Where's Your Head At
Don't let the walls cave in on you
We can't evolve alone without you
Don't let the walls cave in on you
We can't evolve alone without you
Don't let the walls cave in on you
You get what you give that much is true
Don't let the walls cave in on you
You turned the world away from you

Basement Jaxx

After the battle the winnings had come to a measly two hundred each, enough for one Pokeball. I swore and wondered if I could pawn some of my cooking utensils, hoping that Charlie didn't have the same idea. Damnit! Why didn't I take Nico's offer!

Of course, I knew perfectly well why.

Once our bellies were positively round with satisfaction and promises made that the money would be waiting for us at the end, I slipped off, laying Fury down in the corner snoring like my old school bus. I spoke curtly to Target to warm her. He agreed right away but was obviously uncomfortable. Quilava in the wild were known to pinch newborns from burrows.

As I slunk away both bird Pokémon glared down at me, roosting on the extinguished brackets. I paid no attention; I told myself not to pay attention and kept them squarely at my back before slouching against the wall out of the torches smoky glow in the little corridor that led to the battle field.

Feeling even lower I rested my chin on my knees.

This wasn't the way it was supposed to be, I thought morosely. I cursed the Ash and Friends cartoon savagely, and then all those trainers on TV who looked as if they'd stepped out of a glossy magazine. I cursed the PokéNet and Charlie for making it looked so easy, but most of all I cursed my Pokémon. I felt betrayed.

Not so much Fury, you can't expect much from a drunk and co-ordination least of all, but Target and Talon…. All I had done was my job as a trainer, to lead my Pokémon on to Victory. That magical place where everyone was perfect and happy. Every win counted, no battle was so small.

"I have some balm that can help those blisters."

I jerked violently and only just refrained from taking a swipe at Niko's knees. Without turning and hoping the dark had veiled most of my reaction I said airily, "What blisters?

"Don't be pert."

"What blisters," I repeated stubbornly.

Sighing with exasperation, he sat down beside me. "You're upset because Pidgey didn't obey you." I didn't dignify it with an answer. I could feel his eyes travel searchingly over my hunched body and then tried a different route. "How long have you been a trainer?"

"What day is it?"

"Monday night."

"A week today."

The silence deepened as all but one torch winked out. It continued as I tried to probe his reaction.

"How long does it take you to trust someone with your life? Seven days?" My mouth went dry as I tried to by angry with his stupid zen questioning but instead was a slowly bubbling embarrassment. The truth was I didn't trust my friends, but that was because at any moment they could hogtie me to a Hills Hoist clothesline and leave me to turn idly in the wind.

"But it's not the same!" I blurted, but hurriedly covered my mouth and shot a look towards the sleeping crew. They were exhausted, so was I for that matter.


"I'm their trainer!" I hissed hotly.


"Because I beat them in battle!"

"Did you?"

I hesitated and ploughed on. "I captured them!"

"What gave you that right?"

Faltering I faced him in confusion. "But everyone does it!" My voice was turning pleading and was rapidly losing its conviction. My mouth flapped trying to form words or more likely, an excuse.

The shine of his lips formed a gentle smile. "The fact is the media is for more romantic than reality. I'm twenty two and have been training since I was ten. Guess how many Pokémon I've released. Not for some noble, nebulous reason like Ash Ketchum or Russel Coight, simply we rubbed each other the wrong way. Three dozen, probably more." There was a rustle of fabric as Nico got up and his silhouette leaned on the wall. "Every Pokémon, I think, has this hole inside. They're fiercely loyal and need something to direct it at, something to fill that hole. A clan, a cause, a trainer. Topaz, it may just be a case of a square peg in a round hole."

As I watched him stretch out in a corner, I turned back towards the emptiness. A chill in spite of the sticky temperature of the room slithered down my back.

As I lay down with my knees close to my body, I squeezed my eyes shut.

A square peg in a round hole….

I'd like to say for dramatic reasons it haunted my dreams, but no.

I dreamed of holding the title of Pokémon Champion from a towering podium above my roaring crowd. Looking over my shoulder was the glittering form of Metone's legendary Iriserpant, its immense bejewelled snake coils winding around the podium.

No, loyalty was not a trait highly valued by humans.


My lids flew open like roll-a-blinds and almost inhaled a panicky mouthful of fur. Jerking back my head smashed against the skirting board. To make it worse the whole area had been attacked by a mad fretworker so I probably would have a Belsprout shaped lump that could be added to the lengthening list of injuries.

Rubbing the back of my head groggily I set up and looked down with dawning amazement. Snuggled in the crook of my lap was Fury, breathing deeply and noisily.

A square peg in a round hole….

My throat closed but I shunted away the emotion when another loud clatter rebounded around the walls.

"Snuh?" Charlie tossed around in her little corner before sitting up groggily, flopped over her legs was Mave who was showing all the traits of those blessed individuals who could dream happily in a tiny orange crate ankle deep in a creek somewhere.

"Oi! Gehoutovit!" I cried, plunging my hand down and grabbing Charlie's sentret, Cookie, by the nape of the neck. Spinning her around to face me it was all I could do to keep a stern expression. The tiny sentret's cheek pouches were bulging with rice while she tried to smile nonchalantly. Her particularly long ears sagged long enough to be tied beneath her chin.

At my feet Target, Javelin and Talon wore identical 'Who me? What food... Oh this food!' expressions.

"Everyone drop it!" I snapped, dropping down and scooping the remaining food into a pile between my knees. Charlie shuffled blearily over and Niko's head appeared frowning from around the other corridor, stepping gingerly over Fury.

Talon swallowed hastily and then rallied defiantly. "We have as much right to this food as you, right guys?"

The Pokémon backed away looking abashed.

"What 'dya think I was going to do? Eat it all myself?" I said irritably, doing some vague sums in my head as I looked at what was left. The quiet left no doubt this was exactly what he was thinking. The least he could do was look apologetic. Our gazes held steady and neither was going to drop them Unfortunately a pidgey, even one as small and natty as him would eventually have eyesight that could cut through murky waters and inevitably won the staring contest.

"Haven't you guys ever heard of rationing?" Charlie chuckled turning a ham sandwich over in hand. I glanced at the assembled Pokémon.

Talon as he was now fed on grains and seed. As prey to ground dwelling carnivores it meant filling up the gullet and digesting later. Javelin the spearow was a raptor and that meant bolting down your food because you never knew where your next meal was coming from. The sentrets in colder climates would store away larders but otherwise would stuff themselves stupid in preparation against the cold.

