Kick Some 'Bot

            I was really hoping that I'd get some rest during the week before I hit the road again. I mean, that was the whole idea: rest.

            Zoë had other ideas though.

            "Rise and shine, Gallo!" she shouted as she barged into my room bright and early on a Saturday. "Com on! Up and at 'em! Our flight leaves in a few hours!"

            I muttered something I don't remember and curled tight into a ball. I covered my face with the pillow.

            ~It's Saturday, Turner,~ I said telepathically, hoping I'd scare her away. ~Would you kindly...~ I bolted upright. "Did you say 'flight'?!"

            She stood, frozen in place for a second. Apparently, I had startled her, but she shook it off. "That was cool. And yeah, I said flight. Our flight. We don't have that much time, so let's go! We gotta get you packed!"

            "Whoa-whoa!" I shouted, waving my hand. "Do you mind explaining to me what the hell is going on?!"

            She sighed. "I got an assignment over the summer to write a report of different kinds of battling. I happen to have an out-of-town cousin who lives in a place where I can get a great story. I was supposed to go with a friend, but she canceled like five minutes ago, summer cold. Despite the fact I'm going to visit family, my mom won't let me go alone and your name came up, so let's go!"

            "...She's trying to fix us up, isn't she?"

            "Probably. And seeing how enthusiastically your mom responded, she's in on it too."

            "Great. So, where are we going?"

            She muttered something under her breath.

            ~You woke me up on a Saturday. After I saved you from being squashed. Don't make me pull it from your mind.~

            "Medatropolis," she sighed.

            I raised an eyebrow. "Medatropolis? As in Medatropolis, Japan?"

            "Yeah..."

            "Hell no." I laid back down and replaced the pillow on my head. "Thanks for stopping by," I muttered. "Get out."

            "Pleeeaase!" she pleaded, pulling on my arm. "Please Ben? Your Mom said you always wanted to see..."

            "I was three," I said, using my clinging ability to stay in bed. "Plus, I'm tired enough as it is from the beating I got yesterday. I don't even wanna think of what the time change will do to me. Good night, Zoë."

            She let go of my arm and crossed her own across her chest. "I'll tell."

            I lifted the pillow enough to look at her. "What?"

            "I'll tell the world that your Ariados-Man."

            I just stared at her for a few seconds. "You're bluffing," I said, letting the pillow back down.

            "I don't bluff, Gallo."

            I sat straight up and glared at her. "It's Saturday," I growled. "The sun is barely up. I just got the crap beaten out of me by a guy in a Rhydon suit. In order to save your life I might add. And now you're blackmailing me?!"

            When I was done, she didn't say anything. Then I noticed that she was looking me in the eye. She gave a small start and then glared back. "Yes," she said coldly.

            I sighed and fell back onto my bed. "Fine," I said, rolling my eyes. "I'll come. But I'm bringing Ebony."

            "Oh thank you!" she cried, suddenly jumping onto me and smothering me in a hug. She then startled the hell out of me by giving me a big wet kiss on the cheek. "Be ready by 8:30," she said cheerfully as she headed toward the door. She left humming and dancing happily.

            I sighed again and got up, rubbing my face. "The hell was I thinking?" I muttered to myself. "And what was she looking at when I was..."

            I then realized that I was dressed only in a pair of pajama pants.

            Was Zoë Turner, the Hottest of the Hot, checking me out? Staring at the super-developed physique I got through a combination of a super-hero's work out and the mutating effects of the attack?

            "Naw..."

            After that, the only real hassle I had was getting Ebony into a pokéball so she could come on the plane. I tried to sleep on the flight, but Zoë kept on bugging me about stuff. Stuff like how did I get my powers, why I decided to be a super hero, stuff like that. Finally, I gave in. I told her everything she wanted to know telepathically.

            ~Cool!~ she thought. ~But what about the healing ability?~

            ~I'm still trying to figure that out,~ I replied. ~But I have a theory.~

            ~What's that?!~

            I opened my eyes and looked around the plane, not that I had to. No one could hear us. I was pretending to be asleep (actually, it was more like trying to be asleep) and Zoë was pretending to watch the movie. That was a pretty good idea on her part actually. If she responded to anything I told her, people would think she was reacting to something on screen.

