My head lolled back, gazing lazily through the long crescent shaped olive coloured leaves. Their long shadows cast by the deepening violet sky mottling my olive skin like a girafarigs. I sometimes wondered what kind of tree it was, probably a pepperina tree, but what did I know about botany? I couldn't tell a rose from a carnation. All I cared about was that it was the most perfect climbing tree around, its thick branches sprawling across a dusty orange road with weeping limbs obscuring most of our renovations from view. We had done it up with a swing, rope ladder, wooden platforms and everything topped with a layer of cammo paint.

Why did it need to be so inconspicuous? Well, it wasn't precisely on our property. Ours lay about 15 minutes down the road right on the outskirts of Kyeema Town speckled with Hereford cattle grazing the spinifex.

This tree nestled on a fence line of one Farmer Bucket, a cranky old man, dubbed so because during Spearow breeding season the bird Pokemon would hurtle from the copse of trees just outside his house and the battered plastic red bucket was his only protection. I swear he looked like a reject of the Kelly Gang when they dive-bombed him with their sinister beaks agape. Those scruffy cantankerous birds almost a match for Bucket himself had no qualms attacking 14 year old girls.

We had moved in behind enemy lines because of a nesting pair of Pidgeot had actually come in down from the mountains three years ago and it was an opportunity we just couldn't miss. They would plunge from the air to snap up pesky Nidoran nibbling the buds of his chickpea plants. Why in the name of Mew they would run the gauntlet of beaks and talons just to get some nasty tasting chickpea's was beyond me, but sometimes the prey was one of Bucket's chickens that would graze the fields for cabbage moth larvae.

He had countered this threat with a pair of enormous Arcanine, and they had no qualms about chasing 14 year old girls either. I can't count the number of times they almost caught one of the majestic birds in their snapping teeth, sheering their tail feathers with spit and slobber.

But they were the reason we had risked getting caught.

This season Bucket had left the land fallow, baring the fertile brown soil to the sun. Without any crops the rodents disappeared, and without viable prey the Pidgeot's had nicked into the escarpment that cupped Kyeema Town, yet because of our extensive renovations, we remained in residence able to watch the immense raptors floating on the spiralling thermals in the distance.

I sighed smiling at the thought of them, leaning back into my branch and let one leg swing limply as I scanned the distance. I was on lookout, as always. My own lofty perch provided a three-sixty surveillance without tree branches blocking the view. It was mine simply because I was lightest and able to squeeze through the branch bends to get to it. See, what I also neglected to mention was that the tree also bordered Bucket's storage roads, so his farmhands were always zooming in and out like Yanma. I don't know why, its not like Kyeema had anything they were desperate to rush off and see. I mean could cross from one side to the other in less than ten minutes!

Nothing, a good enough time as any to open the conversation to my favourite topic.

"Soooo training season is opening next week."

"And? Its not like either of us are going anywhere," said a voice glumly from below. I leaned out, eyeing my 'little' brother, sprawled on his back on a platform with his hands behind his head. His spiny black hair hid his expression but I knew it to one of longing. Unlike most siblings, we got on really well. I think it was because although I was older than him by two years, he was a pretty booffy boy.

It meant we had to learn to share early.

"Maybe." Even from the voice you could tell he was grinning. Jarrod always grinned. Just to Scott's left lounging in a hammock of vines just where the main trunk branched out he lay with eyes half closed. He was just a lay back kinda kid. Being oldest by a year, he claimed it straight away, but as far as I was concerned, he could have it. I sampled it and thick woody thorns left numerous punctures but he barely came out with a scratch. "But who are you root'n for in the championships?"

"Brutus!" bawled Matty. Almost at level with me, Matty was hanging upside down his grubby T-shirt dangling over his face, not a worry that he could lose his grip and splatter on the hard compacted dirt below. The kid was Scotty's age and Jazz's brother but was so squirmy you could have sworn there was some Mankey in his veins.

"Nooo!" we all groaned in mock agony, including the last of our little posse and my best mate Jess, their sister whether she liked it or not, but more often not. She rocked the swing with her toes, fingering the vines we had encouraged to grow on the ropes with her face hidden by her blondish hair draping across her face.

"What?" Matty giggled, as if the behemoth whose idea of a battle was raw power, no tactic stood a chance.

"I got an eye on that new electric trainer," Jazz ventured.

"You would!" I jeered. "Shanna is gonna blitz 'em!"

"Phtt!" Scott snorted. "Sez the girl who thinks Clefairy come from space!"

