My head lolled back, gazing lazily through the long crescent shaped olive coloured leaves into the deepening violet sky. I often wondered what kind of tree it actually was, probably a pepperina tree, but what did I know about that side of biology? All I cared about was that it was the most perfect climbing tree around. 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. The tree nestled on a fence line of Farmer Bucket's farmstead. He was a cranky old man, dubbed so because during Spearow breeding season they would hurtle from the copse of tees just outside his house. The battered plastic red bucket was the only protection and as consequence he looked like a reject of the Kelly Gang. He had brought a pair of Arcanine to guard his chickens, only because a Pidgeot pair was nesting. I couldn't count the number of times the majestic birds would plunge from the air to snap up its prey, usually a pesky Nidoran nibbling the terminal buds of his chickpeas, but sometimes one of his chickens, only having to pull out at the last second just as jagged teeth sheered their tail feathers. They were the reason we had risked getting caught.

But this season Bucket had left the land fallow, bearing 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 Hermestown, yet because of our extensive renovations, we remained in residence able to watch the immense raptors floating on spiralling upward thermals in the distance.

I sighed smiling at the thought of them, leaning back into my branch letting one leg swing as I scanned the distance. I was on lookout, as always, since my own lofty perch provided a three-sixty surveillance. 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.

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 with his hands behind his head, 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. Being oldest by a year, he claimed it straight away, but as far as I was concerned, he could have it. I tried it and thick woody thorns left numerous punctures. He was just a lay back kinda kid. "But who are you root'n for in the championships?"

"Brutus!" bawled Matty. Almost at my level, Matty was hanging upside down, his grubby T-shirt dangling over his face. 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. She rocked the swing with her toes, fingering the vines we had encouraged to grow on the ropes as her blondish hair draped over her face.

"What?" Matty giggle, 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 sceptically.

"No-oh, the Championships."

"Course. Its pretty easy," Jazz shrugged. He had done some amateur training when he was ten, but hadn't made it past Circe city before turning back. 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 larkish nature had certainly rubbed off on it.

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

Out the corner of my eye I caught a moving dot coming from the farm house, 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 uppermost branches out of sight.

The sound of wind and flying gravel grew, past flicking the rocks into the laneways where we hid and 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!"

They each added their own colourful description of exactly what they thought of homework, peeling themselves beneath the barbed wire fencing. Easing to the end of the branch that hung over the fence, I hung by my arms and dropped heavily the rest of the way cringing at the pressure on the balls of my foot and the sharp gravel on my bare feet.

I looked over my shoulder at the sun setting over the dusty orange dirt road.

"Well you never know," I whispered, hopping after my mates.

On the Wings of Council The Essay

My heart skipped a beat.

It was here! Here! Here! Here! Here! Here! The entry form had finally been admitted into, which was probably a rainforest all in itself, the Sunday paper. Just a useless stack of paper in boring Times New Roman print with the comics in colour just to entice you to buy it. I stared at the first page with greedy anticipation. Beneath a large colour photograph of a drunk politician in the bottom corner stamped in grand red lettering was what I drooled over every maths lesson at school.

Every year, the great professors of the Kanto, Johto, and the Orange League offered the chance of a lifetime, the chance to become one of the 10 official Pokemon trainers each year. Glancing down the rest of my empty street, at the mundane houses with their nifty little gardens and gravel driveways and cute little mailboxes in the shapes of Goldeen and Miltanks. I could leave this behind, if I could sneak it into the house without dad pinching it to read the fishing foldout first. I bent down and tucked the mass under my armpit eager to get my bare feet out of the dew-drenched grass.

Deviously 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 face blanched as my little brother Scotty peered from the kitchen, his spiny black hair riddled with knots and cowlicks from his noisy sleep. I should know, kept me awake half the night. His eyes met my 'stantler caught in 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 and I got on great for siblings, but he could definitely sit on me until I gave my hard earned prize up.

Darting down my hall I dived through the door with Scott blustering after me. I closed the door shut just in time and threw my back against it as his weight crashed into it. Straining 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, no. 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

Area: Metone            Town: Hermes Town                  Address: 39 Muse St

I paused, that could be a problem. See, Metone technically wasn't apart of the Southern Leagues; in fact it really wasn't apart of anywhere. It was a continent of land to the North- West Kanto. 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. 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, the 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. 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. I understood though, 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.

But slow though they were, 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. Every day when I got off the bus I pawed through our mail like a furret and when it yielded nothing 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, it's like a spiteful little sprite.

"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.

