Unlike most of my writing, I'm posting parts of this before it is complete.
Chapter 3a: Tides.
Delilah scowled. Her backyard was again being torn up by a pokemon that she told her son he could not have. This was the third day in a row that Burner had sneaked through holes in the fences of both neighbors between the Rainier and Finnegan properties--only one hole of which had been pre-existing--to spar tirelessly against Sam. She exited her home to find them rolling through what was left of her small garden, much to the amusement of Frankie, who was serving as their audience and was probably laying plans for the garden's now-exposed vegetables. Mrs. Finnegan reached down to physically separate them as Burner released a powerful ember attack, scorching Delilah's leather watch band and singeing the fine hairs along her arm.
"Ah-hey! That's it, fight's over!"
Sam quit participating immediately; he felt quite worn-out, anyway. Burner did not heed the order and continued to assail Sam until Frankie bleated and nonchalantly thundershocked Burner into a stupor.
"Thank you, Fluffy. Sam, you're going to put every blade of grass where it belongs, and you're going to fix up my garden. Chicken Little, go home and don't even think about sneaking back over here, again." Delilah went back inside to apply a cream and to let her son know that as soon as his homework was finished, he was going to lend his pokemon a hand in restoring their backyard's integrity.
Burner returned to his owner's backyard and found Joe training Grace again. It was not the sort of training that Burner could join in on, though, since they were working on levitation. Joe had worked out a number of challenges for Grace, from walking across the future swimming pool's survey tape without pushing it downward to sitting on a dumbbell weight and traveling from one place to another as though she were riding upon a magic carpet made of cast iron.
Joe's torchic approached and sought attention, chirping lightly and pressing against Joe's right leg, but did not receive the kind of attention he was hoping for.
"I told you not to go over there again. Did you get us in trouble? I could hear Mrs. F. yelling at you a minute ago." As if on cue, inside, the home's telephone rang. Joe groaned as he left to answer it, knowing that when Mrs. Finnegan spoke her peace, it was always in lecture form.
Burner watched Joe's departure until Grace, seated upon a five-pound plate, drifted across his gaze and landed beside a juice box that Joe had prepared for her. He still felt like fighting and squawked at Grace as she drank.
Grace interpreted his cry as a request that she share, and offered him use of the straw, not considering that his beak would permit none of the required suction. Burner felt slightly offended and made clear his desire to spar with her. She tuned into his thoughts and could sense that he intended to exploit this opportunity, as Joe was not around to order him to stop.
Inducing confusion in him and teleporting a couple times kept her safe for a moment, but unlike Komo, Burner was neither absurdly top-heavy nor a pure Fighting-type and with ember in his arsenal, he did not need to make physical contact to attack her.
Exhausted from preceding training and back-to-back teleports, Grace was unable to withstand Burner's assault for long. She felt rather bad for him as she fainted. The last thing that she could sense from his mind was an expectation that Joe would be happy to see that his torchic was an adept fighter, primed to lead a team. Grace knew that Joe would not see it that way.
His dressing-down for not controlling his pokemon complete, Joe hung up the phone and returned to his backyard, his typical gait shifting into a dash when he saw Grace lying face-down in the grass with a proudly-clucking chick standing above her.
"What did you do!" he shouted as he gathered her up. "Man, if you hurt her--I'm getting your ball and you're staying in there until you learn to behave."
Inside, Joe gently placed Grace on his bed. Her dress was again marred, this time with charcoal streaks, but the damage seemed mostly superficial.
After adjusting his pillow for Grace's comfort, Joe fetched Burner's ball. However, Joe's torchic was nowhere to be seen when he opened his window and peeked outside, expecting to recall Burner forthwith. Joe angrily called out to his pokemon a few times, but it was already a few properties away, and was not at all interested in responding.
