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My Best Friends
by EmperMaxis@aol.com

   Chapter Eighteen

   The morning sun shines brightly over Cinabarr Island. On this fine day,
   the usual bustle of tourists moving through the streets is centered around
   something strange. Last night, a tall, blue box appeared in the center of
   Fountain Plaza. It bares no markings, but its top comes into a sloping point
   and two thick fins curve outward from either side. A crowd of people has
   circled it and is now eyeing it curiously. Among them are Rex, Lizzie, and
   Katrina, along with the escort pokemon, Chansey and Jynx, as well as Rex's
   Eevee. They, too, have perplexed looks on their faces.
   "What do you suppose it is?" Lizzie asks the other two.
   "I dunno..." Rex shrugs. "It's probably just some kind of publicity
   stunt, like for a local restaurant or store."
   "Perhaps," Katrina says uncertainly. "However, I feel that we should keep
   our guard up. This seems all too familiar..."
   "What does?" Rex asks. "I don't ever remember seeing an oddly-shaped box
   like that in my hometown, or anywhere else for that matter."
   "I think what she means, Rex," Lizzie sighs. "Is that things are not
   always as they appear."
   "Correct, Lizzie." Katrina nods. "To all the world, this object appears
   safe and harmless. It may very well be so. However, look at the crowd it has
   drawn. What better way to play some mischievous stunt, such as a theft or
   kidnapping, than when all of the people are centered in one area?"
   "... You may have a point." Rex admits after a minute. "But what kind of
   idiots would be so stupid as to hide in a box all day and wait for people to
   walk up to it?"
   "I can think of at least two," Lizzie says. "Right off the top of my
   head."
   "...Team Rocket?" Rex asks.
   "It's possible." Lizzie shrugs.
   The group is silent a moment. Chansey shivers. Jynx narrows its eyes at
   the box. Eevee twitches its tail nervously.
   "Where's Jeff?" Lizzie asks after a moment. "It seems that he should be
   here when the whole island may be in danger!"
   "I think he went into the jungle to train his pokemon." Katrina explains.
   "Great!" Lizzie exclaims. "Just great! What time is it?"
   "Almost noon." Rex says, looking at his watch. "Maybe we should contact
   Officer Jen-"
   That is as far as he got. At that moment, the huge clock over Town Hall
   strikes twelve. Instantly, four rockets shoot straight up into the sky from
   hidden nozzles in the box. A whole section of the wall falls away. The crowd
   gasps, seeing what is inside.
   "A Drowzee?" Lizzie asks skeptically. "What's that thing it's wearing?"
   "I don't know..." Rex scratches his head. "It looks like some kind of
   metal helmet with a visor."
   Sure enough, the peculiar yellow pokemon has attatched to its head a
   shining, silvery helmet from which a clear, green visor slides down over its
   eyes. It smiles menacingly upon the crowd as it lifts its hands into the air.
   "What's it doing?" Katrina asks, alarmed.
   "DROWwwwwwZeeee!" It hums. Waves of energy ripple through the air,
   distorting everyone's vision.
   "Oh... no..." Lizzie exclaims, dizzied by the whirling motion. "It's...
   using... Hypnosis...."
   "Got.... to... get... out...." Katrina sputters, trying to back away.
   "Out... of... its.... range...."
   "It's... no... use...." Lizzie groans. "The... beams... are... going...
   everywhere...."
   It is true. The entire town seems to be caught in a field of dizzying
   hypnotic energy.
   "I... sort... of... noticed..." Rex mutters sarcastically as he falls to
   sleep on the stone plaza. The others soon follow, as does the rest of the
   crowd.
   For a minute, the entire city is silent. Then, muffled laughter comes
   from within the box. Seconds later, the twin fins jetison off of the main
   body of the box, revealing two figures in their early twenties.
   "We'll take all your pokemon in a snap!"
   "Before you finish with your nap!"
   "To protect the world from devastation!"
   "To unite all peoples within our nation!"
   "To denounce the evils of truth and love!"
   "To extend our reach to the stars above!"
   "Artemus! ~ Felice!"
   "Team Rocket, Blast off at the speed of light!"
   "Surrender now, or go nighty-night!"
   "Hahahahaha! Don't let the bedbugs bite!"
   The pair of thieves stand together by the rocket-shaped box, surveying
   the results of their work.
   "We did it, Artemus!" Felice cheers. "Every person on this island, other
   than ourselves, is asleep!"
   "I can't believe they didn't realize it was us." Artemus rolls his eyes.
   "Who else would put a box shaped like a rocket in the middle of the city?
   Team Rocket, of course!"
   "It was a stroke of genius, using the Hypno-Adapter helmet on your
   Drowzee!" Felice cackles, eyeing the dozing people on the ground. "Quite a
   powerful little device, wouldn't you say?"
   "I couldn't have said it better, my dear." Artemus smiles coldly. "Now,
   what shall we do with all of these pokeballs? Not to mention wallets and
   purses, too..."
   "Isn't it a shame?" Felice feigns sorrow. "While the crowd sleeps, all of
   their valuables are at the mercy of-"
   "TEAM ROCKET!" They both shout together. Then, laughing maniacally, they
   move quickly to steal the belongings of everyone in the city.

   Meanwhile, in a nearby part of the forest, Jeff Fuji watches as a small,
   reddish ladybug pokemon does battle with wild creatures.
   "Go, Rediba!" He shouts to his Bug-type as it faces a vicious Weedle.
   "You can do it!"
   "Weeeeedle!" The wild pokemon screeches, charging forward with its sharp
   spike.
   "It's using Poison Sting!" Jeff warns. "Dodge to the left!"
   Rediba swiftly rolls out of the way. The deadly needle misses by an inch.
   "Now, Rediba!" Jeff calls out. "Use your String Shot!"
   "Grssh!" The ladybug pokemon hisses. From the spinnarets on either side
   of its jaw it sprays a fine stream of sticky liquid upon Weedle as it turns
   around to strike again.
   "Weeedullll!" The worm groans as it is wrapped up by the thin fibers. It
   struggles wildly, trying to escape.
   "If it can use its stinger, it'll cut free!" Jeff yells. "Rediba, get
   ready for a Tackle attack!"
   "Grssh?" Rediba hisses curiously, eyeing its master.
   "I already have one at home!" Jeff assures it. "I don't need to capture
   it! Now, Tackle!"
   "Grssh!" Rediba agrees, and it charges its wiggling opponent.
   "Weeeeeeeeedle!" The pink-nosed worm screeches as it is rammed headfirst
   by Rediba. Jeff looks at his pokedex screen. It displays the HP of Rediba and
   Weedle. The wild pokemon's energy decreases steadily from the last attack.
   "All right!" Jeff cheers. "That's the way to do it! Hit it again!"
   "Grshh!" Rediba chirps, ramming Weedle again. On Jeff's handheld PC, the
   creature's HP again decreases.
   "Yeah!" Jeff congratulates Rediba. "One more hit ought to do it!"
   By this time, however, Weedle is free of its silky cage. Furious, it
   crashes its head against the smaller Rediba.
   "Grsssssh!" The ladybug screeches as it is knocked onto its side.
   "No!" Jeff gasps.
   "Weedle!" The worm cries, again striking the downed pokemon.
   "Rediba, counter!" Jeff orders.
   "Grsh... grsh..." The little bug pants. The poor thing's out of breath!
   "Oh, no..." Jeff moans. "If I don't do something soon, Rediba is history!"
   The wormlike Weedle stands above Rediba, preparing to use its Poison
   Sting and finish the battle.
   "I've got to stop it!" Jeff exclaims. He stops himself, however. "But a
   trainer can't interfere in a battle, not even against wild pokemon..."
   "Wee-e-edle!" The worm snickers. Then, it drives its stinger toward its
   helpless prey.
   "Grshh!" Rediba hisses. At the last second, it leaps out of the way.
   Weedle's spike sticks harmlessly into a thick root.
   "What?" Jeff gawks. Then he is doubly surprised when Rediba hovers in
   midair by vibrating its thin wings.
   "Wow!" He exclaims. "It must have reached the next experience level!"
   Before his amazed eyes, Rediba swoops through the air and delivers one
   powerful blow to its opponent. Weedle slams against a tree trunk,
   disoriented. Rediba swings up into a tight arch, and then divebombs the
   helpless worm. With one strike, the battle is over.
   "All, RIGHT!" Jeff yells. "You DID it!"
   "Grshh!" Rediba blushes, hovering beside its trainer. Jeff holds up his
   pokedex and aims its viewscope at his fluttering pokemon.
   "Experience scan indicates that this pokemon has reached...." The pokedex
   announces. For a moment, it hums quietly, and then beeps with its analysis.
   "Level seven. It's Hit Point status is..."
   The portable PC goes on to name all of Rediba's attributes, how they had
   increased over the last few days, the number of experience points it had thus
   far received, and other such info. But Jeff has heard all he wants to hear.
   "Wow, level seven!" Jeff exclaims. "When I got you, you were only level
   one!"
   "Grssh! Rediba hisses. It nuzzles Jeff's cheek.
   "Hey, cut it out!" Jeff laughs. "Come on, we'd better go back to the
   Pokemon Center. Gosh, the others are probably wondering where I went!"