            ~Well, since I've only healed like that after passing out,~ I 'said' finally, ~I think I know Rest.~

            Zoë gasped. ~But, Rest is...~

            ~A TM move, I know. That means a trainer or someone had the Ariados before the attack and it got loose somehow. Either it escaped or they set it free. So that leaves the question of the Ariados's origins. Is it natural, or did some wacko cook it up in his lab?~

            ~Do you know anyone who could do that sort of thing?~

            ~Yeah. A real piece of work named Abra Kadabra. A scientist who went coo-coo for Kakuna Puffs because kids made fun of his name. He himself isn't that dangerous, but the freaks he cooked up gave me a real work out. I think he once mentioned something called "Project: Shinny Coat." I don't know though. Doesn't seem his style.~

            ~You mean...that's his real name?!~

            I opened one eye and looked at her. ~Yes,~ I said, rolling and closing it again. ~That's his real name.~

            ~Man. He must of given his mom a lot of trouble to deserve that.~

            ~No one deserves that.~

            Zoë finally let me get some sleep and when we finally arrived at Medatropolis International Airport, I felt a lot better. While she went to get our luggage, I went to the pokéball depot and picked up Ebony.

            Because most Pokémon have special powers that can cause damage if not checked properly, they're only allowed on commercial airplanes if kept in a high quality pokéball and the pokéballs are kept in a special locker on the plane. This was a real pain for me because Ebony does not like to be in a pokéball. Hell, she hadn't been in one since I let her out that Christmas.

            I caught up with Zoë just in time to see her hug an older woman and then a kid of about ten. With them was a white a gold robot who just came up to the kid's shoulder. Zoë went to hug the 'bot, but it really freaked out and pointed some sort of gun at her.

            "Ben!" Zoë called when she saw me. "Come here!"

            "Hi!" I said friendly-like as I walked over.

            "Everyone, this is my best friend Ben Gallo," Zoë said, suddenly holding me close to her. "Ben, this is my Aunt, Mrs. Maria Tenryou..."

            "Hello," the woman said with a pleasant smile. She then hugged me. "Any friend of Zoë's is a friend of ours!"

            Zoë looked a bit embarrassed, but continued. "...her son Ikki..."

            "Hi," the kid said after his mom had let me go. He seemed normal enough. Sneakers, shorts, red shirt. His black hair was kinda weird, but I wasn't gonna hold that against him.

            "...and his Medabot, Metabee."

            Before anyone could say anything else, the robot suddenly pointed at my hand. "What's that?" he demanded.

            "Uh...it's a pokéball," I said. This is the real reason I didn't want to come to Medatropolis. I just knew at least one of these 'Medabots' was gonna get on my case about being a Pokémon trainer. You may think that I could've avoided the whole situation by not bringing Ebony, but the subject would've come up anyway.

            "So, your one of those Pokémon trainers, huh?" Metabee continued. "You any good?"

            "Not really," I replied as the ball started to shake. Great, now Ebony thought I was under attack. "You?"

            The 'bot looked caught off guard. "Me? What about me?"

            "Are you any good at...whatever it is you call it up here."

            "Robattling? Dang right I'm good!" The piece of tin then started to pose. "I am unstoppable! I am undefeated!"

            "Undefeated?" Ikki said suddenly. "You've lost--"

            "STAY OUT OF THIS IKKI!!" Metabee shouted, going into a bit of a frenzy.

            "Well, now that everyone's here, let's get going!" Mrs. Tenryou said, pushing her son and the Medabot toward the door.

            "You owe me," I growled softly as me and Zoë followed.

            She smiled and chuckled nervously.

            Mrs. Tenryou took us to her house, where we met the family dog, Salty, and I was finally allowed to let Ebony out of her ball. We then sat around the house, exchanging stories and the like. To her credit, Ebony didn't kill Salty when I pet her, or anyone else. In fact, she was friendly to everyone. Except Metabee. As I sat on the couch, Ebony in my lap, she glared at the Medabot the whole time.

            And he glared right back.

            "So, uh..." Ikki said, pointing at Ebony, "what kinda Pokémon is that?"

