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My Best Friends
by EmperMaxis@aol.com

   Chapter Twenty-eight

   It is a sunny, bright day on Mandarin Island in the Orange Archipelago.
   In a woodland grove in an uninhabited portion of the isle, a young woman with
   long, orange hair walks by herself along a little-traveled path. She wears a
   black miniskirt with a white blouse, and has two pokeballs at her side. Over
   one shoulder hangs a small backpack, the contents of which are well hidden
   from view of outsiders.
   "Ahh, this is very peaceful." Felice says to herself. "Very peaceful
   indeed. It is good to have some time away from work... and even better not to
   have to deal with the Jerk."
   The wind blows several strands of hair into her face, which she quickly
   brushes away with her hand.
   "I wonder what sort of pokemon live on this island?" She bites her lip
   thoughtfully. "I've heard that the Orange Islands have rare and exotic
   species of pokemon that are all somewhat different from their mainland
   cousins. Hmm... I wonder if the Boss would be impressed if I brought back a
   few dozen as an apology gift?"
   She lifts a pokeball off of her belt. After staring at it for a moment,
   she smiles.
   "I suppose there's only one way to find out." She grins mischievously.
   "Muk, come out!"
   A red beam shoots out of the pokeball, revealing a purplish mound of
   toxic sludge. It rears up what appears to be a head, and lets out a long
   bellow: "MU-U-UK!"
   "Magneton, front and center!" She calls, readying her second pokeball.
   A metallic creature composed of three linked orbs hovers in midair before
   her.
   "Mag-ne-TON!" It whirrs in its mechanical voice.
   "Now, then," She says to the two of them. "We're here to do a little
   capturing. None of the old stuff, all that trying to steal other people's
   pokemon. I think that the Jerk proved that it doesn't work unless you have a
   plan..." For a moment, her eyes narrow to little slits and she grits her
   teeth. Just as suddenly, however, she is composed again. "Right now, all I
   want are wild pokemon. I want the two of you to battle anything and
   everything you see. But don't make it faint! Weaken it, so I can capture it.
   Do I make myself clear?"
   "MUK!" The slimey blob hisses.
   "NE-ton!" The Electric-type buzzes.
   "Excellent." Felice nods. "Now, let's get down to business..."

   Meanwhile, back on Indigo Plateau, our heroes are enjoying a day of rest
   and relaxation. As the midday sun shines overhead, we find them all by the
   pool.
   "Ahh, this is the life!" Lizzie says as she reclines on an inflatable
   raft. "I can't remember when I felt so... at ease!"
   Lizzie Palacio wears a red two-piece and sunglasses. Her strawberry-blond
   hair shines brightly in the sunlight.
   "I agree." Katrina nods. She too lies on a floating raft. "After such a
   grueling first match, a reprieve is quite desirable."
   Katrina wears a blue one-piece, which perfectly complements her jet black
   hair.
   Lizzie isn't exactly sure what her friend said, but she agrees heartily.
   "Wow, Katrina," Lizzie says, turning onto her side to get a better look
   at her friend. "I couldn't believe it when I saw your match from yesterday on
   video! You were amazing! I mean, you totally creamed that guy!"
   "Thank you, Lizzie," Katrina smiles, taking off her own sunglasses and
   sitting up slightly. "I was also impressed by your performance. You are
   indeed a talented pokemon trainer, and I admired the skills you utilized
   during your own match."
   Again, Lizzie is only fifty percent sure of what her friend said, but
   thanks her happily.
   "And today," Lizzie sighs, reclining on the float. "All we have to do is
   rest. No matches, no competition, nothing."
   "For this, I am most thankful." Katrina smiles mischievously, putting her
   sunglasses back on as she lies back on her float.
   For the moment, all is peaceful. Children splash and play in the shallow
   end of the pool. People order food at the outdoor restaurant and sit at
   tables on the patio overlooking the area. A gentle cascade of water pours
   into the pool from an artificial waterfall. Chansey and Jynx sit on chairs by
   the pool, while Chansey tries to explain to Jynx why it is not appropriate to
   eat fish that are in aquariums in hotel lobbies... Yes, everything is
   perfectly tranquil.