"They do! I read it!" I retorted defensively, and then a little sheepishly added, "Do you think we could make it?"

"Into space?" Jess asked puzzled looking up.

"No-oh, the Championships."

"Course. Its pretty easy," Jazz shrugged.

He had done some amateur training when he was ten, but hadn't even made it to Bimbadeen City at Metone's northern most point, the Woombara Peninsula. The monsoon rains set in and flooded the gorge known as the Devil's Race, as it was treacherously long and narrow like a cattle race and usually remained so from November to February . Jazz being Jazz simply turned back and gave up the idea, even though he could have tried the pass over to Warriwarri city, named after the long caterpillar of ranges that ran down the entire east coast of Metone which really sorted the Wannabee's from the Gonnabee's. It was why I constantly badgered him with questions.

"Easy for you to say," Scott grumbled sitting up. "Tez and I don't have a Pidgey between us!"

I nodded in agreement. Because their family was divorced it meant their father spoiled them rotten. Jess had a docile yet somewhat dim Vaporeon, Matty had a feisty midget of a Flareon and Jazz's companion on his short jaunt had been a Jolteon and his larrikin nature had certainly rubbed off on it.

Our father had also been a trainer in his younger days but kept us firmly shackled from leaving on an amateur journey by not keeping Pokemon as a pets. Don't get me wrong, he'd love us to follow in his footsteps but when he began with an injured Rattata, he quickly found out that without a properly registered and trained beginning Pokemon it was just too difficult.

He knew what was best, I guess, but you could never trust an adult's real motives in my opinion! Sneaky as Ekan's they were.

Out the corner of my eye I caught a moving dot coming from the farmhouse, hooning at a hundred K's an hour.

"Car!"

Quick as lightning Matty somersaulted to the ground scuttling into the tall grass with Jess and Scott diving for cover after him. Jazz huddled into a ball, blending effortlessly into the leaves and I made a daring leap onto the limb opposite, weaselling into the lower branches and out of clear sight.

The sound of wind and flying gravel grew like a stampede of Tauros and suddenly a sleek chrome bullet shot past in a billowing of wind flicking the rocks into the laneways where we hid and then faded just as quickly. It was a lot of trouble for just two seconds of vulnerability but we were good as dead if we were caught.

From the grass emerged the three, Jess grumbling and picking the twigs out of her hair. She spared a glance at the sky outside our refuge.

"Man we gotta go! I got homework and mum will kill us if she comes home and we aren't there!"

We each added our own colourful description of exactly what we thought of homework. My mates on the ground peeled themselves underneath the barbed wire fencing while I eased myself to the end of the branch clear of hindering limbs and the barbwire fence. I hung by my arms for a moment and dropped heavily onto the grainy red dirt, cringing at the pressure on the balls of my feet and the sharp gravel impeding themselves in my calloused heels.

I looked over my shoulder at the sun setting over the dusty orange dirt road, flecks still dancing in the wake of the farmhands car.

"Well you never know," I whispered, and then hopped after my mates.

Inka Tninka Pitjikala

My heart skipped a beat.

It was here! Here! Here! Here! Here! Here! The entry form had finally been admitted into the Sunday paper. In my opinion it they probably a hacked down an entire rainforest for a useless stack of paper in boring Times New Roman print, but I was too excited to sit and complain about deforestation as I normally did. Instead I stared at the first page with greedy anticipation. Beneath a large colour photograph of a drunken politician in the bottom corner stamped inside grand red spiky speech bubble was what I drooled over every maths lesson at school.

Every year, the great professors of the all the Leagues offered the chance of a lifetime, the chance to become one of the 10 official Pokemon trainers of The League Amalgamation Competition. Three random Professors would preside, bolstering the beginning Pokemon of their own League. Of course there was the usual three kids they chose themselves for their own League just before training season started, but this one had so much more prestige. An Official trainer!

Plus the Metone League's own Professor Bean was a tad, well, eccentric, he hadn't represented the Metone league in over 4 years and a Metonian hadn't been amongst the ten in seven years. We had no famous trainers that put us on the map, like Lorelei Drift, Ash Ketchum, Hiro Nakajima or May Ulysses. I mean, barely anyone ever heard of us, and when they did, they usually asked a stupid question like, Do we get milk all year round, or You mean you really have electricity? Jeeze, its not like we were in the Stone age!