Burner did not understand why he was being threatened with a prolonged ball imprisonment. Was he not supposed to fight other pokemon? He spotted a break in traffic and darted across a street. What else was he supposed to do? He soon came to conclude that he was fighting the wrong pokemon; Sam had an owner, so did Grace. He fought with both today, and was scolded both times. Another street, another block northward. Perhaps he was supposed to prove himself against wild pokemon? He wanted desperately to ask. He could feel the words inside himself, but they could not get out. At the breeding facility, he saw both a combusken and blaziken that could speak. He needed to evolve. He needed to find more pokemon to fight. One more street crossing led him to the residential reserve, a handful of city blocks left undeveloped for aesthetic and ecological reasons publicly, political and financial reasons in actuality. Amidst the many houses of the neighborhood, it seemed like the only place nearby that wild pokemon might be found. As he ducked into the bushes, he swore to himself that he would not go home until he evolved, until he could talk, until he could apologize and ask exactly what his master expected of him.
Mr. Rainier returned home from work a little later than expected. Carrying two bags, he fumbled with the front door's knob before crossing into his kitchen. There, he met Joe, who was preparing a berry purée for Grace, as she had started to recover her bearings. James noticed that both of Joe's pokemon were conspicuously absent as he set his sacks on the small breakfast table.
"You seem a little lonely in here. Where are your pets?"
"Grace is in my room. Burner ran away. I guess I'm back down to one."
James was unable to fully mask his disappointment on two fronts. "It's a shame--." James omitted a "that the wrong one left" that part of him wanted to append.
Joe poured liquefied berry mush into a small cup, topped with a lid and a wide straw. "You really think so?"
"Yeah. Don't quote me, but I kinda liked that one. It seemed like it could straighten you out a bit."
Joe left to deliver a drink that would, according to his trainer's device's guide, offer restorative effects to his toasted ralts. James unpacked the two sacks that he brought home. Most of their contents were foodstuffs and a few pieces of general merchandise, but from the bottom of one sack came a lidded box. James held it for a moment and nodded to himself with a disheartened smirk before placing the box atop his refrigerator, hidden behind a dusty decorative wooden crate filled with things that, when Joe was younger, needed to be kept out of a boy's immediate reach.
Grace took the cup from Joe and sat beside him after he seated himself on the floor and began playing a video game. She consumed her drink eagerly and within minutes felt healthier than she had before her bout. She crawled beneath his controller to sit in the gap that Joe's loosely-crossed legs formed, her own legs resting upon his. Hidden from the outside beneath her long bangs, she allowed her eyelids to droop half-closed, letting part of her vision be supplied by Joe's thought patterns, which made watching him play far more interesting.
An hour passed before James interrupted, visiting to confirm that his son had indeed completed his homework and assigned chores for the day. Grace sensed his displeasure at seeing her sitting where she sat. Living in the same house as Mr. Rainier meant that she was becoming familiar with his thought patterns. James was far from an open book to her, but she was adept enough to detect particularly strong thoughts and imagined visions. After inquiring about Joe's responsibilities' status, James paused, staring at Grace in Joe's lap. She could not help but let her gaze snap away from the television screen and to James' eyes when she felt his displeasure build and culminate with a mental image of Joe as a young adult, with Grace again sitting across his lap, now a fully-developed gardevoir, her right arm extending behind his shoulders and neck and her left reaching across his chest to meet its counterpart. The scene's finer details were too distant for her to glean during Mr. Rainier's flash of imagination, but she was certain that those details upset him, and that her reaction let him know that she knew what he was thinking, upsetting him further.
James grumbled something indistinct and let his head hang slightly as he walked away.
Joe was oblivious to their exchange, fully engrossed in the flashing sprites on his screen. Grace ducked out beneath his controller and returned to her old bedding. The sugar rush from her berry juice was wearing off, and James' negative mindset lingered inside her own head now, where it sloshed around heavily like poisonous mercury.
Mr. Well sat at his desk, twirling a pencil between his fingers in his left hand and gently petting a content articuno with his right, as his computer presented restricted information about a pokemon currently owned by the son of a man he recently ran into.
Placing his foot upon a pedal, one amongst many beneath his desk, an archaic intercom speaker and microphone activated for Simon's use.
"Maxie, I do wish you had captured that ralts yourself, before a great opportunity was lost."
Maximilian was aghast at the suggestion. "Like a common grunt? Would you then have me dash through the doors with a meowth in tow, scattering pennies as a distraction?"
"My word, no. Our budget would afford paper currency." Mr. Well added Grace's profile to a watch list. "Bring me up to date on our freshest prospects."