"Bill, advertisement, junk, junk, junk… Hel-lo!" I grinned broadly

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. This didn't look like the letter of a winner. 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 'I 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, skimming through it.

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 of my bed as I grasped it and 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, 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, 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 puzzled expression.

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

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

"What!" he blurted. "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. "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 a Roadrunner rerun, using my blurry peripheral vision 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. When I was little I would always ask him what he was making and he would always reply, "A wingwong for a gooseys bridle." 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 ambled behind me, still watching the roadrunner as if indifferent and the slitting of the tab was hidden behind its loud 'meepmeep!'

"Um, Topaz," my dad said. I couldn't read his expression behind his dark eyes, but I swivelled on my seat with my usually weary expression after a school day. He held up the powder blue stationary by its corner between his middle and ring finger. He smiled with pride.

We argued, well argued isn't the right word, more like debated the pros and cons of my journey but as much as they 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.

I often have trouble with maths, at what point in life am I gonna need to know this stuff? I remember a question on tan ration in Grade 8. If a Meowth is stuck up a tree and you're five meters away, and the angle is 56O, how tall does your ladder need to be. My answer; Screw Fluffy, call the fire department.

Mr Wilson was not amused.

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. 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 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, cell phone, collapsible bike, potions, revives, antidotes, maps and a voucher for free registration in the Johto League.

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 ambiguous Pokemon. I already new 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!

But for most part I spent the time 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 singing 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, 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 mix.

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.

"Beeep, beeep, beeep, beeep."

I raised my head of my pillow to see the numbers 6:00 flashing in neon red lights of my alarm clock. 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 pealed 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 threw my favourite Orange Island League cap over the top of it with the tail poking through the back. It was one of my favourite possessions my dad had bought for me while we holidayed on Mandarin Island. It was black with a red Pokeball printed on the front, with a yellow brim and yellow sides, and my name scrawled in 9 year old handwriting on the inside. I tugged on my long sleeved red shirt, with Pokeball clips on the bottom white trim and my yellow and black shorts to match my cap. I had argued with mum long and hard to get my own trainer uniform and in the end had to dish out my own funds for it. As I gazed at my reflection, I looked the part. It was worth it.

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 with longing. "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, 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

I hugged dad, him trying to cram in as much information as he could, and followed mum into the car. She hugged and kissed her 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. So immersed was I that when I finally looked up, we bumped along the tiny runway of New Bark Town.

I Choose You

I glanced at my watch, 8:13, and six minutes since I last checked. I started to pace again. Back and forth, back and forth. I looked at my watch again. 8:16. I growled in frustration. This was stupid! New Bark Town was the same sleepy little town I had left behind, except larger. I was openly amazed at the fact it had an airport. Well you couldn't call it an airport, more of a pitchmen road with a box beside it where you could purchase tickets but it was to be expected. It was the official beginning destination for all trainers of the Johto League so they flitted in and out and around.

I arrived in New Bark Town late yesterday evening dog-tired. I waited inside the box for someone to escort me to a tiny little apartment with a bed and a bedside table. Come to think of it, it was much bigger than the airport itself. So I stood slack jawed and slumped shoulders and when a brisk man asked if I was Topaz Soarhire, all I replied was, "Huh?"

After a quick meal I flung myself into the bed, but I'm sure with the mattress that hard I would have been just as comfortable on the floor.

Funnily enough I work up at 7:30. This time I scurried about the little room, chewing a muesli bar with one hand and scouring my trainers guide with the other, reciting noisily bits I thought would help when the time to choose actually came. I wasn't supposed to meet outside Professor Elm's laboratory until 9:00 but as 7:45 rolled round I couldn't take it any more and wandered over to the lab. It was a big white building at the top of a sandy yellow road on a cresting hill. Behind it lay acre after acre of ecosystems and my eyes widened in disbelief at all the different Pokemon, varying in such shape and size and colour I thought they were a dream.

Suddenly a door slam roused me from my thoughts to see a lanky blond boy getting out of the taxi. I stared at him curiously as he tripped over his baggage and hauled it up the path. He was a rival trainer and I didn't know if I should be nice to him. I was never good at making friends and most people disgusted me for one reason or another.

That was another thing for me to think about, should I remain by myself or choose a companion for my journey. I guess I'd burn cross that bridge when I'd come to it, or something like that.

"Hi, I'm Matthew," he said holding out his hand.

I hesitated suspiciously. What was he doing? "Topaz," I replied with a firm grasp, just to prove I wasn't afraid.

"Where are you from, Topaz?"

"Hermes Town, Metone."

"Never heard of it," he grinned, trying to encourage me to go on.