I shook my head. Charlie shrugged, squatting to see what we had left. "Well, we can't take these liquidy meals, so we should have them now. The rest," – a few sandwiches, bickies and for some bizarre reason a box of fortune cookies- "we can take the rest with us and have it for late afternoon tea if it doesn't look like we'll meet the next check point."

I snickered. "Sounds like we're in a movie, getting ready to plant bombs on a bridge."

"This time it shouldn't be too difficult," Nicko said, looking down on our plans approvingly. "You have the map now and the other two levels are based on it. Back to front, upside down, you decide. But," he paused meaningfully, "pay attention. On the level above not everything is as it seems."

He bowed, dropped a wink, and vanished down the hallway we had come from. I sighed, if anything else I had at least got a bunch of advice to take with me, whether I wanted it or not. I've always felt that ignorance was bliss and now I felt distinctly uncomfortable that I couldn't fumble the blame of yesterday on to anyone else.

"How do we carry these," I mumbled to myself, stacking up the goodies. "Oi, Charlie. Hand over those scarves from yesterday."

Bundling them into the red and green scarves and slipped one each over the tails over the sentrets, who slurping down noodles. Pausing to wonder about their digestive systems, I then filled two bowls, one noodles, the other water and slipped my canteen over my shoulder, relieved that it felt completely full.

"Come on, wake up Metonia!" I murmured gently, nudging her with my knee. There was a snort, a hind leg kicked out feebly and finally a long agonised moan.

"Hey Fury," I said soothingly. "Here's some water, drink up. A hangover is caused by dehydration."

"Didration?" she slurred. "Oh my mouth is foul! And my head!"

The whites of her eyes looked an icky yellow with the membranes around it very pale, both signs of dehydration. Fury didn't so much as drink as plunge her head in, the tinder patches hissing as water washed over them. With water dripping from her beetled brows she lapped slowly, wincing at the loud bickering from the other room. Watching her gloomily, I pensively ate my own noodles and pushed her share towards her.

A square peg in a round hole….

Gawddamn you Niko.

Fury reached the dregs of her water and her food bowl faster than I did, and then sagged onto her side. "Did yesterday happen?"

"Almost as often as tomorrow does," I joked feebly. Fury's tired and scrunched up face cracked a smile.

"Don't be funny, Tez, it doesn't suit you." She sighed but her face turned to a pained scowl. "I'm sorry"

My jaw dropped! "You're sorry? We were the ones who fed you the fermenting berries-"

"Is this why my head feels like this?"

"Uh, yeah. I battled with you. I wouldn't quit."

Fury stared at me thoughtfully over one splayed paw, her garnet eyes twinkling as if thinking of some inner joke. After a moment she heaved herself up, grimaced and said warmly. "Let's say we both stuffed up and get on with it. The sooner we get out the better. I hate this place. Hey, do you still have those Arse-per-rin?"

I grinned. Heh heh, arseperin. I would have to remember that one. I diffidently poured out a bit more and dropped in the fizzing tablet. As I stuffed the meagre first aid case back into my pocket I felt a little guilty. Here I was bagging Charlie for a bit of lippy when stuffed in another pocket was my father's badge case. I kept hoping it would bring luck, what kind of luck seemed all too clear.

A few moments later everything was stacked away, I held aloft the torch and carried the spare powder Niko gave us, Charlie had the map and the sentrets had the food. We stood at the base of another curling staircase leading up. Onto the second level, turning up the steps the torch light flowing over the cases tight spirals I was reminded of a fairytale theme park I had visited when I was little, scrambling up ahead of my parents and brother to see the styrofoam battlements at the top.

Without realising this was what I was expecting, a small gasp escaped as I lead the party into the open. Half a dozen identical me's gasped back sinisterly in the poor light.

Cookie squealed and darted back into the stair case before Target grabbed her tail and pulled her back, whispering into her floppy ears, patting her on the back soothingly although he too looked around timidly. Cookie continued to hide her head in her paws until her new brother figure crept up to one of his reflections cautiously and pressed his paw against it.

"Not real, see?"

We all stepped out into what seemed like a closed room, each wall was divided into panels and each panel was a mirror. Maverick explored it with what seemed his primary sense, taste, slurping noisily and leaving a sticky trail.

"A joke?" I asked Charlie, running my finger down the crevice between panels. She leaned into the light, running her finger over the termite like squiggles of the map.

"I don't know," she admitted with faint worry tinging her voice. "I think I might have it right way up, but there should be a door over there," pointing roundabout where Fury was sniffing.

"You're right,"she agreed slowly. "I smell footprints but they lead through this wall." She nosed the panel then flared her crest for better light. "Hold ya horses," she whispered, squinting really hard, nose to nose with her reflection. No one moved as she stood up and pressed her weight against the edge of the panel and to our delight it swung with difficulty inward into another room.

"They concealed the doors with mirrors!" Charlie grinned, to my disgust, with admiration.

"You can see through them if you stare really hard!" gloated Fury.

I chewed my lip thoughtfully. "What we need is the eyes of a predator."

Javelin swooped from Charlie's shoulder, both birds had taken up residence on either side, onto my arm and clambered to the end. He seemed more ready to forgive me than Talon, but then again he also seemed more mature. Fury backed out and the door swung slowly closed again on what could only be an old spring.

With little effort, the spearow cocked his head from side to side and agreed he could see through it, like really murky water.

"Well then guys," Charlie said, "We're going to need a new game plan because this means we've started in a different room. We can't use the same path as last time but we can use the same exit."

"Does it?" I said to my own gruesome reflection. Frowning, I decided to take stock of myself.

Running a finger beneath my eye, it had lost the puckered squinting look and had faded to a colourful greenish yellow, flecked with purple and didn't hurt if I poked it. My nose, which had looked like a crazed colourblind makeup artist had been let loose was normal but could feel that bubble at the back of my sinuses that always preluded the sniffles. I cast another despairing look around. The thought of being trapped without a hanky was unbearable and I wondered just how many trainers made it through the labyrinth first go.

My finger trailed down my neck, pausing for a movement over the splotches left by Tobias's fingers and over my shoulder where a nasty bruise was still stark on my bicep, almost as big as my fist with half a dozen others speckled along my arm's lengths. Although my elbow bands were beginning to chaff I think I owed how limber they were after the bridge mess, both to them and my legwarmers.

