All was quiet on Route 1.
Well, almost all.
"Gonna get me a Rattata and a Pidgey and a Spearow and a...a...whatever-those-cream-puff-things-are and..."
Today was young Gary Ford's first day as a pokémon trainer, and he was duly excited. He had studied the three choices of starting pokémon carefully, and chosen Charmander for its greater attack power. With six Pokéballs on his belt and a Pokédex in his pocket, he set off to find his first catch.
Gary was determined to became as great a trainer as his namesake, Gary Oak, the famous Second Best Trainer ever to come out of his hometown of Pallet (his big brother Ash was named after the Best Trainer.) Gary fondly remembered all the old stories of Gary Oak's skill and bravery. He wondered what kind of person the older Gary was; funny that no story ever mentioned his character. Gary hoped it wasn't something to be embarassed about, but doubted anyone as skilled as Gary Oak could be a bad person.
Then, he saw it. A Pidgey glided down from a tree, going after something on the ground--probably a tasty-looking bug. Gary threw his Charmander's Pokéball, aiming right for the spot the Pidgey was going for. His aim was a little off--the Charmander appeared about a foot from the spot, but still close enough to catch the Pidgey's attention. Gary
shrugged--he'd get better at that, with practice. "Charmander! Scratch it!"
The startled Pidgey threw out its wings, braked in midair, and headed back for the tree. Charmander's claws claimed a couple of tail feathers, but the Pidgey avoided the worst of the attack. It was soon out of reach. If only Charmander was a high enough level to use Ember--but he'd just gotten it; it was still too low a level. Gary wondered briefly if Charmander could climb trees, but decided to let it go. There would be other Pidgey.
Odd, though, how quickly that one had reacted. It really should have been caught by Charmander's attack. Gary wasn't exactly the town's foremost authority on pokémon, but he did know Pidgey weren't supposed to be that quick to dodge, especially not the ones around here.
He thought he saw a flash from the tree, but when he looked, he couldn't see anything through the leaves.
Later that day, Gary stopped to take a break. He had caught another Pidgey and a Rattata, and fought a number of others; the scanner in his Pokédex said Charmander was almost at the point of learning Ember. It had been a real job; he hadn't thought to study attacks, so hadn't known when he chose Charmander that Bulbasaur learned the most attacks, or that both Bulbasaur and Squirtle learned their attacks before Charmander. Well, at least he was getting a good workout, both in exercise and in pokémon. His Pidgey had learned Sand-Attack, and his Rattata wasn't too far from Quick Attack. Gary judged from his town map that he was getting pretty close to Viridian City.
"Hey, if it isn't ol' Gary-dos! You starting today?"
Gary jumped at the old nickname. Looking around, he saw Kate Fields, his next-door neighbor and friend, who had started pokémon training a few days before him. The two were the biggest pokémon fans in town, and had gotten the nicknames "Gary-dos" and "Rati-Kate." She'd sent him postcards from Viridian City with news of her training. Her Bulbasaur had already learned Leech Seed and Vine Whip. She had some Bug-types from Viridian Forest, too.
"Hi, Kate! Uh, what're you doing back on Route 1?"
"I'm after Pikachu."
"Huh? Since when are there Pikachu in Route 1?"
"I finally found one in Viridian Forest, but it got away. It was weirdly smart though; it stuck around to fight my Pidgey, but it took one look at Bulbasaur and ran away. It must have known it was weak against Grass-types, and I can't figure how, 'cause there are no wild Grass-types in that forest."
"Maybe it had fought other trainers' Grass-types?"
"Naw, if it had, it would have been caught. Pikachu are too rare to walk away from one you've beaten. Anyway, I decided I wanted one that smart, so I followed it. It came here. I don't know why."
Suddenly, Gary remembered the Pidgey he'd first seen. "Hey, I think I saw a Pidgey that was smart, too. I caught it going for lunch and it still got away from Charmander way too fast." Should he have kept going for that one? Could it be as smart as that Pikachu?
"Ooh, you got a Charmander? That'll help in Viridian. Fire-types do a lot better against bugs than Grass-types. Smart Pidgey, huh? Where was it?"
"Right near Pallet. First one I saw. It came out of this big tree just off the path."
"Weird. So what pokémon have you got?"
"The usual. Pidgey, Rattata. Charmander, of course. That's all I've seen so far."
"Well, good luck! I've got a Pikachu to catch."
That night, Gary reached Viridian City. Charmander had learned Ember, Rattata had learned Quick Attack, and Gary had learned a lot of things about raising pokémon, most of them the hard way. It had been a long, fun day, and Gary was ready to get some sleep. He looked around town for the Pokémon Center.
Eventually he started to get worried. He should have found it by now. It wasn't here! He came across a police officer with green hair and asked, "Uh, could you tell me where the Pokémon Center is?"
With a weary look, she asked, "Well, do you know what Team Rocket is?"
Gary stretched out on the bed with a sigh. The Pokémon Center had been destroyed by a gang of evil trainers called Team Rocket, and now the staff was trying to keep up business in a nearby office building they had reserved for just this purpose. That was some weird planning. Maybe they'd been through this before.
Why had Team Rocket attacked the Center? Someone had said they probably wanted to steal pokémon. That was a scary thought. What would he do if someone stole his pokémon? He didn't know.
Team Rocket had finally left without stealing any pokémon. All they had done was destroy the place. That was odd. A nurse with pink hair said they looked angry when they left, like they couldn't do what they had come to do. Had someone stopped them from stealing pokémon?
All of the pokémon that the Center was caring for had been accounted for.
One clerk, though, still insisted he had seen a Rattata scamper away from the wreckage.
The next morning, Gary was getting ready to leave the improvised Pokémon Center when Kate showed up, puzzled.
"Oh, Gary! Hi! Is this where the Pokémon Center is now?"
"Yeah, d'you hear what happened?"
"Place got totalled by evil trainers, right? Team...Rocket?"
"Yeah. Hey, d'you ever find that smart Pikachu?"
"I don't know. It just vanished. I can't find any trace of a Pikachu in Route 1. I was sure it went that way..."
"Well, where else could it go?"
"Well, there's Route 22 to the west, or it could have gone back down Route 2 to Viridian Forest when I wasn't looking."
"Route 22? What happened to 3 through 21?"
"I guess Route 22 is newer. I think Route 3 goes from Pewter City in the north to Mt. Moon."
"That place where the meteorite fell?"
"Yeah. How you doing?"
"Well, Charmander learned Ember, I think I've got the hang of raising pokémon. Hey, what can I catch around here?"
"There are Spearow on Route 22, and these weird Poison-types called Nidoran. You'll want to get both a male and a female--they're actually different pokémon. Route 2 has a few Caterpie and Weedle, but they're really more common in Viridian Forest. Route 2 goes right through it. The Forest also has Metapod and Kakuna already evolved, and there's also Pikachu, but not too many at all. I think they're more common somewhere else, but I don't know where."
"Cool. You got them?"
"I got Spearow, and my Caterpie and Weedle evolved to Metapod and Kakuna, but the Nidoran are kinda rare. I haven't been back to the Forest since I lost that special Pikachu, so I don't have one of those yet either."
"Say, where's Route 22 go?"
"Somewhere important, I think. There's this building at the other end with a guard that won't let you through without a trainer badge."
The clerk at a desk they were passing spoke up. "Route 22? That and Route 23 lead to the Pokémon League Headquarters at Indigo Plateau. Only the best trainers can go there."
"Wow! They have some kind of test?"
"Yeah, the trainer badges. That guy in the building is just the start. They've got guards all along Route 23, and each is assigned to a different badge. The more badges you have, the farther you can go down Route 23."
"How many do you need to get all the way through?"
The clerk mused. "There are eight trainer badges, I think. Each goes with a different pokémon type. The Pokémon Gym in Pewter City to the north specializes in Rock-types, and if you beat the Gym Leader there you earn the Boulder Badge."
"Rock-types? What's strong against them?"
"Oh, lots of things. Water, Grass, Ground, Ice...and Fighting."
"...What about Fire?" Suddenly, Gary was nervous.
"Oh, Fire's weak. So are Normal-types, Flyers and Bugs. And all of that Gym's Rock-types are also Ground-types, so Poison and other Rock-types are weak, too, and Electric-types have no chance at all."
"Got a Charmander, didja, kid? Sorry, but you're in for a long battle."
The Weedle it had taken Gary hours to find cried out as Charmander used Ember on it. Gary threw a Pokéball, and Weedle was in no shape to resist.
"Alright! I got a Weedle!"
Gary was out to catch every pokémon available. He had already gotten Caterpie earlier that morning. After lunch, he would explore Route 22 for Spearow and Nidoran. All of them would be weak against the Rock-types of Pewter Gym, so Gary wanted safety in numbers.
"Char. Char char! Man-der?"
There were some trainers, Gary knew, who could understand the language of their pokémon. Gary was not that good yet, but he could tell Charmander was tired out after the morning's exercise. Gary was raising all of his pokémon so they could stand a better chance against the Rock-types.
"We're gonna stop for lunch now. I hope that answers your question."
Charmander nodded. "Char...--Char!" Suddenly it looked behind it. A bush was rustling. Gary stepped toward it, and a Pikachu burst out of it and ran away.
"Char? Charmand?" Charmander was nervously looking where the Pikachu had gone. It looked at Gary, then back at the place the Pikachu had been.
"You mean, should you try to battle it? ...Well, Pikachu are rare, but I don't see how they'll help me now. That guy said they couldn't fight in Pewter Gym. Besides, I said we were taking a break now. We'll get one later."
Charmander looked visibly relieved. Gary recalled it, and set off back to Viridian City.
From a high tree, Pikachu watched him pass.
Route 22 was a little rocky. Every now and then, Gary would have to circle around a big jutting stone. Now, he was at a little pond. There were probably Water-type pokémon down there. If only he had some way of getting at them...
How did most trainers catch Water-types, anyway? Go for a swim? Maybe if he'd taken Squirtle, he could just have it go into the water and battle whatever it found.
Gary had come across a few Spearow, but they were so aggressive he had learned that it was better for all concerned if he let them be. He'd get one when he was stronger. He had yet to see a Nidoran. It didn't help that he didn't know what they looked like.
At least there were Rattata around here. He could battle those. Charmander had learned Leer, Pidgey had learned Quick Attack, and his own Rattata was near Hyper Fang. That sounded cool. He wondered what kind of moves Nidoran learned. Kate had said it was Poison-type.
Gary wondered what Kate was doing now. Probably fighting in Pewter Gym. She may even have won by now, with that Bulbasaur. Lucky.
Why had he chosen Charmander? Attack, right. Too bad he hadn't known about Pewter Gym. Of all the hopeless situations...
A movement caught his eye. Not daring to move, he looked toward the lake. Something was drinking at it--a Nidoran? It looked like a bluish spiky rat with spots. Moving slowly so as not to disturb it, he set his Pokédex to Quiet Mode and aimed the scanner at it. The screen displayed a picture of it, then changed to text. This was Female Nidoran, a Poison-type that had stats similar to Rattata but with more life. At its level, all it had was Tackle and Growl. That was good.