I gazed across the rest of Kyeema, partially hidden by a slab of rock jabbing out from the escarpment, at their mundane houses with their nifty little gardens and gravel driveways and cute little mailboxes in the shapes of Goldeen and Miltanks. Like a bolt of lightning the yearning to journey struck me down.

I could leave this behind and see the world, a world beyond everything I knew; if I could sneak it into the house without dad pinching it to read the fishing foldout first.

I bent down and tucked the soggy cling-wrapped mass under my armpit eager to get my bare feet out of the dew-drenched grass. And face it, we had a looooong driveway!

Feeling incredibly devious, I ducked beneath the windows and slipped through our security door, closing it softly, wincing at the click it made when the tumbler relocked it. I peeked around the arch leading into the lounge room. Dad was lazing in his armchair with his feet propped on a beanbag, grumbling about the weather. I think I got most my looks from him; I certainly got his height- which is to say about an inch of the floor. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration but it's a good deal less then other kids my age.

When I was sure he was properly distracted, I pressed my back against the wall, moving stealthily, mission impossible style.

"Hey Tez! What you got there?" My tanned face blanched a pallid white as my little brother Scotty peered from the kitchen, his spiny black hair riddled with knots and cowlicks from his noisy sleep. His eyes met my 'Stantler caught in road-train headlights' expression and focus on the rolled up newspaper. "You have it?" he said slowly.

"Eep." I broke and ran for the safety of my room, because even though my brother was two years younger then me, he was as big for his age as I was short. He would have no qualms sitting on me until I gave my hard earned prize up.

Oh come on! No one likes waking up at six in the morning so therefore it is hard earned!

Darting down my hall I dived through my bedroom door with Scott blustering after me. I slammed the door shut setting the knickknacks on my shelves jittering noisily and just in time I threw my back against it. His weight crashed into it and the door bucked. Straining, with one leg shoving off my bookshelf I gave it a final shove and the door snapped long enough for me to flip the lock.

"What are you kids doing?" I heard my father bellow, but I didn't care. I jumped onto my bed bouncing with excitement, tearing the paper apart. "Sports section, no. University section, no. Real Estate, no. Comics mmmm… later. Ah-Ha!"

I scrambled through my desk for scissors, paper and pens, returning to my bed jostling the mangled paper. Dad would not be happy. I snipped carefully along the dotted line, and with meticulous care I began to fill out my details.

Name: Topaz Soarhire Gender: Female

Age: 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

I paused at this. Although I had been racing my brother to this every year since I was ten, this was my most eligible year. When kids were ten and eleven years old, they were almost immediately discarded, or awarded them one of those 'we felt sorry for you here's a cap' prizes. As the years past and those same kids had turned 15 and 16, they no longer cared about the excitement of a Journey, probably having more interest in the other parts of life. I ticked fourteen years of age with enthusiasm.

Pokemon License Number: 482-25686

Region: Metone Town: Kyeema Town Address: 39 Bingaby Road

I paused, that could be a problem. See, Metone technically wasn't apart of the Northern Leagues; in fact it really wasn't apart of anywhere. It was a continent of land to the South East of the Orange Islands. Its centre was a dry and arid red desert where only the hardiest of people could make a living. Thick green rainforests subject to monsoon storms in the north drew tourists from everywhere and coupled with the East Coasts world-renowned surf it was hard to resist. Its south was very polar orientated, frigid mountains and catacombs of caves sneaking in and out and the west coast was a plethora of Pokemon, wondering in and out of the mangrove forests.

Of course it had its own Pokemon League, but I had been all over and wanted to see something new.

Contemplating what to do next, I riffled under the blankets of pages and found my own three pages of 1cm spaced lines, reserved for the required essay the Professors would judge.

"It has to be catchy, interesting, but meaningful. Oh boy how am I gonna do that?" I grumbled. This was the boring part. Finally I jotted down ideas, I formed these ideas into sentences and paragraphs and after only an hour, I had a masterpiece. I read and reread, ignoring Scotty's pounding on the door, his pleading and his bargaining until I was satisfied I was bound to win.

After finishing the thousand-word essay, I sealed it in one of the envelopes from my mountains of stationary I always got for my birthday along with my entry form. I looked at it with pride, and reluctance. I knew that it would be a long, long wait until I received a reply.

There's only one adjective to describe the eight weeks that followed.

Torture.

Even knowing that kids my age were feeling the same anxiousness as I was didn't quell the anticipation. I barely thought or talked of anything else so much that my friends were sick of me and had threatened that if the word journey popped out of my mouth again; they would hang me in a tree by my dacks. But I sympathised, my attention span was shot to nothing and my teachers could only persevere. I wasn't the only kid who'd entered and only our Pokemon subject teachers were able to hold our concentration for more then a minute.