            "Ebony's an Umbreon," I said. "The only pure Dark species to be discovered."

            "And did...uh...what's it called..."

            "Evolve?"

            "Yeah. Did it evolve from another Pokémon?"

            I chuckled. "Yeah, she evolved from an Eevee through a process called 'bonding.' A few Pokémon only evolve if they have a great love for their trainers, Eevee being one of them."

            Ebony then purred and rubbed against my hand.

            "Wow," Ikki said, growing sarcastic and glancing at his Medabot. "It must be nice to be appreciated like that."

            "Hey!" Metabee shouted. "Don't give me that! If anything, you don't appreciate me!"

            "You guys wouldn't happen to know a guy named Cap and his Sandshrew, would you?" Zoë asked.

            "Huh?!"

            "Never mind."

            "So, Zoë," Mrs. Tenryou said, "what's this report you're working on?"

            "Well," Zoë sighed, "Pokémon battles are huge back home in Johto and our neighbor country, Kanto, but they're the only place Pokémon are found naturally in the wild. My journalism class gave everyone the job over the summer of examining what some other countries do instead. I was lucky and pulled Medabots out of the hat. Free room and board!" She chuckled. "But since I brought Ben, I got the idea of doing a sort of comparison between 'Bots and 'Mon. Maybe even have 'Bot/'Mon battle."

            "What?" I said, looking at her. "You never said anything about that!"

            She shrugged. "I didn't get the idea until I saw Ebony and Metabee glaring daggers at each other."

            "Yeah!" Metabee shouted. "I'll give that overgrown rabbit a Metabee boppin'!"

            In response, Ebony leapt from my lap and faced the 'Bot, her hair standing on its ends.

            "Ebony's never been in a battle in her life," I said, picking her back up. "I'm not gonna have her shot at just so you can do a school project."

            "Wimp," Metabee, muttered, crossing his arms. I barley stopped Ebony from pouncing on him.

            "Actually," Zoë said, "according to your mom, Ebony's been battling since you first left her behind."

            I looked at her. "What?"

            "When your dad took her to the park, she'd fight all the Pidgey and Rattata and for exercise your mom would have her participate in matches with her quilting group. Battle keeps Pokémon healthy you know."

            I looked at Ebony, who was suddenly looking guilty.

            "They could've at least told me," I muttered.

            "They probably thought you could put two and two together," Zoë said, rolling her eyes. "I mean, even Pokémon who do it through bonding need to battle to evolve."

            I felt stupid and blushed a bit. I mean, I sorta think of myself as Ebony's parent and her as my child. I don't want to believe she's growing up.

            "I still don't want her shot at," I said, glaring at Metabee.

            "Wimp," he repeated.

            "Oh, lay off him, Metabee," Ikki said. "He cares about his Obreon. I wouldn't want you gunning down Salty."

            Salty barked.

            "It's Umbreon," I said. "And thanks Ikki."

            Zoë looked at her watch. "Well, it's pretty late and I'm tired from the jet-lag. Aunt Maria, could you show us to our rooms?"

            "I can show you to your room Zoë," Mrs. Tenryou replied. "But Ben will have to find a hotel room."

            "WHA?!" everyone shouted, looking at her in disbelief.

            "But..." Zoë stammered, "you said we could stay here!"

            "I said you could. After all, you're family. But Ben, although he seems very nice, is a stranger and I'm not going to let a stranger sleep in my house with his strange pet. Besides, I only have one extra room and I can't trust you teenagers to sleep in the same bed can I?"

            "Oh God," Zoë muttered, covering her face. "Tell me she didn't just say that..."

            "He could sleep on the couch, Mom," Ikki said.

            "No, it's all right," I replied. "I can find a hotel to stay in. Besides-" I looked down at Metabee- "I don't know what he'll do to me in my sleep."

            "What's that supposed to mean?!" he shouted, glaring at me.

            So, me, Ebony and Zoë spent the better part of the night looking for a hotel that had a vacancy and wasn't totally run down. It would've been easier if it hotels weren't so far away from each other and we could get a cab, but we did find a rather nice one. And it was pretty cheap to rent a room for our entire stay in the city.