Turning my calves I could see in the dull light of the mirrors the blisters that rose like a cataclysmic volcano disaster and I had done my best to keep them covered, tugging my socks up, my shorts down and stretched the warmers until only slivers of bare skin were exposed. Turning with my back to the mirror I pulled back the worst beneath my togs top. Even I, a veteran of rough and tumble play curled my lip with revulsion.

A perfectly straight line the colour of old beatroot was stamped across my floating ribs from where my gut had wrapped around the pylon. Dull bruises were fading on my back and around my kidneys. The giddy prediction made in the forest had been right on the money, but it was hardly social conversation.

Pivoting and posing in front of my reflection I felt uneasy. If this was all superficial damage, what was I going to look like on the inside? After many enthusiastic dissections during biology I could certainly hazard a guess.

I blithely told myself I had had much worse and chided I was being a wuss. Round home we kids wore sores and scabs like morbid badges of honour. With my hand still covering over the line I sternly promised myself to see a doctor and have a quiet word.

I cringed.

On second thought, I'll have a quiet word with Nurse Joy. I doubted I could afford a doctor.

"Mirror mirror, on the wall," Charlie purred, coming up behind me.

"You can't talk," I grinned with a playful shove. Sure enough on the inside of her arm was a scaly brown scab stretching from triceps to elbow and the other had a rubbed raw look. Bruises like ink dripped down her thighs and sported a vivid splotch on her jawline.

"What are you talking about," she laughed happily, guiding me by the shoulders through the door. "This is the glamorous life of a trainer!"



Our little congaline threaded a determined path through the maze, confident we'd reach the end of this level in time for lunch. I lead bearing the torch with Charlie at my elbow. Javelin sat pleasantly, or as pleasant as a spearow can look, on my shoulder offering his expertise and Talon sulked on hers. Maverick and the sentrets played through our feet.

Fury, however, trailed behind, often just in reach of the swimming light. This worried me as I fancied I heard shifting, doors a little way off opening by themselves and baleful cackles just out of earshot. If I turned spontaneously to look at my reflection trudging along on either side I wasn't quite sure it was mine, like a funhouse mirror.

When I told Charlie about this she breezily shrugged it off and put it down to one of the other trainers wandering around lost.

Fair enough. Even so the guilt would get to me and I'd push the torch into Mave's claws and amble along beside her if only for a little while. After a short water break and an unsuccessful attempt to patch up with Talon, I sunk back grouchily into the gloom.

"What does he want!" I fumed, scuffing the wooden floor irritably.

"He doesn't know what he wants," she replied despondently, her face still creased dourly against her headache. In spite of the depleted water bottle I made sure everyone drank plenty, her especially. "He wants to evolve but he doesn't want to be told what to do."

"Then why doesn't he tell me to release him."

"Would you? Besides, ever heard of a wild Pidgeot?" she smirked.

I paused reflectively. "Yeah, there was that one the day Tobias- uh, they day we met Tobias in the forest."

"Can't have been wild," Fury scoffed. She stopped again to paw at her translator, the tiny black box that clipped onto her collar.

"Is it uncomfortable?"

"Not usually, rubbing against my throat makes me sick."

A little reluctantly I unsnapped and pocketed the translator. "Alright?" Again I thought I heard laughter.

"Quila," she purred as Target fumbled the torch far ahead.

"Back in a bit, be careful."



"There," I cried, whirling around from the head of the line and thrusting the torch at Charlie. "There it was again! It wasn't a person!"

Charlie calmly pushed the torch away the torch aimed at her chest and cocked her head, as did the others. "I can't hear anything, Tez."

"Laughter!" I snarled through gritted teeth. "It's closer too! I bet it's those monks!" I added whirling a reflection and pressing my ear to it. What was that? A giggle? Charlie pulled me gently away from the wall. "I'm sure you did hear something," she said in a pacifying, no, patronising tones.

"Ay! Just because I'm short doesn't mean I'm a baby!"

"No one said you were!"

Suddenly a panel slammed shut down the mirrored corridor behind us. I scanned the face and gasped. "Fury! You let her fall behind again!"

"She's your Pokémon," sneered Talon, preening casually on Charlie's shoulder.

"ShutUP Talon. I am so sick of you!" I barked and raced back down the hall, calling out to her. Oh gawd! How long had she been gone? How many doors had we gone through? One wrong turn and we'd never find her!

Panic was climbing further and further up my throat and I yelled her name louder, straining to hear anything in return. Then I heard it, ever so softly, the slight squeak of old springs closing back into place behind. Skidding to a stop I sidled cautiously back up the corridor, pressing myself against the wall just on a hunch as I came upon a sharp corner.

I paused. What did I think was there? The source of those inhuman giggles?

Having grown up amongst three large boys you learnt to be very wary of sharp corners and I knew to go wide of them to see who lurked there, and at least get a running start.

On the other hand, I could be seen when I didn't want to. It was separating me from the group, who I hoped were waiting patiently, considering I had the torch. I also hoped I hadn't turned any stray corners.

Fine, I thought. On the count of three. One. Two. Two and a quarter.

"HARUUUUU- RARGH!" I yelled, lunging into the middle of the corridor with arms swinging. "-Ruahuh?"

Fury sat in the middle of the floor with a perplexed look. One ear cocked forward. "Geeze Fury! Why didn't you come when I called?" I sighed, my shoulders sagging with relief.

Fury hesitated, and then her paw rose to her throat. Her shiny collar was missing. "Damn!" I swore aloud, but knowing I should be grateful she was okay. So this was what it felt like to be a parent. "You lost it and you went back to look for it?"

She nodded eagerly with a huge goofy grin, nosing the air back the way I'd come. I hesitated, feeling the giggle on the cusp of hearing. Her translator still nestled inside my badgecase was useless which made me feel more uneasy. These troubled feelings didn't come from not being able to natter to my best mate, but something more ambiguous, like a photo and the caption saying "spot the mistakes" where there were none.

I waved it away and hurried back to the group with Fury trotting amicably by my ankles.

"Took long enough," Javelin grinned beakily as we turned the last corner and the torchlight rolled over them.

"Almost there," Charlie assured brightly, turning the map to me and tapping where we were. With the strange illumination of the torch, Javelin perching on her head and Talon on her shoulder she looked like a funky scarecrow.

The image brought a smile to my worried expression. "We're making good time and it's just after lunch, if my Pokegear is still working, do we wanna stop for a snack?"

"Nu-uh," said Cookie in a low voice, scratching a dangling ear anxiously. Her gaze rose to the ceiling, it too was made of foggy mirrors. "Didn't you feel it get cold? It only just come and stuff."