Gary stood up and walked toward it. Nidoran noticed and turned to face him, snarling. Well, that was easy, he thought. One of these days he would have to battle something that didn't want to fight, but he greatly preferred it if the pokémon made the first move. He didn't want to seem cruel. Nidoran was all for helping his image. She charged.
"Pidgey! Go!" Gary threw a Pokéball. The Nidoran was charging so fast she almost got hit by the Pokéball, and when Pidgey came out, it promptly scored a Quick Attack at point-blank range.
Nidoran shook herself and aimed a Tackle at Pidgey, jumping at it. Pidgey dodged, and used Gust before Nidoran landed, getting more power from Nidoran's momentum. Nidoran landed face first, and didn't get up. Gary threw his last Pokéball, and caught her. Now he had six pokémon--the most a trainer could carry at once.
Suddenly, another pokémon leapt up from behind a rock. It was purple, and had a horn, but other than that it looked like the female Nidoran. Deciding this was a male, and realizing he had no free Pokéballs to catch him with, Gary pulled out his Pokédex to store one of his pokémon to free up a Pokéball.
The male Nidoran didn't feel like waiting. This one was really angry. Gary realized with a start that this could be his newest pokémon's boyfriend. He wanted revenge. He headed straight for Gary's Pidgey, malice in his eyes.
Gary recalled Pidgey before Nidoran reached it. That horn looked dangerous, and he didn't have time to check whether he had moves that used the horn. Now, it was Rattata's turn. "Go! Rattata!"
This Nidoran knew what it meant when a pokémon disappeared in a red flash, and turned to face Gary, awaiting his new champion. The male wasn't going to make the same mistake the female had. As soon as Rattata appeared, Nidoran charged it.
Rattata took in the purple bundle of spikes, claws and horn heading straight for it and decided this was not the time to use Tackle. As Nidoran came at it, Rattata dodged aside and Tail Whipped him as he went past, like a bullfigher with a cape. Nidoran stumbled a bit, and while his defenses were down, Rattata used Quick Attack.
Male Nidoran didn't seem to have as much endurance as the female. He was more wobbly after that than the female had been. Still, as Rattata came in for another strike, he managed to make a truly awful face at it. It was Rattata's turn to stumble, and Gary realized that while the females had Growl, the males must have Leer.
After getting hit with Leer, Rattata didn't feel like getting too close to Nidoran any more, but it had been advancing and it couldn't stop too quickly. Nidoran closed the gap, and Tackled it. Rattata bounced once, and managed to land on its feet, but it was clearly shaken.
At least he hadn't used the horn. If Male Nidoran had a horn move, he didn't seem to know it yet. He didn't seem to need it. He walked up to Rattata, Leering all the way, and Rattata was looking more and more nervous.
Suddenly, Nidoran stumbled. A Quick Attack after Tail Whip was no more healthy than Tackle after Leer, and Nidoran was not as healthy as he could have been.
Rattata saw an opening.
If Spearow couldn't see what it was attacking, Gary might have a better chance...
Then again, he might not. Gary recalled Pidgey, frustrated. Spearow had already beaten Rattata and female Nidoran. Gary wasn't about to send in Caterpie or Weedle; both would be weak against the Flying-type Spearow. "Nidoran! Go!"
He'd been a little nervous about the male Nidoran accepting his new station, but he'd calmed down nicely. He was back with his mate, and that was what mattered. It wasn't such a bad life, really. At least not with Gary.
Spearow flapped back up into the air, turned and swooped again. Male Nidoran was ready for it. "Leer Attack!"
Spearow lost some momentum in the face of that face, but recovered with a raucous squack; the Spearow's version of Growl left Nidoran's ears ringing and put them back on even ground.
Spearow dove in for the attack, Nidoran watched it descend, without moving to dodge, and suddenly jumped at it. Catching Spearow completely by surprise, Nidoran broke its swoop and knocked Spearow to the ground. It struggled furiously, but Nidoran had it caught. Before long, Gary had it caught.
Spearow had fought well, so Gary decided maybe it didn't need raising quite yet. After a quick stop in Viridian City to heal all of his pokémon, he would head to Pewter City.
Gary felt a chill. He'd always been rather good at knowing when he was being watched. He turned quickly, just in time to see a Rattata duck behind a rock. Curious, he followed it. Rattata would normally stand fast or flee at this point, not hide behind something nearby.
Gary swung around the rock, but the Rattata was gone. Gone? Where could it go? There was open plain in every direction. He could see it if it were running away. On impulse, he quickly swung back around the rock.
The Rattata!? What was it doing? Since when did Rattata have the wit to circle a rock to stay out of sight? Annoyed for no good reason, Gary swung back. "RATatata!" "RATat" "..."
Huh? No Rattata.
Gary jumped! The Rattata had doubled back and surprised him! In his moment of confusion, Rattata got away.
Gary seethed. Outsmarted by a Rattata! Since when were Rattata so smart? Gary's mind flashed back to other incidents. The Pidgey had reacted too quickly! The Pikachu had known it couldn't beat Kate's Bulbasaur! Gary remembered someone saying something about a Rattata after the Pokémon Center in Viridian had been destroyed. Gary thought perversely that maybe the Rattata had stopped Team Rocket. What was he thinking?
He shouted at nothing in particular. "Why are you so darn SMART!"
Gary was ready to take on Pewter Gym.
He was sure of it.
And here he was, in Viridian City.
Why wasn't he going already? Why was he still hanging around Routes 2 and 22 and Viridian Forest? He was bothered by those smart pokémon. He felt like there should be a final showdown. He'd gotten a postcard from Kate in Pewter City, saying she'd gotten a Boulder Badge and caught a Jigglypuff (THAT was what those cream-puff-things were called) and where was he? He really should have headed for Pewter by now. He'd hoped to see Kate again when he left Pallet, and he didn't want
to fall this far behind now that they'd met again. He didn't go. The postcard hadn't mentioned any smart pokémon near Pewter.
There had been other incidents. He now constantly felt watched. Sometimes it was a Pidgey, other times it was Rattata, and once or twice a Caterpie or Weedle was too smart for the species. He was getting jumpy, and some pokémon that behaved perfectly normal suddenly seemed sinister.
He wasn't sure exactly when he realized that he only saw one smart pokémon at a time. That was an odd revelation. Did it mean anything? He wasn't sure, but it seemed intriguing. He started looking for two at once. He tracked every one he saw until he lost it. He lost it every time.
Just like that Pikachu Kate had been after, that had suddenly vanished without a trace, the pokémon he trailed would just disappear. Pidgey flew into trees and didn't fly out, but weren't there when he climbed the tree. Rattata tracks ended in a strange muddle and didn't continue anywhere. Every so often, he saw a strange flash, and at some point he remembered he'd seen one after the original Pidgey incident. He started moving for flashes whenever he saw one.
Once, he saw something that left him totally confused, and wondering exactly what was going on.
At one flash site, Rattata tracks ran into Pidgey tracks, which continued for a few feet before disappearing in the muddle Rattata tracks had been disappearing in. In this context, Gary realized that the mess of dirt was made by wind as Pidgey took off. Were Rattata taking off? No, the Rattata tracks here became Pidgey tracks...
"Cue the 'High Noon' music. It's showdown time, smart guy."
The smart pokémon had finally made a mistake. Gary had come across a Weedle.
In Route 22.
Weedle weren't too fast, but it didn't matter in the ample cover of a forest. Route 22 was no forest. Now, Gary had Weedle cornered in a rocky dead end.
He'd battle it, and catch it. He should be able to get his own pokémon to tell him what was going on. Not that he could understand Weedle, but he had a feeling this one was smart enough to write English words in the dirt or something. "Pidgey! Go!"
Flying should beat Bug, no problem. This battle was already over.
"Weeeeedle!" Weedle started frantically going in circles as Pidgey advanced on it. Then, at the last moment, as Pidgey was coming in for the attack, it straightened, pointing straight at Pidgey. Its tail flipped, and Weedle jumped into Pidgey, scoring a Poison Sting and quickly flipping back. Pidgey recovered, chirped annoyance and came at it faster.
Suddenly, Weedle flashed like a light coming on. Something was happening, but Pidgey was blocking Gary's view...
"Pi Ka CHUUU!"
Pidgey fell to the ground and Gary saw that Weedle had been replaced by a Pikachu! They were all the same pokémon! Gary recalled Pidgey and thought furiously. He had nothing that was strong against Electric-types. He'd have to use something that just wasn't weak. "Rattata!"
Rattata came out of the Pokéball and immediately used Quick Attack. Quick as it was, Pikachu was faster. It dodged aside and sent a wave of electricity at Rattata.
"Huh? That's not what Thundershock looks like, is it?" Gary used his Pokédex scanner. It identified the move as Thunder Wave, which paralyzed the enemy. "Paralyze!?"
Rattata was standing there, not moving. It had a scared look on its face. It clearly couldn't move. Gary recalled it. This Pikachu must be a high level to know a move like that! This could be trouble. Gary needed his best pokémon for this. "Charmander! Attack!"
As Charmander was coming out, Pikachu flashed again. Charmander blinked at the brightness, and when it faded, fell back in shock.
It was a Squirtle, too!? Now that it was in trouble, it was using forms that would have been dead giveaways that something was fishy. Now Gary wished he'd caught a Pikachu. How could he battle this? This was obviously not your average match.
It had very little to do with normal matches.
Maybe the normal rules wouldn't apply.
Gary had a mini-battle with himself, and finally decided to go for it.
"Pidgey! Nidoran male and female! Spearow! Attack together!"
The battle lasted quite a while.
Gary's pokémon regrouped, and any that weren't weak against its current form attacked, with those that were actually strong against it in the lead if there were any. Gary didn't have a Paralyze Heal, so stored Rattata in favor of Weedle. He'd heal Rattata as soon as the battle was over.
The enemy went through all three starters, and every pokémon in Routes 1, 2, and 22. Rarely it even became a Raticate or Pidgeotto, evolved forms, but fortunately Charmander was tough enough to fight them. Once it became a Metapod and used Harden as fast as it could, but as soon as it became clear that this was not helping, it shifted again and never went back to that form. It never tried Kakuna.
Gary's pokémon were taking hits, but so was the smart pokémon. Fortunately, damage carried over when it changed, or Gary would have had no chance at all. Slowly, it was weakening.
Finally, as a Spearow, the pokémon got a hard hit on Gary's Weedle. It promptly fainted, and Gary recalled it, then got out his Pokédex to make an exchange. The smart pokémon got ready to face Gary's newest choice. Gary threw the Pokéball. All of the pokémon waited to see what came out. No one realized the ball was going to hit the smart pokémon until too late.
The empty ball hit the smart pokémon and drew it in. It struggled for several seconds, but the battle had weakened it too much. It was caught.
Gary cheered, recalled all of his pokémon and headed to Viridian to heal everyone. Of all of Gary's nine pokémon, only Caterpie had not been damaged; it was never in the battle. Now that the smart pokémon was his, Gary could wait to find the truth until his pokémon were healed.