"Dismal. The alleged zapdos egg's shell scraping came back from the lab, it's another hoax. Hunter Hague checked in by postcard. He claims to have lost most of his equipment over a waterfall, but insists that he is still tracking a rainbow."
Simon leaned back in his chair, to which Ivana responded by bringing her head across Simon's chest to receive more of his affection as he concluded his conversation with his protegé. "Assuming they did exist and weren't fabricated claims to cover his failures, this is the third time he's gone off of the grid and claimed he had located a ho-oh for me, and yet I still do not have one. Onyx will carry a message expressing the potential finality of his current mission to Hague. Have him transferred to my usual suite in Sulmepride at your convenience."
Maximilian acknowledged with a sarcastic, "my convience is your convenience, Sir."
Mr. Well patted Ivana on her back between her wings. "Come, come, it is time to influence a ruling. That means breakfast with Justice Barlow first-thing in the morning."
Ivana stepped away from Simon's chair and opened a large pair of doors that lead from Mr. Well's office to its balcony, which served as the only means of entrance and exit. Mr. Well did not humor guests who did not travel by air and did not have an appointment, so a conventional office door and secretary's office was of no use to him.
Simon took up a small briefcase and slipped into his leather holster a unique pokeball that had been resting on his desk. Its shell was made from a machined block of 18-carat gold alloy, inlaid with innumerable flecks of gemstones, creating an intarsia mosaic that depicted Ivana herself flying gracefully above a vast plains, playfully enjoying the first melt of spring beneath a golden sun, that sun being the only part of the ball's shell that was not worked. The ball's internal mechanism was no different from any other master ball's, although it supplied numerous features for its captive's comfort that typical balls lacked.
Ivana knelt to the floor to allow her companion to climb upon her back. Together, they traveled west-northwest to Sulmepride Point, where a controversy during League semi-finals brought to Justice Barlow's bench an issue which, depending on the precedent that his honor chose to set, could have a material effect on Mr. Well's business operations.
A couple hours into her nap, Grace was startled awake by both sound and emotional projection as Joe tossed his game's controller aside in disdain. His skill was not enough to overcome the challenge that he faced. Noticing that Burner had not returned during the interim, Grace returned to Joe's side and wiggled her arms in imitation of stubby wings to remind Joe of their absent friend.
"I really don't want him here if he's just gonna' hurt you."
Grace giggled while beckoning Joe with her right hand, before dancing around a little with her dukes held up.
"I really don't want him here if you're just gonna' hurt him."
Grace dropped her arms to her side, tilted her head, frowned, and shrugged her shoulders melodramatically with a flat hum.
Joe rose from the floor and peeked through his window. Night had begun to fall, so James would surely not allow him to go chicken hunting by himself, and would not likely agree to chaperone Joe's search.
"I guess if he isn't back when I get home from school tomorrow, we'll have to go find him."
In the south-west quadrant of Rennin stood an old building, abandoned for years. A web of red tape hanging from an eccentric will, city hall, and a health regulation regarding a building material that was popular during the era of the home's construction froze the property in time, since letting it stand until it might choose to collapse of its own volition was the financially-sound move for all parties involved.
Hidden behind overgrown bushes and the last shadows of night, soon to be driven away by the rising sun, a hatch to the building's cellar shuddered and creaked as a riolu attacked its padlocked clasp with a brick. Despite its heavily-weathered appearance suggesting that it would crumble beneath the pressure of a butterfly landing upon it, the door's bleached wood and rusted metal parts resisted repeated blows. Alice paused to take a break after her fifteenth strike caused the brick to fracture in her paws. Her retarded evolution mocked her. She knew that, were she a lucario, neither the lock nor the wood it was attached to could withstand a properly-aimed blow from her fist's dorsal spike. Outside of her imagination, however, she needed some sort of tool. She abandoned the bushes and clambered up the property's damaged fence and into a tree, finding refuge in its branches. She dozed the night away, awakening at regular intervals as nocturnal creatures' auras passed by.