Charlie and I shook our heads. We, in our ludicrously skimpy trainers outfits, should have been the first to feel any sudden chill but the Pokémon one by one agreed, except for-

"But I'm hungry now," growled Talon sullenly.

"Too bad, majority rules," I goaded offering him a smug smile.

"What about Fury," he tried again, the translator around his neck selecting a wheedling tone. "She might need a rest."

All gazes swung to the Quilava who recoiled. Uncharacteristic confusion flooded her face and she shot an almost inconspicuous glance at the mirror. My own gaze twisted in sympathy in time to see a smudge fade from the reflection. It was there so briefly I couldn't have been sure it was there, and not one of those fuzzy spots you get from staring at a bright light.

That sense of wrongness crept back again. The longer I stood at the mirror its intensity increased. I wondered for the first time if they weren't funhouse mirrors and they were causing me to stare myself crosseyed.

"-have a headache?" Talon watched with brooding suspicion, leaning off Charlie's shoulder with his feathers fluffed out so he looked like a threatening brown marshmallow.

Fury shrugged quickly and jogged off, her crest igniting and spreading the light further ahead, purposefully pausing for the others to catch up.

As I cast a last look back at the mirror, searching for something, anything, Talon's talons suddenly gripped none too gently onto my wrist.

"Wait," he hissed, tightroping down to my elbow. Only Charlie waited, holding the mirror panel open. Talon shook a wing and called out they should go on, but not to far.

"Come to apologise?" I simpered, sitting down and shifting him onto my knee. Of course I knew that wasn't the case but our thread delicate relationship meant that we could only antagonise each other. Talon's refusal to forgive annoyed the hell out of me so I was doing my best to give him an aneurism before we left the labyrinth. When I was in top condition I could annoy at a subatomic level.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. How mean! How childish!

Newsflash, I was a child and a particularly immature one at that.

His cold stare confirmed this. With disgusted reluctance to help me he said in a low voice, each word short and sharp as if explaining to a particularly stupid and troublesome child, "That. Isn't. Fury."

'You mean I really am travelling with Mewtwo, just like I always wanted?" I gushed, cupping my chin in my hands with mock surprise.

"It isn't Fury! Why isn't she talking?"

"Because I have her translator!"

"Oh, and I suppose she was a mute before she met you, hmm? You heard what Cookie said, there was a chill when she came back."

"It was caused by a door!"

"Oh gods you're an idiot!"

"You do realise if you were nicer to me I'd be more inclined to listen to you, don't you?" I retorted in the same infuriatingly cheerful voice.

"No you wouldn't! You just hate me because I'm not a puddle of gratitude at your beck and call!"

"What a big vocabulary for a pigeon!" I yelled, bounding to my feet sending Talon fleeing to the air.

"Pigeon? Pigeon! You want a pigeon!" he screamed back and suddenly, he blurred. He blurred and something kicked my leg out from under me as it shot past. I crashed into the wall and slid down groaning. Rubbing my temple where it butted the panel, I spied Talon grinning with glee.

"Quick Attack, Topaz," he gloated. "I learnt it all by myself!"

"Why you little!" I snarled, lunging with arms swinging, but he fluttered to the ceiling, out of reach. "Fine! You don't need me, than bugger you! Get lost for all I care!"

"With pleasure!" And to my disbelief and indignation he did! His wings beat furiously and he veered tightly around the corner with a puff of feathers.

Limping, I bent down with thunderous grumbles and plucked up the torch that had rolled away. Still staring expectantly at the corner, I waited. There was no way even that bird could be so dumb. I mean I had the torch and he didn't have the vision to see the labyrinth let alone navigate it without the map.

Ah hell, may as well tell the guys we're stopping for a break. Even if he is bullheaded we can't go on without him

I hobbled over to the panel and pushed against it, feeling the first seeds of remorse for my idiotic behaviour. Why oh why couldn't I keep my mouth shut?

"What the?" I mumbled. My eyes narrowed as I tried to see through the mirror, giving it another firm push. The panel was locked solid! I was positive this one was it. Rapping on the surface, I mooshed my face against the glass and shouted, "Chaaaaaarr-Leeeeee!"

Straining to hear a reply this time the laughter was clear, and menacing, and right by my ear!

With a strangled squeak I shoved myself away from it, tangled my own feet and rolled backwards. The panel opposite gave way with greasy ease. A loud oomph escaped and a pinched cry as I rolled over my neck. Sprawled flat on my back, it hurt as I got up and turned to look over my shoulder for the torch.

Kinked! Just what I need! I fumed, but it was forced and had a barely concealed hysteria to it. It was always better to be angry than frightened. Anger had a kind of pro-activeness about it, prepared to go in kicking and face what you had to eventually. Fear was the opposite, it meant backing down and running away. In here, backing down would get you cornered and running away was blind.

With the torch once again throttled in my fingertips, my palm thrust against the panel with the other raised, prepared to clobber Sir Laugh-a-Lot into a vegetated state, but the panel didn't budge. I tried the one beside it frantically hoping I had chosen the wrong one in confusion, and the other one. They remained firmly perpendicular.

I didn't even entertain the thought the doors were wedged shut with rust, something was acting against us, trying to split us up.

"Damn it, the fluffball was right." And to my loathing, this frustrated me the most. Geeze, I did have problems!

'Okay," I whispered and knelt down. My voice, for once in a lifetime, was actually reassuring rather than it usual rodent-dangled-over-a-frypan reedyness. "Dad always said the first thing you should do when you know you're lost is tally up your resources."

"Number one, I have the torch. Charlie has the extra powder so that means I'm on a time limit."

"Two, my first aid kit. Bandage, gauze, antiseptic. Push comes to shove I can burn them."

"Three, nearly empty water bottle. Bugger."

"Four, badgecase and translator. The badgecase is kinda heavy, perhaps I could use it to smash a mirror." I immediately discarded the idea. Only professionals broke glass without slitting their own wrist. Then there was the fact this was a temple and was bound to piss off one god or another. Seven years bad luck was probably a minimum sentence.

Now what? When lost in the desert you stayed put, but that would be wasting the valuable resource of light, unless I snuffed it out. The idea of sitting in the dark while mysterious strangers closed in didn't thrill me.

As if on cue a high pitched cackle echoed down the corridor. They had split us up so now they were no longer hiding themselves. Gathering my knickknacks and slinging my canteen over my shoulder, I strode after it.