I kept my same bland expression and after a while he saw I wasn't interested and turned his attention on two rowdy teenagers coming up the hill. One was a boy with neatly brushed dark blonde hair and a self confident stride the other was a girl who sniggered at him, jabbing his ribs with her forefinger her own shoulder length blonde hair flying in all directions.

How annoying, I reflected.

I watched with amusement as over the next hour another seven kids appeared, each lugging travel bags and backpacks filled to the brim, bright eyed with hope and wonder at what was happening to them. As the time grew closer and closer the tenth and last kid failed to show. "There's one in every group," I mumbled rolling my eyes, thinking of how the famed Ash Ketchum had done the same thing. I shuddered to think about how humiliating would it be if they ended up following the same path to glory as he.

 My obsession with my watch grew stronger as it neared 9:00. When I glanced at my watch after a long stint, I saw it was 8:56.

"Yes!" I cried, causing the others to stare at me. "Four more minutes," I said awkwardly, shrugging my shoulders and flushing a bright red.

"Not quite," a voice said behind me. I spun almost tripping on my shoes to face a warm wrinkled face, a leading researching in Pokemon evolution, training and behaviour. A great man I had spent at least the last three years learning about in my Pokemon classes. The almighty Professor Oak.

"Please come in," he smiled ushering the kids in. I impatiently started forward but like a river the other kids surged past, butting me to one side. I growled into my chest and tailed them but even as I did two hands shoved me roughly away again. With my legs already twisted it was all it took to tumble over the side of the cement stairs onto my arse and when I rolled over and looked up, it was the tenth kid. Tall and muscled with long red hair framing his face. He sneered at me with his squinty green eyes narrowed; something had obviously put him out of temper.

"Me first."

My jaw dropped and without a thought for him my leg shot out and hooked his shin. His limbs windmilled as he hit the floor with a thwack.

"8.6 on the Richter scale!" I bugled and heard the cackles from within.

He stumbled to his feet and snatched me my shirt pulling me onto my feet. My face pinched anxiously as he pulled me nose to nose. "Why you little..." he started.

"Ahh, Tobias. I see you made it," Professor Oak said from the doorway. "Your Aunt is waiting for you inside."

Aunt? He stalked angrily inside to be met by Professor Ivy of the Orange Island League. She spoke briskly with her hands on he hips. She was not impressed. Of course, Professor Ivy was his aunt, it was kind of obvious, I mean the kid hardly looked like he couldn't even tie his shoes, let alone become the worlds greatest Pokemon Master.

"It escapes me how such a brilliant mind could be related to such a buffoon," Professor Oak muttered to me. I nodded in agreement, brushing my self down. "You had better come inside uh-"

"Topaz," I provided.

"Topaz," He smiled brightly, recognising my name from the winners lift. I beamed with delight. "It's almost time to announce the winners, and you won't want to miss that."

As I scampered at his heels through the door, my eyes locked on my prize. At the back of the room the other winners reached into clear compartments, in each was a Pokemon cooing and calling with glee at the many hands holding and rubbing and tickling. Without waiting I surged forward to find the Pokemon destined to stand by my side through thick and thin.

On each case was a status board telling about the Pokemon's Pokedex, temperament, and status. I made my way over to a glass case. Inside was Mareep, a Pokemon with static bristling though its fluff with excitement. I glowed happily as I scooped him up, rubbing my hand over his curl.

"Mareep, the static Pokemon.

Type: Electric Height: 2,0 Weight: 17lbs.

Temperament: These Pokemon is known to be loyal companions

Status: Male Level: 5 Attacks: Tackle Growl Thundershock"

Interesting, loyalty was what I would need from my Pokemon on my journey. He wriggled in my hands, latching his paws over my hands and bleating. I would have happily continued to cuddle him but a bump on my left indicated the line was moving. I passed him on to a tall willowy girl.

I peered into the next compartment. It was empty! After a closer examination of the area I saw the tiny Pokemon hiding behind a large stone. She was a cute little thing, the tips of her ears were a blackish brown giving contrast to the rest of her pink body and the pink curl which reminded me of her evolution, Clefairy.

"Cleffa, the fairy Pokemon.

Type: Normal Height: 11 inches Weight: 6lbs.

Temperament: Very shy, takes a while to trust its trainer

Status: Female           Level: 5           Attacks: Sing Charm Pound"

I hardened myself, as cute as she was a timid Pokemon wasn't good in battle so she wasn't the one for me.