Daddy's rules were funny things since they were worded as definite yet they had a pecking order. "Never lie" was important but it was often superceded, especially by "never reveal a weakness that you cannot protect." That she was emancipated meant nothing if she admitted it to someone who could overpower her, force her to surrender her ball, destroy it, and trap her for himself. Carrying a small plastic bag containing a few old food cartons that were filled with of sand and pebbles to give the impression to passers-by that her owner had sent her on an grocery errand, Alice scouted her new neighbors' properties until she found a home where a man was sitting on his lawn, re-painting his fence. He had a toolbox.
"Excuse me, Sir."
The painter replied with a grunted "eh?" before turning to see that he was being addressed by a pokemon.
"I know we haven't met before, but I would like to ask for a favor. My trainer moved here a couple days ago and was looking for his hammer but his tools are in the second truck load. May I borrow your hammer today? I'll bring it back really soon." Alice swung her paws behind her back, letting her sack follow with a flourish to draw attention to how cute she was trying to be, as she twisted her right foot inward a little and flashed a hopeful smile.
After a few seconds, her hidden power of persuasion kicked in, and the man removed his hammer from his toolbox, passing it along to the riolu.
Alice squeaked like a mouse. "Master will be so happy when I surprise him with this; thank you, Mister!" She kissed him on his paint-flecked cheek and skipped away, headed in a direction leading away from the abandoned house. She would circle around after a couple blocks once she was certain that she was not being followed; it was one of the rules. Equipped with a weapon, Alice would not be defied by her cellar door's latch for much longer.
Percival dropped his lunch tray against the trainers-in-training table's surface to selfishly bring their discussion to order. "Thanks a lot, Joe. I had to spend all afternoon yesterday working on Mom's garden."
Joe returned Percival's dirty look. "I told him a bunch of times to stop sneaking over there. What should I do?"
"Duh, I don't know, train him?"
"I don't know how. He's not like Grace. She doesn't cause trouble and she usually listens to me. She's really smart."
Solymar broke into their conversation. "Are you saying that a torchic isn't? Fires are usually dumb to the bone, but your torchic is Fighting-type on the inside, so he should be plenty smart--smarter than you are at the very least."
Percival was still angry with Joe, but wanted to do right by Burner if no one else. "She's on to something. He can't really communicate with you and doesn't look anything like a human like Grace does, but pokemon minds don't always match the bodies they have and especially if they aren't done evolving. If you've been treating him like an animal and Grace like a person, he would be right to get jealous. Does he always cause trouble, or does he behave sometimes? Does he show you any affection?"
Joe remembered the moments before his telephone call from Percival's mother. "Like, come running up and tug at my pants?"
"Yeah. He is a starter species, you know. They've been bred forever to kinda imprint on their trainers; trainers that don't have any other pokemon to distract them at first. If you just pat him on the head and go back to whatever you, or you and Grace, were doing, he's gonna feel like he isn't doing enough to get your attention."
"I shouldn't have let you and your uncle talk me into taking him. I'm no good at training."
Seated beside Joe, Terrance wiped his face with a napkin. "That's okay. Starter species have also been bred to train trainers. He'll help you along if you let him."
Joe noticed the similarity between what his father said the afternoon before and what Terrance said now, and sat silently thinking about how he could properly balance his attentions between Grace and Burner, while the other trainers moved on to discuss matters more pertinent to their personal interests. Interests that converged toward an upcoming evening-time raid of local homes.
Matthew put some finishing touches on a map of Rennin's southern side and began tracing out lines in various colors. "I think these will be the best paths." Terrance leaned over as Matthew added annotations of where he and his friends would be, and when. Solymar leaned across the table to see Matthew's plan, and griped about needing to leave earlier than everyone else. It would cut into the third act of a television program that she watched religiously.
Matthew was unconcerned with her rituals. "I think these will be the best paths. If you're late, you miss out."
Solymar sat back down with a defeated huff.
The paths that Matthew selected brought his friends together and separated them at various locations, rather than seeing them meet and travel together throughout the raid. He placed total acquisition above camaraderie. There were a few homes on the map, however, that he was certain to pass with a complete party. One appeared to be quite removed, adding a number of blocks to the journey.