   ...For the moment...
   "CANNONBALL!" Shouts a familiar voice as a figure plunges into the water
   below. As he hits the water, a tremendous splash sends a wave to soak the two
   girls on the floats.
   "AUGH!" They both scream as they are knocked into the pool, totally
   drenched. For a moment, they spin about underwater, disoriented. Then,
   pushing off from the bottom of the pool, they burst to the top.
   "Rex, I'm going to KILL you!" Lizzie screams at the boy who laughs
   uproariously as he pulls himself from the pool nearby.
   "Not if -I- get him FIRST!" Katrina shouts.
   "Hey, lighten up!" Rex chuckles standing on the dry pavement. "It was
   just a joke! Learn to have a little fun now and then."
   "Oh, WE'LL show you FUN!" Lizzie exclaims. She and Katrina grab Rex by
   the legs and pull him forward.
   "Hey, what the-?!" Rex sputters as he topples over into the pool.
   "Chaaansey..." Chansey sighs, watching as a flurry of air bubbles comes
   to the surface.
   "HELP!" Rex yells, bursting from the water. Moments later, Lizzie and
   Katrina grab him by the shoulders and push him back down into the deep.
   "Jyyynx..." Jynx shakes its head sadly.
   "Think it's funny getting people wet NOW?" Lizzie's voice comes from the
   pool. "Huh? IS IT, splash boy?"
   "Eevee..." Eevee, who sits next to Lizzie's escorts, looks away and tries
   to pretend it belongs to someone else.
   High above the pool, Jeff Fuji doubles over laughing. He stands atop a
   massive rock that has been converted into a waterslide, watching the
   spectacle below.
   "Oh, man!" He says to his Rediba as it hovers in the air near him. "Rex
   is getting creamed by the girls! Ouch! THAT one had to hurt!"
   "Grrsh!" Rediba hisses. It wiggles all six of its legs, signifying
   laughter.
   "Somebody, HELP!" Rex shouts, breaking free of their clutches for just a
   second.
   "Help THIS!" Lizzie snarls as she leaps onto his back, forcing him under
   the water. Katrina quickly follows.
   "Man, if only I had a video camera!" Jeff chuckles.
   "That can be arranged." A voice comes from behind him.
   "Oh, Callie!" Jeff says, turning around to see the older girl from
   Vermillion. "I didn't see you."
   She holds up a camcorder in her hand. Jeff's eyes bug out.
   "I owe you!" He jokes as he takes the camera and aims it at the scene
   unfolding in the pool.
   "OOH! Ooh!" Callie says, leaning over the side. "Use the zoom lens! The
   button's on the side!"

   Back on Mandarin Island, Felice is having little luck hunting for
   pokemon. After nearly three hours of searching, she has found nothing more
   exciting than a few Rattatta and Pidgey. As she walks through the jungle
   trail, she sighs.
   "This has been rather disappointing." She mutters. "One would think that
   there would be more exotic pokemon on this tropical island..."
   She enters a large clearing, dotted only by a few overturned logs.
   "I guess this is as good a place as any to rest." She shrugs, setting
   down her backpack and sitting on a log. "Magneton, Muk, come out!"
   Her pokemon appear out of their pokeballs.
   "Ready for some food, guys?" She asks. They nod eagerly.
   "All right, then." Felice smiles, reaching into her pack. She pulls out a
   can labeled "Gringy City Sewer Co".
   "MU-U-UK!" Muk exclaims as she hands him the canister. It pops open,
   revealing slimey, greenish sludge. Muk grins happily and slurps down the
   disgusting mixture.
   "And for Magneton..." Felice says, reaching again into her bag. "Ah! Here
   we go!"
   She pulls out a fresh battery.
   "MAG-net!" The Electric-type beeps. It holds still while its trainer
   inserts the new battery into its power source. A rush of energy flows through
   it, and it shines brightly.