The weeks passed at snails pace. I watched the evening news for the clues that Professor Oak, the chief judge would give, but his answers were always sly and ambiguous. Professor Ivy would babble enthusiastically about nothing and Professor Elm would smile secretively and wish every entrant good luck.

And Professor Bean on the local news? Well he would mumbled incoherently and chuckle, nasal snoring sounds that just made you shake your head and wonder way the Metone government employed him if they couldn't understand him a word he said.

Everyday when I got off the bus I pawed through our mail like a furret and when it yielded nothing I sulked in my room for an hour or two until my mother's meals cheered me up. If I've learnt anything in my fourteen years of life that time travels slowest when you're waiting.

"We're home!" I yelled as both Scott and I squeezed through the door at the same time. I rolled my eyes at him as he passed and he poked his tongue right back. No car was in the driveway so our parents were still at work. Like every day I went through the daily ritual of flipping through the mail but as it sat on the counter ready for me to mangle it. It looked nothing more then bills and junk mail. I sighed with irritation as I tossed each back into the fruit bowl.

"Bill, advertisement, junk, junk, junk… Bonza!"

There it was, the envelope that would make or break me. It looked no different then it had any other year. The stamp of Lance of the Elite Four and his Dragonite in the top right corner, the crisp crystal blue stationery and the neatly typed address on the back.

You know how they say in books that their heart sunk, well mine rather deflated like a balloon. I leaned on the counter gazing at it sceptically, or was it dread? It didn't look like the letter of a winner; it didn't even look like the winner of a 'We feel sorry for you, here's a cap' letter! I ambled back to my bedroom and sprawled over my bed, carefully slitting the envelope open and removed the Pokemon patterned stationary.

Hello Topaz Soarhire

Thank you for your entry in the Trainers Challenge... Impressive and moving essay ... Accepted into...Sheet enclosed... Good Luck

"Yeah yeah," I muttered glumly, tossing it over my shoulder… Hang on! My mind warped and I made a wild jump after it, tumbling off my bed as I grasped it and read more carefully.

Hello Topaz

Thank you for your entry in the Trainers Challenge. Your essay was an impressive and moving essay. It was easy to tell it was written from the heart and so it is our pleasure to inform you that Professor Oak, Professor Ivy and Professor Elm have accepted your extraordinary essay into the lucky ten. All information on when and where you can pick up your prize is on the enclosed sheet. Good luck in attending and hope to see you soon.

Melissa Hobbs

Melissa Hobbs

Pokemon League Chancellor

I leapt from my bed and whooped an almighty victory cry at the absurdly short an impersonal letter, dancing and wagging my bum all over the place. I was in shock, I was in ecstasy, I was outta here! Scotty rounded the corner sliding in his schools socks and swinging through the door with a puzzled expression.

"Jeeze, she's finally flipped her lid," he shook his head as I yipped again starting back to his room.

"Read it and weep!" I gloated, holding it out in outstretched hands as I sprung up and down on my bed. The springs were creaking in high pitched protest.

"What!" he blurted, grasping the crinkled sheet it disbelief. "That's so not fair! Your gonna have to tell mum and dad you're leaving."

"Come on, you know they'll let me, they probably can't wait to get out of the house! Less food to buy, less clothing, won't have to run me into town," I stopped rattling of reasons for a second pausing my bounces until it was just the recoil of the bedsprings moving me up and down. My parents were your average, 'have you done this or that' parents, sometimes irrational in their parent logic, but for most part loving and concerned for me. My mother was more peevish, wishing I was more girlish but dad would be rooting all the way. "You think?"

That night I lay in bed pondering the afternoon's episode. I had been subtle and carefully resealed the envelope leaving it under our dining room table as if it had slipped in my excitement and not noticed, just to see their reactions to it. Well, it wasn't exactly how I'd pictured it.

I was lying on the couch within view when Mum spotted it. Her cheery humming went into a quizzical silent as she stared at the envelope. She glanced over at me but my gaze was fixed firmly on those dumb Ash Ketchum cartoons.

Sure, he was top of the League, but there was no way his journey could have been that corny. Every episode was the bloody same. Help! Save me! Save my Pokemon! Oh no Team Rocket! And of course the Coup-de-gras, Thundershock Pikachu! Blah, but that was not my problem…

Using my blurry peripheral vision I tried to discern what was on her mind.