            "Sorry about my aunt," Zoë sighed as I put my suit case on the bed and opened it up. "In case you noticed, she's not all there and, well...sorry."

            "It's fine, Zoë," I said as Ebony leapt onto the bed and curled up on the pillow. "It's not like I'm gonna get much sleep anyway." I pulled out my costume.

            "You actually brought that thing?" she asked, not looking happy. "Aren't you a bit out of your natural element?"

            "With the winks I caught on the plane and the time change, I'm not gonna be able to sleep for a few hours, so I may as well go sightseeing," I replied.

            "Well, we can go sightseeing as normal tourists! We can go to a movie, or check out the clubs or...other things."

            And the tone of her voice, I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "Thanks," I said after a pause. "But I'll pass."

            She sighed. "Fine, but be careful." She then gave me another peck on the cheek, said good night and left.

            I shrugged, got changed, and was off.

***

            Zoë grumbled to herself as she watched Ariados-Man swing out of the hotel window.

            "Jeez, Gallo," she said as she walked back to her aunt's house. "Do I have to spell it out for you? Or do you expect me to wait for you to figure it out?"

            She kicked a rock into the street.

            "Men!"

***

            "No way," I said to myself as I leapt from one roof to the next. "There is no way that she meant what I think she meant! Get your mind out of the gutter, hero!"

            Okay, so Zoë said she'd loved me and has kissed me three times since then, but she meant she loved me as a friend! Those were all friendly kisses!

            She never kissed Harry like that though...

            No! She was worried and scared. She just thinks that every time I go out in costume, I'm not coming back. She...wait a minute...at the airport, she called me her best friend.

            "When did that happen?"

            I gave an exasperated sigh as I landed on a telephone pole. "If trying to figure out my powers doesn't drive me insane," I muttered, "that woman will."

            I jumped from the pole to another roof, and found that I wasn't alone. Standing on the edge of the roof, was another one of those Medabots, but there was no other human around. At least none that I could sense.

            This Medabot was actually pretty cool looking if I do say so myself. He was mostly metallic white with metallic purple 'horns' coming off his head. He had a golden blade on one arm, glowing red eyes and some sort of tattered cape wrapped around his body.

            "Look at them," he said suddenly, stopping me in what I thought was my silent advance. Nervously, I followed his glance, and saw that he was watching bats as they flew through the night air, no doubt catching dozens of bugs.

            I know watching bats may not seem that big a deal to most, but when the only bats you've seen in your life have been Zu, Gol and Cro, it is a sight to see. "Wow," I whispered.

            "I love to watch nature," the Medabot said. "It allows me to forget the troubles of the world. I even almost forget my own."

            "I totally see what you mean," taking a 'seat' on the roof's stairway hut-thing. "I don't think we've met. They call me Ariados-Man."

            He looked at me. "Very nice to meet you in person. I've heard many great things."

            "Really?" Again, he had surprised me. I didn't think I'd be known outside Kanto or Johto. "Sorry I can't say the same for you, Mr..."

            "My name is of no importance."

            "That Spanish?"

            He chuckled.

            "Hey, some actually thought that was funny. And don't worry about names. Everyone's got their secrets."

            "But what does one do when his secrets are secret even to himself?"

            "You got me," I sighed. Man, it was really beginning to look like me and this guy had a lot in common. And I really got the feeling I could trust him. Not that I told him my life story or anything. "Say, shouldn't you be with..."

            "My Medafighter died a long time ago."

            "Oh, jeez. Sorry man. I kinda know how that is. I just lost my brother."

            "My sympathies."

            "Thanks," I said, looking at my new costume's built in watch. Which did me no good as it was still on Johto time.

            "It's a few minutes past midnight," my company said. "Are you expecting someone?"

            I chuckled. "No, just thinking that I should go get some rest. Something tells me it's gonna be a long day." I fired a web line. "Great talking with you. Good luck with your secrets!"

            As I swung away, I heard him call "Same to you, my friend."

            Zoë and Ikki came to drag me out of bed promptly at nine. I fought them, but had no choice when Metabee opened fire on Ebony. After splashing water in my face and getting dressed, Ikki took us tourists down to his hangout to meet some of his friends and fellow Medafighters. Zoë was thrilled. I just hoped they were better behaved than Metabee.