   "I guess you liked that." Felice nods with satisfaction. "How about you,
   Muk? Are you enjoying your sludge?"
   Muk belches loudly in reply.
   "I'll take that for a 'yes'." Felice rolls her eyes.
   Suddenly, a flock of Farfetch'd burst out of trees and fly high across
   the sky.
   "Oh, wow!" Felice exclaims, leaping to her feet. "Our first sighting of
   rare pokemon! Magneton, Thunderbolt!"
   "Mag-ne-TON!" Magneton screeches, firing sizzling bolts of electricity
   from each of its three orbs. The rays strike about five of the leek-wielding
   ducks and knock them out of the sky.
   "YES!" Felice laughs. "Nice shot, Magneton!"
   The Farfetch'd crash into the trees.
   "Go get 'em, Muk!" Felice orders, pointing to the grove into which they
   fell. "Bring them to me, and I'll catch them with pokeballs!"
   Her slimey pokemon obeys, and returns minutes later carrying four
   unconscious Flying-types to its trainer. Felice reaches into her pack,
   producing several black orbs.
   "Rocket balls." She grins. "The Boss never told me to get rid of them, so
   I guess I'm still free to use them."
   She tosses one at each of the fainted Farfetch'd, watching with delight
   as they are captured into the metal spheres.
   "Huh?" Felice arches an eyebrow. "Where's the fifth?"
   "FARRR-fetch'd!" Comes a cry from the forest. As Felice watches in shock,
   a single birdlike pokemon comes flying from the woods. Covered in scorch
   marks, it is obviously one of the creatures Magneton just knocked down.
   "Oh, he wants a fight, does he?" Felice chuckles. "Okay, we'll give him
   one!"
   The Flying-type swoops low over the grass and clubs Muk on the head. The
   gooey blob groans from the impact, but quickly recovers.
   "Magneton, Sonicboom!" Felice commands. Her pokemon fires a blast of
   supersonic waves toward the Flyer, but it skillfully avoids the attack.
   "No way!" Felice gasps. "Sonicboom has a 100 percent accuracy rating!"
   The Farfetch'd streaks by again, this time slamming all three of
   Magneton's orbs with its leek.
   "NE-ton!" Magneton shrieks in pain.
   "Muk, Smog!" Felice yells.
   Muk exhales a cloud of toxic gas at the Flying-type. Farfetch'd rapidly
   flaps its wings to disperse the gas, then divebombs Muk while it stares,
   perplexed.
   "Muuuuuk!" Muk wails, collapsing onto its back.
   "I don't believe this!" Felice slaps her forehead. "Magneton, give it a
   Swift attack!"
   Magneton fires a shower of energy stars at its opponent, yet each one
   misses the mark.
   "Th- that's impossible!" Felice gasps. "That Farfetch'd can avoid
   'no-miss' attacks!"
   Farfetch'd unleashes a Slash attack on Magneton, then Cuts at Muk. It
   then flies high above them both and begins spinning wildly.
   "Oh... no..." Felice groans. Suddenly, a tremendous blast of wind sends
   her two pokemon sailing through the air as Farfetch'd uses Whirlwind. Muk
   lands on top of Magneton, which accidently shocks the Poison-type, rendering
   them both unconscious.
   "I've been beaten..." Felice sighs. "By a duck... with an onion stick."
   She is about to call it quits when she hears a rustling in the bushes.
   "Hyypno." A monotone voice comes from nearby. Felice stares, perplexed,
   as a yellowish creature with a furry, white mane comes through the brush and
   steps into the clearing. It carries a watch by a long metal chain.
   "A... a Hypno?" She frowns, scratching her head. "I didn't know that they
   lived around here..."
   Apparently Farfetch'd didn't either, for it gives a start upon seeing the
   unknown beast. The Hypno seems happy to see the Flying-type, and it lifts its
   watch up with a pleased expression. Then it begins waving the watch, sending
   out rippling waves of hypnotic energy. Farfetch'd is caught by those waves,
   and slowly begins to become drowzy. It leans on its leek, fighting to stay
   awake. With a loud squawk, it falls to the ground and falls asleep.