Later that day, after everyone was healed, Gary sent out the smart pokémon. "Now, you're gonna tell me wha...wha...huh? What is that!?"
"Ditto. Although this Normal-type pokémon is weak in its natural form, it can use Transform, its only move, to turn into a perfect copy of the enemy. While Transformed, it can copy the enemy's attacks and has the same attack, defense, speed, and special attack power as the pokémon it has become."
"Wow! It can become anything it wants?"
"Ditto can only Transform into what it sees. In a pokémon battle, Ditto has only one possible transformation: the opponent."
"Wait a minute! That can't be right! This one Transformed into things it wasn't facing all the time!"
"All data in this Pokédex has been verified by Professor Woods of Pallet Town."
Gary looked at the...Ditto in front of him. It was jiggling like Jello...it was laughing! "What's so funny?...I'll find out what's up with you!" Gary recalled Ditto and marched out of the Pokémon Center. If Professor Woods was the expert on pokémon, he would know about Ditto Transforming into stuff it couldn't see.
"Ditto cannot Transform into a pokémon unless it can see that pokémon. For some, a picture will do, but what you've told me is simply impossible."
"But I saw it myself...here, I'll show you. Ditto! Go!"
"Ditto, Transform into a...Squirtle!"
"You know, a Squirtle! The blue thing with the shell and the curly tail? A Squirtle!"
"Come on, you did it before..."
"Please? Why won't you Transform?"
Professor Woods interrupted. "I have a theory...wait here while I get something." He left the room.
"Great. I'll bet he doesn't believe me." Gary glared at Ditto.
"Ditto, dit-dit-ditto! Ditto..." Ditto glanced nervously around. It didn't seem to like the lab.
"Huh? Would you rather Transform somewhere else?"
"Huh!? Why, you rat! Why didn't you Transform while Prof. Woods was here?"
"Because it didn't want to be found out."
Professor Woods had returned. "I watched Ditto Transform through a two-way mirror. Gary, you've never struck me as the type to bother people with ridiculous tales, so I assumed you were telling the truth. If this Ditto could Transform without seeing the target, there is one reason it might not do so in front of an expert. It may be worried that this will lead to scientific examinations, or even dissection. Of course, this assumes an unusual amount of intelligence, but from what you told me, this Ditto probably has plenty of that."
"Dissection? Professor, you won't..."
"Oh, no! Of course not! I only do live studies, and besides, this is your pokémon. If word gets out about this, though, it will undoubtedly draw the attention of less scrupulous scientists. I've heard some horror stories about the laboratory on Cinnabar Island, for example."
"Eh? You agree with me?"
"You came from there, didn’t you?"
The Squirtle/Ditto sighed, then began to Transform again. This form was rather large; in fact...
This form was human, and it wasn’t Gary or the Prof.
"I didn't just come from there. I used to work there. I had a rather low position, mostly odd jobs. Not quite important enough to know what was going on behind a few closed doors, but I heard rumors. They were cloning a new pokémon, and making it a real killer.
"One day, I was doing routine tests on a Ditto, to determine the highest level of abstraction from which it could Transform--that means," the man said, turning to Gary, "whether it could Transform based on just a picture, or a crude sketch, or even a verbal description.
"Something nearby exploded. Before I could do more than look up, the wall behind me was blown inward. I crashed into the table with the Ditto and we both flew into a shelf of chemicals. Everything flashed as another explosion right in front of us put every vial into a chemical reaction.
"When I woke up, I was in the body of the Ditto. The Ditto, now in my human body, was obviously as confused as I was, but I saw my body had been severely damaged by the explosions and chemicals. It wouldn't live long. I Transformed into myself--it didn't occur to me until later that a Ditto shouldn't be able to see only a damaged body and Transform into a healthy version.
"I got up and looked around at the devestation. I found out later that the killer pokémon they had been raising had escaped, destroying the building in the process. Everywhere was spilled chemicals, fried circuitry and crumbled walls. There were holes in the floor and cieling, and I could see more devestation in the other floors. There was fire in several places; I saw a Magmar run past at one point. I guess the escaped pokémon freed them from another lab."
"What's a Magmar?"
The man faced Gary again. "It's a very rare Fire-type pokémon. It looks like...well, it looks weird. Your Pokédex should have a picture of it."
"Hmm...that's a Magmar? That looks seriously weird!"
"Some people in fireproof suits were checking the rubble. They came across my dying body, then saw me, still Transformed into that body, across the hall. I don't know what they made of it, but they decided I was something to be detained, and yelled at me not to move. I realized what could happen if I was captured, so I ran. I turned back to Ditto at one point to make them lose me, but Ditto moves rather slowly in its
natural form. I needed a better Transformation--and that's when I came across another Magmar.
"Magmar glow with an orange light, letting them hide perfectly in fire. I Transformed into the Magmar and headed for the biggest fire in the area.
"While I was waiting for the men searching for me to leave, I realized the Magmar had ducked out of sight before I had Transformed. That was worth exploring. After the men were gone, I did some experiments and found that with my human intelligence and Ditto's Transforming power, I could Transform into anything I'd seen before, whether I could see it right then or not. I quickly realized, though, that I could only Transform into something if I had seen it after I had become a Ditto. My current forms, then, were Ditto, Magmar, and my human body. I suppose I could have become one of the men searching for me, but I'm ethically against Transforming into a human I don't have the consent of.
"I could live in the destroyed lab if I wanted; the Magmar seemed to want to do just that. I didn't feel like it, though. I left the building, getting a good look at every pokémon I could find there--I realized that the more forms I had, the better off I'd be. I found an Electabuzz someone had been examining..."
"What's an Electabuzz?"
"It's something like a Magmar, but Electric-type. Check your Pokédex."
Gary got out the Pokédex again. "Electabuzz...neat!"
"Anyway, I found an Electabuzz someone had been examining, some Fire-types that had been attracted there by all the flame, Poison-types that were there for a similar reason, and one I didn't recognize. If you have time, Professor, I'd like to show you that one later."
"As a matter of fact, I had decided to come see a Professor 'Oak' of Pallet about the whole thing. I went to the shore of Cinnabar Island, found a Horsea, Transformed and started swimming toward Pallet. I passed a number of Tentacool and Transformed into one so I'd blend in more easily. When I reached the grassy hill on Route 21 just south of here, I Transformed into Rattata, Raticate, Pidgey, Pidgeotto and Tangela--Check your Pokédex."
Gary, about to ask what a Tangela was, shut his mouth and checked the Pokédex. He had to stifle a giggle--Tangela looked like the spaghetti he'd had for supper last night, but a different color.
"I was right at Pallet when I realized I didn't know much about the Professor. For all I knew, he might decide the best course of action would be to detain me and contact the lab technicians. I passed by Pallet and into Route 1 and the surrounding areas, Transforming into the local pokémon while I thought about how I'd spend my life.
"It's been quite a while since then; I've learned that I only seem to age as a Ditto, so I've lived for some time as various local pokémon. ...I assume, by the way, that Professor Oak is deceased?"
"That's right. I was an aide of his."
"Since I got here, I've also fought some beginning trainers, not always intentionally, and Transformed into their first pokémon, so I've got those four as well."
Gary cut in. "Four? But aren't there only three starter pokémon?"
"Really? Uh, Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Pikachu..."
"Pikachu! I coulda started with a Pikachu?"
"...Now that I think about it, I haven't seen too many people with a Pikachu as a starter."
Professor Woods spoke up. "I believe you're thinking of Ash Ketchum. He's famous around here--the best trainer in the Pokémon League who had his roots in Pallet. If I remember right, he was late on his first day--all three of the starting pokémon had been taken, and Professor Oak had to do the best he could."
Pikachu really hadn't been an option, then. Gary wasn't sure if he should be relieved or disappointed.
"So, did you ever decide what to do with yourself?"
"Oh, yes. Ironically it was shortly before I was caught by Gary here. Some time ago, bandits attacked the Pokémon Center in Viridian City..."
Gary jumped up. "It was you, wasn't it! You stopped Team Rocket as a Rattata!"
"Wha...? Oh, no, no. Not as a Rattata. That was so I could escape relatively unnoticed--I take it it didn't work. No, I used other forms when I battled the pokémon thieves. I also transformed into the pokémon they were using: Ekans and Sandslash."
"Sandslash? I don't know that one...oh, right. Check my Pokédex." He found the entry and gulped--Sandslash looked like it could really hurt someone it didn't like.
"I used those and other forms from Cinnabar Island to defeat Team Rocket and force them to leave. I realized that with the power I have, I could stop Team Rocket any time I wanted. I know it sounds corny, but just like in the comics, with great power comes great responsibility. I decided to become a one-pokémon army against Team Rocket and all other pokémon thieves and crooked trainers. Of course, now, I don't know if all that
"No, you're right." Gary stood up. "No one should be allowed to do what Team Rocket is doing, using pokémon to do cruel things and stealing pokémon from others. We can work together to stop them!"
Professor Woods cut in. "Wait a minute, Gary. You mean you're going to keep...uh, what's your name?"
The Ditto-man turned. "Who, me? ...Just call me Ditto. It's what I am, now."
"If you insist, but Gary, now that you know Ditto is really a human like you, you're going to keep him as yours?"
Ditto smiled. "Well, I am a pokémon now, and Gary caught me fair and square...or at least as fair and square as the situation allowed. I watched him for a while, and I think he's the sort of trainer a pokémon would be lucky to have. Also, if he releases me, I may just be caught again, this time by a less favorable trainer. All in all, I'd rather stick with Gary."
Gary brightened. "Gee, thanks!"
After Ditto had shown Prof. Woods the strange pokémon he'd found in Cinnabar, and everyone had agreed that no one knew what it was, Gary went on his way. What the Prof. had said about a fellow human stuck with him, and he decided in the end to let Ditto travel with him the normal way, instead of in a Pokéball. Ditto would occasionally travel as one pokémon or another, but a large part of the time he was his human self.
"So, you're ready to go to Pewter City?"
"Sure am. Let's see how Pewter Gym likes my Squirtle!"
"Squirtle? Didn't you choose...who, me!? Oh, nononono, you can't use me in a trainer battle!" He reconsidered. "Well, as a regular Ditto, maybe. But you know what would happen if others learned about me..."
"The rumors would spread about this peculiar Ditto, and word would eventually reach Cinnabar Island. I suppose the incident with me has been forgotten by now, what with the larger disaster that had just taken place, but they'd be interested nonetheless."
"Oh. Of course; I guess I hadn't thought that through." Gary managed a weak grin. "I can't believe everything around here is weak against those Rock-types!"
"What about the Water-type pokémon in ponds?"
Gary paused. "I never found out how to get at those..." Suddenly he remembered his wistful idea from just before meeting the Nidoran. "Saaay...do you think you could Transform into Squirtle, go into the water...uh, fight whatever you find, and..." He gestured indecisively.
"Hmm...that's an interesting idea. Normally, one has to fish for wild Water-types, but I gather you don't happen to own a fishing rod. I suppose we could try your idea, though. Did you have a spot in mind?"
"Does it matter?"
"Well, you can find different pokémon in different areas."
"Oh. What can I find?"