I would not be herded.

The snarl of corridors continued to wind but the laughter led me purposefully down the right doors. I tracked it. It was better than wandering aimlessly.

While I stalked the disembodied voices, I felt the need to reassure me with my own, for lack of a better word, singing. Tuneless rhymes that usually kept me amused.

"There was an old lady that swallowed a cow!

I don't know how, she swallowed a cow.

She swallowed the cow to catch the dog

What a hog to swallow a dog

She swallowed the dog-"

As I pushed through a door at the beckoning of a giggle, a solid, steady light made itself known. My quavering excuse for singing trailed off.

Okay, this was obviously what they wanted me to find. Then what? The icy white light flowed coldly from beneath a panel, back into the suddenly welcoming corridor.

I was all alone, following ghastly screams and about to throw open a door. Hang on, I'd seen this movie before….. and I was the humorous sidekick…..

The door made the decision for me, swinging open as I inched closer and pushed it the rest of the way. My first thoughts were not of alarm, I merely blinked and thought, 'reflection'. It was only upon stepping into the room and foolishly letting the door close did I ask, "What the?"

In front of me were two Fury's curled into contented balls, side by side with a panel between them. In fact the panels that boxed them weren't even mirrors, but what appeared to be plexiglass. One was definitely not a reflection of the other, but that did not change the rise and fall of their chests in tandem.

Nothing is what it seems, eh? Onya Nicko, I thought dryly blowing out the torch and setting it aside. This could only be another test.

"Test, test," I mumbled absently, pacing around the boxes that occupied the centre of the room. Turning my head from side to side, I was quickly discarding my first summation that it was plexiglass. Oily rainbows rippled queerly from the corner of my vision but vanished if it caught you looking at it, bending that harsh, hospital ward white light in ways it shouldn't.

Now, I have a heavy tread, for someone as small as I, something I cursed when we played spotlight but my leaden footfalls didn't even cause their faint snuffles to change in note.

"A Test it is." My self preservation instinct to run for the nearest tree was barely kept it in check, constraining it to a very obvious flinch, and listen on. The voice reminded me of Vincent Price, low and strangely melodious, but definitely mocking. When he from his hidden vantage saw I wouldn't rise to the bait he continued. "It is a test of how well you know Fury. We are not impressed thus far, even for a human. Even when the substitute was right beneath your nose and Talon warned you. You are a poor trainer."

"A Test! The Test!" More voices shrieked in gleeful unison and the air vibrated. I shot a look back at the glint of light off the surface of the containers and was beginning to realise who, or what I was dealing with.

"Pick the right Fury, right? Or face dire consequences?"

The air prickled and the voice was peevish. "Particularly dire, for being a smartalec."

I shrugged, with a plan to tell them apart already in mind. When the Pokémon had first felt the chill Fury's doppelganger had danced around actually speaking. I had put it down to lack of translators, but Talon had been right all along.

I knelt beside the recumbent form of one of the quilava's with measured taps against the strange surface. It was not plastic, or glass, I don't think it was even physically there but somehow fooled my other senses so completely it couldn't be otherwise.

"Fury," I cooed. "Why did the exeggcute cross the road?" If that didn't get a rebuke for trying to be funny, nothing would wake her. "Come on Fury!" I implored thumping the surface. I jerked my hand back with a yelp. A low static pulse had leapt up my hand like an electric fence.

"Hypnosis!" gloated the voice.

"Hypnosis! Hypnosis!" chorused the rest in singsong voices. For mysterious and arcane voices about to inflict dire consequences at any moment, they were bloody annoying.

"Oh shut up!" I snarled at them and then whined angrily to Vincent Prince, "But that's not fair?"

"How isn't it?" he crooned back. Cold tendrils of air curled around my ankles. "Do you care for your Pokémon?"

"I'm insulted you even ask?"

"Yes or no?"

"Yes or no! Yes or no!"


"What about the bond between trainer and their first Pokémon hmm? Do you believe in that?"

"She does! She does!"

Before I could answer Fury's voice, the perfect imitation of her translator that made me slap my pocket just in case. As her defiant and doggedly voice rang out in rebellion. The energy drained from by body.

"Just you wait! Topaz'll find me, then you'll be sorry!" There was a pause of unspoken voices. "No way! There's an unbreakable bond between Pokémon and Trainer. She was my first. You'll see."

Fury's voice wasn't fawning, it was like she was patiently explaining to a student the laws of equal conversion to a student and that was why he couldn't turn lead into gold. An unwavering belief you could whittle wood with.

"Surely your bond will save you now?" asked Vincent silkily.

I stood stock still, thinking of the diplomatic answer. I watched cartoons with the avid devotion of any child, but I found the plot Saved by the Power of LOVE, only slightly less disgusting than Waking up and Finding it Was All a Dream. Around the campfire Fury had babbled about the mystical bond between trainer and Pokémon with that same tone cartoon heroines did as the offered their hand to the defeated villain and I had filed those kind of things under short term memory.

You could believe in your dreams all you wanted, but you would still be beaten by the people who actually did something about them.

I could practically hear the atmosphere smile. He knew the truth.

Even when I was small, when the dream of Pokémon trainers had an almost magical quality I couldn't believe in the bond. Sitting crunched against the television screen as the champion received the cup and gave the same old speech of thanking the gods and people who helped them along but the last thing they always said to a greater or lesser extent was when they met their first Pokémon.

"There was like this zap! Something based between me and Electrike as our eyes met….."

"The moment I saw Blaze, I just knew we belonged side by side, thick and thin….."

"I trust Azumarill with my life, it's like we can read each others thoughts. There's this… connection… this bond."

"What happens if I choose wrong?" I said flatly, my shoulders sagging. My thoughts slowed down to a molasses trickle. And yet I felt no emotion. With the constant rollercoaster of the past few days I realised I no longer cared. No, not about Fury, but the consequences. I'd taken everything else they had thrown at me, I would choose and deal with this too.

"That one."

The wisps of cold air snaking through my ankles fled. The containers exploded outward with the musical shattering of glass! A balloon of golden, gossamer powder reminded me of the plume of ash riding a volcano explosion, taking on strange shapes as it continued to rise and inflate in slow motion, despite the ferocious turbulence you knew existed inside it.

A silhouette shook itself behind it.

Two thoughts raced simultaneously through paralysing my body and the third a cell breadth of time behind it.




Fury lunged at me, springing off the floor with paws outstretched and teeth bared. My hind foot slide behind the other and my waist reacted, estranged from my mind frozen in shock. It wrenched so fast my kinked neck cried out with whiplash!