   "How... fortunate." Felice says, a confused look on her face. "Well, I
   hate to let someone else do all the work and take credit, but..."
   She lifts up a red and white pokeball from her backpack. With a flick of
   her wrist, she hurls the ball at the unconscious pokemon. It connects,
   releases a bright red beam of light, then sucks the Flying-type in. After a
   bit of struggling... actually, a lot of struggling... it finally gives in and
   the pokeball seals itself shut.
   "YES!" Felice laughs, picking up the pokeball.
   "Hyyypno?" Hypno gasps, apparently outraged that a trainer stole the
   pokemon it weakened enough to capture.
   "What? Is something bugging you, Hypno?" Felice taunts. "Well, I don't
   know what you're doing here, but it's time to pay the piper! Magneton!"
   "Mag-ne-TON!!!" Magneton clicks, firing three bolts of high-voltage
   electricity at the yellow-coated beast.
   "HYP-noooooo!" Hypno cries out in pain. The creature collapses from sheer
   exhaustion.
   "Excellent!" Felice cackles. "Now, Muk! Move in and finish it off!"
   Her blobbish pokemon oozes across the grass to the Paralyzed pokemon. It
   lifts up its fist for a pound attack.
   "VILE!" A cry comes from the forest.
   "Muuuuh?" Muk grunts, looking into the foliage.
   "PLUUUUME!"
   A blast of searing light bursts from the underbrush and slams into the
   confused Poison-type. Muk goes flying through the air until it splats against
   the side of an uprooted tree.
   "Oh!" Felice gasps, seeing her pokemon drop to its chest. "What was
   that?!?"
   A dark-colored creature with an enormous, bright bloom atop its head
   charges into the clearing and stands at the side of the collapsed Hypno.
   "A... a... a..." Felice sputters. "A Vileplume!"
   "TON???" Magneton whirrs in its robotic tone.
   "Wait..." Felice gasps. "I... I know that Vileplume!"
   A familiar figure steps out of the trees and into the clearing.
   "Vileplume, what was that awful racket you were just-"
   He freezes. The man is tall, with golden blond hair parted down the
   middle. His eyes are stone gray. Upon seeing the female trainer opposite him,
   a look of shock comes onto his face.
   "Hello, Artemus." Felice says, not at all kindly.
   "F... Felice." Artemus replies, composing himself. "What an unexpected..."
   "Surprise." Felice finishes. The two are quiet. After a moment, they
   appear to soften. For just an instant, it looks as if they are about to
   speak... but then their faces harden.
   "So," Felice says calmly. "I see your Drowzee has evolved."
   "As have your Grimer and Magnemite." Artemus gestures to the two pokemon
   at her side.
   "Yes." Felice nods.
   All is quiet for another minute.
   "Ironic, isn't it?" Artemus chuckles.
   "What is?" Felice asks.
   "That you and I," He explains. "After cutting all ties with each other
   after being dismissed from Team Rocket..."
   "Would both come up with the same plan," Felice completes his statement.
   "To get back in?"
   "Exactly." Artemus says. "Sort of funny, isn't it?"
   "Hysterical." Felice answers.
   Another few minutes without any dialogue.
   "Well, I wish you the best of luck." Artemus says.
   "And I you." Feliece responds.
   "You are planning on giving those Farfetch'd to the Boss, right?" Artemus
   points to the pokeballs she has gathered.
   "I don't know what you're implying." Felice arches an eyebrow.
   "Well, that last Farfetch'd..." Artemus says. "You caught it in a regular
   pokeball."
   "So?" Felice asks.
   "Well..." Artemus shrugs. "It seemed to be a bit stronger than the
   others. You the other four in Rocketballs, but used your own pokeball for
   that one. You aren't planning on... keeping it, are you?"
   Felice's eyes blaze with fire.
