have your first Pokemon yet!”


I rolled my eyes, “That’s because it’s taken so long to get there!” I complained.


She laughed as she pushed open the door to the building, and pushed me inside before I could insist she go first. Direct ahead, was a short hallway with open doors leading into a lobby of sorts, was a short hallway, with wide doors that each had a Pokeball inscribed on a window in the upper center of each door. There were also eighteen doors, nine on either side in a semi-circular fashion, and each had the symbol and name of a different type carved into them. From the right to the door directly ahead of me were the Fire, Water, Grass, Electric, Fighting, Psychic, Dark, Ground, and Poison type doors, and to my left going towards the hallway and the door were the Ice, Flying, Normal, Ghost, Bug, Rock, Dragon, Steel, and Wind types.


Inside the roughly circular lobby were two desks, I saw two people in front of the desk marked very clearly to be the Adoption Desk, and another sitting in a chair behind a desk that I couldn’t exactly see the name of that desk.


Erin dragged me forward, and said, “We’d like to adopt a Pokemon, please.”


The woman sitting on the left, who appeared to be in her early fourties said, “Erin, you’re up to your limit already, so unless it’s for him-“


“It is,” Erin assured her, “It’s his first.”


Grunting, the woman reached out and handed me a sheet of paper, “Sign your name at the bottom and fill out the rest when you choose.” I looked the paper over and saw that it was a quick rundown of whatever Pokemon I would choose stats. I nodded, and looked at all the different doors to choose from. “Oh, and when you’re done, you might want to check out the Training Center behind me.”


I nodded, then looked around at all the doors I could go through, and wondered which I would go through to get my first Pokemon. It took me about two seconds to decide to go through the Fighting Type door, which was perpendicular to the line stretching from the entrance to the Training Center doors. My reasoning was that physical techniques would be easier to study than Special techniques.


“Going for brute, strength, eh?” Erin asked, grinning as my hand reached out for the doorknob.


“No, I’m just going to study the Physical Attacks first, and THEN the special moves.” I retorted, and pulled open the doors. For a second, there was almost silence, then an unearthly clamor as all the creatures in the room, which was pretty big, by the way, tried to get my attention.


I had been expecting cages, or perhaps some kind of enclosure, like Professor Oak had had in his lab, but, to my surprise, all of the creatures in this room had individual rooms, complete with TV, a small work-out area, kitchen, and a small, enclosed bathroom. There were Machop, Machamp, Machoke, Mankey, Primeape, Tyrogue, Hitmonlee, Hitmontop, and Hitmonchan, but I didn’t see any-“Where are all the Heracross and Poliwrath?” I demanded of Erin.


“Well, the Heracross’ main type is Bug, so they’re in the Bug room. We have Pokemon whose main type is fighting, for example, in this room. It’s the same with all the other rooms. Aerodactyl, for instance, has a major type of Rock, with a minor in the Flying type, so Aerodactyls go in the Rock-type room.” Erin explained patiently.


I nodded, “Sounds like a good system…better than having to cross your fingers as to which room the one you want is in. Will you wait here? I’d kind of like to do this on my own.”


Erin nodded, “I know how you feel. When you’re ready, I’ll be just inside the Training Center.”


I wandered around, peeking inside the apartments every now and then. I must have wandered around for about half an hour, if not longer. I don’t remember exactly how long it was, just that I was having the time of my life, while at the same time being extremely nervous.


The Mankey and Primeape had torn up everything in their room, and I shook my head as I remembered about their temper. While that temper could be good in battle, I reasoned, outside of battle, it wouldn’t be too good to have around. The Tyrogue looked cute, and had three possible evolutions, but I wanted to know exactly what it would be, so I skipped that section entirely. The next three choices I was faced with were the Hitmonchan, Hitmonlee, and Hitmontop. Hitmonchan was a master with his hands, Hitmonlee was a master with his feet, and Hitmontop…was good at looking strange, I guess. I wanted something that was and could be a master of the first two, but not necessarily the latter. It left me with only one choice, unless I wanted a Normal type or something, which I didn’t. I wandered over to the Machop, Machoke, and Machamp cages, and looked inside. Did I want a full-grown monster that could plow through everything in its path, short of a full-blown Psychic overload? Did I want a teen-age Machoke who could plow through almost anything in its path, but was a pain to handle because I wasn’t its original master? Or did I want to take a Machop, and train it through its adulthood and play a major part in its life? Hmm…let me see…raw power from the get-go or a challenge to build up to that point? Never let it be said that I didn’t like a challenge.