            Speaking of whom...

            "Battle me!"

            "No."

            "Battle me!"

            "No."

            "Battle me!"

            "No."

            "Battle me!"

            "No! Nonononononononono!!!" I shouted, glaring at the hunk of scrap. "Look, I don't know how you do things here, but Ebony is very important to me and I'm not gonna let you shoot at her! Bugger off!"

            "Well, technically Gallo," Zoë said, giving me a sly look "back home trainers aren't allowed to turn down a challenge."

            I ran my hand down my face and looked at her. "Whose side are you on?" I asked.

            Thankfully, Ikki managed to get Metabee to back off for the rest of the walk. But to replace that pain, Ebony drew the attention of every passerby who had never seen a Pokémon before and we had to stop several time for pictures.

            And she loved every minute of it.

            We finally reached our destination, which turned out to be a small convenience store. We went inside and met three of Ikki's friends.

            The first was a girl named Erika. She was dressed in overalls, a pink shirt and had short brown hair. The other was a cute redhead named Karen. I didn't need to be psychic to see Ikki was head over heals for her. In fact, the only one who didn't seem to notice was Karen herself.

            It was Henry that really caught my attention though. He was the store's teenaged clerk and there was something about him. He seemed friendly enough, but he just gave me this vibe and I didn't like it. I didn't feel I had any right to rummage through his mind, so I let it go. Being Ariados-Man was probably just making me overly paranoid.

            Erika was a reporter for the school paper, so she and Zoë hit it off right away, almost become instant sisters. Karen and Henry were mostly interested in Ebony.

            "So...what can Umbreon do?" Henry asked.

            "Well," I sighed. "On there own, they can't learn that many impressive attacks, but back home we have machines called TMs that teach Pokémon moves for us. Let's see...Ebony always had a really strong Bite, the golden parts of her fur can light up, either becoming a walking flashlight or blinding her opponent. Oh, and being a Dark type, she's immune to all forms of Psychic power."

            "Wow," Karen said, petting Ebony behind the ears. "She must be quite a handful for such  a cute little thing."

            Oh, she was so in. Ebony loved her.

            "You have no idea," I sighed.

            "Pokémon battles must be really interesting to watch," Henry said, looking my Umbreon over. "With all the different types. How many are there?"

            "17."

            Before I could elaborate any further, the bell ringed, heralding the arrival of three new kids, two guys and a girl.

            "Oh no," Ikki groaned. "The Screws."

            The girl, who had long brown hair and wore sunglasses around her neck, looked at Ebony and then at me. "So," she said, her voice surprisingly deep, "the rumors are true. A Pokémon trainer had the nerve to show his face in our town."

            Great. Just great.

            "Ah, you may as well leave," Metabee said, waving his hands in a dismissing way. "He's too much of a wimp to let his rat fight."

            I was about to say something when Erika and Zoë were suddenly at my sides.

            "Oh please fight Samantha!" Erika said. "Her Medabot uses electric attacks! Zoë says Ebony fights those all the time!"

            I looked at Zoë. "Miss Millie's Flaaffy?" I asked.

            She nodded eagerly.

            Even Ebony was looking and me pleadingly.

            "Oh all right!" I shouted finally. "Let's do this outside."

            Though I wasn't thrilled with the whole idea, I must say that Metabee's screams of outrage made it much more enjoyable.

            I had to keep telling myself that 'Peppercat' didn't use bullets as the 'Bot and Ebony prepared to square off. On my side, everyone was watching eagerly, Erika with her camera and Zoë with her notepad. Metabee made some sort of snide comment about how Ebony wouldn't stand a chance.

            Sam's two lackeys, Spyke and Sloan, were standing behind her saying how easily that 'boss' would beat me and Ebony.

            "Ready to lose?" Samantha asked, raising her watch hand to her chest.

            "As I'll ever be," I sighed.

            Ebony tensed and growled.

            "Peppercat, attack!" she shouted into her watch.

            "Quick Attack!" I shouted.

            The robot ran at Ebony, but she took off like a bullet, running into Peppercat and knocking her down. The thing meowed and jumped back up.