   "Listen, Artemus," She says through gritted teeth. "It is none of your
   business what I do with pokemon I capture in the wild. Yes, I used my own
   pokeball. Maybe I will keep that Farfetch'd for myself. But it really doesn't
   concern you, does it? And how, may I ask, did you know that I was catching
   Farfetch'd just then? You only came up a minute ago, after I already had put
   them all in their pokeballs. You haven't been spying on me, have you?"
   "I... I... I..." Artemus sputters.
   "Save it, Artie." Felice rolls her eyes. "Come on, Muk, Magneton. Ven
   conmigo. We've got better things to do than chat with Mr. Congeniality her."
   With that, she leaves her former partner in crime, with his mouth still
   hanging open, in the middle of the clearing.

   Back on Indigo Plateau, our heroes are enjoying some down time in the
   trainers lounge. Lizzie lies on her side on a plush couch, wearing a
   miniskirt with a white blouse. Chansey and Jynx sit on folding chairs on
   either side of her. Rex sits on a recliner with his feet propped up on the
   coffee table in front of him. He wears a T-shirt and cargo pants. Katrina
   wears a casual orange robe and leans back in a cushioned seat, intently
   reading a thick novel. Jeff, clad in shorts and a Hawaii-style shirt, leafs
   through a brochure about Bug pokemon recently discovered in the northwestern
   mountains. Rediba and Eevee play a game of tag on the floor.
   "Is Lizzie Palacio here?" A Nurse Joy asks, walking up to the group.
   "That's me." Lizzie says, sitting up straight. "Is something wrong?"
   "Not at all." Joy shakes her head. "I just have something for you."
   She holds up a magazine. Lizzie takes it from her outstretched hand, and
   examines it.
   "It came from your father." Joy smiles. "When he heard of our offer this
   year, he ordered a copy for you."
   "What is it?" Jeff asks, looking up from his pamphlet.
   "This is great!" Lizzie beams. "Guys, come look! It's a brochure of all
   the trainers competing in the Indigo League!"
   The others huddle around her on the couch, eager to see it.
   "Every season, the Indigo League puts together a catalogue of all level
   eight pokemon trainers." Joy explains. "It is compiled from data collected
   from each trainer's pokedex. We then list all of the trainers, their pokemon
   of choice, current roster, levels, recorded moves, and even various stats
   about the person too."
   "That's sort of creepy..." Rex says nervously. "I mean, it's like 'big
   brother is watching'. And if you had my brothers..."
   "Don't worry, Rex." Joy chuckles. "We didn't print anything more
   revealing than your hair color."
   "Hair color?" Jeff scoffs. "If I was Rex, I'd be more concerned about
   hair size!"
   The others laugh, including Jeff, until he is smacked on the back of the
   head by Rex.
   "Will we all get copies?" Katrina asks curiously. "Personally, I welcome
   any opportunity to prepare for my opponents."
   "You'll all eventually get copies of a brochure about competing
   trainers." Joy nods. "The price was included in the gate admission. Lizzie's
   copy, however, is a special edition, and it costs more."
   "What's the difference between that and a regular copy?" Jeff asks.
   "Oh, the special edition just has more information about the trainers
   themselves." Joy shrugs. "Aside from that... not much is different. The
   cover's a bit cooler..."
   "I fail to see why one would be willing to pay more," Katrina blinks her
   eyes in a confused way. "Just to get various trivial factoids about other
   trainers."
   "Well, you have to count the intangible benefits of the special edition."
   Lizzie says. "It gives you an edge. It let's you know how your competition
   thinks. It allows you to have a strategy to defeat their strategy."
   "It also has an interview with your favorite band." Joy says. "Your
   father emphasized to mention that to you."
   "Really?" Lizzie gasps. "What page?"
   Joy directs her to the proper page.
   "Oh, wow!" Lizzie exclaims, lifting up the magazine so only she can see
   it. "This is great! This is awesome! This is wonderful! This..."
   The color drains from her face.
   "Uh, let's look at something else!" She says nervously, flipping to
   another page.