I walked up to the Machop apartments, and peered inside them. I had about to choose from. The first had a spartan, yet immaculate apartment, and had half a dozen books spread all over the floor, and seemed to be reading each at the same time, glancing from one to another. I craned my neck, and discovered that there were training books, with instructions on how to fight better. I looked at the clipboard that was attached to the door that had information on the inhabitant. Apparently, this was the weakest of the Machop, but also the smartest. Nodding to myself, I moved on, and even through the door, I could hear some kind of loud music, with what sounded like a Primeape shouting something in a horrible singing voice. A quick glance through the window showed that the Machop inhabiting this apartment had training equipment strewn over the floor, empty pizza boxes (pizza boxes? How did they get pizza down here?) spread out through the mess, and the Machop had some kind of guitar and seemed to be rocking away. Since I liked peace and quiet, I quickly moved on. The Machop in the next apartment had bizarre paintings (if you could call them that) on the walls, and the color scheme was simply very hard on my eyes. I quickly moved on, not wanting any patterns like that in my, er…apartment thing-a-ma-jigger. The Next Machop had a room like the pizza box Machop, except this Machop was doing nothing except listening to music (most likely the same as the other pizza box Machop) on a portable CD player (CD player? Where’d they get the CD’s, let alone the CD player itself?), so I, thankfully, couldn’t hear it. Deciding that I didn’t want pizza boxes all over the floor of my new place, I moved on. Like the first Machop, the last Machop’s apartment was immaculate, but this was lavishly decorated, with several full-length mirrors along the walls. I looked at the clipboard. This Machop was the strongest, and could nearly best a newly evolved Machoke, even though it was still very young. However, its drawbacks included that it was extremely proud and vain, and didn’t like taking orders. I sighed, and headed back down the row of apartments. I didn’t have any choice but the first Machop. The others had too many cons.


I knocked, and the Machop leaped to its feet with a surprising agility and opened the door, and looked at me questioningly. “I,” I began, but then hesitated, “I’d like to take you with me. I’m on my way to the Training Center, want to come along?” I was planning on seeing how this Machop did in a battle, then, depending on how well it did, I might take the strongest Machop out and see how it battled, then make my choice on the results. The Machop brightened considerably and hurried back inside its apartment and carefully put the books away, then glanced around, as if trying to figure out if it had forgotten anything, then ran out the door towards the Training Center, towards which I was already going, pausing only shortly to turn out the lights.


As we exited the Fighting-type room, the woman behind the counter that I had spoken to earlier stopped me, “Do you have the form filled out for that Machop?” she asked.


“Uh, well, I was just going to try him out and see how it goes from there.” I said, feeling a little nervous because of the way she was looking at me.


The woman sighed, “You can’t do that. You have to decide which one you want, before taking the Pokemon anywhere.”


I sighed, “All right, I’ll take this Machop, if you’ll excuse me…” I said, moving towards the Training Center.


“Hold it!” the lady said, in a voice that made us both stop immediately, “You’ve got to fill out the paperwork first.”


“Fine,” I said, catching a glimpse of Erin coming through the Training Center’s doors with an insipid grin on her face. Growling, I grabbed the paperwork from the Adoption Desk where I had left it, and filled it out quickly, with the Machop helping me only a little when it came to its stats. “Satisfied?” I growled, when I handed the lady the sheet of paper.


She glanced over it, then nodded, “Enjoy your Machop!”


“Took me long enough to get it,” I muttered, and I thought I heard the Machop stifle a laugh.


I was just about to push open the door when the person behind the desk nearest the Training Center asked, “Are you going to the Training Center?”


I turned around, rolling my eyes, wondering when I would FINALLY get to start training, “Yes, that is my intention, yes.”


“Then you’ll have to reserve a room with me.” the man said, then typed a few commands into his keyboard, “rooms six through twenty-five are available. Is this your first time in the Training Center?”


“Yes,” I said, looking annoyed, “I am supposed to meet a friend in there, okay?”


“Oh, you mean Erin? She comes pretty regularly, and she already has a room reserved. You can go on in.”


“Thanks,” I muttered gruffly, not really meaning it, and wondered if it usually took this long?


I pushed open the doors, and found Erin standing there, leaning against a wall, watching me with a grin on her face. “Took you long enough.” She said, “You ready to get started?”


“Since the second I set foot on the third floor,” I muttered back, brushing past her.


“Uh, where’re you going?” Erin asked, and I stopped, realizing that I had no idea where to go. “It’s through here.” She said, in that almost-laughing tone I’d gotten used to from her. She pushed open a door, “You ready?”