"Well, let's see...there are three places you could find Water-types around here. There's a pond near Viridian City, and another on Route 22..."
"Yeah, I know the spot. Where else?"
"Remember that Pallet Town is near the ocean."
"Ooohh...all right, what can I find?"
"Hmm...there are Poliwag all over the place around here..."
"Those are the ones with the spiral on their front, right?"
"That's right, and they learn Hypnosis, which puts the enemy to sleep."
"Cool!" Gary knew better than to jump to a conclusion, though. "What else?"
"Well...you can catch Tentacool if you go past Pallet to the ocean...I think they're in the pond by Viridian, too. The pond in Route 22 has Goldeen, though...I think that's it."
"Okay, so..." Suddenly, Gary realized how little he knew about pokémon. What were Poliwag, Tentacool and Goldeen really like? What moves did each learn? Did they have good defense? How fast were they? He got out his Pokédex.
Poliwag was weak in attack, defense, and special ability, but it was faster than some. It learned the usual Water-type attacks, and a couple of physical attacks, and Hypnosis.
Tentacool wasn't as fast as Poliwag, but it had great special ability. It learned some weird attacks: it could Wrap the enemy in its tentacles, it could confuse the enemy, it could ooze Acid...but it didn't learn a real Water-type attack for a while.
Goldeen didn't have the speed of Poliwag or the special ability of Tentacool, but it actually had a decent attack and defense. It had a number of good physical attacks, and even a Flying-type attack which, Gary realized, would be useful against the Grass-types that would otherwise beat it easily. However...Gary looked down the list of moves, and
discovered that Goldeen only learned one Water-type attack, and that rather late.
"Hmm...Tentacool and Goldeen look neat, but if I'm facing Rock-types, I really need Water-type attacks, so I think we should look for Poliwag. Besides, that means we can look anywhere we want, right? And I like the sound of Hypnosis."
"Okay. Since we're on the road to Viridian City, how about we find one there? It's right on the way to Pewter."
In Squirtle form, Ditto dove into the water of the pond near Viridian City. Gary waited by the shore, hoping Ditto could find a Poliwag and hoping this idea would work. He'd have to get a fishing rod at some point.
The pond wasn't really that big, just big enough not to dry out between rains. If a crowd were on the other side he could pick out people he knew easily. Gary wondered how many pokémon could be in a pond this size.
Ditto was taking a long time. Had he found a Poliwag yet? Was there a battle going on now? Gary tried to see under the surface. He stepped into the pond to get a better look.
He couldn't really see anything, but...but he could definitely feel something...something was coiling around his leg...
Gary practically threw himself out of the pond, and a Tentacool that had been wrapping a tentacle around his leg got thrown off and landed on the ground. After getting up, it started to move, tentacles moving like twin Ekans.
It wasn't quite in the direction of the pond. It was heading straight for Gary.
Gary started backing up, but Tentacool kept coming after him. Maybe it wasn't pleased at the intrusion and wanted to make sure Gary wouldn't disturb its pond again.
Gary tried to stay calm. This was what having trained pokémon was for, right? Well, other than fighting fellow trainers. Protection in the wild, yeah, that was it. "You want a fight? I'll give you a fight! Spearow, go!"
Spearow appeared, flew into the air, sighted its target and dove at it. Tentacool started to...it sounded like humming...Gary referenced his Pokédex. "Supersonic?"
The noise affected Spearow somehow. It broke its swoop, looking puzzled. It seemed to have forgotten where it was. "Spearow, attack the Tentacool!"
Spearow looked around, and discovered, apparently to its great surprise, that there was actually a Tentacool there. It dove at it again, but not with its usual speed or accuracy. Tentacool reached up with one tentacle and batted it away.
"Hey! Spearow, Peck it!"
Spearow walked over to it and tried to Peck a tentacle, but Tentacool kept moving them and leading Spearow all over the beach. Tentacool's eyes were shining with undisguised mirth. Finally, it jerked its tentacles forward and started quickly waving them at Spearow, and Spearow actually backed up a few steps.
"Ah...Spearow, fly up and dive at it!"
Spearow considered this, then flew up into the air, looked around, found the Tentacool, and dove at it. Tentacool moved to the side, and Spearow, supremely unaware, zipped by and crashed into the ground!
"AAhhh! Spearow! Oh, this isn't working..." Spearow looked like it wanted to try that again, but Gary could see it couldn't keep this up much longer. Gary recalled it. "Rattata!"
Rattata came out, dashed at the Tentacool and tried to use Hyper Fang, but as soon as it was near, Tentacool reached out and Wrapped a tentacle around it. Tentacool lifted the distraught Rattata into the air and started to squeeze. "Ratrat...rat...raaatt..." Gary recalled Rattata, the beam from the Pokéball pulling it out of the Tentacool's grasp.
Ditto could have handled this. Maybe he should call Ditto back...suddenly a splash from the pond caught his attention. A panicked Poliwag was jumping over the surface, while a Squirtle held on grimly to its tail. Gary sighed as they plunged back under; Ditto was rather busy at the moment.
Gary looked back at the Tentacool. It was less than a foot from his leg! Gary hastily jumped back, while throwing Pidgey's Pokéball. "Pidgey! Quick Attack!" Maybe the attack would be too quick for Tentacool to counter...
As soon as Pidgey came out, Tentacool flipped a tentacle, flinging some weird brown stuff. Recalling Tentacool's moves, Gary realized what it was. Before he could react, Pidgey's Quick Attack had carried it right into Tentacool's Acid attack. Pidgey stumbled over itself and landed in the dirt in front of Tentacool, who started pumping Acid again. Gary recalled Pidgey.
Gary couldn't call out Charmander, Fire against Water was not a good thing..."Nidoran! Go!" He wasn't sure which one was in this Pokéball, and he didn't care much...
It was the male. As he'd suspected, male Nidoran had a horn move, and his own had learned it by now. "Horn Attack!"
Tentacool used Supersonic again. Nidoran stumbled over himself, and against all odds, managed to get his horn stuck in the sand. Gary sighed, and recalled him. "Female Nidoran!...uh, Scratch!"
Nidoran came out and charged at the Tentacool. Gary was starting to see a pattern now. Sure enough, Tentacool reached out and Wrapped Nidoran before she could bring her claws into play. Nidoran struggled against her bonds, and tried to Scratch the tentacle around her, but the angle was all wrong. She stopped trying as the Tentacool started to squeeze in earnest. Gary recalled her.
Obviously, a close-range attack was no help. Gary reviewed his options, while watching the Tentacool; it still approached Gary whenever it wasn't battling his pokémon. Who had long-range attacks? Charmander did, but Ember was no help against a Water-type. Pidgey had Gust, but it had been hit with Acid and Gary didn't want to send it out again until it could be healed. Ditto...as if to prove the situation, a large group of bubbles suddenly surfaced on the lake; the battle with Poliwag must be getting interesting.
Out of ideas, Gary decided to try the pokémon he hadn't yet, in case they could offer something. He deposited the two Nidoran, and withdrew Caterpie and Weedle.
Caterpie and Weedle? How good an idea was this? But Gary had no better ideas. He tried to think of ways he could use the two here...
Gary threw Weedle's Pokéball hard. "Poison Sting now!" Weedle shot out of the ball like a bullet and rammed into Tentacool, then tried to get free. With a cross expression, Tentacool reached up, yanked Weedle out, and threw it back to Gary. It didn't seem affected at all; as a Poison-type, it was strong against Poison Sting. Gary recalled Weedle. "Caterpie! Go!" Actually, Caterpie wouldn't be much help, either, all it had was Tackle...no, Tackle and...hmm...why not?
Nothing else was working...
"Caterpie! String Shot now!"
Caterpie began shooting sticky strands. Tentacool, not sure how to handle this, raised its tentacles in self-defense. The strands wrapped themselves around the tentacles, and before long they were tied together! Tentacool tried to rip the string apart, but the bond was too strong. It tried to move on the part of its tentacles that was past the tie, but it couldn't balance on the rest of the tentacle. It was helpless! "Now, Tackle it!"
Not all that helpless after all, the annoyed Tentacool Wrapped up Caterpie in its effectively shortened tentacles and squeezed. Gary tried to recall it, but this time Tentacool had its victim completely covered. The recall beam couldn't penetrate the tentacles. Caterpie was starting to squeal in pain.
Gary's mind raced. What could he do? All of his other pokémon were either wounded, like Pidgey, useless, like Charmander, incapacitated, like Spearow, or busy, like Ditto. Female Nidoran might have been okay...why had he deposited her? He should have deposited Pidgey or Charmander or something. He didn't have time to transfer now. No one could help...
Waitaminute...Weedle! Nothing had really happened to Weedle. It had been beneath Tentacool's notice. It might still be, but Gary was desperate. Every little bit helped, right?
"Weedle, Poison Sting! Aim for the tentacles!" Weedle came out, but Tentacool quickly shifted Caterpie behind it. Weedle moved as fast as it could to the other side, but Tentacool moved Caterpie back to the front and gave it a couple of tight squeezes to taunt Weedle. Weedle began to circle Tentacool again, but as soon as its head came around, Tentacool moved Caterpie behind again, right near Weedle's tail.
It had forgotten Weedle had stingers at both ends.
Going by feel, it jammed its tail stinger into the tentacles. Poison Sting remained ineffective, but you can't just ignore a puncture wound in a thin appendage. The tentacles uncoiled automatically, and Caterpie fell to the ground, shook itself, moved quickly away from Tentacool, and then straightened bravely again, though it was trembling from its ordeal.
"Now, String Shot!" Both thinking he was talking to it, Weedle and Caterpie let loose. With its tentacles still tied, Tentacool couldn't maneuver well, and soon was covered in strands. Its eyes were blocked by a kind of blindfold, and its tentacles were now secured by the tips. Deciding it really was helpless this time, Gary opted for what would probably be the stronger attack. "Tackle it!"
Caterpie charged, riding a rush of vengeful fury, and slammed into Tentacool so hard it bounced a few times down the beach before splashing into the pond again. Struggling against its merciless bonds, it sank beneath the surface.
Gary blinked. It was that easy? He checked the Pokédex. It was that easy! He'd forgotten for a moment how poor Tentacool's defense was. He'd won. He'd won! Gary let out a big sigh of relief, until he noticed Caterpie and Weedle.
They were pointing straight up, and looked as rigid as sticks. Suddenly both began using String Shot again--straight up! Strands were drifting back down again and settling on Caterpie and Weedle.
A movement caught his eye. Squirtle was hauling a dazed Poliwag onto the shore. He called over. "Hey, look at this!"
After getting Poliwag a good distance from the pond, Ditto turned to look at Caterpie and Weedle, and Transformed to human so he could speak. "Oh, your Bug-types are evolving! Congratulations!"
"Oh, that's what they're doing?"
"Yes, they're covering themselves with thread that will harden into the shells of Metapod and Kakuna."
Gary looked back. Both pokémon were now covered in several layers of sticky thread. He couldn't see some of their features anymore, and the coating was starting to harden. His first pokémon to evolve...