   "Hey, come on!" Rex says. "Let us see it!"
   "Oh, you don't want to see that silly thing!" Lizzie laughs. "Just some
   stupid little interview with a band."
   "No, I really want to see it!" Rex says, reaching for the magazine. "Come
   on, let me take a look at it!"
   "Trust me, Rex!" Lizzie grits her teeth. "You don't want to see this!"
   "Yes I do!" Rex insists pulling on it.
   "No, you really DON'T!" Lizzie growls, pulling back on it.
   "Hey, look!" Rex gasps, pointing over her shoulder. "Isn't that Mr.
   Goodshow's nephew?"
   "Where?" Lizzie exclaims, turning around. As she does, Rex pulls the
   magazine free.
   "Hey, give that back!" She yells.
   "No way!" Rex laughs, opening it up to the right page. "I'm going to see
   who Lizzie Palacio's favorite band i... i.... is...."
   The color drains out of Rex's face. Lizzie bites her lip. Jeff and
   Katrina, stealing a look over his shoulder, gasp out loud.
   "My BROTHERS?!?!?" Rex shouts, his voice echoing through the entire
   building.
   Jeff and Katrina burst out laughing. Chansey, Jynx, Rex, and Rediba
   collapse into their seats.
   "Your favorite band is the Stone Brothers?" He exclaims. "I can't believe
   this! You mean... you mean you knew about them before I even met you? Is that
   why you wanted to come along with me, so you could eventually meet them? Is
   that it?"
   Lizzie, however, is laughing to hard to even answer.
   "I'll leave you kids," Joy chuckles. "To enjoy the magazine!"

   After Rex calmed down enough, and the others stopped laughing so hard,
   the kids sit back down on the couch with the magazine out. Lizzie, wiping
   tears of laughter out of her eyes, tells Rex that she didn't accompany him
   because she knew he was a Stone brother. "That was just an added bonus," She
   explains. Jeff and Katrina appologize for laughing at Rex, and say it really
   isn't so funny. Rex has some difficulty believing their statements as they
   have to stop every few sentences to cover up laughter, but all is forgiven.
   "Well, what say we take a look at the other trainers?" Jeff says.
   "Sounds good to me." Lizzie nods. "Who shall we look up first?"
   "How about that girl we met at the concert?" Katrina asks. "Callie
   Delmar. She seemed to be a likeable person."
   "All right." Lizzie agrees. "Let's see here... Ah, page 23. Third from
   the top."
   They all spot the photo of the orange-haired girl from Vermillion.
   "What does it say about her?" Rex asks.
   "I'm just getting to that." Lizzie says. She begins reading:

   Name: Callie Delmar
   Age: 15
   Eye Color: Violet
   Hair color: Sunset
   ("Sunset?" Rex interrupts. "They actually wrote that?")
   Height: 5' 10
   Weight: Not available
   ("I think we know what that means." Jeff jokes.)
   Favorite Food: Shrimp, fried or boiled.
   Current Roster: Seaking, Wartortle, Lapras, Gyarados, Kingler, Golduck.
   ("I remember someone else used a Golduck recently." Katrina rolls her
   eyes.)
   Bio: Born in Vermillion City. Callie favors Water-type pokemon, and uses
   them almost exclusively in competition. Her hobbies include water-skiing,
   cooking, and studying marine biology.
   Personal Quote: "That was splashtacular!"
   ("I would've remembered her saying that..." Lizzie giggles.)

   Some time later, the kids are still leafing through the book.
   "Wow." Lizzie says for the thousandth time today. "This book is really
   awesome! I'm so glad I own a copy!"
   "I might get one for myself." Jeff agrees. "Supposing Uncle Fuji agrees
   to lend me the cash..."
   "Hey, what do you suppose is in the back?" Rex asks. "I mean, there was a
   cool map of Indigo Plateau inside the front cover. It probably has something
   else near the end."
   "Good idea, Rex." Lizzie nods, flipping to the back of the book. "Let's
   take a look here..."