"Neil," she called. I don't know how she did it, but it was perfectly casual and had I not known I would have been none the wiser. She strolled nonchalantly to the door, discreetly hiding the envelope behind her leg as she moved and leaned out. "Neil!"

Dad ambled from his tool shed; he was always working on whatnot. I've always been very close to my dad, maybe it's because I'm not you're average girl. Every year we would have four major camping trips –and when my dad said rough it, he meant it- I was always right there with him. I'm pretty tomboyish I guess.

Dad was in view of the envelope, having seen it many time before and the two quietly edged behind me, still watching the Pikachu as if indifferent and the slitting of the tab was hidden behind its loud '"Chaaaa!' as it loosed its customary thundershock to end the episode.

"Um, Topaz," my dad said. I swivelled around and I could read in my mother's disappointed expression behind her dark eyes. Forcing down my own disappointment at her disappointment I stared with my usually weary expression after a school day but my father was on cloud nine. He held up the powder blue stationary by its corner between his middle and ring finger. He grinned toothily with pride.

We argued, well argued isn't the right word, more like debated the pros and cons of my journey, mum submitting the cons and dad and I forwarding the pro's but as much as she didn't like the idea of me leaving they agreed it was the opportunity of a lifetime. Their only concession was that while on the road I still had to do my school studies via correspondence, but that was becoming more and more popular these days so I wouldn't be left like a shag on a rock if I had trouble with a maths class.

One of my few talents is memorising completely useless bits of information in a short period of time, like the Pokerap. I had that down pat within a day or two and now I used that skill to know the sheet by heart by the time the lights went out.

The information sheets said that I would be picking up my prize at a small ceremony in New Bark Town, Johto, a fortnight from now, where this years winners would Journey. The year before it was the Janera League and the year before that Tintia. I would have to go through various pre-journey classes that ranged from food rationing, to battle etiquette to caring for your Pokemon. Each was essential to the skills in the outside world, but I was confident I'd fly through them with my camping experiences under my belt. Believe me, some of them were pretty horrendous.

My thoughts lingered on the word prize. It was everything the beginner trainer could beg for, it was the perks of 'an Official Trainer.'Other kids who began just with a Pokemon given by their parents or found their own simply had to fund their initial pack themselves. That was all the help the League would give us. Mind you, it was nothing to sneer at, not by a long shot.

A backpack that could probably pack a Snorlax in properly if you folded it right, twenty Pokeballs, ten Greatballs, 2 Ultraballs, an elusive Masterball that would be available to us only when we had earned a certain badge –a Masterball in the hands of a rookie is something to worry about. A state of the art Pokedex was also available, cell phone, collapsible bike, potions, revives, antidotes, maps and a voucher for free registration in the Johto League, this years host.

Sure, the pack was absolute legend but that was not the thing longed for most. A Pokemon. The idea of someone who will stick with you no matter what, and all that nostalgic stuff.

I had the choice of ten different Pokemon from all parts of the globe. The two grass types, Bulbasaur and Chikorita, the fire duo Charmander and Cyndaquil, Totodile and Squirtle the water Pokemon, the thundering dynamos Mareep and Pichu or the baby Pokemon Cleffa and Igglybuff.

"Which one," I mused to myself as my eyelids began to close. Each had its strengths and weaknesses, each had its likes and dislikes, each would have valid opinions and feelings that I had to be in tune with. Which one?

Once again the waiting was there, and this time that single thought tumble through my head again and again. Countless time I was doodling in the margins of my last days in a real school and they had taken the shape of a very creative Pokemon, something with wings, claws teeth and fins all at once. I already knew I wanted either a water type, or an electric type, water being the preference since while travelling Johto it was the intermediate of the five types available.

See, I did do some study!

At one point I was even interviewed on T.V, being the first Metonian in seven years to embody the spirit of her wide brown land. I stuttered and tripped my way through it, knowing I was probably looking like a country hick, but believe me, you could make far more sense out of my dribble than anyone could out of Professor Bean who had gestured wildly. No one had a clue.

But for most part I spent the time out of school and pre-journey classes with my friends and family, who knew when I would see them again? I think Jarrod was just about ready to strangle me as the last week ticked away but it didn't stop my eager questions. Mum was giving me doom and gloom incessantly and every night dad would give advice, the good, the bad and the ugly of training. What Gym battles were like and how to deal with cocky trainers.

"Womp their arse!" He exclaimed excitedly, slamming his fist on the kitchen bench as I leaned over it.