Ditto broke his reverie. "Uh, you might want to capture that Poliwag while it's still out. It won't get far on land, but it will resist the Pokéball a lot more if it's conscious."
"Go, Poliwag! Bubble!"
It turned out Poliwag only knew one attack: Bubble, the weakest Water-type Attack of all. Fortunately, it was only one level away from learning Hypnosis when it had been caught, so that would help. Unfortunately, it would be a few more before it learned the stronger Water Gun.
Now, Gary was raising Poliwag to Hypnosis before heading through Viridian Forest to Pewter City. He was excited about finally going to Pewter, but he'd never been very far into Viridian Forest, and what he'd heard about it was not promising. That was later, though.
Poliwag emerged, and started blowing bubbles at the Caterpie they'd found. It was a good thing the pokémon in that pond were of a higher level than those in this forest, because Bubble probably wouldn't be doing much if Poliwag and Caterpie were the same level. As it was, the swarm of bubbles now covering Caterpie were visibly bothering it, and it jumped as much as it was able when one popped on it, running into others
which then popped on it. Finally, it turned and ran away as fast as it could.
Gary sighed. These battles were better than none, but they seemed rather trivial. He couldn't wait for a real attack.
Just then, a Weedle dropped down from a tree. Gary paused; they didn't usually drop down on him. It must have slipped. Poliwag, as surprised as Gary, tried to back away from Weedle--and fell on its back.
Weedle recovered from the fall, looked around and immediately saw Poliwag struggling to get up. Its little feet were waving uselessly, and Weedle mistook that for a threat and attacked.
"Poliwag! Use Bubble on the Weedle!" Poliwag, who couldn't see much except trees and sky from where it was, tried to look ahead of it, saw Weedle's stinger advancing, and frantically started blowing bubbles. They went straight up. Weedle had scored a few Poison Stings before Gary gave up and recalled Poliwag. "Nidoran! Go!"
Female Nidoran emerged and used Scratch. Weedle got hit so hard it was flipped into the bushes on the side of the trail. Gary recalled Nidoran and turned for the Viridian Pokémon Center in case Poliwag had been poisoned. He'd have to work on Poliwag's balance.
"Okay, Poliwag, try to take a step."
Poliwag lifted its left foot and began to wobble. Nervously it put the foot down again--too hard. It tilted over onto its left side and, from the weight of its tail, rolled from there onto its back.
As Gary lifted Poliwag back onto its feet, he grumbled inwardly about that tail. If Poliwag had stayed on its side, it could still have attacked an enemy in front of it. Poliwag simply wasn't built for land travel. It would be fine if it could fight in water all the time, but he doubted they'd let him carry a tub of water into Pewter Gym just to help Poliwag battle.
Gary turned to Ditto, who was watching the whole thing. "Does it ever get better?"
"Oh, yes. Poliwag evolves into Poliwhirl, which has arms and no tail. It can travel on land as easily as it moves through water."
Gary checked his Pokédex, found the level that would happen, and grimaced. There was no way he could get Poliwag through that many battles without finding a more immediate solution.
Maybe if Poliwag didn't hesitate, it wouldn't fall. "All right, this time, try not to pause like that. Just pick up the foot and bring it right back down in front of you."
Poliwag shivered nervously, then closed its eyes, lifted its right foot and took a step. It wasn't quite balanced right, though, and Poliwag took on a look of dismay as it teetered and fell backwards.
Gary glared at the tail as soon as it became obvious Poliwag would end up on its back again, and that was when he noticed. Poliwag was shifting its tail as it fell, no doubt out of instinct, to keep it from getting crushed under Poliwag's body.
This time, when Gary had Poliwag upright, he tried a different tack. "Poliwag, can you wag your tail?" The tail moved left and right. Ditto raised an eyebrow. "Can you move it up and down?" Poliwag did so. "Okay, now try to keep it stiff in one place!" Poliwag stuck its tail out and kept it there. Gary tried to bend the tail. It resisted.
"Okay, now, keep your tail where it is and try to take a step." Poliwag whimpered silently, closed its eyes, lifted a foot and almost had it down again when its other foot lost its grip on the floor. This time, Poliwag landed on its tail--and stopped! Poliwag was so surprised it let go of the tail, which made it lose its support and started it falling again. Gary caught it before it could land on the tail.
"Okay, can we try that again? And this time, don't let your tail relax."
It turned out that Poliwag could attack while leaning on its tail. Gary tried to get it to flip its tail to push it back to a standing position, but Poliwag couldn't keep the tail stiff and flip it at the same time; before the tail could flip, it would sag and Poliwag would start falling.
At least it could attack from that angle. It was better than nothing. Gary just needed to trian Poliwag to stiffen its tail whenever it started falling backward. With that minor victory, he headed back to Viridian Forest.
Gary was lost.
Completely, totally and hopelessly lost.
He'd decided to go ahead toward Pewter City, hoping there'd be enough opposition on the way for Poliwag to learn Water Gun by the time he got there. He didn't know how big Viridian Forest was, but he would not be surprised if it was a lot longer than Route 1.
Unfortunately, the forest was more dense than he'd realized, and he had lost not only the way to Pewter City but also the way back to Viridian City. He didn't have a clue which was closer anyway.
He should have had a map. He wished he'd thought to look for one, or at least a guide. Someone who knew the place...
A Pidgey glided down near him--and Transformed. "Are you following something, or are you lost? You know you're going in the wrong direction for Pewter City."
Ditto! Of course! "You know the way, right? Could you lead me to Pewter?"
"Sure! This way!" He Transformed back to Pidgey and flew into a tree on Gary's left.
Gary got up and followed Ditto. "What could I have been following?"
From his perch on another tree farther away, Ditto Transformed. "Pi Pika!"
"Oh, right!" Gary thought about that. Pikachu were pretty rare here. He probably wouldn't find one. Then he thought about what would happen if he did. He was raising a Poliwag. Higher level or not, a Pikachu could take on Poliwag and win without too much trouble. Besides, Pikachu wouldn't help in Pewter Gym, right? "Why would I want one if I did see it?"
Ditto Transformed. "Well, they are extremely rare, you know, and they're the only Electric-types to be found anywhere for quite a distance. I know they're not worth much in Pewter Gym, but if I remember right, you've already been in two situations which would have been much simpler if you'd had a Pikachu."
Gary grinned; Ditto himself had been the opponent the first of those times. "Point taken."
"As a matter of fact, if I remember right...I think the Water-type Gym isn't far from Pewter City. Pikachu would certainly help there, and as I said before, where else can you catch one?"
"What? First Rock, then Water? Whoever put those Gyms there must have really hated Charmander!...Maybe I should try to get one while I'm here...but I'm not likely to find one. Even if I did get near a Pikachu, it'd leave as soon as it saw me."
Ditto looked thoughtful for a moment. "I have an idea. I can keep an eye out for one while I'm guiding you to Pewter. We've got a way to go; somehow you got turned around and we're really not that far from Viridian City here." Gary's jaw dropped. "It won't run from me if it thinks I'm just another wild pokémon. If I find one, I'll alert you."
Viridian Forest turned out to be so big Gary had to spend the night there. Early afternoon the next day, Ditto spotted a Pikachu.
It Transformed into one, then back to Pidgey and flew off to the right. Gary heard rustles ahead of Ditto; the flashes must have scared it. He tried to keep up, but soon lost Ditto. "Ditto! Slow down! I can't follow a Pidgey this fast!"
A flash up ahead showed Ditto Transforming again. A bright orange pokémon with black stripes dropped from a tree and started running along the ground. Assuming that was Ditto, Gary ran after it, and pulled out his Pokédex to identify it along the way.
"Growlithe. This Fire-type pokémon is very
protective of its territory, barking loudly at all intruders. Like most Fire-types, it is rare in the wild." Wow! Where had Ditto seen one of those? Gary remembered there had been a lot of Fire-types at the lab Ditto had escaped from. There must be Growlithe there. In any case, it certainly made Ditto easier to track. For the first time, Gary began to really wonder about what forms Ditto had.
Ditto stopped, and growled at a tree. Gary could see a hollow at the base. "Pikachu went in there?" Ditto nodded and moved away. Gary threw a Pokéball. "Rattata! Go!"
Rattata appeared, looked around for an enemy, and found Ditto/Growlithe. It got ready for the attack, but when Gary saw what was happening, he cut off Rattata. "No! Growlithe is helping us! The enemy is in the hollow tree over there!"
Rattata contemplated Ditto, still not sure, but Ditto ran to Gary's side and sat there, grinning. Rattata gave the Rattata equivalent of a shrug and started into the hollow tree.
Before it had gone far, a burst of electricity lit up the hole. Pikachu burst out and tried to run for it. "Rattata! Quick Attack the Pikachu!" Rattata, a little singed, flew out of the hollow and stopped Pikachu short. Pikachu picked itself up and used Thundershock again. Rattata squealed, but wasn't too badly hurt. After all the time Gary had spent before going to Pewter, his pokémon were all a much higher
level than Viridian Forest pokémon. As if to prove it again, Rattata Quick Attacked again and Pikachu collapsed. Gary threw a Pokéball. Pikachu didn't even struggle.
Gary blinked. Once Ditto had cornered the Pikachu, capturing it had been pretty easy. His pokémon were just too powerful for this place. It was really time to move on.
Gary couldn't help feeling excited.
He was finally in Pewter City, and soon the moment he'd been training for would be at hand.
Could he defeat the gym leader?
Could he win his own Boulder Badge?
Could he read this stupid map?
"You're sure you don't know the layout of the city, Ditto?"
"Sorry, I never actually entered the city. The Pokémon Center should be somewhere prominent, though. Try starting in the center of town."
"Which way is the center of town?"
"Can I see that map?"
Ditto looked around for a street sign. "Do you know where we are now?"
"I need a street sign to know where we are, but I don't see any at this intersection."
"Should we look for one, then?"
"I guess. Or we could ask someone..."
"I haven't seen anyone, have you?"
"Say, no! That's peculiar..."
A police officer on a motorcycle turned a corner, saw them and pulled over to them. "Hey, didn't you hear about the lock-in?"
While Gary scratched his head in puzzlement, Ditto spoke up. "Uh, we're new here. Is something special going on?"
"Have you heard about Team Rocket's recent activity in Viridian City?"
"Yes, we have."
"Members of Team Rocket have been sighted near here. All citizens have been instructed to remain indoors until the situation is clear."
About then, the officer realized Gary was staring at her. "Is something wrong?"
"I'm not sure but you look awfully familiar..."
The officer sighed and opened her mouth to say something, but just then an explosion rocked the street. Almost in unison Gary and Ditto said, "What's that?"
"Probably Team Rocket making their move. I need to check on it, but you two should find somewhere safe!" With that, the officer sped off in the direction of the explosion.
Gary and Ditto looked at each other.
Gary grinned. "So what should we do?"
Ditto smiled back. "I assume you have no intention of finding somewhere safe."
After the explosion, it was easy to find the pokémon center--the huge column of smoke marked it for miles. Gary and Ditto took side streets and alleys to avoid being found by another police officer; faced with the threat of Team Rocket, even the homeless had found somewhere indoors to be.