   "Hey, it's those brats!" Artemus exclaims, seeing Rex, Lizzie, and
   Katrina asleep on the ground.
   "What?" Felice asks, coming over to him. Seeing them, a smile creeps up
   her lips. "Ha! Ha! Ha! I guess we get to keep their pokemon after all!"
   "Ah, how generous!" Artemus says, spotting the unconscious Chansey.
   "Chansey eggs are a delicacy! They'll fetch a fine price on the black market!"
   "I'll take that, thank you," Felice snickers, taking Lizzie's mini-pack
   containing her three pokeballs. She adds them, along with Rex's and
   Katrina's, in the large sack she carries. "Egad, what is that thing?!?"
   They both are looking at Lizzie's Jynx escort lying asleep.
   "A- a Jynx!" Artemus exclaims. "Huh. It's been a long time since I've
   seen one..."
   "Well," Felice says mischievously. "I remember clearly the last time we
   saw that!"
   She points to Rex's Eevee, curled up on the stone floor. Upon sighting
   the creature that bit his ankle on Seafoam, Artemus' left eye twitches
   involuntarily.
   "ARGH!" He snarls, clenching his fists. "That little rodent! Why, I'll..."
   "Forget it, Artemus." Felice rolls her eyes. "We have work to do, and we
   don't know how long the sleeping effect will last."
   "True..." He sighs. "I see what you mean. The rocket box we hid in was
   insulated with a special material that blocked the hypnosis waves, but out
   here we'd be exposed to them."
   "Exactly," Felice nods. "As would anyone else have been in the entire
   city. That's why Drowzee can't keep them asleep; he'd put us to sleep as
   well!"
   "All right," Artemus agress glumly. "Let's get to work,"
   "Ha!" Felice cackles as she drops a few more pokeballs into her bag.
   "Look at how many pokemon we've got! The Boss will be thrilled!"
   "This may even pave over the little Seafoam Incident," Artemus rubs his
   chin thoughtfully. "With a little luck, he might forget our losing his
   private catamaran."
   "Less chatting, more bagging," Felice insists, grabbing a few more
   pokeballs.
   "I'm working just as hard as you are, Felice!" Artemus snaps. "So you
   don't have to yell!"
   "Who's yelling?" She retorts. "And you haven't bagged half as many
   pokemon as I have! I'm doing all the work!"
   "What?" Artemus exclaims. "Ridiculous! I've done twice as much as you
   have!"
   "No you haven't!"
   "Yes I have!"
   "Says who?"
   "Says me!"
   "Oh yeah?"
   "YEAH!"
   In no time they are shouting at each other. Drowzee desperately tries to
   calm them down, but they keep getting louder and louder. Finally, their noise
   wakes the creature with the largest ears in the plaza.
   "Vee?" Eevee squeaks, standing up. It blinks, confused. Then its eyes
   fall upon Artemus. It growls. "EEVEE!"
   "I'm telling you, Felice," Artemus shouts. "That I- AAAAIIIIEEEE!"
   Eevee sinks its teeth deep into Artemus' leg. Felice doubles over with
   laughter.
   "Insolent vermin!" He snarls, kicking the furry pokemon off of his leg.
   "I'll show you what happens to all who oppose-"
   "TEAM ROCKET!" A voice shouts from behind them. The two thieves spin
   around to see one young man emerging from the forest. Folds of brown hair are
   combed over his forehead. And enormous backpack is strapped to his shoulders.
   With his trusty butterfly net, pair of binoculars hanging from his neck, and
   field guide of rare and exotic Bug pokemon, there is no mistaking this
   trainer.
   "YOU!" Artemus and Felice exclaim.
   "Yes, you!" Jeff says. "I mean... me. Yes, it's me! What have you done to
   my friends?"
   "What do you think we did to them?" Artemus snorts. "They're asleep,
   we're stealing their pokeballs... you do the math!"
   "Looks like we missed one pest, Artemus," Felice snickers. "Shall we take
   care of him now?"
   "Yes, let's!" Artemus agrees. "Drowzee, Hy-"
   "Scyyyyyther!" A green, dragonfly pokemon screeches as it comes screaming
   from the forest. Traveling at amazing speeds, it shoots through the air and
   severs the Hypnosis-Adapter helmet from Drowzee's head.
   "Drowwwwz!" The yellowish pokemon gasps. It cowers in terror as Scyther
   dives low over the plaza again.
   "Ha! Did you really think I'd be so stupid as to announce my presence
   before I had a plan?" Jeff laughs. "Scyther, swift!"
   A rain of energy stars cascades to the ground around Drowzee. Terrified,
   the pokemon flees from battle.
   "Drowzee, get back here!" Artemus shouts. "ARGH! I'm surrounded by
   incompetence!"
   "If it is a fight you want-" Felice says, readying two pokeballs. "-Then
   it's a fight you'll get!"
   In a flash of light, Grimer and Magnemite appear on the plaza.
   "Go, Vileplume!" Artemus orders.
   "Viiiiiileplume!" The flowerlike pokemon cries, materializing next to the
   others.
   "Butterfree, Venomoth, attack!" Jeff commands.
   "Huh?" The two thieves ask. Before their stunned eyes, two winged Bug
   pokemon come flying out of the woods.
   "Psybeam, now!" Jeff yells.
   "Uh-oh..." Team Rocket mutters.
   "Beeeeefreeee!" Butterfree hums, gathering up energy in its antennae.
   "Venno! Moth!" Venomoth hisses, charging up for an attack.
   "Dodge! Get out of the way!" Artemus and Felice shout. Too late. Twin
   beams of energy shoot down from the hill at the criminal pokemon.
   "Griiiiiimer!" Felice's grimer snarls as it and Vileplume are blasted
   across the plaza.
   "After them!" Jeff calls. His fluttering pokemon zip after the downed
   opponents.
   "You'll pay for that!" Felice shouts. "Magnemite, Thundershock!"
   The hovering metallic pokemon shoots a bolt of lightning at Jeff. At the
   last second, Scyther deflects the ray with his rock-hard claw.
   "Give it up, you clods!" Jeff snickers. "It's over!"
   "Not just yet," Artemus says slyly. "Drowzee, now!"
   The small, yellow-and-black pokemon that snuck up behind Jeff now reveals
   itself.
   "Drowwzeee!" It hums, releasing powerful hypnotic vibrations.
   "No!" Jeff exclaims, covering his eyes. "Look away, Scyther!"
   "Scyyyyy....ther....." His pokemon mutters in a daze. It is no use. The
   dragonfly creature collapses on the rocky hill.
   "Ha! Ha! Ha!" Felice cackles. "Now who's winning, boy?"
   Suddenly, the brush of the forest parts as an enormous figure leaps from
   the woods. Brandishing two huge pincers, it clamps down upon the hypnotic
   pokemon.
   "Drowww?" Drowzee gasps as it is lifted off its feet.
   "What on earth-?" Artemus exclaims.
   "Nice timing, Pinsir!" Jeff congratulates his pokemon.
   "PIN-sirrrr!" The creature snaps. Drowzee kicks and squirms madly, trying
   to escape the creature's iron grip.
   "Say, it looks like you picked up their pokemon by mistake," Jeff
   notices. He grins mischievously. "Why not give it back?"
   "Oh, no..." Artemus groans as Drowzee is flung through the air directly
   toward him. "OOF!"
   While Felice is doubled over with laughter, Jeff and Pinsir charge down
   the hill and into the plaza.
   "M-magnemite, S-sonic B-b-boom!" She manages to get out between fits of
   laughter.
   "MAG-ne-MITE!" The creature announces with a metallic clinging. Two
   portable sonic generators extend from panels on either side of its head...
   err, body... whatever, and release a blast of sound at the oncoming attackers.
   "OOF!" Jeff grunts as he is knocked off his feet by the force of the
   soundwaves. "Pinsir, Harden!"
   Pinsir stands perfectly still despite the attack of sound. A green field
   of energy engulfs him for a moment. Then, he slowly begins to march toward
   Magnemite.
   "Wh-what's it d-doing?" Felice gasps, now sober. She eyes the massive
   bulk with fear as it steadily comes closer.
   "That's Pinsir's Harden!" Jeff shouts over the roar of the sound. "That
   pathetic attack will never penetrate his defenses! You'd better just give it
   up!"
   "Never!" Shouts Felice. "Magnemite, increase the sound!"
   "Magna???" It sputters in disbelief. The speakers are already on
   'overload'!
   "You heard me!" Felice orders. "DO IT!"
   "Magne-MITE!" The poor creature shrieks as its speakers blow out. The
   blast sends it crashing to the stone ground, sparks flying from its twin
   magnets.
   "NO!" Felice cries. "What- what have you done?"
   "It's what you've done!" Jeff scolds. "You drive your pokemon far too
   hard! That poor thing will be lucky if it ever can use Sonic Boom again,
   after what you did to its speakers!"
   "Shut up, brat!" Felice snaps.
   "FREEE!" Butterfree shrieks from across the plaza as it is sprayed with
   terrible Stun Spore from Vileplume's petals.
   "Vennoooo!" Venomoth hacks, coughing inside a cloud of noxious fumes
   emited by Grimer. Overwhelmed by the attacks, the two Bug pokemon collapse to
   the ground.
   "GRI-mer!" The sickening blob hisses with laughter.
   "VILE-pluuume!" The deadly flower grins triumphantly.
   "GUYS!" Jeff shouts in alarm. Suddenly, and to his astonishment, Artemus
   leaps to his feet and holds up his Drowzee.
   "Now!" The thief commands. Instantly, a blast of supersonic energy knocks
   Jeff off his feet. Pinsir is then pummeled by Drowzee's Pound attack.
   "PIN-sirrr!" The huge beetle clacks its claws together in pain. It groans
   and sinks to the ground.
   "Ha!" Felice laughs. "Give it up, boy! The tide has changed!"
   "Oh, yeah?" Jeff asks confidently, getting to his feet. "Parasect,
   attack!"
   "PARASect!" Comes the battlecry of a huge mushroom pokemon as it leaps
   from the roof of a nearby building. It lands directly on top of Drowzee,
   squashing it to the ground.
   "WHAT?!?" Artemus and Felice gasp.
   "Now, Spore!" Jeff orders. His pokemon obediently emits a cloud of yellow
   powder that strikes Grimer and Vileplume. The two pokemon, caught completely
   off guard, collapse from its sleep-inducing pollen. Butterfree and Venomoth
   leap off the ground and fly triumphantly to their trainer's side. Pinsir
   picks itself up from the ground and claps its metal pincers together happily.
   Scyther finally recovers from Drowzee's hypnotizing blast. It lifts off the
   ground and hovers beside its trainer.
   "You guys did great!" Jeff congratulates his team. "I'm proud of all of
   you!"
   The pokemon add their comments and cheers in the form of clicking,
   stomping, clapping, and saying their names. Grinning victoriously, Jeff turns
   to his two captives.
   "Now, as for you-" He starts.
   "We aren't beaten yet!!" Artemus yells.
   "Ha ha ha!" Felice cackles. Enlarging an object from her belt, she
   reveals an armed Voltorb!
   "Uh-oh, stand back everyone!" Jeff exclaims. He and his pokemon all step
   back from the thieves.
   "That's better," Felice smiles wickedly. "Now, perhaps you will be so
   kind as to hand over your pokemon, or I'll blow you to Kingdom Come!"
   "No way!" Jeff exclaims. "You're bluffing!"
   "Am I?" Felice asks.
   "Can you be so sure?" Artemus agrees. "I guarantee you that this young
   lady is not entirely stable."
   "Stay out of this!" Felice snaps. While the villains argue, Jeff notices
   a small, furry creature sneaking up behind them.
   "Oh, please!" Artemus scoffs. "You couldn't negotiate a situation like
   this with a guide book!"
   "What is that supposed to mean?" Felice narrows her eyes.
   "Give me the Voltorb!" Artemus snatches the bomb from her hand.
   "Honestly, I think I can handle this a little better than y-"
   "Vee!" A familiar voice cries from behind him. Before Artemus can blink,
   a petite pokemon sinks its teeth deep into his leg.
   "AaAaAaAaAaA!" He howls in pain.
   "Don't drop the-!" Felice warns a second too late. The Voltorb slips from
   his hand and crashes to the ground.
   KA-BOOOOOM!!!! It explodes, hurling the two thieves, their pokemon.
   "We're blasting off again!" Artemus shouts as they sail through the
   atmosphere.
   "This is all your fault!" Felice shrieks just as they disappear over the
   horizon.

   That evening, as the sun sets slowly against the ocean, Jeff and Rex walk
   along the pier and see the sights. As the sky grows dark, the lights come on
   all along the boardwalk, and restaurants and stores gear up for a night of
   fun. The two teenaged boys, however, are content with just watching.
   "Wow," Rex says simply. "What a day. Team Rocket attacks, pokemon
   battles, and bomb threats."
   "Never a dull moment, huh?" Jeff sighs, taking a sip of his smoothie.
   "Well, not for you." Rex chuckles. "I slept through the whole thing,
   remember? You had all the fun today."
   "I wouldn't exactly call it fun..." Jeff says seriously. "But my pokemon
   got some experience, so that's good."
   "And you saved all of our pokemon to boot!" Rex points out. "Not too
   shabby, for a beginner!"
   "Gee... thanks." Jeff rolls his eyes. "Seriously, I was glad to help."
   "You're okay, Jeff Fuji." Rex grins, shaking his head. "When I first met
   you, I kind of thought you were... well, you did sort of act..."
   "Like a nerd?" He asks.
   "Well...." Rex says sheepishly.
   "That's okay." Jeff shrugs. "When I met you, I got the impression that
   you were a cocky, headstrong jerk with an ego bigger than a Snorlax."
   "... But now that you've gotten to know me..." Rex prompts.
   "You're okay." Jeff says thoughtfully. Under his breath, he adds, "Maybe
   your ego's only as big as a Ryhorn."
   "Well, what I was going to say," Rex says. "Is that I'm glad I met you. I
   mean, you saved all of our pokemon, you know more about computers and things
   than I ever will, plus you may be a better trainer than I am!"
   "Really?" Jeff arches an eyebrow. "You think so?"
   "Sure!" Rex nods. "You've trained more pokemon than me, and you care for
   them like no one I've ever seen. Plus, you've like memorized your entire
   pokedex!"
   "Only the first 153 pages of it," Jeff shrugs. "I've gotten behind on my
   schedule."
   They both watch a fireworks display over the Cinabarr Amusement Park.
   Roller coasters and ferris wheels are lighted against the night sky, with the
   water beneath them.
   "That looks like fun!" Rex says, pointing to the tallest of the coasters.
   "Do you want to check it out?"
   "I'm there!" Jeff laughs.
   Together, the two boys race down the pier toward the recreation park
   ahead.