“Like I said, since-“ I began, but Erin cut me off.


“-The second you set foot on the third floor, I know, I know…” Erin waved me in, and I followed. It wasn’t anything too fancy, or so it seemed. It was an arena, almost a standard Indigo League Arena, before the Engarans took over Kanto, with the standard Pokeball in the center. You know, one side blue, one side red, with a device in the exact center of the Pokeball circle? There was also a Healing Machine in the Corner, with a Blissey attending it and a Nurse Joy sitting next to it, reading some medical journal. A desk off to one side held two banks of computers-one blue, one red-and each were separated by a partition, so that the person on the Blue side couldn’t see what was going on in the Red side.


“Why is it always Red versus Blue?” I muttered to myself as I followed Erin out onto the circle.


The Machop shrugged, and rubbed his hands together excitedly. He moved to the Red half of the Pokeball circle, and crossed his arms, obviously waiting for something to happen.


Erin led me to the device in the middle of the Pokeball circle, and knelt down next to it. I did the same, and examined it. It was actually a complex device, with many projectors and things like that, of a complexity I had never before seen. I looked up at Erin, and my question must have been evident, because she grinned and said, “Holographic technology, we’ve come so far that they seem solid if you actually touch them. You train against holograms. The nice thing about that is that you can freeze the hologram, allowing for better study of the Pokemon or,” she looked at me, “Their attacks.”


I stood up, “So how does this work?” I queried.


She led me to the Red desk, which consisted of a computer under the desk, a fairly fast one by its appearance, several monitors that were blank for the moment, and a bank of switches, along with the compunctory mouse, keyboard, and speakers, the last of which were part of the desk itself. Erin flipped a switch. Instantly, lights came on over the Red half of the circle, and the Machop waved at me. On a monitor, his stats suddenly appeared, and even his movements were portrayed.


“This,” Erin explained, “Is where the Pokemon or team of Pokemon you want trained stand. You can see everything about them, right down to their blood sugar levels.” She stood up, and moved around the partition, “Now I’ll show you the Blue side.”


I followed her over to the Blue Desk, and found the same arrangement the Red desk had, except it was blue. She flipped a switch, the same switch, I saw, as the one she had flipped on the Red side, and lights came on over the Blue side. “Pokemon Training Center, Online.” The computer said through the speakers on both sides of the partition, “One Pokemon, Machop, on Side of Red. No Pokemon on side of Blue. Does Blue wish to have a holographic Pokemon to verse the Machop?” the displays flicked on, and streams of data, from the stats to a listing of a Pokedex-type encyclopedia.


Erin stepped back, “All yours. You can either say or type what you want, but be sure to address the computer if you speak. You can sort by type, size, weight, gender, anything.”


I cleared my throat, “Computer, display Pokemon of the Dark-type Variety.”


“Working.” The computer said, and the displays churned with information zooming past, then settled down into a more leisurely way, and displayed only Dark types.


“Computer,” I said, looking at Erin, a more confident expression on my face, “Display only Normal and Dark types, of the First Evolution.”


“Working,” the computer said, and some names disappeared from the list, and others appeared, “List complete, Awaiting instruction.”


I studied the lists on the monitors, then turned to Erin, “Now what? I know what I want the Machop to face, but not sure how to do it.”


She smiled slyly, “Just tell the computer what you want the Machop to face. There are five Experience levels, numbered one through five. One is the easiest, Five is the hardest. Level fivers are relatively the same strength as legendaries.”


“Computer,” I said, grinning to myself, “Load Rattata, Level One, Eevee, Level One, and Sneasel, Level One into Blue area.”


“Working,” the computer said, and I looked towards the Arena. It seemed as if the holographic device had opened, and light was shining out. Three forms were hurled out of the light, and into the Blue area. A Sneasel, and Eevee, and a Rattata. The light shining straight up disappeared from the holographic device. “Task complete. Side Blue, are you ready for battle?”


Erin spoke up next to me, “Get over to the Red side,” then she addressed the computer, “Computer, Pokemon Side Blue, intelligence Level Semi-trained, computer controlled.”


“Acknowledged,” the Blue side computer said, then, as I reached the Red Chair, and sat down, the Red-side computer asked me, “Side Red, are you ready for battle?”


“Computer, Side Red is ready for battle.” I said, grinning to myself.


“Acknowledged, battle commencing. Random number generator enabled. Due to speed factors, the probable order of attack will be Rattata, Eevee, Machop, and Sneasel. Is this satisfactory?” the computer said, grinding away underneath the desk.