Burner lied on his back beneath the mid-day sun upon the roof of a decrepit tool shed that he managed to mantle earlier that morning, after greeting the sun, snooping around near the reserve until he found a berry garden to sate his breakfast hunger, and then fighting against anything that moved until grew bored of searching. He intended to take a nap while enjoying warming rays that could almost compete with the fires within him, but eager anticipation prevented him from resting calmly. His stubby wings and narrow legs felt heavy and tense and anxious. He was on the verge of evolution, he knew, but the few wild pokemon he found and fought were too weak to bring him across the threshold. "If only yesterday had not been interrupted," he mused.
The torchic finally began to relax, remembering scenes from action films he watched on James' television. Before he started filling his early afternoons with visiting Sam, tradition had been for Joe to release Burner once he returned from school, and let him watch one of a number of films that presented exaggerated portrayals of martial artists engaged in fisticuffs. His memories began to meld as he fell asleep, and his ego attached itself to their heroes' perspective.
Sounds of an old man entering his shed to fetch a pair of hedge trimmers was not enough to awaken Burner, whose mind simply added some armor to the enemy fighters to justify metallic collision noises. Sounds of a torchic flapping his wings and legs about like the kung-fu fighter in his mind, whose outfit had become red with yellow accents to match the pattern of a blaziken, was enough to alert the old man's staravia, who left his master's side and flapped to the top of the shed. Picket's shrill cry startled Burner awake such that he almost ran off of the shed's roof.
Orson walked around the shed to get a better view of what was happening. Seeing what may have been a starter released by a naïve trainer, he ordered Picket to assault the torchic and weaken it while he shuffled inside his home to find a pokeball.
Picket knew that he was much faster than Burner and attacked viciously. However, Picket was accustomed to fighting against bugs, other common birds, and occasionally a Normal-type that might try to burrow its way into a place that it did not belong; all pokemon that had not been trained beyond wild encounters with each other, or were released stepping stones for journey trainers. Burner was not only tougher than a typical dumped starter, but he was accustomed to wrestling with a friend who was a both faster and much stronger than he was.
Orson scowled. His backyard was now being torn up by a pokemon that he intended to catch and the pokemon that was supposed to have, by now, pummeled the other and pinned it to the ground. Picket was relying on quick attacks just to strike Burner while Burner used ember to prevent Picket from being able to withdraw and catch his breath, and to trick Picket into blindly charging into a burst of flame when he correctly guessed from which angle his foe would approach. Orson activated a fresh pokeball and threw it beside both pokemon as they traded blows.
The ball's scanning beam painted both birds, identified both as being owned by trainers, ejected its button cap, and fused its control chip.
"Damn. Picket, that torchic's still got an owner. Go ahead and faint it if you can't chase it away."
Picket wanted to comply, but he was not pulling his punches to allow his master a chance to capture the torchic. He was truly being overwhelmed. Resigned to not walking away from this battle without a limp, Picket hurled himself at Burner in a desperate attempt at a take-down, screaming the best war-cry that an out-of-breath staravia could. Seeing Picket's sloppy and not-particularly-quick attack coming at him, Burner too hurled himself, but out of the larger bird's path. Picket barreled forward and collided with a garden hose reel.
Orson slowly knelt beside Picket and saw that his pokemon now suffered a compound fracture in his right wing. Once he straightened his age-ruined knees to stand again, Orson took up a rake and began to assault Burner himself. The torchic was unfamiliar with a trainer battle that featured the trainer as a combatant, and fled, almost being struck by a car as he ran back into the reserve.
The old man threw his rake away in anger and shouted at the driver of a now-halted vehicle. "You should'a hit that little bastard!" He gathered up Picket, who was slowly regaining consciousness, warned him to be still and calm, and took him inside to be returned to his ball and taken to Rennin Pokecenter for treatment.
Burner suffered a head-long collision of his own inside the woods, as he became dizzy and could no longer see straight, headbutting a tree and falling over. He struggled to rise but could not control his body properly. Sharp pains jolted through his joints and limbs. As one rushed through his left wing and stopped at its tip, he felt its bones shifting into an arm's configuration while a row of tiny claws began jutting out beneath downy yellow feathers; a fine fluff that was falling away in small clumps as pinfeathers pushed through behind them.
He reveled in the pain of his body's transformational throes. His eyes saw nothing but blurred treetops above him, but his imagination saw the combusken and blaziken that he once shared an afternoon with while facility doctors examined them. He saw his new present, and his surely-near future, and thought to himself, "just once more."