            "Lightning Jump!" Sam commanded.

            "What the?" I whispered. Aloud, I shouted "Ebony, Flash!"

            The gold rings in her fur lit up, but it didn't help. Peppercat landed on her back and shocked her. Ebony fell, but slowly struggled to her feet.

            "She won against Miss Millie's Flaaffy, right?" I asked, eyeing Zoë angrily.

            "Right," she replied. "I guess that thing has a lot more voltage."

            "Finish it, Peppercat!" I heard Sam shout, drawing my attention back to the battle at hand. What I saw though, caught me completely by surprise.

            Peppercat was running at Ebony, its hands crackling with electricity, and Ebony struggling to her feet. That was no big deal, but the air around Ebony was glowing, her golden fur shining brightly.

            "Umbreon!" she shouted suddenly, and a blast of blue energy shot out of her, hitting Peppercat. The Medabot crashed to the ground at Sam's feet and something small and gold popped out of its back.

            Then there was stunned silence.

            No one said anything, we all just looked in shock at Ebony and the fallen Peppercat.

            Finally, I looked at Zoë and said, "What the hell was that?!"

            "I don't know," she said, panicking slightly. "Hidden Power?"

            That made sense, I guess. I didn't say anything as Ebony limped over to me and tugged on my pant leg, demanding that I pick her up. As I did, Sam's goons regained their power of speech.

            "B-B-Boss?" the small, skinny one stammered. "You okay?"

            Sam stood ridged for a second, but soon returned to her calm, cocky self. "Of course, Spyke," she said. "Why wouldn't I be?"

            The two cronies looked at each other.

            "Because you lost," the short, fat one said.

            "Don't be ridiculous, Sloan!" Sam shouted. "Peppercat loose to a rodent?! Impossible!"

            "But..." they both started.

            "You idiots," she said waving her hand. "Let's just go."

            And with that, they picked up Peppercat...

            ...and ran as if they're lives depended on it.

            "Wow," Ikki said. "Even for the Screws that's fast."

            I looked at my 'fans.' Erika was taking lots of rapid shots with her camera and Zoë was writing furiously in her notepad and already had several pages filled.

            "Have I mentioned lately that I love you, Gallo?" she said, still writing. "I am so gonna get an A on this project!"

            "And I've got the story of the century!" Erika added.

            "More like semester, Erika," Ikki sighed.

            "Oh, is the poor little dear okay?" Karen asked, running over to me and looking at Ebony.

            "She'll be fine," I said. "I have some healing potions in my hotel room."

            "Well, take her there come right back!" Metabee shouted. "Now that I've seen what the bunny can do, I wanna--"

            I kicked him.

            "TRY THAT AGAIN!!" he screamed, jumping up in my face.

            "I wouldn't advise that," a voice said from nowhere. 

            We all turned towards the source of the voice and found an elderly man, balding man wearing visor like glasses and a lab coat. 

            "Dr. Aki!" Ikki shouted in surprise. 

            "Who?" I asked.

            "He's the guy that invented Medabots."

            "Oh."

            "Hey!  Why shouldn't I fight this chump?!" Metabee shouted at the man, pointing to me. 

            "Because Medabots fighting humans is not only dangerous, it's illegal," Dr. Aki explained. "But that was a rather interesting demonstration. How would you visitors like a tour of the Medabot Corporation? It would give your report an inside perspective."

            Zoë looked like she could marry the old guy right then and there, but Ebony really needed a Full Restore, so I politely declined. They all tried to convince me to come along. The doctor even offered to have give me a ride in his limo, but much to Zoë's disappointment, I insisted and headed back to my room.

            Of course, Ebony, as much as she really did need to be healed, was only an excuse to back out. Again, I just got this vibe, this time from Dr. Aki, and I liked that one even less. It was different though. It was like there was this...invisible blanket covering him. Really weird.

            "You think I'm losing it, girl?" I asked Ebony as I walked down an alleyway toward the hotel.

            "What makes you ask that, young man?" asked a voice, startling both of us.

            I looked down and saw a strange-looking man, sitting on the ground. In front of him was a box filled with small baby chicks. Noisy ones at that. How the hell didn't I notice this guy?!