Chapter Nineteen

  The normal sounds of a diner float through the air in the Pokemon Center
  Cafe. Silverware clashes against plates, people chat noisily, pots and pans
  bang together in the kitchen, and one very annoyed Joy runs back and forth,
  taking orders and serving the customers. Another Joy is at the cash register,
  while two Chanseys handle the cooking. Chansey pokemon are great chefs,
  however, and everyone just can't get enough of their delicious food.
  "I should have been a track runner!" Joy mutters sarcastically as she
  dashes across the restaurant carrying a tray of hot food. Reaching the table,
  she sighs in relief.
  "Hey, thanks Joy!" Rex Stone says to his cousin. "Here, let me help you
  with that."
  "That's okay," She smiles. "I've got it covered."
  Joy skillfully balances her tray in one hand, while reviewing the order
  sheet in her other hand. Rex, Jeff, Lizzie, and Katrina sit at the booth,
  with Rex's Eevee on the floor.
  "Let's see," Joy says, reading from the list. "I've got one cheese
  omelette-"
  "That's mine!" Jeff says, raising his hand. She places his plate on the
  table.
  "Three pancakes with maple syrup-" She continues.
  "Over here!" Rex says, taking the plate from her. "All right! These look
  great!"
  "French toast with powdered sugar?" Joy asks.
  "That's mine!" Lizzie smiles graciously as Joy sets the plate down before
  her. "Thanks a lot!"
  "I guess this order is for you," Joy says to Katrina. "Fresh fruit, a
  tossed salad, and a toasted bagel."
  "Thank you, Nurse Joy." Katrina nods respectfully.
  "Think nothing of it!" Joy dismisses her comment with a wave of her hand.
  "I suppose that this bowl of Poke-chow is for this little Eevee."
  "Vee!" Eevee squeaks with delight as the Nurse sets down the bowl of food
  in front of it. The litttle furry pokemon eagerly begins eating its food.
  "I think that does it." Joy notices. "Will there be anything else?"
  "No, I think we're set." Jeff shakes his head.
  "Great!" Joy beams. "I'll check back with you in a few minutes."
  She hurries off to satisfy the other customers. Meanwhile, the boys dive
  into their food with reckless abandon. The girls stare in absolute horror for
  a few seconds, then roll their eyes and commence eating their own food. After
  a few minutes of eating, they get down to business.
  "So, where to next?" Rex asks, his mouth half full of pancakes.
  "To Viridian City, of course!" Lizzie laughs. "Where else?"
  "Really?" Rex arches an eyebrow. "I thought I was the only one who still
  needed an Earth Badge." Abruptly, the others begin laughing. "...What? Did I
  miss something?"
  "Yeah, I think you did!" Lizzie says between laughs.
  "Rex," Jeff chuckles. "Lizzie and I don't have Earth Badges!"
  "Huh?" Rex's eyes widen. "What do you mean? You both said-"
  "We were just kidding!" Lizzie giggles uncontrollably. "It was Katrina's
  idea! You tell him!"
  "What's going on?" Rex asks the daughter of the ninja master. "I don't
  get it... I saw them. They both had Earth Badges..."
  "Well..." Katrina holds her hand against her mouth to keep from laughing.
  "Not exactly."
  "HUH?!?" Rex asks in absolute confusion. "What is going on here??"
  "Here, take a look at this!" Lizzie smiles, lifting up her 'Earth Badge'.
  "Not very authentic, is it?"
  "Let me see that!" Rex says, snatching the emblem from her hand. "It's...
  paper..." A shining powder rubs off onto his fingers. "With glitter!"
  "Exactly!" Jeff and Lizzie say at once. Then they both start laughing
  again.
  "I don't get it." Rex shakes his head. "Why did you guys tell me you had
  Earth Badges if you really didn't?"
  "Well, to mess with you, for one." Lizzie shrugs. Katrina stifles a
  giggle.
  "And two?" Rex asks.
  "To get you to challenge Katrina!" Jeff exclaims. "Come on, Rex. You have
  to admit that you'd basically given up beating her."
  "Right." Lizzie agrees. "We were worried that you wouldn't want to fight
  her since you lost to her twice, and you had gotten to know her. Besides, we
  can't wait forever to get to Indigo Plateau!"
  "What?" Rex asks in shock. "You mean she... she let me win?"
  "No!" Katrina says, seemingly offended. "You defeated me fair and square.
  A Gym Leader never lets his or her opponent win!"
  For a moment, the table is silent. Then, they all four crack up at the
  same time. The laugh aloud until the rest of the restaurant glares at them,
  and they stop.
  "So," Rex grins. "You guys used... reverse psychology on me?"
  "Something like that." Jeff nods.
  "And you two don't really have eight badges?" He asks.
  "I've only got seven." Lizzie nods. "I still need my Earth Badge."
  "But... you live in Viridian City!" Rex exclaims. "And you've never
  challenged the Gym Leader?"
  "Rex, in case you didn't know," Lizzie glares at him. "The Gym is hardly
  ever open, and the few times it is there is a huge line outside it."
  "Yeah, sure." Rex rolls his eyes teasingly. "How about you, Jeff? Do you
  have seven badges, too?"
  "Actually, I have eight." Jeff says calmly.
  "WHAT?!?" Lizzie and Rex shout together. The entire cafeteria glares at
  them again, and they become quiet.
  "How can you have eight badges?" Lizzie says in a hoarse whisper. "You've
  never been to Viridian City!"
  "Oh, I don't have my Earth Badge." Jeff shakes his head.
  "But, you just said..." Rex sputters.
  "I said I have eight badges," Jeff explains. "And I do. But not all are
  Gym Badges."
  "Huh?" The others eye him with confusion.
  "Have you ever been to the Pokemon League Testing Center?" Jeff asks.
  "It's near Fuchsia City."
  "Yes, I have seen it." Katrina nods her head. "Quite a remarkable
  institution. Only the smartest trainers pass their grueling tests."
  "I think I've heard of it," Lizzie says. "Isn't that the place where you
  can win an official League Badge?"
  "Right." Jeff nods. "First, however, you have to pass their test. Believe
  me, it is hard to do..."
  "You mean," Rex's mouth falls open. "You actually passed?"
  "Well, I was third from the top in a class of four hundred," Jeff sighs.
  "I should have studied more."
  "That's wonderful!" Lizzie smiles warmly. "Jeff, no one deserves it more
  than you!"
  "I am very impressed, Jeff Fuji." Katrina nods with appreciation. "You
  never cease to amaze me with your myriad talents."
  "Gee, thanks..." Jeff blushes, uncomfortable. Quickly, he composes
  himself. "Well, just because I have eight badges doesn't mean that I'm going
  straight to the League. I'd actually kind of like to go to Viridian City. To
  be honest, I never went to the Viridian Gym before now because I knew it was
  a... Ground Gym. As you know, I only train Bug pokemon, and they have a
  disadvantage against Ground."
  "Jeff," Rex assures him. "I'm sure you can take on Mr.... uh, Mrs.....
  err, Ms...." He frowns. "Say, who is the Viridian Gym Leader?"
  "Gosh, I don't know." Jeff shrugs. "I've never even seen a photograph of
  him."
  "I've lived in Viridian all my life," Lizzie says. "And I've never seen
  him."
  "How odd." Jeff scratches his chin. "Katrina, have you ever met the
  Viridian Gym Leader?"
  "Ahh, now that you mention it," Katrina says. "He usually didn't come to
  the Gym Leader Conventions. Most of the time he sent a delegate, or a Junior
  Trainer, or called in sick. I'm not even sure that I remember his name...
  they just called him "The Viridian Gym Leader"."
  " 'Him'?" Jeff asks.
  "Welll, I'm not sure about that either." Katrina sighs.
  "That's vaguely... creepy." Lizzie observes.
  "I call it weird." Rex rolls his eyes.
  "Whatever it is," Jeff says. "You guys need your Earth Badges, and he...
  she... whatever, is the only person that can award you them. I'm sure not
  going to the League alone, and that's the closest Gym to where we are, so
  that's where we have to go."
  "Bravo, Jeff." Katrina nods. "I'm sure whomever he is, Rex and Lizzie
  shall easily defeat him."
  "Thanks, guys." Lizzie smiles.
  "Yeah, I appreciate your confidence in us." Rex grins. "Then it's
  settled. We leave today for Viridian City."
  "Agreed." Lizzie nods. "The only question is how to get there..."
  "Well, we can always take a ferry." Jeff suggests.
  "Granted," Lizzie agrees. "However, Viridian is inland, so we'll have to
  dock at a port and then hike across the mainland."
  "What ports are nearby?" Katrina asks.
  "Hmm, there's Pallet Town." Rex points out. "That could work. We can dock
  there and then take Route One to Viridian."
  "Sounds good." Jeff says thoughtfully. "Hey, that's where the famous
  Professor Principes lives!"
  "Who?" The others ask.
  "Professor Princepis." Jeff repeats. He eyes the group with astonishment.
  "You mean... you haven't heard of him?"
  "Not that I recall..." Katrina shrugs.
  "Who is he, Jeff?" Lizzie asks.
  "He- he's a genius!" Jeff sputters, overflowing with emotion. "Ever since
  Professor Oak went North to study new species of wild pokemon, it has been
  Professor Princepis who has headed Pokeology in this part of Pokemon Island.
  He's absolutely brilliant! He helped to design the new version of the
  pokedex, he's lectured at Pokemon Tech, his experiments have been studied at
  the Pokemon Laboratory right here on Cinabarr, and even Silph Co. has hired
  him as a technology consultant in the past!"
  "Sounds like quite a scientist." Rex observes. "But can he play the
  piano?"
  "Har har, Rex." Jeff rolls his eyes. "Anyway, it's like I've said. The
  man is an absolute genius! We have got to go visit him!"
  "Visit him?" Lizzie repeats. "Are you certain that's wise? I mean,
  suppose he doesn't like people just dropping in."
  "Oh, he won't mind!" Jeff insists, still greatly excited. "Come on, guys!
  It will be fun! Interesting! Educational! And- dare I think it?- he might
  even let us see his latest research project!"
  "Jeff builds quite a strong case." Katrina observes. "All in favor of
  going to Pallet?"
  "Definitely!" Jeff nods.
  "Sure, why not?" Rex agrees.
  "Count me in!" Lizzie giggles.
  "Vee!" Eevee squeaks.
  "Then it is settled." Katrina notes with satisfaction. "We will go to
  Pallet Town. Now... about tickets...."
  "Oh, right." Jeff groans. "I almost forgot that we'll need tickets."
  "Here's your check!" Nurse Joy beams, coming back to the table. "I hope
  you enjoyed yourselves, and have a nice day!"
  "Just a second," Rex says to his 'cousin'. "Joy, do you know of any good
  ferries to Pallet?"
  "Pallet? Hmm...." She hums quietly to herself. "Oh! I know just the ship,
  the Silver Moon."
  " 'Silver Moon' ?" Lizzie cooes. "Sounds romantic!"
  "Oh, it is!" Joy nods. "Quite a luxurious ship. It takes passengers to
  and from the mainland via the Sea Routes. I think Pallet Town is one of its
  stops."
  "That sounds satisfactory." Katrina agrees. "How high are the rates?"
  "Let's see," Joy thinks aloud. "My sister, Joy, took a cruise to
  Vermillion City on the Silver Moon. It only cost-"
  She quotes a four figure sum.
  "Um... that's a little bit out of our price range." Rex says nervously.
  "Is there anything cheaper?"
  "Well, there's Pirate Pete's Roundtrip Ferry Service." Joy suggests. "I
  think I have a price sheet.... ah, here it is!"
  The group reviews the sheet.
  "Looks reasonable." Jeff says. "How often do they run?"
  "One ferry departs every 96 hours." Joy smiles sweetly.
  "WHAT?!?" They all gasp.
  "Why every four days?" Lizzie asks.
  "They only have one ship." Joy shrugs.
  "How can it be a ferry line if there is only one ship??" Rex demands.
  "Well... I guess we don't really have a choice. Do you know when the next
  boat leaves?"
  "Today, I think." Joy says uncertainly. "Listen, I have to wait on the
  other customers. Go down to the pier; the travel agency is right at the end.
  Pirate Pete will have an agent there."
  "Thanks, Joy!" Rex says as his 'cousin' hurries off to take someone
  else's order.