“Yes, it is satisfactory, Computer,” I said, grinning cockily. This was going to be sooo easy.


“Battle commencing, give orders when possible.” Then everything started to go bad. The Ratatta leaped forward and grabbed the Machop by the arm with a Hyper Fang, the Eevee used a Sand Attack, and before I could say anything, the Sneasel let out a screech that was so horrible I had to cover my ears. “Karate Chop!” I remembered hearing later, although I could barely hear myself. I forced myself to keep my eyes open, and Machop did the sensible thing and went after the Sneasel.


The Machop struck the Dark and Ice dual type in the neck, silencing the screech, but the Eevee slammed into the Machop’s arm, whirling him around, and the Ratatta ripped into Machop with its teeth. “Same with the Rattata!” I called out, wondering if the rat would kick things up a notch and use Super Fang.


Machop turned and caught the Rattata on the side of the head, knocking it end over end across the arena, and nearly out of the Pokeball circle, but it managed to get to its feet, but Machop had had to leave himself open to the Sneasel, who now punished Machop for that mistake by raking it with its claws, in a devastating Fury Swipes attack.


Machop roared in pain as the Eevee came in, and slammed the humanoid in the mid-torso, with all the power its little body could give, and the Rattata came in for yet another attack. “Karate Chop!” I called out, and the Machop followed my orders again, snapping his hand straight out and catching the Rattata again, who this time flew across the arena, landed, and got to its feet wearily. The Sneasel, perhaps seeing his chance to wreak some more havoc, let out another terrible screech. The Eevee’s sensitive ears twitched in annoyance, and set itself up for its next attack.


“Low Kick!” I called out, and the Machop spun around, not even acknowledging me, but landed a kick right into the Sneasel’s left knee-cap. The Sneasel roared in pain, even as the Rattata ripped into the Machop with yet another attack, and the Eevee slammed down hard with its front feet, sending a spray of sand into the Machop’s eyes once again. The Sneasel let out another high-pitched screech, which this time had more of an angry tone to it.


“Low Kick again!” I called out, and the Machop followed my orders again, hitting the Sneasel again, and dodging out of the way as the Eevee and the Rattata ran towards him with twin Quick Attacks. The two holograms hit each other, and this time, the Rattata didn’t get up. The Sneasel groaned, and lashed out with its claws yet again.


“Karate Chop!” I called out to the Machop, who was by this time becoming covered in quite a bit of sweat, and more than a little of his own blood. Despite this, however,  the Machop turned on his heel, and landed another blow onto the Sneasel, and it, too, fell down, unconscious, although it WAS a hologram, I had to remind myself. The Eevee jumped, and landed on the Machop’s back, and bit down hard where his neck met his shoulders. The Machop screamed, grabbed the Eevee, shook it until it let go, and threw it to one side of the arena.


The two competitors faced each other, each waiting for the other to make a move. “Low Kick as it comes in,” I said quietly. Suddenly the Eevee burst into motion, and leapt for the Machop, and I realized that it was too high for a kick, “I mean Karate Chop!” I shouted, and the Machop quickly brought its hand up and down in a smooth motion, and knocked the Eevee onto the ground, and as it got to its feet, was met with a perfectly executed Low Kick, just as I had ordered before. The Eevee shakily got to its feet, and glared at the Machop, “Low Kick to finish it off,” I said quietly, and watched as Machop did just that.


“Battle over,” the computer said, “Side Red is victorious. Deactivating holograms, entering sleep mode.” And the monitors went blank, the lights went off, and the arena was just like it was when I had entered, except for the Machop in the center.


I heard a clapping from two directions, and saw that ti was from the Nurse Joy and from Erin, “Nice job,” she said, coming over to me, “But I think that your Machop may need Nurse Joy’s attentions.”


“I was planning on it,” I said, gesturing for the Machop to follow me as I headed for the Nurse Joy. I pulled out the Pokeball I had received when I had adopted him, and returned him to the ball. “Will you heal him?” I asked Nurse Joy, “I need to finish exploring this place.”


The Nurse Joy laughed, “All right, it’ll just take a few seconds.” She put the Machop’s Pokeball in a slot designed for Pokeballs, switched a few switches, levered a couple levers, and…doo-hickeyed…a couple doo-hickeys…Then she picked up the Pokeball and handed it to me, “There you are! Your Machop is as good as new!”


I released the Machop and turned to Erin, “Where to now?”


Erin grinned, “Now? Now we get you signed up for school.”


I groaned, and gestured towards the door, “After you,” I said, not feeling the fractional enthusiasm in my voice.