            "I don't know much about your pet there," the man continued, "but it obviously has faith in you. You must have faith in yourself. Learn to trust your instincts."

            "My instincts..." I whispered.

            He was right. My instincts had never led me wrong and the one time I didn't follow them, it cost my brother his life.

            I began to run. I was going to follow my instincts. And they were telling me that I was going on patrol tonight.

***

            "That's right," the man continued, picking up one of the little chicks. "Trust your instincts. Listen to your heart. Reach into your wallet and bring home a chick as a souvenir! I accept Johto currency and with the exchange rate it's cheaper--HEY! Where'd he go?!"

***

            Zoë wasn't happy when she found out I was going out again. And quite frankly, I couldn't blame her. Especially since patrol was so freaking BORING!

            I mean, it's technically a good thing that I had nothing to do but test the output of my organic web shooters. After all, it means that Medatropolis is a real nice town with the lowest crime rate imaginable. Big surprise, I soon found something to do.

            "Been at this for two hours and still got plenty of webbing left," I said to myself as I landed on a rooftop. "Not...what the?"

            Across the street from where I was, I could see a large building, clearly named "Museum of Meda-History." And someone was sneaking in one of the windows.

            "Finally," I muttered, leaping across the street and sticking to the museum's wall. Silently as I could, I followed the intruder through the window (which he nicely left open for me) and used my psychics to follow him. Sticking to the shadows, I watched as he landed in front of a glass case. He was dressed really weird from what I could see of his back. Long black cape and a top hat.

            "Fruitcake," I whispered. Right as he started talking to himself...

            "Ah, finally," he said in a deep voice. "The rare, one-of-a-kind Mantis Medal. Soon to be a part of the Phantom Renegade's ever growing collection."

            As he cut the glass, I fired a line and silently lowered myself down to his level. Hanging upside down, I called out "You know, I'm new in town and not really aware of your legal system, but isn't that stealing?"

            The Phantom Renegade grabbed the medal in question and spun around with speed that really impressed me. "My, my," he said, apparently un-phased. "Is it tourist season already?"

            "Least you didn't make some dumb remark about Halloween," I said. "Of course, then you'd be sorta dissing yourself. What's with the clown mask?"

            "I'm shy," he said, suddenly throwing several smoke bombs. In seconds, the room was filled, and I couldn't see my hands in front of my face.

            But I could still sense.

            Of course, you have to remember that while I'm super-agile, I'm not super-fast. I mean, I'm quick. I'm faster than some people, no doubt about that, but there are plenty faster than me. And apparently, the Phantom is one of them, 'cause when I followed my psychics and flipped to where he was from my line, he was already gone.

            "You know," I called over his laugh. "I could find out everything about you with just a thought if I wanted."

            No answer.

            "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" I shouted as the smoke cleared and revealed that Renegade was long gone. Apparently, he was considerate enough to trip the alarm on his way out though, alerting security to my presence.

            Two guards came running into the room, but I was already back out the window, tailing behind the Phantom Renegade as he rode what seemed to be a hot-air balloon with a ladder instead of a basket.

            I was really careful in following him, sticking a safe distance behind and in the shadows. Much to my surprise, my quarry rode the balloon to a larger building. No big deal except that the skyscraper was clearly labeled "Meda Corp."

            "The plot thickens," I whispered as I landed on the roof. Phantom had gone in through a window, but I could track him easily enough with my psychic powers. Crawling on the ceiling, I caught up with the capped crook just as he was entering a room with a vaulted door, so I slipped in just as the door closed shut behind me.

            The room was dark, lighted only by glowing green tubes. The tubes were filled with liquid and floating in the center of them was one of those Medabot medals. Some looked brand new, while others seemed ancient. Fossilized even.

            "I really should've done some research on the flight over," I whispered as I crawled along a support beam.

            The Phantom suddenly stopped in front of one of the tubes, but this one was covered. And there was a figure standing between the tube and Renegade. Someone I recognized...

            "Dr. Aki," Phantom Renegade said, getting the attention of the Medabot inventor. "I've come back with the Mantis Medal."