  "Okay, here's the plan," Lizzie says to the others as they stand in the
  Pokemon Center's lobby after checking out. "Jeff, you'll go buy some last
  minute supplies from the Pokemart, right?"
  "Right." He agrees, hoisting his backpack to his shoulder. "I've got
  enough money to get some more potions and antidotes. Man, the prices are kind
  of steep here..."
  "We'll worry about that later." Lizzie says. "Rex, you'll take our
  luggage down to the pier so they can load them onto the ship, right?"
  "Hey, I don't have muscles of steel for nothing!" Rex grins, flexing in a
  slightly ridiculous pose. The girls roll their eyes. Jeff groans.
  "Katrina and I will go buy ferry tickets." She continues. "We'll all meet
  on the pier in... forty-five minutes. Agreed?"
  "Right." The others nod. Jeff rushes out the door and takes a left. Rex
  lifts up the small stack of bags and marches out the door with them. Katrina
  for the door. Lizzie starts to follow, then stops.
  "Hold it." She says aloud. "Where are Chansey and Jynx?"
  "I have not seen them this morning." Katrina shrugs. "Could they still be
  in the dormitory?"
  "I told them to meet me for breakfast..." She puzzles. "What could be
  holding them up?"
  "Perhaps you should check." Katrina suggests. "I shall go ahead and
  purchase tickets for six. I do not assume that they will consider Rediba or
  Eevee as 'passengers'."
  "Thanks, Katrina!" Lizzie sighs. "Sorry about this. I've just got to find
  them."
  She runs down the hallway and to the elevator. The girls' dorm is located
  on the third story, above the observation level. She gets off the elevator
  and hurries to where she and Katrina had stayed the night before.
  "Jynx? Chansey?" She calls, entering the room. To her surprise, there are
  no trainers inside it, though backpacks and duffel bags lie beside the
  numerous cots that dot the large chamber. Hearing her voice, two figures pop
  up from behind one cot.
  "There you are!" She exclaims, hurrying over to where her escorts stand.
  "Honestly, where have you two been? I told you to meet me downstairs over an
  hour-"
  She notices a third figure beside them.
  "-ago..."
  A familiar pink and white creature with blue fins sticking out of its
  head waves nervously at Lizzie.
  "Mr. Mime?" She asks, confused. "What are you doing here?"
  "Mime! Mime!" He begins chattering wildly. "Mister-Mister Mime-Mime!"
  "What?" She frowns. "I don't understand... What are you trying to tell
  me?"
  "Mister Mime Mister Mister!" He continues frantically. "Mime Mime! Mister
  Mime!"
  "I... don't get it..." She shrugs. "I'm sorry... I just can't understand
  your speech."
  She looks into the sad eyes of the diminutive pokemon. It is obvious that
  something serious has happened, but she cannot tell what. Suddenly, she has
  an idea.
  "Hey!" She snaps her finger. "Chansey, why don't you interpret for me?"
  "Chan-Sey!" The pink nurse pokemon hums eagerly. "Chan? Chan-sey?
  Chan-sey Chan Chan?"
  "Mime!" Mr. Mime wails. "Mister! Mime! Mister Mime!"
  "Chan??" Chansey places a hand over its mouth in shock. "Chan... Sey???"
  "Mime!!" Mr. Mime sobs. "Mister Mime Mime Mister Mister!"
  "Chan-SEY!!" The egg-shaped creature leaps in surprise. It turns to
  Lizzie.
  "What?" She asks. "What did he say?"
  Chansey hurriedly explains through a series of "chan's" and "sey's". When
  it finishes, Lizzie's face is pale with horror.
  "And... and your trainer..." She struggles to get out the words. "He...
  made fun of you? He... he pulled on your fins?"
  "Mime!" Mr. Mime nods rapidly. "Mister Mime Mister!"
  "Oh, that's horrible!" She gasps. "Just because he said you didn't make
  enough money for him?"
  "Chan, Chan-Sey!" Chansey continues with the story.
  "He barely gave you food?!?" She places a hand over her mouth. "And when
  he did, it was old and stale?"
  "Mime! Mime!" Mr. Mime hops up and down.
  "Oh, Mr. Mime!" Lizzie cries, hugging the cute pokemon. "I am so sorry!
  This is terrible! Why, I ought to go to the police station and-"
  Mr. Mime cuts her off. It holds her by the arm and shakes its head.
  "You... don't want me to tell Officer Jenny?" Lizzie asks, surprised.
  "You... don't want your trainer to get into trouble? Even after he's been
  mean to you?"
  "Mime, Mime," Mr. Mime nods. "Mister Mime, Mister Mister."
  Chansey quickly translates for her.
  "Oh, I see." Lizzie says. "I didn't know... he raised you since you were
  an infant. Well, still, that doesn't give him the right to treat you poorly.
  You deserve better, Mr. Mime."
  "Mime?" Mr. Mime looks at her questioningly.
  "Hmmm..." Lizzie says thoughtfully. "I wonder if... Say, would you like
  to come with us?"
  "Mister Mime?" Mr. Mime asks, surprised. "Mime Mime?"
  "Sure! You can join our team!" Lizzie smiles. "We'll never treat you like
  your old trainer did. Please, you can trust us. We'll be your friends!"
  For a moment, Mr. Mime is quiet, in thought. Then, it leaps up and hugs
  her.
  "Mister Mime!" It sings happily.
  "Then, you'll come with us?" Lizzie asks. "That's wonderful!"
  "Jyyynx!" Jynx hums merrily.
  "Chan-Sey!" Chansey claps its hands.

  An hour later, Lizzie runs hurriedly down the dock to where she and the
  others were to meet. When she arrives, the others are already waiting.
  "Finally!" Rex exclaims in exhasperation. "What took you so long?"
  "Sorry, everyone," Lizzie pants, catching her breath. "I just had to...
  get Jynx and Chansey."
  Her pokemon escorts nod their agreement. Rex rolls his eyes.
  "Well, come on." Rex snaps impatiently. "You're here now. Let's get on
  the ferry."
  Rex, Jeff, and Katrina walk around the corner and head toward the docking
  bay.
  "Chans?" The pokemon nurse asks Lizzie curiously.
  "I just wasn't... ready to tell them." Lizzie says simply. "Don't worry,
  I'll let them know later."
  She quickly follows the others around the ticket building and to the
  docking bay. When she sees the rusted old junker that her friends are
  standing beside, however, her mouth drops open.
  "You bought tickets for... for... THAT?!?" Lizzie sputters incredulously.
  "Well, excuse me!" Rex retorts. "But it's the only thing we can afford,
  so you'd better get used to it."
  "It will be no problem, Lizzie." Katrina assures her after the boys board
  the ferry. "This seems to be a capable vessel."
  "Arr, that she be, lass." A familiar voice comes from the deck of the
  ship. "Thar be no ship among Cinabarr Isle can compare to her for speed."
  The girls look up in surprise to see a short, portly man with a black
  beard and blue captain's uniform.
  "Are... are you the captain of the 'Salty Seadog'?" Lizzie asks,
  surprised.
  "No, that be me cousin, Ahab." The Captain explains to her. "I be Jacob,
  cap'n of the proud 'Sea Biscuit', swiftest vessel what ever sailed the seas!"
  Katrina and Lizzie both stifle laughs. Jynx and Chansey look on, still
  trying to overcome their shock.
  "I.. am pleased to meet you, Captain." Katrina smiles courteously. "This
  is my friend, Elizabeth Palacio,"
  "Ahh, the pleasure is mine, madams," The old captain assures them. "I
  have the immense pleasure of shuttling thee to the mainland, and I shall make
  all efforts for this to be a leisurely cruise for the two of ye."
  "Thank you, Captain." Lizzie smiles sweetly. "You are indeed a gracious
  host."
  "Aye, that I may be, lasses, if I may indulge meself to say so," He
  chuckles good-naturedly. He proceeds to take both of them gently by the arm
  and escort them cordially up the ramp to the ship. "Did me no-account cousin
  tell ye about the time that I saved a whole ship from going down in a storm?"
  "No," Lizzie starts. "I don't recall th-"
  "Oh, it was a terrible night, lass!" Captain Jacob interrupts, retelling
  the story as if to an old acquaintance. "Dreadful sea was tossin' to and fro
  like a bucking horse! T'was no night for ladies, like yourselves, to be out
  alone. I was alone on the top deck, just me versus the vicious sea! Man
  against nature! The waves were crashing o'er the hull like it was made o
  cardboard! And just when methinks it was about over, the rain turned to hail!
  Then came the Gyarados!!"
  The old storyteller continues weaving his elaborate yarn for the
  enchanted (and somewhat amused) young ladies. While the boys unpack their
  things in the cabins below and the crew prepares to cast off, Lizzie's
  pokemon escorts carry her things for her, and despite the amount of people
  she has seen thus far, no one noticed that Elizabeth Palacio was carrying a
  sixth pokeball.
 
 
 

   Chapter Twenty

   When Rex Stone and the others arrive in Pallet Town, it is hardly a month
   until the League Games begin. Though the group is hurrying to reach Viridian
   City to collect their remaining Badges, they feel that taking a pitstop for a
   day can't hurt anything. As the sun shines high overhead, Rex, Jeff, Lizzie,
   Katrina, and their pokemon escorts walk along a path into the quaint little
   burgh. Still hardly more than a village, and not quite a city, Pallet was
   nonetheless home to thousands of people. As they walk along, however, the
   only citizens they see are the scarce few going to and from the market
   downtown, some riding bicycles, others on foot.
   "So, guys, where to first?" Rex asks the others.
   "Let's check into the Pokemon Center." Jeff suggests.
   "No can do," Rex says. "There isn't one in Pallet."
   "Huh?" Jeff frowns. "Why not?"
   "There just aren't enough people, I guess." Rex shrugs. "Pokemon Centers
   are usually only found in Cities, and this is still just a Town."
   "We have a Center in Lavender." Jeff points out.
   "Lavender is a lot larger than Pallet." Rex explains. "Not to mention
   that it is closer to more Cities with Gyms. There's Saffron to the West,
   Cerulean to the Northwest, and Fuchsia to the South."
   "In that case, let's go straight to Professor Principes' Lab!" Jeff says
   eagerly. "I can't wait to meet him!"
   "Hold on." Lizzie interjects. "I've been on a boat for over a day now,
   and I'm sure I've looked better. I need someplace to sit down and rest, and
   get myself together."
   "Well, we could go to an Inn..." Rex suggests.
   "If we had any money." Lizzie sighs.
   "Oh, right..." Rex mutters. "Hey! I know what to do!"
   "What?" The others ask.
   "I can't believe I didn't think of this before!" He says excitedly. "We
   can see my cousins!"
   "You're cousins?" The others repeat.
   "I didn't know you had relatives in Pallet." Katrina says curiously.
   "Oh, sure." Rex shrugs. "The Pallet Joys."
   "Joys??" The others gasp. "In Pallet????"
   "Yeah." Rex nods. "Four of them."
   "I thought you said there wasn't a Pokemon Center here." Jeff says
   suspiciously.
   "There isn't," Rex agrees. "But that doesn't mean they can't live here,
   and they do."
   "They are your cousins?" Lizzie asks again.
   "Right." Rex nods.
   "And they'll let me comb my hair?" She asks. "And put on makeup?"
   "Yeah, I don't see why not." Rex shrugs.
   "Take me there." Lizzie says, grabbing him by the arm.
   "Um, okay..." He sputters. "Are you two coming with us?"
   "No, that's okay." Jeff says. "I'm going to go ahead to Professor
   Princepis' Lab!"
   "I think that I may take in the sights." Katrina says calmly. "Perhaps I
   shall indulge myself in a brisk walk."
   "Okay, whatever," Rex calls as Lizzie drags him down the path. Chansey,
   Jynx, and Eevee follow. "Have fun!"