Scotty still sulked occasionally, but he had at least given up on trying to convince me to let him go in my place. Yeah right! Jess actually considered following me on the journey, but when Jazz said that a large part of it was being hungry, she cast a sidelong look at Vaporeon and scoffed at the idea of journeying all together. Jess and hungry rarely mixed.

But right then, I sat with Jarrod on the bench at Settler's Park, the fields supposed to be a soccer field was regularly transformed into a battle field and it was where Jazz and I spent a good deal of our time.

"Kay," I said, staring speculatively at the trainer on the left, a boy of about sixteen and matted green hair, obviously from out of town, maybe even a foreigner judging his fair skin. Trainers rarely came through Kyeema, because not only wasn't it out of the official trainer route but it was cut off by the Acubra forest and the Kinta river system. Either way he leaned to one side grinning arrogantly as he sent a blubbery, bubbly white Pokemon, with a horn on its head and flippers. "Wassat?"

Jazz without turning away from that battle muttered patiently, "Seel, from the Kanto Region."

"That's a Seel? You said they were round little blue balls."

"No, that's Spheal, from Hoenn."

The challenging trainer was a local, Trev of equal age but a good deal bulkier and I had a fair idea why he didn't want to Journey. He wasn't particularly pleasant, but we went to different schools in town in Yarabee, a good two hours away by bus so I didn't really care to find out. He was busy talking up his Cheeron, a small local Pokemon with cocoa brown fur, large cupped ears twisting anxiously and black and white bands down its slightly hunched back. Its bristly, well muscled tail that seemed to big for it swished back and forth, usually used to support them as they swung upside down from trees as it listened, smiling placidly, its small blunt nose twitching at the scent of its opponent. It was just a normal type and a bit of a pest when the mulberry bush down the back was in fruit, so I didn't really think it had a chance against the outsider's Pokemon.

"Okay, I'm going for the Seel," I said finally, listening vaguely to the usual banter shared by trainers trying to intimidate each other.

Jazz smirked, "Good, cos I'm going for Cheeron."

I blinked quizzically but focused on the match, suddenly begun. Cheeron waddled forward, head turning left and right as the Seel humped its way to meet him. I sighed, resting my elbow on my knee and looking over my shoulder. Jazz's Jolteon napped beneath a branching tree with Vaporeon and Jess while the boys and Flareon chased each other up and down the playground, Scotty gripping the sides of the sun heated slippery dip blocking Matty as he tried to run up right to the bottom, Flareon flicking sand between its legs into the dip. When I turned back around the two still hadn't reached the middle. This was gonna take a while.

Noticing my boredom, Jazz grinned. "Don't worry, it'll start soon enough."

He was correct, barely past the first quarter the Seel fired a sparkling ray, glittery with ice crystals from the top of its horn. Aurorabeam I guessed and what a doozy! The Cheeron uttered a shrill squeak, curling into a ball baring its bristling banded fur. "Done for!" I hissed to my mate.

"Nu-uh, Defence Curl," said he said knowingly. I didn't see how, the rodent was electrified inside a many-rayed star of white opaline light, droplets of ice weighing down Cheeron's long wiry whiskers exposed to the outside. They trembled violently.

"Seel Seel!" clapped the Seel, panting heavily, rolling its blubbery hurriedly to finish off the job with head bowed. Its opponent still remained adamantly furled and like a circus trained Pokemon the Seel nudged it on to its nose, batting it up and down between its tail and horn, hooting merrily. It trainer whooped triumphantly while Trev looked dismayed, shouting for it to Rest but the black and white ball bounced up and down like an clowns juggling balls, completely inert.

With an extra loud honk the Seel flung Cheeron up into the air extra hard. This was it! The bet was mine! Suddenly in mid air the ball split apart with a spray of ice crystals. Its black beady eyes glinting craftily, and while spinning its plump bald tail swung down like a vengeful golf stick and struck Seel senseless, rolling clumsily across the ground and out for the count.

"How did you know that!" I burst out, drawing the attention of both trainers while the foreigner picked up his Pokemon, petting it soothingly before returning it to its ball. He would now have to see Harry. Since Kyeema was too small for a PokeCentre, Harry was the next best thing with some of his bizarre potion concoctions and a rest, all for free, the considerate old man. He also tended many of the wild Pokemon and I had known him to give out Pokemon to beginners. I had tried to wheedle one out of him but dad put a stop to it quick smart.