But it was enough to evade the brunt of Rabid Fury's tackle. Cracked and rubbery paws that kneaded my back when she searched for a place to sleep before a warm campfire punched my shoulder like a harvester piston propelled it further still. It was only when my belly was wrung out like wet cloth did my feet follow me along for the backwards tumble!

Beneath my flung out arm bracing for the thud I saw her land unsteadily. She whipped around and sprang again.

An identical body met shoulder to shoulder in midair with a hollow thump! And both landed heavily, one stunned, one shaking of lethargy.

"Fury!" I croaked, clasping my shoulder deadened while the arm swung bonelessly. My shoes scrambled over the slippery wood, shoving towards her but a clipped bark warned me into a corner, out of harms way.

"How?" I snarled at the air, while the two Pokémon circled, moving like stalking lionesses. "You're a Ghost type aren't you? Only ghost Pokémon can speak human! You have no physical attacks!"

It was true. Ghost Pokémon had been instrumental in the development of the translator, able to understand both the nuances and tones of Pokémon speech, and could be trained since birth to speak human by vibrating the air. But they still had no physical attacks.

"Come come, Topaz!" the Vincent Price voice said jollily. "This is an easy one! You should know this!"

Me? Why would I kno- "Korum," I hissed. "Konundrum."

Ghost Pokémon of Metone, they were the only ones to knew transform.

As if summoned, dust motes in the air coalesced into glowing balls, and they rain together like fat raindrops into the glowing form of Konundrum.

A jester's caul of blue and black, complete with tarnished gold cat bells sheathed a milk white face. Slanted blue eyes gazed curiously back at me while a blunted muzzle filled with crooked teeth smiled humourlessly. Beneath the caul swathed a soft white mane which inturn partially covered a chest that reminded me of insect carapaces, or dented armour, before fading into an insubstantial blue cloud wisp. From its shoulder sockets pterodactyl wings fluttered more like a cape, prehensile claws flexing. The wings themselves were cut with a pair of silly wiggle scissors from soft black velvet fluttered as it floated before me.

Sweeping a wing down, it rolled its wrist at me and bobbed, winking salaciously. "Kun-un-nun!" it spoke in its natural tongue, having a deep, gravelly tenor.

"My apologies," he said sincerely in the same melodious tones. "Harm was not intended."

He flared a wing with a ball of contained lightning crackling between its claws. The Rabid Fury was caught in the side, the transformation stuttered for a moment revealing a slinking Korum, Konundrum's unevolved form.

Like a mushroom beneath a three pronged jester's hat, its whole body was clad in the alternating checks of jester's pyjamas, but still maintained its evolved forms pallid face, if a little squashed.

The Korum whined in injured tones, unable to speak Human as it again became a Quilava mirror.

"Konun Undrum!" Konundrum scolded.

He returned to me with the same charismatic smile but I remained impassive, still trying to think my way through the lightning quick sequence and arrive in the present. "I remind you, Topaz. You are still being tested."

My head turned back to Fury and Korum. This was my test. A transformation. Fury's exact replica? How much did I know about Fury's strengths and weaknesses? Was that it?

Korum would not wait. It leapt at Fury, still sagging, tired and hungover. With head hung low, she lifted it only in time to see her own jaws pulled back to snatch her throat.

"Fury!" I shrieked. "Smokescreen!"

It had been an order shouted in shock, in reflex and immediately cursed. Cringing against the icy cold mirror panel, the acrid black smoke poured from her mouth as she fought against Korum, trying to snatch her own teeth on the flawless violet fur. I coughed and spluttered, filtering air through my togs top that I had pulled over my nose. I cursed. Now I could only hear the snarls and high pitched Quiiiiilllls Rising from the centre of the cloud.

"That wasn't well planned," Konundrum tsk tsked beside me. I shot him a panicked glance, and scrambled along the wall, into the cloud. At least now I could see the whirling silhouettes, and Fury's could be made out by the glitter of her collar, twinkling in the flashes of fire. What was Fury's strongest attack?

"Ember Fury!" I shouted as Fury's claws slashed across her counterpart's nose and escaping as it loosed a cry. She hesitated almost imploringly, barking furiously but cried out mournfully when she realised I didn't understand. Almost reluctantly she loosed the thick flurry of embers. Korum, trying to stalk behind Fury, was turned on, but it leapt through the barrage unharmed. His full weight smashed into Fury's lowered head and she rolled groaning in pain.

"No!" I moaned in unison, burying my heads in my hands and ripping viciously at the hair they clutched. "Fire verses fire! It's unaffected! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

Fury, bounded over the head of the Korum as it lunged in a tackle attack. The smoke was dispersing and it scrambled to turn around and lunge at Fury again. Its legs tangled under body and tripped, smacking its head against floor and dazing. Fury, taking the time to rest turned a soulful garnet eye on me.

Calm down Topaz. I can survive until you think of a plan. But just calm down.

WOMP! With her attention on me, Korum ploughed into her side. Panic threatened to dissolve me again and shout out another hasty order but a distance overcame me. I had to distance myself to do what was best for Fury. This far away Topaz observed the two scrambling to get up. Korum was clumsy and managed to smack itself in the head with its own hind foot. While it had pushed itself up, Fury was putting space between them.

Fury is sick, slow. Korum is clumsy, but it has more strength behind its attacks… because they are less controlled?

Korum was unused to a physical body.


"Fury! You're more agile!"

Korum snapped at me in defiance and threw itself, head down at Fury. She scrambled away but it sideswiped her sending her hindquarters spinning away. Her hoarse breathing tore at my heart as she rose again. "Stand your ground Fury!"

Gawd. One more hit like that last one and she was gone. I could have been condemning Fury to being fainted and I would not trust the berries again anymore that I would trust an oncoming roadtrain. "Stand tall Fury, just catch your breath and obey me instantly! Korum cannot touch you!"

I tried desperately to pitch my voice so that I was talking to Fury rather than goad Korum. That's what made it so effective.

It screeched, I could hear the claws scratching into the wood for traction, grabbing the ground and shooting off it with head down to knock Fury into a world of blackness.

"Duck!" I screamed hysterically. Fury's nose smacked the floor in her eagerness and Korum's braced head rushed over it. Its feet could not. Though the claws scratched down her chest, its body flipped over hers and was airborne. And as it travelled overhead, Fury kicked out. Kicked like a mule into Korum's quilava chest and drove it even harder into the mirror pane behind her.