Behind her was Igglybuff, the devolution of Jigglypuff. His elastic-like skin felt smooth against me. He bounced up and down in excitement as I picked it up and but he struggled to escape from my arms towards a girl up ahead. He had already formed a bond with her so I put him back, hoping that she would choose him.

After placing him back in his case I moved forward again. This time the Pokemon was Pichu, devolution of Pikachu. He looked quite a bit like his older sibling only his ears were considerably larger. I scratched him behind the ear. Zap! A jolt of electricity coursed through my body making my hair stand on end and leaving me like a crisp chip. I wheezed as the Pokemon giggled at my frazzled appearance. I glared, I didn't need that on my every time I touched him, and progressed to the next one.

The Charmander in the next glass case paced and waved its flamed tail about. I guess it was as impatient as I was. When it saw me it breathed a puff of smoke and turned its back. I made a disappointed sigh. I really wanted a Charmander, but dad said don't to pick the Pokemon, let it pick me. I smiled coaxingly but he swang his tail and thumped the glass leaving a black smudge.

A Totodile! In the next case the blithe reptile pressed against the glass, rubbing his head and pawing at it.

"Totodile," he squawked in a voice very much like Donald Ducks This was the Pokemon I wanted to take with me.

"Totodile, the Bigjaw Pokemon.

Type: Water Height: 2,0 Weight: 21lbs.

Temperament: Friendly, good for beginning trainer

Status: Male Level: 5            Attacks: Scratch Leer Rage,"

It squawked again, raised himself over the glass and leapt into my arms. The sweet little thing made himself comfortable. "I'll make you mine," I clucked, scratching his pebbly blue skin.

I reluctantly handed him over to the girl behind me and was little jealous when the Totodile was playing with her hair much the same way as he played with mine. The next Pokemon was a Bulbasaur, I didn't know much about him as he came from the Kanto region. It resembled a bluish dinosaur with a dark green plant bulb on its back with fierce red eyes. I had decided firmly I didn't want a grass type.

"Bulbasaur, the Seed Pokemon.

Type: grass Height: 2,0 Weight: 23lbs.

Temperament: Stubborn.

Status: Male  Level: 5           Attacks: Tackle Growl Vinewhip,"

His counterpart was right in front of him, a Chikorita. She waved her leaf-plumed head to grab my attention. She didn't seem like a bad choice, if fact I heard this grass type was very dependable. My resolve not to choose a grass type swayed and I kept her in mind.

The Squirtle lay tucked in her shell asleep, oblivious to the activity around it. Frowning, I tapped its shell. It shuddered on the inside but not turtle Pokemon was forthcoming.

Suddenly a hiss sounded from the glass case beside me and I finally noticed Tobias. He was poking what could only be a Cyndaquil, with its yellow breast blue back and flaming quills, with his short stubby finger. The Cyndaquil was backed up against the glass her back towards him streaming fire, coating the glass with dark smoke. When she couldn't hold the flame any longer, it vanished. She panted, rocking from side to side with a raspy growl. Intimidation wouldn't work on this predator.

"I like a Pokemon with spirit, your mine you little rat." Tobias stabbed her one last time in the stomach, laughed at her squeal, strolling on.

You'll get yours pig, I'll make sure of that I fumed to myself. People back home were always saying how strange it was that someone so small and slight could have the temper of a Charizard. 

I turned my attention back to the Cyndaquil. She was cowering in the far corner, shaking with a slick sweat. Warily I lifted her out of the glass and held her tight, petting her till she had calmed down. She didn't struggle, simply rested regaining her breath. She tilted her face up with her squinting eyes. It was then I was sure I wanted her.

"People," Professor Ivy's voice rang out. "Its time to announce the winners!"

We quickly put the Pokemon back and scrambled for a good view on a couple of wooden benches at the back of the room. Out front our panel of scientists watched us with probing eyes, trying to read our thoughts, interpret how we would conquer the world outside. I'm positive they were taking bets which of us would last the longest.

When everyone was seated Professor Elm stood up from his chair, peering across the room almost laughingly.

"I know you kids don't want to be bored by a long speech but I'd like to congratulate you on your amazing essays. I think each one touched a special place in our hearts," he said indicating to the other two Professors. They nodded with sincerity. "Its now time for the moment you've been waiting for. When I call your name, please select a Pokemon, come to Professor Oak for your Pokeballs and select your corresponding backpack."

For the first time I noticed the various colour packs lined along the wall with black piping for each. It was amazing that with all the items inside that it wasn't bulging, it actually seemed like I could fit the rest of my crap in there. As good as Mary Poppin's magic carpetbag! A good thing too because once I was done with it I wouldn't have even fitted a matchstick inside one of the many pockets.