The center had a big hole in the side, and staff were running out of it as explosions continued inside. Everyone was too busy fleeing to take real notice of the only two people entering instead of leaving.
The corridors were a mess. Doors were hanging open at a crazy angle; the locks looked like they had been gouged out. There were pokémon in some rooms who had obviously been in a battle recently and had not won.
"Did Team Rocket attack those pokémon?" Gary wondered.
"I don't know. If Team Rocket had defeated these pokémon, they probably would have captured them--especially that Pinsir back there, that's quite a rare pokémon. I don't know who else could have, though; the wounds are too fresh to have been there when the pokémon were brought here."
"Well, isn't this Team Rocket's doing?"
"I'm pretty sure it is; aside from their being in the area, and having done this sort of thing just recently in Viridian, all of the defeated pokémon we've seen have injuries that could have been sustained while battling an Ekans or a Sandslash."
"Right, those are the pokémon Team Rocket used last time, aren't they?"
After the next fork, they found themselves in a corridor where the doors hadn't been forced. They could hear a commotion ahead. Before long, Gary realized Team Rocket was going up this corridor in the other direction. They were going to run into each other!
Sure enough, they soon came to doors that had been slashed, but there was no one here. Another Rattata ran out of a room and dashed between them. Gary turned to watch it, and when he turned back, smoke was pouring out of the rooms on either side of the hall in front of them!
A voice sounded from each side.
"Prepare for trouble!"
"Make it double!"
There were two of them, alternating lines.
"To protect the world from devestation!" A girl's voice; she sounded like the type who cracked Metapod open for fun.
"To unite all peoples within our nation." A boy, this time; someone who thought he was cool, but wasn't.
"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"
"To extend our reach to the stars above!"
The smoke with thinning in all but one area between them; Gary could see them now, standing in the hall in front of him. Their pokémon were at their side.
"Team Rocket! Blast off at the speed of light!"
"Surrender now, or prepare to fight!"
Suddenly, a new voice joined, as the smoke coalesced in the middle.
"And you don't want that."
Abruptly both people turned on the pokémon hovering between them. "Gastly, that's not your line!"
"Well, I'm tired of always saying 'That's Right!' That's my only line? I deserve better!"
"But you're ruining the traditional Team Rocket Intro!"
After the surprise had passed, Gary got out his Pokédex to find out about this strange pokémon.
"Gastly. One of the mysterious Ghost-type pokémon, who exist in a gaseous state. Its hypnotic powers are legendary, and no physical attack can harm it. Approach with extreme caution."
This was a dangerous pokémon! Gary looked up...and sighed. They were still bickering.
While he checked the Pokédex info on Ekans and Sandslash, Ditto stepped behind him--and Transformed into his "natural" Ditto body. He moved out and waited. Before long, Team Rocket noticed him there.
Both humans froze. "You!"
Ditto Transformed into Gastly. "So, you have an English-speaking pokémon with you this time. Good. Now I don't have to Transform into you fools to talk to you."
Caught off guard, Gary quickly hid a smile. Ditto was hiding what he'd really gotten out of the Transformation.
Gastly raised an eyebrow. "Is this the 'horrible monster' who so easily defeated you in Viridian City?"
Clyde glared at Ditto. "This is one of the intelligent pokémon we're after, but it's too devious to be captured!"
"Of course it is! That's why we want it!" With that confusing statement, Gastly turned to Ditto. "So, you're the reason I had to leave the balloon unguarded this time. Well, we'll soon see if you're worthy of the form you're wearing!"
The air glowed around Gastly as it began a hypnotic attack. Ditto countered with his own mind-bending aura. Immense ethereal forces clashed in the space between the two.
Gary quickly grew bored. The two were so well matched that they could struggle like this for hours and neither would gain an advantage. He cycled through his options and chose his move. "Go, Charmander! Ember!"
Charmander appeared, correctly guessed that one of the Gastly was the target, tried to choose which one, and failed. It turned to Gary, perplexed.
"The nearer one is on our side! Attack the farther one!"
Charmander nodded and sent a blast of fire at Team Rocket's Gastly. Caught up in concentration, Gastly never saw it coming. Physical attacks might not harm it, but special attacks seemed to do quite nicely. Gastly reeled--and was flattened as its defenses against Ditto faltered. Ditto's otherworldly blast continued and ripped up the tiling in the hall for a few feet before he realized there was no resistance.
Bonnie and Clyde turned to Gary. "Hey, we're the ones who are supposed to cheat!" Bonnie cried. Clyde glowered. "You're helping this freak?"
Gary saw a chance to press his advantage. "I captured it. Ditto is mine now." He grinned as that sunk in.
Bonnie's mouth worked. "You...you, you captured one of the intelligent pokémon?"
Gary mimed whistling. "What intelligent pokémon?"
"Don't play games with me! You know perfectly well there have been reports of oddly intelligent pokémon in the areas around Viridian Forest!"
Gary worked that out. Team Rocket must not have realized that they had all been Ditto. "I think if you look now you won't find any smart pokémon left in the wild."
His ploy worked. "You caught all of them!?"
Out the corner of his eye, Gary saw Ditto struggling not to burst out laughing. He'd better wrap this up quick. "That's right," he said, trying to sound menacing, "I've caught every smart pokémon in the whole area!"
Clyde got a bright idea. "You're lying! You're just trying to protect the others, aren't you! Well, it won't work! We'll find them! Gastly, get us out of here!" Gastly, who had recovered from its loss but still looked pale, exploded into smoke, and when it cleared they had vanished.
Ditto lost his poise. "Did you see the look on Clyde's face!?" He hooted.
Gary grinned. "Now they'll spend days looking for you in Viridian Forest!"
Ditto tried to calm down. "We-he should probably leave. We don't want to have to answer too many questions."
The clerk at the hardware store jerked his head up when he heard a knock at the door. Strange...wasn't there a lock-in order in effect?
He lumbered over to the door. Whoever it was, he sure as heck didn't look like a Rocket--not unless they were recruiting pretty young these days. "Hey, what are you doing outside?"
"Sorry, sir, I just arrived in town and a police officer told me to get indoors. Can I stay here for now?"
The clerk shrugged. "Sure, why not? Got lots of people in here who couldn't leave the store when the order came out. Make yourself at home--but don't mess with the merchandise."
The clerk watched the kid go in. A visitor his age? No, wait--he had Pokéballs on him. A new trainer, then, on a journey for Gym badges, just like that other one. The clerk grunted. He couldn't understand the mentality. Last he knew, pokémon training wasn't a paying job. They must "live off the land" or something. Good job he wasn't running a grocery--he'd be paranoid of them.
Gary sighed. It had been even easier than he'd thought to find a place where he wouldn't really be noticed until the police were sure the threat had passed. Just in case, though, he'd recalled Ditto; one person would be less noticable than two. He'd have to remember to ask Ditto what it was like in a Pokéball.
Eventually, they'd lift the order, and then Gary could go to the Pewter City Pokémon Gym...no, he couldn't yet. Poliwag hadn't quite learned Water Gun yet. It was close, but close didn't count. Gary sighed. He couldn't do anything until it was alright to go out again.
He looked around at the other people waiting. Many had obviously been shopping here when the lock-in came into effect and hadn't been able to leave, but some were recent visitors like himself. One man with a typical wanderer's bundle was grumbling to himself about staying in one place. A couple had been stopped in a trip to somewhere else and were getting anxious about how late they were. One kid had a backpack with traveling
essentials, like Gary...and he had Pokéballs, too!
Gary walked up to the other boy. "Hi! Are you here to see Pewter Gym?"
The boy looked up. "Hell yeah! There's nutton else to do around here! You been there? Got'ny inside info I could use?"
Gary tried to keep his face neutral, but mentally he backed away a little. "Uh, no, I haven't gotten there yet either."
"Damn...Name's Brad. You wanna battle when we get outta here?" He said it as if he were in jail. "My 'mon could use some experience."
'Mon? An eyebrow shot up unbidden. "Uh...sure. I've got one that needs raising, too. My name's Gary."
"Uh, you know what, Gary? You say 'uh' a lot!"
Gary was saved from thinking of a response by the radio. "This just in--the lock-in order in effect in Pewter City has been removed. Repeat: the lock-in order in effect in Pewter City has been removed. I have Officer Jenny of Pewter Police with a report on the situation..."
"The Pewter City Pokémon Center fell under attack. The building has taken heavy damage..."
That's her! Gary realized. The motorcycle officer who found me and Ditto earlier. The voice was unmistakable. Why did she seem so familiar?
"Many pokémon at the Center are now in critical condition, but as in Team Rocket's baffling attack on Viridian City, no pokémon were stolen. This may just be a spree of destruction, as unusual as that is for Team Rocket."
The announcer came back on. "Later, however, we interviewed a clerk from the Center, and he had this to say:"
"I think they were looking for something, really. They tore the place apart very methodically. What I can't understand is why they attacked every pokémon they found. Some of those pokémon were already weak enough to be caught without a battle, but now we may have to fight to keep them alive! We're just lucky they didn't reach intensive care."
"Didn't they destroy the whole building?"
"No, that's the funny part. They destroyed the west wing, but they didn't go all the way down the east wing. There's a spot in the hall where they wreaked total devestation--not a tile was left on the walls or floor there. After that, there's no sign they were ever there. If I'm right and they were looking for something, they may have found it there."
The announcer returned again. "We'll keep you posted, as we learn more of Team Rocket's baffling behavior."
Gary sighed with relief. There was no evidence that Team Rocket had been stopped by a young boy and an intelligent Ditto. Just then, someone tugged at his arm.
"Come on, pal!" Brad said. "We've got a battle to fight!"
As if the day hadn't been long enough...
There was a patch of dirt in the park that kids too young for the Gym used for pokémon battles. Gary and Brad went there, and prepared for battle.
"When I've beaten you," Brad announced, "I think I'll head to the Gym and see if I'm strong enough yet."
"Funny," Gary countered, "I was just thinking the same thing!"
Brad stared. "You got a Poliwag!? What do you need raisin' for?"
"It hasn't learned a move I want yet."
Brad shrugged. "Then maybe I can beat it after all. Charmander, Rage!"
Rage? This Charmander must be a higher level than Gary's. "Poliwag, Bubble!"
Charmander closed the gap between it and Poliwag, and took a swipe at it with a claw. Poliwag stuttered Bubbles at it, and the claw stopped as Charmander reacted to the bubbles popping on its skin. It reared back, bellowed and took another swipe, this one more forceful. Poliwag got hit, and swayed with the impact.
Gary knew what came next. "Poliwag, Stiffen!"
"Stiffen? What kinda screwed-up move is that?"
Poliwag knew what it was, if Brad didn't. It stiffened its tail as it tottered and fell, and landed still almost upright. Gary paused as he realized he'd invented a new move, then called, "Bubble now!"
Poliwag shot out more bubbles. Charmander, caught off guard by an attack from what should have been a helpless opponent, was hit several times. Since the bubbles were being shot at an angle, they ended up drifting down onto its head, and it wasn't doing a good job of blocking.
Brad grew sick of playing defense. "Charmander, attack it!"