   "Coming!" A voice comes from behind the wooden door of 1588 Pallet
   Street. Lizzie and Rex stand on the porch, waiting to be let in.
   "Are you sure they won't mind us bringing in our pokemon?" Lizzie
   whispers.
   "I'm positive." Rex assures her. The door swings open, revealing a tall,
   slender young lady of about 17 years of age with pink hair.
   "Rex!!" She exclaims upon seeing her cousin. "I can't believe it! What
   are you doing here?"
   "Hey, Joy!" He blushes as she hugs him. "It's... uh, good to see you too!"
   "I can't believe how tall you're getting!" She gushes. "Oh, little
   Rexie's growing up!"
   "Joyyy!" He grits his teeth. She seems to ignore him.
   "And who is this young woman?" Joy asks, turning to Lizzie.
   "Hi, I'm Lizzie Palacio!" Lizzie smiles, shaking her hand. "Rex and I
   have been traveling together for over a year now. We're in town with friends
   on our way to Viridian, and we were wondering if we could stop by and-"
   "Oh, sure!" Joy laughs courteously. "Come on in!"
   She pinches Rex on the cheek and walks inside. Rex blushes, and follows
   inside. Lizzie thinks that she would almost feel jealous if the beautiful
   young woman was not Rex's cousin...
   "Rex!" Come three more voices as they step into the living room. More
   Joys (none of whom have their hair in the customary ring style) swarm the
   teenager, fussing over him and exclaiming about how old/tall/handsome he is
   getting. Lizzie covers her mouth to keep from laughing. Jynx and Chansey
   giggle. Eevee rolls its eyes.
   Some time later, after they all had settled on the couch and in chairs,
   the group begins talking.
   "So, how long has it been since you left Stone Town?" One Joy asks Rex.
   "Over a year." Rex answers. "I met Lizzie just a week after leaving home."
   "How many Badges have you collected?" Another Joy asks curiously.
   "Seven so far." He responds. "We're going to Viridian to-"
   "Seven?!?" The Joys exclaim. Then they burst into laughter.
   "What's so funny?" He asks, surprised.
   "Oh, nothing! Nothing!" The Joy that opened the door for them assures
   him. "We just... err... Never mind!"
   "No, really!" He insists. "Come on, tell me what it is."
   "Well," Joy number three says cautiously. "It's just that your
   brothers..."
   Rex's left eye twitches. His fists clench. He grits his teeth. His brow
   is furrowed. A cold, icy stare envelopes the room. The Joys giggle
   mischievously.
   "Um, nothing." The same Joy says, trying to hide a smirk.
   "So, are you two just friends?" The fourth Joy asks.
   "Yes!" The both agree at the same time. "Just friends. Nothing more!
   Nope. Nada. That's all. Right."
   The Joys share a knowing look with each other, then change the subject.
   "Anyway, who are you traveling with?" Joy number two asks.
   "We have the pleasure of Katrina Koga's company," Lizzie says. "Along
   with-"
   "The daughter of the ninja master??" The Joys ask, intensely interested.
   "My goodness, how did you meet her? Did you see her father, Master Koga? What
   is he like? Is he really as reclusive and isolated as they say he is? Was he-"
   "Hey!" Rex laughs, getting their attention. "Calm down! Master Koga was
   really cool. I like him a lot."
   "Is his daughter really as cute as they say?" The third Joy asks, winking
   at Rex. Her sister elbows her.
   "Uh... um... err.... well..." Rex sputters.
   "Oh, now you've done it!" The first Joy jokes. "He'll be like that for
   hours!"
   The girls laugh, including Lizzie. Eevee hisses mirthfully with them. Rex
   glares at it.
   "Traitor." He mutters.
   "And, who did you say your other friend was?" Joy number four asks.
   "Jeff Fuji." Lizzie says. "Nephew of Mr. Fuji. Quite a charming,
   well-mannered young man. We are close friends."
   "I see." The second Joy nods. "Where is he right now?"
   "Visiting his hero." Lizzie giggles.
   "Professor Princepis." Rex explains.
   "Oh, such a sweet man." The first Joy says. The others agree. "He's very
   kind, and very smart. We know him well. Such a tragedy when his wife died
   unexpectedly... All he has left is his son, Leo."
   "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that." Lizzie says in a concerned tone.
   "Leo Princepis?" Rex asks. "I don't think I've met him."
   "You probably haven't." Another Joy nods. "He is a few years younger than
   you, and I believe he's only as far as Celadon City."
   "Ahh, that would explain it." Rex agrees. "Hmm... I wonder how Jeff is
   getting along with the Professor?"

   At this moment, Jeff Fuji nervously approaches the laboratory of the
   famous Pokemon researcher. He breathes deeply before knocking on the heavy
   door. As he waits for a response, his heart beats nervously. This is the
   single most important moment in his career as a Pokemon trainer!
   "Who is it?" A voice coming from a speaker on the wall sounds, nearly
   causing Jeff to jump to the roof.
   "Oh, h-hello," Jeff sputters. "P-professor Princepis?"
   "Yes, this is he." The voice responds, not at all unkindly. "Can I help
   you?"
   "Um, y-yes." Jeff continues. "My name is J-Jeff Fuji, and I was
   w-wondering if-"
   "Did you say Fuji?" Professor Princepis interrupts. "By all means, come
   in!"
   With an electronic click, the doors open, revealing the inside of the
   lab. A long hallway stretches before Jeff, leading to a small flight of
   stairs.
   "Come in, don't be shy." Professor Princepis' voice urges, this time from
   within the building. Taking another deep breath, Jeff steps inside and walks
   down the hall to meet with his mentor.
   "I'm down in the laboratory." The Professor calls. "It's right down these
   stairs."
   Jeff follows the sound of his voice down a short flight and into a large
   laboratory-style room with long tables, advanced machinery, boiling test
   tubes, and one very large video screen. A middle-aged man in a white lab coat
   looks up from a microscope and waves to him.
   "Ahh, welcome, friend!" He greets Jeff. "I am Professor Princepis, chief
   Pokemon researcher of the town of Pallet."
   "I- I- I-" Jeff sputters, shaking his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Sir!"
   "I take it you are related of Mr. Fuji of Lavender Town?" The Professor
   asks.
   "Um, why... yes!" Jeff nods. "He's my Uncle. Do you... know him?"
   "I've met him, on occassion." Professor Princepis nods. "Quite a
   brilliant individual. He seems to be able to understand a Pokemon and see
   things from their point of view better than anyone else I know. Frankly, I
   don't think there is anyone around that can compare to your uncle when it
   comes to perceiving the true nature and heart of Pokemon."
   "Thank you, Sir!" Jeff says eagerly. "That is quite an honor, Sir!"
   "Oh, don't be so formal." Professor Princepis chuckles. "Call me
   Professor!"
   "Um, okay, Professor." Jeff nods. "Gosh, this is the biggest thrill of my
   life! Meeting you is the pinnacle of my existance! You are my mentor, Sir- I
   mean, Professor! No one is a better researcher than you! I've- I've studied
   all your works, and I've read most of your essays, and to put it bluntly, I
   am amazed! I-"
   "Whoa, slow down!" The Professor laughs. "Calm down, young man! Although
   I am glad to hear that you admire my work, I hope you realize that I too am
   human."
   "Um, well, yes, of course!" Jeff hurriedly agrees. "It just hadn't
   exactly occurred to me yet..."
   "Well, I assure you I am." He sighs contentedly. "You know, you remind me
   of someone very dear to me: my son, Leo."
   "Really?" Jeff asks.
   "Oh, certainly." Professor Princepis nods. "He's not much younger than
   yourself. What are you, thirteen?"
   "Um, yes, Sir." Jeff answers.
   "Leo is twelve, almost thirteen." The Professor says.
   "Well, I'm actually closer to fourteen." Jeff says.
   "And I see you're just as competitive as Leo!" The Professor chuckles.
   "Here, would you like to see what I'm working on?"
   "Oh, sure!" Jeff exclaims, running up to the microscope he was looking
   at. "What do you have here?"
   "Well, I'm examing the cells of a Ditto," The Professor explains.
   "Normally they enter Mitosis at a much faster rate than cells of other
   Pokemon, but this individual-"
   "These cells aren't exiting Interphase." Jeff completes his sentence. "I
   see. Have you tried accelerating the kinetic energy of the surrounding
   environment?"
   "Of course, but how do you account for all the variables?" The Professor
   sighs.
   "By using the formula EV over TV equals Percent Error over the variable
   'x'!" Jeff exclaims.
   "You know, that just might work!" The Professor rubs his chin
   thoughtfully. "Let's do it."
   The two scientists work together on the problem for some time, discussing
   Pokemon Biology and various species traits as well as general small talk.

   Meanwhile, Lizzie excuses herself from the others to make a phone call.
   Finding the video phone, she quickly punches in the number to Mr. Fuji's home
   address in Lavender Town.
   "Hello?" The gray-haired man asks, his face appearing on the screen.
   "Who's there- Why, is that Lizzie Palacio?"
   "Hello, Mr. Fuji." She says kindly. "It's been a while."
   "Too long, indeed, to see such a pretty face." The elderly man says
   courteously.
   "Thank you, kind Sir." Lizzie giggles. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I
   need you to take another pokemon for me."
   "I am always willing to help you young people in any way I can," Mr. Fuji
   sighs. "Unfortunately, you have caught me at an inopportune moment. Right now
   I must oversee the reconstruction of the Pokemon Tower, and that job demands
   much of my focus and attention-"
   "Oh, no!" Lizzie exclaims. "What happened to the Tower?"
   "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." Mr. Fuji rolls his eyes. "To
   make a long story short, two idiots from Team Rocket accidentally destroyed
   it, trying to get a Marrowak."
   "They weren't, by any chance," Lizzie asks. "Named Artemus and Felice,
   were they?"
   "No, not these two." Mr. Fuji arches an eyebrow curiously. "The ones I
   had the misfortune of running into went by the names of Cordelia and Jethro,
   though I believe the former mentioned a name that may have been 'Felice'
   regarding a heist her sister was planning in Cinabarr Island..."
   "We sort of found out about that the hard way..." Lizzie sighs. "I'm sure
   Jeff will tell you all about it in his next call."
   "Where is my nephew, by the way?" Mr. Fuji asks. Lizzie opens her mouth
   to speak, but he continues. "Ahh, do not even say it. I know he must be at
   Professor Princepis' laboratory."
   "Correct, Sir." Lizzie nods. "He left for there about half an hour ago."
   "Ahh, the dear Professor is a good friend of mine." Mr. Fuji says,
   starting to retell an anecdote. "I remember one time- no, I must not talk any
   longer. Dear Lady, I will gladly receive any pokemon of yours, but I cannot
   do so now. Already I am ten minutes late to reach the construction site."
   "I understand, Mr. Fuji." Lizzie nods. "I'll give you the short version
   of my story. While on Cinabarr, I found a Mr. Mime, or rather he found me,
   that had been abused by its trainer. I put it in a pokeball and took it off
   the island, but it still retains a fear of humans. I hope that you will be
   able to care for it and help it trust people again, so that one day it might
   even be my own pokemon."
   "Of course, dear girl, of course I will." Mr. Fuji nods. "Again, this is
   a most inopportune time. You are traveling to Viridian City, correct? Upon
   reaching the Pokemon Center there, call me first and then transport the
   pokeball to my dwelling. I shall take care of it as if it were my own...
   well, my own Mr. Mime."
   "Thank you, Mr. Fuji!" Lizzie smiles warmly. "I look forward to calling
   you again. Good bye."
   "Good bye, young lady," Mr. Fuji says. "And keep an eye on that nephew of
   mine!"
   With that, the connection fades.