"Easy," Jazz grinned, standing up and glancing at his watch. He waved the others over, indicating it was late and we were homeward bound.

"That doesn't answer the question," I muttered sulkily. "How am I meant to be a trainer if I can't even judge whether a Pokemon win or not."

Jazz gave my shoulder a quick reassuring squeeze and I looked at him as if he had a pineapple growing out of his ear. Emotions and caring was not a big part of our little group. In fact the display of anything other than that hurt usually resulted in a thump on the shoulder and being dogpilled. Come to think of it, even that hurt could do that.

"I was joking, I didn't know, I just took a guess. Trev has been training that thing for three years, and it should have evolved into Arcon long ago. The kid just misjudged that. Don't worry, Pokemon is a thing you learn over time." He bent down to scratch behind Jolteon's ear who had trotted up with his infectious grin only he and his trainer could pull off. "And it's pretty hard to learn if you don't have one, ay Daunt?"

Daunt yipped in affirmation, bounding ahead with Matty's Flareon nipping at its heels, its bushy yellow tail wagging from side to side.

"Notch up another win to me, Scotty," Jazz said over his shoulder to Scotty, tugging on his thongs.

"Right, 7 to 12, this week," he said happily. "See Topaz, you just don't have the knack, you really should let me go in your place!"

"Get real!" I laughed. "Race yis home!"

Then, on the night before I left mum and dad chucked a huge surprise party, noting the sarcasm at the word surprise. Surprises are highly overrated and no matter how careful they were, they couldn't keep me from prying around corners and shuffling through draws. When caught I'd only grin mareepishly.

With mates from school it was a bonfire bash and even a couple of fireworks which dad had gotten from somewhere or other. How he managed to keep his head on his shoulders, and knowing where his skills in cooking lay I had no idea how. The flames were quickly extinguished and we all gazed up into the night sky bursting with reds and yellows and greens like comet tails drifting to earth. After a round of prezzies, most of which were practical uses, and somehow still receiving the same socks and soaps and stationary I aaaaalllwaaysss got on my birthday or at Christmas. Even so my face was plastered with an imperishable grin that lasted long after the guests left and even as my eyes slowly shut.

"Beep-dibeep! Beep-dibeep! Beep-dibeep! "

I raised my head of my pillow to see the numbers 6:00 flashing in neon red lights in the centre of a Snorlax's paunch. It buzzed and buzzed and buzzed as I stared at it dully.

"Bloody hell," I muttered to myself, slapping the button grumpily. Even on such an exciting day I couldn't be morning person. Morning people always tend to be obnoxiously happy for the rest of the day and nothing was gonna change me into one of those. It is only on the rarest of occasions did I get up of my own freewill before 8:30 and if so, it's usually to watch cartoons.

As I peeled back the covers, and rolled onto my feet I realised that my well-loved cartoons would only be watched at a PokeCenter.

This journey stuff it seemed did have its downsides.

Kneeling in front of my full-length mirror I pulled my extraordinarily long raven blue hair into a ponyta tail with a Pokeball studded band and dragged on my new Pokemon uniform. It was far from my practical tastes, but I felt that if I wanted to be treated like a trainer, you had to look like a trainer, and that meant eccentric.

The top was a blue, swimsuit like shirt, slightly clingy with polished oval stones on my shoulders and at my waist, where a wedge missing bearing skin ran from about an inch below my sternum and along my ribs ending just below my belly button. Below were baggy dark blue denim jeans and brown suspenders I let dangle by my knees. On my hands were slate-blue fingerless gloves, with slender gunmetal grey chains attached to elbow bands and my legs were white ruffled leg warmers held in place with blue knee bands emblazoned with the Earth symbol. To top it off were my comfortable red trainers.

I looked like a professional, or at least crazy enough not to be messed with.

But something was missing

"Watch!" I frowned as I searched my room for it. I tossed bits and pieces aside and rummaged through the draws till it looked like a Gyarados had come and used its Dragon Rage, but then again, maybe it was worse.

"Ahem," a voice coughed behind me I turned to see Scott dangling the watch.

"Heh heh," I chuckled embarrassed as he glanced at the state of my room. "Left it in the bathroom again?"

Scott nodded, he wandering in and making room on my bed to sit. He sighed enviously; looking at the bag I had packed about a week in advance in my excitement. "Have you decided on what Pokemon your going to choose?"

"I've narrowed it down to Totodile, Charmander or Mareep," I answered, pulling the strap tight around my wrist. I chewed my lip and looked around. I didn't want to leave anything behind because if I did it was over a continent away and I wouldn't be coming back for a long time.