Charmander charged through the bubbles and swiped at Poliwag again, but Poliwag was still sitting at an odd angle, and Charmander missed by a few inches. Poliwag, surprised at the near miss, hiccuped and a large bubble came out, wobbling oddly. It reached Charmander just as the force of the swipe had carried Charmander in a half-circle.
The bubble hit Charmander's flame, popped--and dumped water on it! The bubble had been filled with water! Charmander leaped about a foot, screaming all the way, and hung there for a second before crashing to the ground. The impact flipped Poliwag in the air like a Tiddley-Wink chip, and it came down on its side, trying to Stiffen and getting nowhere.
Brad recalled Charmander. "You'll pay for that!" Gary didn't feel like reminding Brad who'd decided a Charmander could beat a Poliwag. "Go, Rattata!"
Poliwag was still on its side, and obviously wouldn't be much help. Gary recalled it. Who should he use? Pikachu needed raising, but it needed it too badly. If Brad's Charmander was any indication, Pikachu was much too weak to fight in this battle. "Pidgey! Go!"
"Rattata, Hyper Fang!"
"Pidgey, Sand Attack!"
Gary's Pidgey began flapping its wings and blowing up sand from the ground as Brad's Rattata opened its mouth and charged. Gary and Brad realized what would happen at about the same time. Rattata ended up with a mouthful of sand and stopped dead in its tracks, coughing and hacking. Pidgey, surprised, flapped up and settled a few inches further from the spluttering Rattata.
Gary pressed his advantage. "Gust!"
Happy not to have to get closer to Rattata, Pidgey flapped its wings harder. The bleary-eyed Rattata tried to find a foothold, but lost and flipped over onto its back.
Brad recalled it. "Worthless furball...okay, one more time! Spearow, go!"
Gary recalled Pidgey, knowing how strong Spearow was. "Go, Charmander!"
"Gee, how'd I guess you'd have one of those? Spearow, Fury Attack!"
Spearow came at Charmander in a power dive, braked at the last minute and swiped at Charmander repeatedly with its talons. Charmander tried to Scratch it, but the talons were too fast. "Charmander, Ember!"
Charmander flared up briefly, and Spearow backed away with singed talons, then dove in again. "Growl!" That took some force out of Spearow's dive. "Now, Scratch it!"
Charmander charged to meet the Spearow and swung a claw, this time catching the bird in the midriff. Spearow fell to the ground. It tried to get up, but with singed claws and a scratched belly it wasn't doing too well. Brad recalled it.
"All right, you win. You sure are strong!" That comment puzzled Gary--his pokémon were the ones who were strong. "Good luck in the Gym, right?"
Gary smiled, and shook Brad's hand. "Good luck to you, too."
Gary looked up...
Pewter Gym was huge!
The building looked like it was carved out of solid rock. The words "Pewter City Pokémon Gym" were carved into the front, above the door, which was also solid rock.
There was a man standing at the door, looking official. Gary asked him, "Do all the Gyms look like this?"
The man considered. "If you mean made outta solid rock, no. Each Gym looks like the type it uses. At Pewter Gym, we use Rock-types, so we have a Rock-type Gym!" He seemed to think that was pretty funny.
While visions of buildings made of water or fire danced in his head, Gary asked, "Can I fight the Gym Leader?"
"Why do we get all the newbies?" the man grumbled to himself, and then, to Gary, "It's not that easy. First you have to prove you're worthy to enter the Gym, and you do that by beatin' me. Get used to it--it's like that in any Gym you'll find."
"You're at any Gym I'll find?"
The man stopped, blinked, and then grimaced. "At. Every. Gym. You'll. Find. There. Will. Be. A. Door. Guard. You. Must. Defeat. The. Door. Guard. To. Get. Into. The. Gym. And. Challenge. The. Gym. Leader. Is that clear?"
Gary nodded, keeping his face neutral. "So when can we battle?"
"Right now, if you want! ...I suppose I'll have to explain the rules of a Gym battle, as well?"
"Okay! ...what's different about a Gym battle?"
"Each trainer is only allowed to use a preset number of pokémon. For example, in a three-pokémon match, each of us can only use up to three pokémon."
Gary gulped. So much for strength in numbers. If he hadn't met Ditto and gotten the chance to get Poliwag, he'd have lost for sure. With Poliwag, though..."Do I have to use that many or can I use less?"
The guard seemed amused. "Yeah, you could use one if you really want. Ready?"
"All right then, a two-on-two! Geodude, go!"
Gary looked at the Geodude. It wasn't much more than a rock with a face and arms. This would probably be quick.
Geodude came in for the assault--and got hit in the face by a squirt of water from Poliwag. It got knocked back a few feet, and looked soggy when Poliwag stopped.
Gary looked again. A soggy rock? That wasn't something you saw every day!
The guard turned to Geodude. "Use Rock Throw, now!" Rock Throw? Gary didn't know that move, but he could guess what it involved...
Geodude tried to get up and attack, but the soggy rock was slowed by the wieght of the water it had absorbed. It moved sluggishly. Before it could use Rock Throw, Poliwag hit it with another Water Gun. It landed with a disconcerting squishing noise, and just sat there. It turned its eyes toward its trainer, but was too waterlogged to move otherwise.
The guard recalled Geodude. "Your Poliwag is strong! Let's see if it can handle...Graveler! Go!"
Gary looked at the new entry. He didn't need his Pokédex to guess that it was an evolved form of Geodude--the only difference between them was that Graveler was larger, and had another set of arms, as well as legs. It also looked very tough, so Gary decided not to take any chances. "Poliwag, Hypnosis!"
Poliwag started concentrating hard, and pigments started shifting on its front. Slowly at first, then faster and faster the spiral design whirled. Graveler stared, captivated. So did the door guard, and Gary might have fallen too, if he weren't standing in the only safe place--directly behind Poliwag. The victims' eyes shifted from wonder to lethargy...
Graveler's eyes dipped. "Water Gun, now!" The sound meant something to Graveler, but just then it couldn't remember what...suddenly a gush of water hit Graveler just above the eyes, and pushed it backward. It landed on its back and started rolling backward. This was bad, Graveler was sure of it! It could still feel water hitting the side that pretty whirling thing had been on...and now there was something else important. Graveler's mind was still in a haze, so it wasn't sure what, but there was something very important that was about to happen...
Gary winced as Graveler slammed into the Gym wall. Fortunately, the guard was to the left, or he would have gotten run over. He was in no shape to dodge.
Gary puzzled over how to wake him. Finally, he said, "Poliwag, use Water Gun on the guard!"
The splash of cold water revived him. He looked around, wondering what had happened, and saw Poliwag--and then turned and saw Graveler, lying soaked by the wall of the Gym and counting the little Staryu circling above it. "Ahh! What happened?"
"Sorry about that...I didn't know Hypnosis would get you, too!"
The guard shakily recalled Graveler, and opened a pouch hanging at his belt. "So, you won, didn't you! Okay, here you go...and I bet you want to know what this is, too." He held out a piece of metal.
Gary took it and looked at it. It looked like an empty frame. "This doesn't look like a badge to me!"
"That's 'cause it's not one. You've got a Pokédex, right? There should be a button marked 'Badges.'" Gary got out his Pokédex and found the button. "Now press it." Gary pressed it, and a card-like panel slid out on the opposite side. There were eight depressions in a two-by-four rectangle.
"That frame snaps into one of those holes. It proves you've earned your way into Pewter City Gym, so you don't have to fight me again. When--If--you beat Grant, the Boulder Badge snaps into the frame."
"Grant--he's the Gym Leader here?"
The guard's eyes flashed. "That's right, and when you meet him, you show him more respect then you showed me!"
The inside of Pewter Gym was a surprise to Gary.
There were some pokémon battles going on. Gary had expected that. Every pokémon here seemed to be a Rock-type. He'd sort of expected that, too. What surprised him was what else was going on. As his Pokédex told him about the species he'd never seen before, he looked around at all the activity.
On one wall of the Gym, Rhyhorn were walking toward the center of the Gym, with massive weights tied to them. In a far corner, several Geodude were...shadow boxing? In another area, Graveler were rolling at eachother and bouncing off. That was almost like a battle, but it was more like an exercise. Of course! These pokémon were all exercising!
The door guard, who was leading him through the Gym, chuckled at his surprise. "They don't call 'em Gyms for nothing, y'know."
"Can anyone's pokémon work out here?"
"Anyone's Rock-types can work out here. Other types go to the other Gyms."
They entered a short hall. There were doors on either side, and one at the end. Gary looked in the open side doors. In one, Geodude and Graveler were heaving boulders in all directions. "What are they doing?" Gary asked.
"They're practicing Rock Throw. The move's accuracy is lower than most moves, so a pokémon with above-average aim is valuable."
Gary looked in the other room--and froze. "What is that!?"
The guard looked pleased. "That is an Onix, the longest pokémon in existance. It's nearly thirty feet long, and more than seven feet longer than the runner-up."
The guard shrugged. "Gyarados." Gary was stunned. He knew about Gyarados--his nickname, Gary-Dos, was based on it. The man had casually tossed out the name of one of the most dangerous pokémon in existance.
They reached the door at the end of the hall, which was closed. There was a sheet tacked to it, with a list of names and times. "Grant takes challenges every 15 minutes. You might have to wait longer if a battle takes longer than that, but he won't start early. Sign your name on the list, and note the time you'll be battling Grant." With that, the guard headed back to the main room.
Gary blinked. That was sudden. He looked at the list. Most names were crossed off. The first that wasn't would be fighting Grant in four minutes. Gary looked down the list, and signed his name. He'd have his turn in thirty-four minutes.
He turned to go, but then looked over the list a second time, at the crossed-off names. Kate wasn't on it. Of course she wasn't--she'd battled here...let's see...six days ago! Gary sighed, and headed back to the main room.
The second trainer to try his luck since Gary had gotten to the Gym walked out into the main room, looking dejected. Grant called back, "Your fighting style is very good, Timothy. You just need to make your pokémon stronger. Come back when they've gone up a few levels!"
The first trainer had beaten him, and her Squirtle had picked up enough experience from it to learn Bite. Gary wondered if they'd faced the same pokémon. Did Grant make a quick stop at the Pokémon Center between battles?
He looked at his watch. Timothy's battle had taken twenty-three minutes. He had struggled for quite a while before giving in. As soon as Grant was ready, Gary would battle him for the Boulder Badge.
The girl who had arrived a few minutes ago watched the door close behind Timothy. "Gee, I hope my pokémon are a good level!"
Gary was thinking about his Poliwag. He decided that if it wasn't high enough this time, he'd come back when it had evolved into Poliwhirl. It should be strong enough then--and he wouldn't have to worry about the enemy just knocking it over. Now that he was about to fight for the first Badge, he could think of a million things he had done/was doing/would probably do wrong.
Finally, Grant stepped into the main room again. "Gary Ford! You're next!"
Gary stood. "Good luck," the girl said. Gary followed Grant into the hall and through the door at the end.
He found himself in a large, mostly empty room. The floor, which had the painted boundaries of an official pokémon arena, was littered with rocks and boulders of various types. Some, he realized, were actually part of the floor. Others were loose.