   Several hundred miles away, a very different meeting is taking place.
   Artemus and Felice, former members of the Team Rocket "Top Members List",
   face the wrath of their employer. As they stand before his desk in his office
   deep within the Secret Headquarters of the criminal organization, they
   receive the greatest shouting out of their illustrious careers.
   "You idiots have cost me a fortune!!!" The Boss shouts at them. "Do you
   have any idea how much this material costs?!?"
   "I'm exceedingly sorry, Sir," Artemus says nervously. "But you must let
   me-"
   "SILENCE!" He thunders. "You are in NO position to issue me demands!"
   "Sir, he is right!" Felice pleads. "Please, you must let us-"
   "Et tu, Felice?" He snarls. "Neither of you seems to be aware of the
   severity of your actions!"
   He produces a thick folder from his desk. Inside it are dozens of bills
   and insurance reports. He holds them up so the two agents can see them.
   "A motorized catamaran," He growls, reading from the documents. "Two
   hangliders, a Hypno-Adapter helmet..."
   "Sir, it isn't our fault!" Artemus protests. "Felice and I have done our
   best, but these little creeps keep getting in our way!"
   "Yes!" Felice agrees."If it wasn't for these four kids, we'd-"
   "Now you blame your own incompetence on CHILDREN?!?" The Boss hisses.
   "What next? Shall you claim that a nearby infant thwarted your scheme?"
   "But-" They both start.
   "DO NOT SPEAK!!!" He shouts, slamming the folder to the desk. "Listen to
   me very, very closely. For your past failures, you will take a sixty percent
   paycut until you make up for the damages. The only reason I do not fire you
   right now is that you are, or have been, extremely good at what you do."
   "Well, thank you, Sir." Artemus nods. "Your confidence in our talents is-"
   "I AM NOT PAYING YOU A COMPLIMENT!" The Boss thunders. Artemus
   immediately clams up. "Listen to me very, very carefully: if you lose one
   more piece of equipment, it will mean dire, dire consequences. I shall show
   no more leniency. Do not provoke my anger further. Do I make myself clear?"
   "Yes, Sir!" They both nod vigorously. "Quite clear, Sir!"
   "Good." He narrows his eyes at them both. "Now, get out of my sight!"
   They bow and quickly exit the room.
   "This wouldn't have happened, you know." Felice sneers after they exit
   the building. "If someone hadn't been goofing off while I was trying to work!"
   "Me???" Artemus scoffs. "I don't know what you are implying, but I have
   done more than my fare share of work."
   "What is that supposed to mean?" Felice asks. "That I haven't?"
   "I didn't say that." Artemus says smugly.
   "You implied it!" Felice snaps.
   "Oh, now who's implying?" He shrugs his shoulders.
   "What?" Felice gasps. "This is your fault, Artemus!"
   In no time at all, the conversation deteriorates from light chiding to
   screaming. Finally, neither can stand it any longer.
   "Look, if that's the way you feel, Miss Navidad," Artemus snarls. "Then
   maybe we should no longer be partners!"
   "Fine by me, Mister Fitzgerald!" Felice retorts. "I'll do fine without
   you bungling up things!"
   "Good bye!" Artemus snorts, marching off down the street.
   "Good riddance!" Felice calls after him, then turns and leaves the other
   way. Watching from a balcony high above them, two mysterious figures watch
   with silent content as the once great duo angrily breaks up.
 
 
 

   Chapter Twenty-One

   "On the road to Viridian City~!" Lizzie sings aloud as the team walks
   down Route One on a bright, sunny day. "On the road to Viridian CITY~!" She
   has a beautiful voice, having had the best vocal instructors in the City
   since the time she could walk. Always the carefree member of the group, she
   is even happier today, knowing each step brings her closer to the Emerald
   Green City she calls her home.
   "Yeah, we're on the way." Rex jokes. "We're on the road, we're on the
   way."
   "We've built a team, and we've been training all day long!" Jeff hums to
   himself. "We're on the road, and getting strong!"
   "Now here's the plan, we're gonna head down to the forest!" Katrina,
   surprising the others, bursts into song. "Time to collect... some
   Po-Kay-Mon!"
   "We'll keep on trying!" They all sing together. "And then, we'll try some
   more! To sta-y-y together and find a place worth fighting for-r-r!" Then they
   all laugh aloud.
   "That was fun!" Jeff exclaims. "We should do it again some time."
   "Jeff, we were only singing for like twenty seconds!" Rex grins.
   "So..." Lizzie says mischievously. "You admit you joined in??"
   "Hold on," Rex says, checking himself. "I didn't say that-"
   "You said 'we'!" Lizzie giggles wickedly. "And that, my friend, is an
   all-inclusive pronoun!"
   "What's with you today?" Rex asks kiddingly. "You're, like, a bottle of
   sunshine, or something."
   "Sunshine, lollypops and-" She starts singing again. "Rainbows, la da da
   da!~"
   "What do you expect, Rex?" Katrina asks. "Lizzie has been away from home
   for weeks. She'll be happy to see her family again, I'm sure."
   "Not exactly." Lizzie says. "My dad's out of town on business, so I won't
   see him. I just love Viridian City! I'm always happier when I'm there than
   anywhere else!"
   "Hey, there it is!" Jeff points to a tall, green gate atop the crest of
   the next hill.
   "Yes!" Lizzie cheers exitedly. "Race ya!"
   With that, she bolts down the path, her escort pokemon waddling behind
   her.
   "Hey, come back here!" Rex calls. He quickly follows. Jeff and Katrina
   follow suit, with Eevee racing behind them and Rediba perched on its
   trainer's shoulder.

   "Welcome to the Viridian City Pokemon Center." A pink-haired receptionist
   beams from the front desk. "How may I help- Oh my goodness, it's you!"
   "Yep, it's m-" Rex starts to say, thinking she recognizes him.
   "Lizzie Palacio!" Joy exclaims, standing up in surprise. "It's so good to
   see you!"
   "Joy!" Lizzie beams, hugging her friend. "I know, it's been a long time,
   hasn't it?"
   "Not since the day you and your father brought your sick Jigglypuff in
   here." Joy agrees. "Gosh, I'm so glad you're here! How long are you going to
   be in town?"
   "Oh, just a day or two." Lizzie explains. "I came to get my Earth Badge."
   "Earth Badge?" Joy arches an eyebrow curiously. "But the Gym Leader only
   admits trainers with seven... Lizzie! Do you already have seven badges???"
   "Yes!" Lizzie exclaims. "Isn't that amazing!"
   At this point, to the disgust of Rex and mild amusement of Katrina and
   Jeff, the two girls begin to jump and down, squealing excitedly. (If anyone
   reading this has seen two cheerleaders celebrating some great thing that has
   recently happened, they can easily imagine this sight.) Finally, Rex can take
   it no more.
   "A-HEM!" He coughs pointedly. Joy glances at him for the briefest second.
   "Oh, hello Rex." She says off-handedly. Immediately, she resumes talking
   with Lizzie.
   "EXCUSE ME!" He shouts. Lizzie and Joy both give him the same look of
   disdain. Then they look at each other, try unsuccessfully to hide smiles,
   then giggle uncontrollably.
   "Anyway," Lizzie says, sobering. "My friends and I need to check in.
   Chansey over there has my luggage (she points to her pinkish pokemon nurse),
   and I need to make a quick phone call."
   "The video phones are on that wall over there." Joy points across the
   room.
   "It's... kind of personal." Lizzie mouths the words to her.
   "Or you could use the private line in the office." Joy gestures to the
   room behind her.
   "Thanks!" Lizzie calls over her shoulder as she hurries into the room.
   "I'll be back in a second!"

   After the others had signed the guest registry form, Katrina and Jeff
   went to their respective dorms to find some empty cots and set down their
   stuff. Chansey and Jynx went with Katrina, leaving Rex alone to talk with his
   cousin.
   "So, what's new, Joy?" He asks as she calmly sorts papers and signs
   documents.
   "Same old, same old." She sighs. "Believe me, it gets to be sort of
   routine when you're the receptionist. My sisters are the ones who actually
   treat pokemon... (sigh). I suppose that's the price you pay when you're the
   young one..."
   "Joy is younger than you." Rex points out.
   "Yeah, she is the youngest of the Viridian Joys." Joy agrees. "Most of us
   are seventeen, and she's only sixteen. But ever since she left, I'm the one
   left behind to due all the paperwork."
   "Where did she go?" Rex asks curiously.
   "She wouldn't say." Joy shrugs. "She just got up one day and decided to
   take all of her vacation for the year at one time."
   "When did she leave?" Rex asks.
   "About a month ago." Joy sighs. "She packed beachwear. I think... Now,
   I'm not sure, but I think she said she was going to Seafoam."
   "Really?" Rex asks, surprised. "I was on Seafoam a month ago, and I
   didn't see her. My brothers were all there, though."
   "Oh, that's right!" Joy smiles. "We got the nicest postcard from them.
   They're really sweet guys, you know Rex."
   "Um... no, I don't really know that." Rex chuckles nervously. "I just
   know I've been in more headlocks than some professional wrestlers."
   "Oh, come on." Joy smirks. "It isn't like you don't provoke them!"
   "Provoke? ME???" Rex scoffs. "Yeah, right!"
   "Yeah, I know I'm right!" Joy nods. "Like the time you spray-painted
   Rainer's surfboard? Or the time you plucked out all those strings on Sparky's
   guitar? You were the one who shaved Pyro's head while he was sleeping last
   Thanksgiving, weren't you? And wasn't it you who deleted Mikey's files in his
   laptop to make room for ' Tetris' ?"
   "Well..." Rex shrugs.
   "Even if Joy was on that island with you," Joy remarks. "She probably
   wouldn't have spoken to you. After all, you did catch her kissing the caterer
   at last year's reunion. She's never really forgiven you, you know?"
   "Look, I'm sorry!" Rex exclaims, exhasperated. "Okay, so I've been a
   little... mischievous. That's no reason for her to prod me with cold
   instruments at every one of my checkups over the last year and a half!"
   At this, Joy giggles a little. A frustrated look from Rex causes her to
   stop.
   "Anyway, little cousin." Joy says seriously. "What's your plan?"
   "Well, after we get our Earth Badges," He says calmly. "The four of us
   are going to Indigo Plateau. If we hurry, we'll make it just in time for the
   League Games." (At this point, Joy eyes him worriedly.) "...What's wrong?"
   "Don't you think you're getting a little ahead of yourself?" Joy asks in
   a concerned tone. "I mean, you do have to get the Badge first, you know."
   "So?" Rex asks. "I've gotten all of the others. I don't see why this one
   should be any different."
   "Rex, I've lived in Viridian all my life," Joy says soberly. "And not
   once have I seen the Viridian Gym Leader. Not one single time. Most of the
   year, he doesn't even admit trainers, and when he does, they have to have the
   minimum of seven badges. Do you know how few trainers actually show up with
   that many in their pocket? Next to none. And no one I've seen walk in there
   in the past three months has come out with a very happy expression on their
   face, nor an Earth Badge in their hand."
   For a moment, Rex ponders her statement silently. Then he shrugs
   nonchalantly and grins.
   "Well, get ready to see someone come out with a Badge!" He says
   confidently. "Because in a few hours, you'll see three!"
   "I hope so." Joy says simply.