"Time to go Topaz," my mothers voice rang from the lounge. I looked at the comforts of my room, the recognition that I wouldn't see my childhood toys and photographs for a long time hit home. It was depressing and I hated being depressed.

"Don't worry, I'll clean it up." I screwed my face up, almost forgetting he was there.

"More like clean it out so you can have it," I joked. "I'll call you as soon as I get my new Pokemon!"

"Topaz!"

"Coming mum," I sighed as I tugged the massively overcrowded bag onto my back. I stumbled and staggered until I got my balance, cringing at the thought that this was going to be on my back almost 24/7. When stood upright I whispered slyly. "I'll send ya a Pokemon as soon as you get your license!" – Which could be anywhere from 1 to 6 years, I added silently

"Wait! I gotta say good by to day!" I yelled along the hallway, running out onto the back veranda and clearing the steps. I hurried into dads shed, and under normal circumstances I would have been a little apprehensive of some out of control power tool running amuck. Instead I burst in. We had to travel into Yarabee, a two-hour drive west and dad had work, so he wouldn't be able to see the place off.

"HEY!" Dad jumped out from behind a cupboard with his welding mask tipped back, startling me into crying out.

"Jeeze dad, don't do that!" I breathed, huffing with eyes wide. Just a little note, I hate loud noises, despise them. Finally recovering from the scare I looked around his workbench cluttered with hammers. "Whatcha make'n dad?"

"A wingwong for a goosey's bridle," he chuckled, a little sadly. My nose wrinkled at one of his most common maxims if ever I asked that precise question. I could never figure out what that meant.

"No, really?"

His eyes gleamed deviously. "This!" From behind his back he whipped out a small elongated box, beautifully emblazoned with polished stones and gold fluting and scrolled in gold were the words Inka tninka pitjikala.

"My gawd dad!" I gasped, flipping the hinge. Inside it was inlaid with pale blue satin over the top of what must have been foam underlay. "Hey! It works!"

"Of course it works," he said indignantly, but still grinning from ear to ear. "It's for your badges you earn."

"Thanks heaps dad," I laughed, wrapping my arms around his neck with a strong hug.

"Heh, careful, don't want to snap my neck, eh boxer? Quick, get going or you'll miss the plane. We're already cutting it close. "

"Love you heaps, see you!" I raced around the side of the house, bounding through the open door of the care up beside mum. I could barely contain my excitement on the way to Yarrabee, not that you could tell. I've always been real quiet in car ride, maybe cause there always so long. Mum hugged and kissed me as I stood before the plane, feeling awfully melancholy but eventually boarded. I laughed aloud at her madly waving arms through the port window.

The propellers began to spin with a muffled chop-chip-chop-chip, rolling down the runway and my mum was forced to stand back. I peered through the window as she grew smaller and smaller and as the plane lifted off the ground, vanished altogether. I leaned back into the chair, my heart empty and my mind full. I remember little of the actual flight, snoozy part of the way, that is until the little snot behind got the bright idea to kick the back of my chair to the rhythm of the in-flight movie's soundtrack. Finally it got too much and I leapt to my feet to wring his scrawny little neck but his wide girthed mother intervened with a dark glare. That's justice for you people.

After trying, sleep was futile, the bloke beside me snored like a rusty old train.

I read my trainers guide, or more likely, read 'through' my guide, you know how you read but you don't read stuff? Usually school textbooks, but either way I mused the words of another of my fathers maxims, now delicately carved into the box in my hand.

Inka tninka pitjikala.

A thousand feet.

The lines of an old song we usually sung around the campfire on family trips and I hummed the chorus in my head a little sadly.

Take your time

Take a look around

Cos all the signs

Are on the ground

Serviper, Doduo

Pikachu

And ancient man

Has been here too.

The lyrics lulled me into a melancholy state of mind. What it meant to between us was that whatever happened, there have been people before me who have gone through exactly the same thing and survived. There would be people after me who would survive. It was comforting in the whole, I'm one insignificant ant of a person in an infinite universe kinda way.

Okay, maybe not as comforting as dad intended.

So immersed was in that single thought that I finally looked up, we bumped along the tiny runway of New Bark Town

Heyhey! I'm back! Turns out I'm deleting all the lyrics from my FF stories. No worries, eh? The edited version of Inka Tninka Pitjikala are by an Aussie country singer called John Williamson. I wonder if that counts? Hooroo, enjoy!