It slid squeaking down the panel, shimmering and returning to the high pitched croak. "Korrrruuum!"

"Well done Topaz," Konundrum smiled hugely. He clapped his claws together which made a dry papery sound. "But you are not done yet, though you will not be confronted by mine or my own. Talon still wanders, because of you. And Charlotte faces her own demons. Still, have you learned something?"

I nodded numbly, flopping onto my knees and welcoming a limping Fury into my arms. I hugged her. "I'm sorry," I whispered. "I was a stupid little girl for panicking."

Reaching into my back pocket I retrieved my father's badge box and withdrew her translator. Fury nodded with a broad and grateful smile as I hooked it on.

"Gee, that was close," she purred, close to exhaustion.

"You knew, didn't you? Fire attacks wouldn't work. You tried to tell me." She hesitated, as if on the border of a lie, but then nodded with a helpless shrug of her shoulders. "Then don't listen to me. If you know better, do what you think will work. That kick was pretty bloody awesome!"

"Pretty bloody awesome," she agreed.

I looked up at the mirthful form of Konundrum. "What do you mean by yours and your own?"

"I am trained. Trained to speak, trained to battle. My trainer, Sim, leaves me with five Korum's to guard this portion of the tower." Looking up, four other pairs of eyes had misted into view. One disconnected orb winked disturbingly back. "There are other teams here. Should you meet another Konundrum, say my name and they shall let you pass, but my name will mean nothing to the Korum's beneath them. I am Phantasm. And, a parting gift for a battle well fought, though I can't help you Topaz."

He glowed, shaking his head with bells jingling. As he did, both Fury and the Korum she had battled glittered and drew themselves up. The glow faded and Fury shook off the sparkles that still clung to her fur. "Heal Bell," Phantasm explained.

Finally I stood up and reached out to shake Konundrum's claw, feeling beginning to creep into my arm again. Unfamiliar with the gesture, he didn't try to stop me take his claw until too late. It was like grabbing a handful of ice and being forced to hold on even when it burned your skin. I yanked it back, staring at the bright blue burns on my palms fade, still unfeeling.

"My apologies again," he said regretfully. On the opposite side a panel swung open. He paused momentarily in decision and then said, "Talon is that way, listen for the laughter it will draw you to the end."

Even as he spoke, his voice faded and his form dissolved.



"Fury, I don't like this."

"Gee Topaz, I'm thrilled with the idea of tracking maniacal laughter through some whacked out maze with murderous pitfalls. I'm just sorry we didn't bring a picnic."

"Ha-di-ha," I said morosely. "But we haven't heard a Korum for five minutes. We're wandering blind."

"No, there's still laughter ahead." Fury rose onto her haunches, her ears turning like satellite dishes. "But it's not the same guy."

We shared a look of apprehension. Phantasm's words haunted us….Okay, poor choice of words, bad pun, but it was true. Mine and my own. Unconsciously my treads had become lighter to avoid any unwanted attention and my breathing became long and shallow. When I realised this I chuckled breathily. I had slipped into Game mode, reserved for hide and seek and spotlight.

Holding up the slowly dimming torch to a T junction, I see-sawed between this reaction being absolutely ridiculous or perfectly apt.

Fury paused with her eyes closed and listened. "Bugger."

"What? You lost it?"

"No, we're closer than ever." Without waiting she turned left, the hackles on her shoulders rising and her tinderspots glowing red in case they needed to ignite in a hurry. "If I can get them in their ghost forms it'll be easy."

I nodded and unslung my empty canteen from my shoulders. As a weapon it was as useful as cotton buds but it might make them hesitate long enough for Fury to get in a first blow. Now I could hear it, harsh and taunting Korum cries making no effort to conceal themselves. We slowed, taking each new panel with deliberate caution and both felt we couldn't risk talking.

"Ruuuum Ruuuuum!"

Fury placed her paw on a panel and I pushed it open, stepping inside and –


An invisible force ripped the panel from my fingers and I only just missed having them jammed and sliced off in the door. The glass rattled and the shrieks rose to howls!

"Trapped! Trapped! Trapped! Trapped! Trapped!" I snarled in a thoughtless litany as I paced the tiny box we were trapped in, two by one panels, thrusting against each desperately.

"Very observant Topaz! Now get your head on the job. LOOK!"

Fury flared her flames making me wince in the harsh light. The mirrors became very foggy and translucent, enough to see Talon staring back dispassionately.

"Talon!" I cried with relief, throwing myself against the panel and banging on it. "Talon! You're alright. Look, I can get us out! I, I…. huh?"

My voice had a strange tincture to it, a multi-quality. Talon looked over his shoulder, and I followed the gaze. I watched my eyeballs bulge in my sockets. I watched me touch my nose, brush my ear and finally point accusingly.




"Topaz, you're making an ass of yourself," the Fury's pointed out calmly to their trainers. I guess having already been face to face with one doppelganger she wasn't going to be shocked by this one but I had never ever heard of a Pokémon using transform to become a human.

"She's right Topaz," Talon mocked icily, very clearly looking at me. "We wouldn't want you making an arse of yourself, would we? I know you're the real one, but I don't care."

"DON'T CARE!" "DON'T CARE!" my doppelganger and I shrieked, making a lively attempt to break through the glass and strangle the pidgey.

He ignored me and faced the fake. "Come on out."


Fury gasped as twin Korum's morphed back and flew through the panel, launching simultaneous Confusion Rays and Shadow Balls! The bright rolling rays of Confusion Ray engulfed the arrogant pidgey and his eyes crossed with a look of dizziness and it was only because of a drunken sway that he avoided the brunt of the burning violet ball that raced over his crest and singeing his eyebrows.

That was just the beginning of my problems as the rays permeated the surrounding rooms and Fury moaned. Her eyes lost their focus and she took an experimental step forward. She stood but weaved as if trying to compensate for a spinning room. My vision leapt from her to Talon, being pummelled by spectral white meteors, a Mana Siege that reduced accuracy and health little by little. They ignored his feeble protests as he shuffled away but unable to escape.

"Why? We're Pokémon. I..the humans-" He was cut off as the second Korum paused, another Shadowball swelling it its upturned claws.

"Our loyalty lies not with you, Pokémon or no!" the air vibrated and it flung the ball crackling and flaming with ghost energy. Talon grunted and was pinned to a panel. More mana rained down around him and whimpered with each tiny burn.