   "There it is." Jeff says aloud. "The Viridian Gym."
   The setting sun casts gloomy shadows over the large building that
   dominates the northern plaza of the city. Huge Ionic columns line either side
   of the long path that leads to its massive doors. The trainers and their
   pokemon just stand there and look at it for a long moment, taking in every
   detail. Rex takes the first step forward.
   "Well, I don't know about you guys," He says to the others. "But I didn't
   come all the way from Stone Town just to stand here and look at the outside
   of the Gym. I'm going in to get my Badge."
   "Me too!" Lizze agrees, stepping forward with him.
   "Count me in!" Jeff says bravely. The others do a double take.
   "But, Jeff..." Rex frowns. "You already have eight badges."
   "That doesn't matter." Jeff responds. "I want another. I want to prove to
   myself that I can win in a Ground Gym."
   "Bravo, Jeff." Lizzie nods.
   "Quite noble, Jeff." Katrina agrees
   Rex says nothing, though it is apparent he feels the same way.
   "Well, are we going to go in or stand here all day?" Jeff asks. "Come on!"
   The group moves forward. Lizzie notices Jeff looking at her with a
   curious expression.
   "What?" She asks nervously.
   "Didn't you have..." Jeff scratches his chin thoughtfully. "I thought you
   had another pokeball awhile ago."
   "You... must have been mistaken." Lizzie shakes her head. Jeff shrugs,
   but still feels as though something remains unsaid.
   Upon reaching the huge doors, they realize that two guards in Roman
   centurion uniforms stand on either side of the entrance. They seem to take no
   notice of the trainers as they approach.
   "This is the Viridian Gym." They both say harshly and in unison. "The
   minimum requirement for battling in this Gym is seven other official League
   Badges."
   "We each meet the standard." Jeff says. He, Lizzie, and Rex reveal their
   shining emblems to the guards.
   "And she?" They both ask, referring to Katrina.
   "I am Katrina Koga," She says in a businesslike manner. "Daughter of
   Master Koga of the Fuchsia Gym. As a full Gym Leader, I have the
   qualifications of a trainer with eight Badges."
   "Very well." The guards say at once. "One trainer may enter at a time."
   "What?" Lizzie exclaims. "No, you don't understand. We're a group."
   "Yeah, we came here together." Rex agrees.
   "Only one trainer will be admitted at a time." They answer in the same
   monotonous voice.
   "The Pokemon League officially recognizes the four of us," Katrina says,
   gesturing to each of them. "As well as the pokemon escorts, as a team.
   Thereby we are entitled to admission as a group, and not as individuals."
   For a moment, the guards are silent. The trainers hold their breath,
   waiting for their answer. The guards open their mouths to speak, when
   suddenly they are cut off.
   "Very well." A deep voice says through a speaker partially concealed over
   the arch. "In that case, enter."
   Abruptly, and with a terrible creaking sound, the huge stone doors slide
   open. The trainers look inside to see almost utter darkness, lit by an
   occassional torch.
   "Come." The voice says, this time from inside. The four friends look
   quickly to each other, and silently agree to go in. Moving as one, they step
   into the darkness. The gateway closes behind them.

   Instantly light fills the chamber. The four of the squint against the
   sudden brightness, blinking as their eyes adjust. Then they become aware of
   their surroundings. They stand on a large field with a sawdust floor. Huge
   columns line the walls, holding up sections of the massive ceiling. In every
   spot imagineable there is a carving or sculpture of rare and exotic pokemon.
   The trainers first admire the beauty of the room, then its vastness, and
   finally, the enormous balcony across from the entryway. There are, to their
   great surprise, no stairs leading up to it, nor ladders. It seems to be
   totally cut off from them, at least ten feet above their heads. A large,
   plush chair is atop it, and beneath that on the side of the balcony facing
   them is a closed gate, about the size of a garage door. It is all very
   interesting, yet at the same time confusing.
   "Where is the Gym Leader?" Katrina asks, breaking the silence. "Is he not
   here?"
   "He probably left when he heard how good of trainers we are!" Rex jokes.
   "Oh, no, my young friend." A familiar voice comes from above them.
   "Indeed, I am still here."
   The four humans and their pokemon freeze, and slowly look up to the
   balcony. As they watch, a tall, slim man in a black business suit walks
   calmly from behind the curtains to the edge of the stage. He looks down on
   them curiously, a sly expression on his face the whole time. The man has
   black hair, though it seems to be thinning slightly, and wears a particularly
   unusual smile the entire time. He sizes them up for but a second or two, then
   slowly reclines into the plush chair.
   "Purrr Shan..." A hissed voice comes clearly into the room. A long,
   slender cat with a jewel pressed against its forehead slinks up to the chair,
   and allows itself to be stroked atop the head by its master.
   "I am the Viridian Gym Leader." He says to them. His voice booms in their
   ears, but that is the work of speakers. His tone is not much higher than the
   normal volume for speaking. "By reaching this Gym, you have achieved what
   many trainers only dream of. Only a select few are admitted every year, and
   you were fortunate enough to be numbered amongst them."
   "Save it," Rex says aloud. "When do we get to claim our Badges?"
   The man smiles, though more amused than impressed.
   "And just why are you in such a hurry, my impatient friend?" He asks
   calmly, his voice never faltering. "Is there somewhere you must be?"
   "The Pokemon League Games start in just over a month," Rex continues.
   "I'm sure you knew that, though, being a Gym Leader. The League rules say
   that you have to accept every elligible challenger, and we each qualify. So
   just save your speeches and start the matches!"
   "Interesting," The man rubs his chin thoughtfully. "You seem to be the
   most practical, if also the least patient, of the challengers I have yet
   seen. Usually they ask foolish questions, such as "Who are you?" and "Why
   hasn't anyone seen you before?". It become rather tiresome, and I do not
   answer them. Still, as you have surprised me in some small amount, I shall
   tell you what I would not others. I am Giovanni, Master of the Viridian Gym.
   I do not make public appearances because of a personal distaste for cameras,
   and I rarely am able to venture far from this City because of certain...
   business obligations." He looks to Katrina. "You are the daughter of Koga,
   are you not?"
   "I am, Sir." She nods respectfully.
   "I have met your father only once." He continues. "He is a good man."
   "I appreciate your compliments, Sir," Katrina says slowly. "Though I am
   somewhat at a loss. My father never mentioned you before."
   "He knew me by a different name." Giovanni replies. For a moment, he
   appears to reminisce. Then he brings himself back to his senses. "Now, then,
   who will be the first to challenge me?"
   "I will." Lizzie says boldly. The Gym Leader eyes her with satisfaction.
   "Ms. Palacio, your valor surpasses that of your companions'." He nods.
   "Very well, you may approach."
   "One moment," Katrina says aloud, pulling Lizzie aside. "Lizzie, remember
   that he uses exclusively Ground-Type Pokemon. Ground is weak to Grass and
   Water. Have you any pokemon with those characteristics."
   "Well, Clefable knows BubbleBeam," She whispers back. "And Wigglytuff
   knows Water Gun... I think... or did I teach it something else?"
   "It doesn't matter." Katrina says. "Try using Clefable's BubbleBeam
   first, and then if all else fails you can rely on Metronome. It may, after
   all, produce the appropriate attacks."
   "Yeah, but I hope it won't come to that." Lizzie sighs. Then, to
   Giovanni, she announces that she is ready.
   "Very well." Giovanni nods. "I am a busy man, and I hope to return to my
   studies in no more than... half an hour. Therefore, shall we set a ten minute
   time limit for this match?"
   "Certainly." Lizzie agrees. "How many pokemon will we have each."
   "One should be enough, for now." Giovanni replies. "It appears I must
   spread out my roster between several opponents. My timekeeper will record the
   match. Are you ready?"
   "Ready." She responds, enlarging a pokeball.
   "Then, let the match begin!" He says calmly. "For my first pokemon, I
   shall choose Golem."
   A flash of light reveals an almost perfectly round pokemon with rocky,
   faceted skin. A lizardlike head and two short forearms extend from the shell,
   as do two feet that press against the ground.
   "Gooooolem!" It roars.
   "Then I choose, Clefable!" Lizzie announces, tossing her pokeball into
   the ring. It snaps open, releasing a bouncing pink powderpuff with feathery
   wings.
   "Cluh Faaaable!" It sings merrily.
   "A tactical blunder." Giovanni points out. "Your pitiful plush pokemon
   cannot compare to Golem's rock hard Defense and high Attack ratings. Golem,
   Tackle!"
   The huge beast charges forward like a rolling boulder. It zeroes in on
   Clefable and rockets toward it.
   "Clefable, up!" Lizzie calls.
   "Fable!" It squeaks. To the surprise of everyone present, it levitates
   into the air, skillfully dodging Golem's attack.
   "Golem?" The partial Ground Type mutters in confusion. It looks up to see
   the little pink pokemon hovering above it.
   "Clefable, Swift!" Lizzie orders. Obediently, Clefable begins wiggling
   its fingers in midair. Star-shaped sparks fly from its fingertips and shower
   the creature beneath it.
   "Go! Go! Lem!" It snorts, the energy stars merely ricocheting off of its
   armored scales.
   "That pathetic attack cannot scathe Golem!" Giovanni laughs. "Golem, Rock
   Throw!"
   "GOLLLEM!" It roars, leaping into the air. It jumps so high that it
   nearly touches the ceiling, then plunges toward Clefable.
   "Clefable, Teleport!" Lizzie cries in alarm. In a twinkling, her
   fairylike pokemon disappears. Golem crashes into the ground without damaging
   it. Clefable reappears on the opposite side of the ring.
   "Now, BubbleBeam!" Lizzie shouts.
   "Cluh! Fable!" It sings happily. The tiny pokemon points its fingers at
   its opponent and blows. Instantly, a cascade of huge bubbles hurtles through
   the air toward the downed Golem.
   "Golem???" It snarls moments before the bubbles crash against its armored
   skin. "GOLEEEMMMM!!!"
   "Golem!" Giovanni exclaims, surprised. "Don't just stand there! Seismic
   Toss!"
   "GOL!" It growls. With a terrible ripping sound, it tears a hunk of the
   ground from the foundation, and hefts it with dead aim at Clefable.
   "No!!!" Lizzie yells in horror. At the last second, however, Clefable
   disappears from sight.
   "Huh?" Everyone exclaims.
   "Where'd it go?" Rex asks.
   "There!" Jeff points. The others see it. A tiny creature no larger than a
   moth hovers in midair. In a flash of light, it re-enlarges as Clefable.
   "I forgot!" Lizzie sighs in relief. "It knows Minimize!"
   "Golem, grind it to dust!" Giovanni orders.
   "GOLLLEM!" The brutish creature roars, charging across the dirt floor.
   "Clefable, DO IT!" Lizzie orders.
   "Fable!" It sings. Just as Golem reaches it, Clefable touches one finger
   against its head.
   "Golll?" The Ground pokemon snorts in confusion. Suddenly, both are
   engulfed in a shimmering field of energy. To the amazement of everyone
   present, Clefable begins to drain away Golem's energy.
   "It... it's..." Rex sputters. "Mega Drain!"
   "I didn't know it knew that!" Jeff gasps.
   "Bravo, Lizzie." Katrina says quietly. Even Giovanni looks surprised!
   "Gooooleeeeem....." The Ground-Type moans. I staggers back dizzily,
   unable to keep its footing. With a long sigh, it collapses to the ground and
   begins snoring.
   "What's it doing?" Lizzie asks.
   "When Ground pokemon are weakened sufficiently," Giovanni explains. "They
   fall asleep. It has something to do with their tendancy to sleep underground
   during the day and become active during the night."
   "Does that mean..." Jeff gawks.
   "YES!!!" Lizzie shouts, jumping up and down. "I WON MY EIGHTH BADGE!"
   "Indeed you have, young woman." Giovanni nods. "I must tell you, I am
   relieved. It has been... too long since I have given a Badge to a deserving
   trainer. You are the first I have seen in many months." He reaches into a
   compartment on the armrest of his chair. "For your skill as a trainer, I
   award you an Earth Badge." He plucks a glittering jewel from the compartment
   and holds it up for them to see. "Wear it proudly on your way to the Pokemon
   League!" He tosses it from the balcony. Lizzie catches it with her left hand,
   and eyes it with satisfaction.
   "Thank you, Mr. Giovanni!" She smiles warmly, and bows out of respect. "I
   am very honored."
   "Who shall be next?" Giovanni asks.
   "I will!" Rex exclaims eagerly. "I've got to get in on this!"
   "Ahh, the impatient young man again speaks." Giovanni smirks wryly. "Very
   well. Know that I shall show you no leniency. Prepare to fail, impudent
   trainer."
   "We'll see about that!" Rex yells.