"I'll assume you know the rules of an official Gym Battle, Gary," Grant said as he took his place in the Trainer's Position at one end of the arena.
"Yes, I do," Gary said, and mentally added, as of this morning...
"The match will be three-on-three, agreed?"
"Very well. Rhyhorn, go!"
"Rhyhorn, Horn Attack!"
Rhyhorn charged at Poliwag. Every step it took caused the loose rocks around it to bounce. As soon as Gary saw that, he shouted, "Poliwag, Stiffen!"
Sure enough, when Rhyhorn got within half the room's length of Poliwag, it started bouncing up and down on the ground. Its stiffened tail kept it from falling, but that had cost time. Poliwag frantically started using Hypnosis. Gary prayed it would take effect before Rhyhorn's horn reached Poliwag.
In its haste, Poliwag spun the spiral too fast. Instead of being hypnotized, Rhyhorn got dizzy! It started meandering in its charge. Poliwag shut its eyes and was probably whimpering, but Rhyhorn was making too much noise and Gary couldn't tell. He considered recalling Poliwag, but before he could follow through, Rhyhorn reached Poliwag.
The dizzy Rhyhorn couldn't use Horn Attack now, but instead kept charging over Poliwag. More nervous than ever, Gary tried to watch where each of its feet landed, but couldn't tell where Poliwag was.
Finally, he thought he heard a thin screech.
Gary expected the worst.
He steeled himself to see the roadkill in Rhyhorn's path, berating himself for not doing more.
He was completely surprised. A shape flew upward behind Rhyhorn and sailed over it. Still screaming, Poliwag landed in the depression in the middle of Rhyhorn's head, slid back and fetched up against the horn.
Rhyhorn felt something hit it from behind and managed to turn around just before reaching the wall. Poliwag got bounced around, but it was walled in on three sides and facing an upward slope on the fourth, so it wouldn't fall off.
Gary finally pieced together what had happened. Rhyhorn had almost gotten past Poliwag, but had stepped on its Stiffened tail. Poliwag's body had seesawed into the air, and Rhyhorn had stepped off the tail just in time to catapult Poliwag up and over.
Poliwag was just coming to grips with where it was. It made the connection that it was surrounded by the pokémon that had stepped on its tail. It started furiously spraying water. Since its back was against the horn, its Water Gun attack went over Rhyhorn's head--and splashed into the crevices in its heavy bone armor.
Rhyhorn's eyes bulged as it jumped as well as a Rhyhorn could jump. It started turning in circles, then frantically shot off in any direction that offered. Poliwag, half still enraged and half enjoying the maniacal ride, kept pumping water. Rhyhorn trampled boulders and stalagmites as it vainly tried to rid itself of the watery pest attacking it. Gary and Grant both ran for cover.
Finally, Rhyhorn ran straight for the wall between the arena and the Rock Throw practice range. Seeing the Gym in danger, Grant recalled Rhyhorn. As the tortured beast disappeared, Poliwag fell to the ground, landing in a puddle.
Grant looked out across the devestation in the room. "Well, so far this is the most destructive battle we've had here in...quite a while!" He turned to Gary, who had raced to Poliwag. "Is it alright?"
Poliwag's tail had been pressed hard. If it hadn't been stiff at the time, it would have been destroyed. As it was, Gary wasn't sure Poliwag would be up to the next round.
Gary used a restorative potion on the tail, and recalled Poliwag. "I think it'll be okay by round three."
"So you still want to continue? Alright, then, Go Golem!"
Everyone else was weak, so Gary just went with his strongest pokémon. "Charmander, go!"
"You recalled Poliwag when your starting pokémon was Charmander?"
"I don't want Poliwag to be hurt!"
"You must care deeply for your pokémon." The moment ended. "Golem, Rock Throw!"
Golem was even larger than Graveler. It had an actual head and only two arms with the legs, but Gary had the impression that it was also related. It picked up the nearest rock and heaved it at Charmander, who just barely dodged it.
He'd have to whittle it down. "Charmander, Leer!" Charmander made a face so gruesome Golem dropped the next rock. It recovered and threw it, but it missed again.
Gary remembered what the door guard had said. His only chance was probably in that Rock Throw was hard to hit with. As long as Charmander stayed out of range of a close attack, it might win. "Use Ember now!"
Charmander tried to use Ember, but it was too far away to hit. It came in closer, seeking the spot where it could hit Golem and not get smashed by Rock Throw. Finally, it connected. Golem shut its eyes against the flame, then opened them and tossed another boulder. Charmander dove out of the way.
Gary sighed. This was getting nowhere. He couldn't do anything to Golem--it was just too powerful for Charmander to take. He remembered thinking he'd been ready for Pewter Gym--before he'd met Ditto. That was a laugh. Even now he wasn't really ready.
Golem cast about for another rock to throw--and realized there were no more rocks in easy reaching distance, which wasn't far for Golem's arms. Gary watched, curious as to what it would do now.
Straight at Charmander, who suddenly scrambled for a safe place.
Golem would never run out of rocks, Gary realized. It was a rock!
Charmander got behind a stalagmite Rhyhorn had missed as Golem came down. The impact knocked Charmander on its back. Fortunately, the whole room was made of rock or Charmander's tail might have started a fire. Golem, who had curled up so its head and limbs were no longer protruding, bounced off the floor, uncurled and landed on its feet on the other end of the room. Charmander finally got up. Gary checked its tail just in
case...and noticed a shiny spot on the floor.
Charmander saw Golem, realized it had landed near some choice rocks, and decided it didn't like being so close to Golem. It turned in the other direction, stepped on the shiny spot, and fell on its face! Gary realized Charmander's flame had superheated the rock to a fine polish, and it had become smooth and slippery.
Golem started heaving more rocks. Charmander continued running in all directions to avoid them. Gary knew this wouldn't last...
Gary got an evil idea.
Charmander was now avoiding the shiny spot as it ducked and dove, so when Gary said, "Use Ember on the shiny spot!" it knew exactly what he was talking about, if not why. It paused to glance at Gary, who gave it a big "I meant that" nod, then spread fire on the ground.
The polished section grew. By the time Golem ran out of rocks again, Charmander, despite occassional breaks to dodge, had made a large patch of floor that was practically reflective. By this time, Charmander had caught on to Gary's ploy. Using its claws to get a grip, it moved to the center of the patch.
Golem, out of rocks to toss, sighted Charmander and jumped, curling up into a ball. Charmander pushed off with its claws and leapt out of the polished patch. Golem hit--and spun like a stuck tire! It couldn't bounce off with no resistance to its spin.
Charmander found a place to be that was as far from Golem as it could get without leaving the arena. No one--including Golem--knew what would happen. One thing Golem knew, though, was that it didn't like what was happening now.
It uncurled an arm, hit it and got catapulted through the air. This was different from its earlier flights--it was a lot more like Poliwag's acrobatics earlier. Golem had no idea where it would end up.
Gary did. He was getting a lot of practice in wincing today.
Grant made a sound that was a cross between a whistle and a sigh as Golem hit high on the back wall of the arena--and crashed through it. It uncurled, landed on the grass outside and stayed there. Grant went to it, tried to lift its head and got a "five more minutes, mom" look from Golem.
Grant recalled Golem and cleared his throat. "So you are resourceful as well as determined and kind-hearted." Gary beamed. "And you seem to be very good at making my pokémon destroy the Gym." Gary stopped beaming.
Grant grinned. "Are you ready for the final round?"
Gary considered Poliwag. The potion should have healed the wound by now. "Yes, I'm ready!"
"Let's see if we can take the whole room down this time! Onix! Go!"
"Poliwag, get ready!"
Then it sunk in.
Onix. That huge monster he'd seen.
He didn't need much time to pick his first move. As soon as Onix was out, he said, "Poliwag, Hypnosis!" Poliwag closed its eyes and concentrated. Onix, looking for the comparatively tiny target, couldn't help but get caught by the spiral as it finally laid eyes on Poliwag. It tried to attack, but slumped in its advance and landed right near Poliwag.
Gary couldn't have planned it better. "Water Gun!" Poliwag fired and hit Onix right in the snoot.
Before long, Onix woke to the attack. It bellowed in rage, dove at the puny creature assaulting it...and ate it!
Gary blinked. Onix had just taken Poliwag into its mouth! Just as he was about to break down, Onix gave its mouth a shake. Squeals of protest from inside signaled Poliwag's displeasure at getting bounced around Onix' head. Onix was still playing with Poliwag!
"WATER GUN!!" Gary yelled as loud as he could, hoping Poliwag would hear in there. Sure enough, Onix got a befuddled look on its face as water started pouring out its mouth. Then, Poliwag got a better angle and started spraying down Onix' throat.
Choking, Onix heaved and sent Poliwag flying across the room. Gary realized that Stiffen was not going to help here. He ran after Poliwag, trying to catch it before it met the floor. He ignored Onix who was now thrashing in discomfort.
Eyes following Poliwag, Gary was almost under it when he hit the wall. Poliwag bounced off his back and landed on the ground. After his head stopped swimming, Gary found Poliwag, who was again on its back, trying to get up. He picked up Poliwag. "Are you alright?"
"Poli, poli..." His back had broken Poliwag's fall enough to save it from injury.
A shadow descended. Onix, severely irritated, shot forward to get at Poliwag, not caring that Gary was in the way. Gary held Poliwag out in front of him, toward the giant rock snake. "Water Gun!" Poliwag sprayed forth--and hit Onix right in the eye. Onix turned to avoid the spray--and got hit in the other eye. It tried to protect both eyes--and got water up its nose!
Onix sneezed, bubbles coming out of its nose. A joke about learning Bubble occurred to Gary, but this was not the time to tell it. Onix tossed its head about, trying to clear it, and soon its tail followed suit.
Gary gulped. Onix was very large and thrashing about the room. At this
rate, Grant's joke about taking the room apart might come true.
Fortunately, Grant had the same thought. He recalled Onix. "Since Onix was beyond my control at that point, I will cede that round to you. And since you've won all three rounds..."
Gary gaped. In all the danger and excitement, he'd forgotten what he'd been fighting for. "The Boulder Badge!"
"...is yours. Congratulations, Gary, you are a magnificent trainer!"
Grant and Gary met in the center of the room. There, amid the chaos caused by the battle, Gary recieved his first Trainer Badge.
When they opened the door, a crowd pulled back. Several people started talking at once.
"What happened in there?"
"Are you all right?"
"There were all these crashes..."
Gary showed the Boulder Badge, now set in its frame in his Pokédex, and the crowd calmed enough for Grant to say something. "Neither of us was hurt, and our pokémon caused the crashes. There will have to be a delay in the next scheduled matches while the arena is repaired." There were several sounds of disappointment. "If you really want to know what happened, ask Gary here. I'm sure his account will help to pass the time."
The crowd parted to let Gary through into the main room. Just as he was past them, a hand clapped onto his shoulder.
It was Brad. "Hey, man, so how badly'ja trash'm?"
Gary sighed. Wasn't the trial supposed to be over for now?