I watched, trying to think distantly, trying to find a way to get to him. The only way, was through the glass.

"Fury, get back," I commanded levelling. She shambled to the back of the room and I fished through my pockets. They came out reluctantly holding my father's badge case. I swallowed thickly. Did I want to do this? My fingers traced the words Inka Tninka Pitjikala lovingly.


I wheeled and hurled, case and glass exploding into a thousand silver slivers. And I through it, warding off the still flying glass. My fist swung in a wide haymaking, passing through a Korum with craptacular results. The muscles let go and flopped as momentum carried me full circle. Stumbling to regain balance I picked up my arm. All the muscles ached like frostbite.


"Stay there Fury! I have shoes on! Stay there!" I turned on one Korum. "I know Phantasm! He sent us this way!"

"We owe Phantasm no allegiance," it grinned nastily and sharp, biting winds lashed the room. I let out a low moan, hugging myself. They were almost paralysing.

Suddenly flames licked out and were trapped amongst the gusts, whipping around the room too. I threw myself to the side, but the flames singed my legs and hair. The flames stopped almost immediately when Fury saw how wild it was but the ghost pokémon were distracted. I grunted and shoved off the wall, and hunched over Talon's prone body, shielding him from more attacks.

They won't deliberately hurt a human! I thought triumphantly. "Hit it Fury!"

The winds still roared and Fury's ember attack roared with them, combining into a firestorm. The hot air and winds fed on each other. Heat boiled the air into mirage waves and my skin broke into an instant sweat. Beneath me I could smell Talons feathers smouldering and hear his painful moans.

"Stop the attacks or we harm the human," hissed a Korum. Fury ignored them and exhaled another gout of flame. Visibly the Korum were weakening and inside I applauded.

Incensed by the defiance, my confidence they wouldn't hurt a human was evaporated. The second Korum released Mana Siege again with my vulnerable back the target. The first comet of energy struck my lower back and my guts turned to water, numbed with the same pins and needle sensation as my arm. After it the others just rolled into another icy stab that exploded and drove an icy dagger into my insides. My heart beat out a furious arrhythmia, labouring to pump under the chill suffusing my body.


I didn't so much as hear as feel the voice, sinking deep into my frozen bones. "Phantasm," I stammered through chattering teeth. "I know Phantasm."

"Phantasm? So be it." Taking a moment for feeling to flood back into my frigid limbs, I sat up. Another konundrum looked around at the rising smoke, scorch marks, scattered glass and dying winds with a puzzled expression. "You and you. Leave. Human child, please forgive the korum. They are newly caught and not yet trained. My trainer will be most disappointed with them." From the sound of the inflection, disappointed was only the start of it.

"Make it up to me and heal Talon," I demanded, lifting up the pidgey. The Konundrum's eyebrow rose but shook his crown nether the less. Feathers burnt by chill and heat unfurled like new and his eyes, half-lidded, opened wide. Scuffing away glass underfoot, I gently set him down, waiting to see what would happen. Remorse? Anger? He was ball of contradictions.

He in fact did the last thing I expected of him which was remaining tactfully silent.

I sighed thankfully, hoping it wasn't something we had to speak about to understand.

"Now take us out. I've had enough of this level and you will lead me to the staircase that will take us to the next floor." I stood up abruptly, setting a baleful eye on the new ghost Pokemon. He regarded me as a rude upstart, but he also understood I had a right to ask. I had been attacked.

"Agreed," he said simply.

Looking around grimly and brushing off the glass embedded in my cotton legwarmers, I bent and picked up the largest wedge of wood I could find. nka Pit could still be made out. Everything else was in splinters and a lost cause. My belly ached dully with homesickness. What would I tell Dad?

For the first time in a week, I thought about being without my family for the first time, and for the barest instant, thought of quitting.

Finally I crunched over the floor and lifted Fury up, carrying her over the shards then bent to allow Talon to scramble onto my shoulders. A panel squeaked open and we followed Konundrum silently through. We winded the mixed up panels for less than five minutes when Konundrum stopped and rested his hand on a panel.

"This is it. On the other side are the staircase and a trainer for you to battle." I groaned. I couldn't. I wouldn't. "Rules are rules," it reminded stoutly and dispersed. With him faded the ghostly white light and soon we three where left only with an after image painted on the darkness.

Fury nudged the panel with her nose, looking up at me. I returned the smile, grateful there wasn't pity or even concern in it, just weary relief at reaching the end.

"Just open the door."

I rolled my eyes up at Talon but pushed the panel wide. Charlie sat spread legged in the corner, looking just as drained as myself nibbling a bowl of noodles and uncharacteristically quiet. Instead we just nodded.


"Won. Her spearow is well trained." The voice came from the staircase and a woman appeared warmly dressed in the same slate gi as Niko. "I'm Chow. Feel free to eat, your friend has well and truly earned it. And from the looks of it so have you," she added as an afterthought.

"Too bloody right," I said feeling insulted, but couldn't bring myself to argue.

I sat down opposite Charlie and poured water and noodles for my Pokemon. Target was safe and rubbed against me affectionately. I flushed faintly as I realised I had forgotten all about him, but drew him close, petting him fondly and taking my own tentative sips of the noodles.

"What Pokemon did she have?" I asked offhandedly.

"Two belsprouts and a weepingbel," she answered, soft and husky as if it had taken all her energy to force the air through her larynx, raising her head. My mouth formed an 'O' of surprise but snapped it shut again. There were tear tracks down her face and claw marks around her neck. More.

"You alright?" I broached carefully, even uncomfortably.

She nodded. "They separated Mave. I looked for him and I found," her voice broke but then carried on in a rush. "He looked dead, curled up in a corner, not breathing, not moving. And then these little blue things attacked. Ghost pokemon, except they knew transform. They transformed into Maverick. The one in the corner was a transformation too." No wonder the claw marks looked familiar. "Mave saved us. All my Pokemon knew were physical attacks and…" she trailed off and her gaze strayed to the blue ball snoozing happily in the corner. There were no marks on him at all and I wondered how badly he had been hurt fighting off three korums by himself.

"They were korums. Metonia ghost Pokemon, and it was a transform attack." We sighed in unison and I looked to staircase.

"I'm so sick of this place," Charlie confessed, mopping up the last of the flavoured water with a chunk of bread. She held it in front of her lips for a moment, before stuffing it in and chewing lethargically.

I rested my chin between Target's ears, and closed my eyes. For once, I was the voice of optimism. "Only one more level to go."

5th June 2005

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