   Minutes later, the two opponents are deep into the match. Rex's Vaporeon
   defeated Rhyhorn, but was surprisingly defeated by Dugtrio. Flareon was able
   to K.O. Dugtrio with Hyper Beam, but decked by Rhydon. Now, with only one
   pokemon left to use, Rex hesitates.
   "I... can't use Jolteon..." Rex thinks silently. "But... what am I gonna
   do?"
   "Vee?" Rex looks down to see Eevee staring up at him thoughtfully. It
   seems to want to compete.
   "You... want to fight for me?" Rex asks, surprised.
   "Vee! Vee!" Eevee nods its head emphatically. It is obviously a 'yes'.
   "All right then." Rex agrees. "I've got nothing to lose. Give it your
   best shot!"
   "Veee!" Eevee cries as it charges into the ring. Rhydon watches with
   confusion as the furry little brown creature zips under its legs and begins
   circling.
   "What??" Giovanni arches his eyebrows, apparently thinking that Rex has
   lost it. "You send a pitiful Eevee against me? And what is it doing?"
   "You'll see." Rex smiles confidently. Rhydon, in the meantime, watches as
   Eevee runs faster and faster in a tight circle.
   "Rhyyy? Don??" It snarls, just as confused as its trainer. In mere
   seconds, Eevee has become a living blurr, traveling like a comet in the same
   orbit. As Rhydon tries to keep its eyes on the tiny pokemon, it begins to get
   confused.
   "Now, Eevee!" Rex yells. "Give it your Skull Bash!"
   "VEE!" Eevee squeals as it makes a sharp right and rockets toward the
   disoriented Ground pokemon.
   "RHYYYYYDON!" The immense creature snarls as it is knocked off its feet
   by the miniature missile. Eevee immediately follows up the attack with a Tail
   Whip.
   "Good job, Eevee!" Rex calls. "Now, back up!"
   The little furball scampers away to a safe distance.
   "DONNNN!" The behemoth roars, getting to its feet.
   "Hmph. Impressive, boy," Giovanni grudgingly admits. "But it will take
   much more than simple tricks to defeat my Rhydon. Rhydon, Horn Attack!"
   "RHY!!" It bellows, charging Eevee with its threatening horn.
   "Eevee, dodge!" Rex warns. Eevee dives under Rhydon's legs just before it
   smashes its horn into the ground, ripping a huge gash in the dirt.
   "Good job, Eevee!" Rex congratulates it. "Use your Take Down attack!"
   "Vee!" Eevee cries, slamming into the back of Rhydon. The larger pokemon
   roars in fury, but collapses to the ground. The force of the blow knocks
   Eevee for a loop as well, and it lands several feet away on the ground. After
   a moment, Eevee gets up, panting hard.
   "Rhydon!" Giovanni shouts. "Crush that rodent while it's down! Body Slam!"
   "DON!" It snarls, leaping toward the downed pokemon.
   "Eeeeveee!" Rex cries in horror. A second later, there is a terrible
   crashing sound. "NO!!!"
   When the cloud of dust settles, Rhydon lies belly-first on the ground.
   Slowly, it gets to its feet. To everyone's surprise, however, nothing is
   under it except an imprint of its body.
   "Huh?" Rex gasps. "Where'd it..."
   "Vee!!!" A familiar voice shouts. The trainers and pokemon turn to see
   Eevee standing at the opposite corner of the room. A strange, orange field of
   energy sparkles around it.
   "How did it-?" Giovanni exclaims. "Wait... what is that attack it's
   using?"
   "It's..." Katrina gasps. "Hyper Beam!"
   "VEEEEEE!" Eevee thunders, releasing a devastating blast of energy. The
   powerful beam smashes into Rhydon and throws it against the far wall of the
   Gym.
   "Nooooo!" Giovanni pulls his hair with fury.
   "Yes!" Rex shouts, pumping his hands with victory. "Way to go, Eevee!"
   The furry, brown pokemon stands on all fours in its spot, breathing hard.
   It surveys the damage of its last attack with surprise, then smiles brightly.
   "Eevee!" It sings, twitches its ears.
   "You did it!" Rex laughs, picking up his pokemon in his arms. It licks
   his face affectionately. "Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha! Cut it out!"
   "I commend you, young man." Giovanni sighs deeply. "You have won. My
   Rhydon was no match for your... Eevee."
   "Thanks, Giovanni!" Rex smiles. "I guess that means I get my Badge?"
   "Correct." He nods. "For your skill as a Pokemon trainer, I award you an
   Earth Badge, as recognized by the Pokemon League." He tosses the glittering
   emblem to Rex, who catches it in his hand. "Wear it proudly on your way to
   Indigo Plateau."
   "YES!" Rex shouts. "We DID it! Ha!"
   "Is there anyone else who wishes to battle?" Giovanni asks. "I will
   accept one more challenge today."
   For a moment, no one speaks. Then, after taking a deep breath, Jeff steps
   forward.
   "I challenge you," Jeff says bravely. "To a match for my Earth Badge!"
   "Very well." Giovanni nods. "Though I only have two pokemon remaining, I
   shall gladly accept." He eyes Jeff with curiosity. "Hmm, I wonder... would
   you be willing to agree to special rules?"
   "Such as?" Jeff asks.
   "My last two pokemon are my strongest." Giovanni explains. "In all my
   years as a Gym Leader, only one trainer ever defeated them both."
   "Really?" Jeff arches an eyebrow. "Then they must be very powerful."
   "Indeed they are." Giovanni nods. "I wonder if I should no longer use
   them against trainers. For our battle, you may use as many pokemon as you
   wish. If you can defeat both with your entire bench, I shall award you an
   Earth Badge and see you on your way to the Plateau."
   "All of my pokemon versus two of yours?" Jeff asks. "Very well. I accept
   those rules."
   "Excellent." Giovanni smiles. "Most excellent."

   Minutes later, Jeff stands atop an elevated 'trainer's box' platform,
   from which he will direct his pokemon in the next match. Giovanni has moved
   from his balcony to another trainer's box. Rex, Lizzie, Katrina, and the
   pokemon watch from the sidelines. Giovanni has his pokeballs ready, Jeff is
   busy making last-minute preparations for the fight.
   "I don't get it." Rex whispers to Lizzie. "Neither of us got to be on a
   trainer's box. We had to stand on the ground."
   "It's obvious this match is especially important to Giovanni." Lizzie
   whispers back. "Don't take it personally."
   "I'm not," Rex shakes his head. "It's just-"
   "I'm ready!" Jeff announces. Instantly, the room falls silent.
   "Then let the match begin!" Giovanni says. "I choose you, Nidoqueen!"
   A pokeball reveals a tall creature with razor-sharp claws, blue skin, and
   an armored tail.
   "Go, Butterfree!" Jeff shouts. A flash of light reveals a fluttering,
   flying Bug pokemon with red eyes and elegant wings.
   "Bee Free!" It chatters.
   "Nidoqueen, use your Scratch attack!" Giovanni orders. The blue creature
   immediately charges the hovering insect.
   "Butterfree, use your Psybeam!" Jeff calls.
   "Freee!" It sings. A beam of concentrated energy shoots from its antennae
   and hits Nidoqueen head on.
   "Yes!" Jeff laughs. "Direct hit!"
   To his astonishment, Nidoqueen hasn't even slowed down.
   "What?!?" He gasps, horrified.
   "Nidoqueen, jump and Slash!" Giovanni laughs maniacally.
   "Grooar!" It bellows, obeying its orders.
   "Butterfree, go up!" Jeff yells. The winged pokemon tries to avoid its
   attacker, but is caught by the vicous claws.
   "Free!" It wails as it is struck to the ground.
   "Oh, man!" Jeff groans. "It fainted!"
   Jeff quickly recalls his downed pokemon and throws out another pokeball.
   "Scyyyther!" A dragonfly pokemon screeches, flying through the air toward
   Nidoqueen.
   "Scyther, Double Edge!" Jeff calls. Obediently, his pokemon slashes its
   claws forward, releasing whirling energy blades that slice toward Nidoqueen.
   The large, blue pokemon jumps out of the way and the blades cut deep scars
   into the dirt.
   "NIDO!" The monstrosity roars, ramming its head against Scyther. The poor
   pokemon is completely outmatched and crashes to the dirt.
   "Fainted!" Giovanni chuckles.
   "No!" Jeff gasps. "It barely even got a chance to attack!"
   Two pokeballs later, Jeff watches and Nidoqueen mops the floor with his
   Venomoth. No amount of Confusion, Psybeam, and Poison Powder attacks can
   match the deadly power of Nidoqueen. Finally, Jeff can't stand to see his
   pokemon suffer any longer and recalls it.
   "Giving up, boy?" Giovanni laughs. "Your pathetic Bug pokemon are no
   match for my Ground-types! Ha!"
   "No way!" Jeff yells back across the ring. "I'm not beaten yet, and I'll
   prove to you that Bug pokemon can win against Ground!"
   "What's he doing?" Rex asks the others. "He's going to get creamed!"
   "Maybe not..." Lizzie sighs hopefully.
   "Come on, Jeff!" Katrina says quietly. "You can do it! Think! What's
   Giovanni's weakness?"
   Up on the platform, Jeff holds his last pokeball solemnly in his hand.
   "You're my last shot." He says aloud. "I know you can do it; you're the
   best! You Just give your very best try. Go... Parasect!"
   A flash of light reveals his mushroom pokemon in the ring. Nidoqueen eyes
   it curiously.
   "What? Just a pathetic Bug/Grass combination?" Giovanni asks drily. "At
   least you could have trained another Flying type... oh, well. Nidoqueen, one
   prick of your Poison Sting will put that thing out of comission! Do it, now!"
   "Nido!o!o!" It roars, charging Jeff's single pokemon. Parasect stands
   there, unmoving.
   "What's his weakness?" Jeff frantically thinks to himself. "How can I
   beat him? He's got to have a weak spot somewhere!"
   "Ha!" Giovanni laughs. "This will be the easiest match I've ever fought!"
   Suddenly, Jeff has it.
   "That's IT!" He shouts. "Parasect, Leech Life!"
   At the very last instant, just before Nidoqueen's poisonous barbs touch
   Parasect, the Bug pokemon grabs the Ground-type with its claws and flips it
   over its back.
   "Nido!" It roars as it crashes into the side of Jeff's trainer's box. The
   force of the impact nearly knock's Jeff off his feet.
   "WHAT?" Giovanni gasps.
   "Ha!" Jeff laughs aloud. "You were right, Giovanni! Nidoqueen DOES have
   more strength! The only problem is that Parasect's Leech Life absorbs that
   energy and turns it against your pokemon!"
   While Giovanni glares furiously, Nidoqueen collapses to the ground,
   unconscious.
   "Very well. Nidoqueen, return!" Giovanni recalls his pokemon. "You used
   an impressive strategy, boy, and I commend you for it. Now, however, you
   stand against my strongest pokemon. My last shall crush your best like the
   insect it is! You will leave this Gym in disgrace and humiliation! For my
   final pokemon, I choose-"
   He hurls a ball into the ring. A blast of energy erupts, revealing-
   "NIDO-KING!" Nidoking roars. The whole Gym shakes from its voice.
   "Nidoking, Horn Drill!" Giovanni smiles with satisfaction.
   The terrible drill on Nidoking's forehead begins whirling like a...
   drill. It dives for defenseless Parasect.
   "Spore!" Jeff yells.
   "Parassssect!" The Bug pokemon neatly steps aside. Nidoking crashes into
   the dirt. Its own horn tethers it to the ground head first. Taking advantage
   of this opportunity, Parasect covers Nidoking in a cloud of powdery gas,
   instantly plunging the creature into a deep sleep. Then it begins draining
   its energy with Leech Life.
   "Nidoking... return." Giovanni hangs his head low for a moment. Then he
   looks Jeff squarely in the eye. "You... have won, Jeff... Fuji. For your
   skill as a trainer, I award you an official Earth Badge as recognized by the
   Pokemon League. Wear it proudly as you journey to Indigo Plateau."
   "We... we did it!" Jeff says to Parasect. His pokemon simply smiles.

   Next Time:
   - Victory Road!