            I gasped when I suddenly recognized the 'blanket' around Dr. Aki. Thinking quick, I covered myself with a sort of psychic 'smoke screen' that would shield me from detection from another psychic. If I did it right...

            "Please let me be wrong," I whispered. "And please let me be doing this right if I'm right."

            "Excellent," Dr. Aki said, taking the golden coin from the Phantom's hand. "Our new partner will be pleased."

            "Sir," Phantom Renegade said, his tone betraying the fact he didn't trust what was happening, "when will I get to meet this valued new member of the team?"

            "Right now," Dr. Aki replied as the door again opened and closed and another figure entered the room. One I knew instantly despite the fact he looked very different from our last encounter.

            "Abra Kadabra," Dr Aki said in greeting to the mad scenist, and I knew right then and there he was being controlled like a puppet.

            Abra used to look like your regular mad scientist, but that had changed. He now had a bright red star tattooed on his forehead and had a bushy, brownish mustache. Each of his fingers now ended in a long silver claw. He had finally spliced his genes with those of his namesake.

            "Dr. Aki," he returned in his thick accent. "You have the medal?"

            The doctor was about to hand the medal over, but the Phantom quickly stopped him.

            "Are you out of your mind, Aki?" he shouted. "This man is a known maniac!"

            "He cannot hear you," Abra said, waving his hand in a dismissive manner. The Phantom then went flying into a tube. He slowly slid to the floor and didn't get back up.

            I only watched as Kadabra took the medal from Aki. Either I'd finally done my trick right or he was too busy controlling Aki to properly sense me. He'd always used an Alakazam before. In any case, it would be really stupid to make a move before I knew what was going on. I'd learned that mistake the hard way.

            "At last!" Abra shouted as he looked at the medal and walked toward the control panel in front of the covered tube. "At last I finally have the means to give my creation life! Ever since the discovery of the Steel Pokémon element and the Medaforce, I knew there was a way to combine the two and create the ultimate weapon! Behold!" He pressed a button and the tube's contents were revealed.

            A fear like nothing I had ever felt before clutched my heart.

            Floating in the same green liquid with its eyes closed was a Scizor. That alone wasn't scary, but the first thing an experienced Pokémon trainer would notice is that it was a much brighter red than a normal Scizor and taller. The next would be that it had hands instead of the normal vice like claws. Hands with a sharp spike on each knuckle. Third would be that in had a groove in its chest, the perfect size for the medal that Kadabra was holding. Plus, it was a creation of Kadabra's, so I had a pretty good idea of how deadly the thing could be.

            "Behold!" Abra continued. "The Crimson Blade!" A mechanical arm took the medal from the mad scientist's grasp and went into the tank, placing it in the Scizor's chest. "And now, to give it life..."

            I fought through my fear and was about to tackle Abra when an explosion suddenly blew the vaulted door off its hinges. The room was then filled with at least a dozen men in really dorky rubber suits, led by someone who was a bit hard to distinguish from his troops and...a baby?!

            "The Crimson Blade is now property of the Rubber-Robo Gang!" the leader shouted in a really, scratchy voice. "So if you'll--"

            Before he could finish, there was another explosion, this one blowing out a wall, and room was filled with smoke. And really bad music.

            "Oh no," I muttered, holding my face. "Not them. Not..."

            "Prepare for trouble!"

            "Make it double!"

            "Not Jesse and James...why God? Why?"

            Through the smoke three figure could be seen: a girl with long red hair, a boy with short blue hair and a Meowth that stood upright and could talk. Both the humans were in their late teens and dressed in white uniforms with big red R's on the chest.

            They continued their stupid intro without interruption. When they finished though, that's when things really went to hell. When he got to his line, Meowth happened to look up. And right at me.

            "MEOWTH! It's that Ariados-Guy!"

            And of course, everyone looked where he was pointing, including Abra Kadabra, who glared at me. Next thing I know, it feels as though the Rhydon punched me in the chest and I'm knocked to the floor.

            When I catch my breath and look up, all the bad guys are glaring down at me, Abra's eyes glowing.

            "Heh," I chuckled. "You know, if my life were a TV show, the words 'to be continued' would be flashing across the screen right about now..."