"First prize," Ivy announced with a smile of pride, "goes to Adam Purves!"

The boy I saw arguing with the girl that morning stood up, a sidelong smug look at the girl who just so happened to sit beside me.

"Another achievement for Mr. Perfect," she snickered to me. I gave her a blank look. "We both come from Vermillion City, he always wins everything and all the teachers love him."

I grinned at this; rolling my eyes. I knew the type so I guess it was true, you just couldn't escape the school hierarchy. The girl didn't seem half bad.

We both turned our attention to Adam who was walking confidently towards the Grass section.

"I hope he doesn't take Chikorita," the girl said, looking worried. She didn't have to because Adam passed by Chikorita to stand by Bulbasaur and claimed in a strong voice, "I choose Bulbasaur."

I caught a couple of disappointed faces as Professor Oak handed him a shiny emerald green Pokeball and picked up the matching backpack. He and Bulbasaur returned to their seat with the vines tangling around his legs in adulation.

"Second Prize is awarded to Sumalee Erben!" The Asian looking girl with shoulder length black hair with bright red streaks strode forward to choose...Totodile. I mumbled inaudibly at the downer.

Oh well, I thought but it was obviously a case of sour grapes. I already have a Pokemon if Cyndaquil isn't chosen. Sumalee, satisfied with her choice, took the luminous lapis blue Pokeball and bag.

"Third Prize was won by Ashlee Middleton!" The blond girl darted ahead and lifted Chikorita out of its case as if afraid at the last moment someone would step in and take it.

"I pick Chikorita!" she grinned from ear to ear, brandishing the little grass type in the air with both arms above her head.

"Chika," she squealed, delighted with her new trainer she waved her plumed head. Ashlee returned beside me with her Pokemon, a glossy green Pokeball and pack.

"Congratulations on your new Pokemon, Ashlee," I said inspecting Chikorita again. She pulled out of my reach and leaned against Ashlee's leg.

"Yeah," Adam laughed, now beside her. "Now we have something new to compete over."

I looked up to see a short boy by the name of Ryan Reathmuller choose Charmander which welcomed him with open arms. He was passed an Orange Pokeball as bright as the others.

"Winner of Fifth Prize, is Topaz Soarhire!" I steadily got up and walked to the Cyndaquil, barely containing my excitement as I approached. This was it! Everything we had ever talked about! My first step on the road to greatness, a best friend who would stand with me and fight for me!

She whined, hissing as she still cowered in the corner.

"Shhh," I cooed picking her up softly caressed her head. "I'll look after you!"

"Hey you little dog! That's my Pokemon!" I leapt a mile high. It was Tobias. He jumped up from where he was sitting and crossed the distance in heavy stomps. His arms shoved roughly between her, snatching her by the nape of her neck and pushing my shoulder back.  Cyndaquil squealed, latching her tiny paws onto my shirt as he tried to tug her off. A thick tongue of flame leapt to lick his unprotected face. He staggered back spluttering. The blaze narrowly missed him but he angrily rubbed his sooty face and smoothing the stray strands of his long red hair.

"Bonza!" I crowed, stabbing a triumphant finger between his eyes. "Wanna try again, and I'll finish the job!"

"Quil!" Cyndaquil chirped, backing me up with a menacing flash of flames from her back. I kept that grin plastered across my face but I desperately wanted to shake my hand madly and dull the hot throbbing.

"You'll be the one who's sorry, dog," he hissed scrambling away lest Cyndaquil attack again.

"Go back to your seat now or WE'LL DISQUALIFY YOU FOR THIS APPALLING BEHAVIOR," Professor Elm roared, sending papers scattering over the ground. Aids from all sides rushed in, sweeping them up and setting them timidly back on the table. Professor Ivy mumbled, blushing furiously covering her eyes as she stared at her notes. Professor Oak looked oblivious, picking at some tofu. He looked up with a full mouth, chewing slowly and cow like.

With one last, chilling glare, Tobias sat back down to wait for his turn. Things weren't done yet, he certainly wasn't the kind of kid to be outsmarted by a midget girl but that didn't bother me. I bounced Cyndaquil in my arms as Professor Elm I collected my metallic crimson Pokeball and backpack and sat back down.

"You were incredible, Cyndaquil," I murmured to her.

Ashlee poked me and pointed to where Tobias sat glowering. "I think you've made yourself an enemy Topaz. Tobias has it in for you."

"He can take a ticket. Besides Cyndaquil will be there, eh Cyndaquil?"

Cyndaquil looked at me puzzled, still quivering slightly. "Quii-ill?"

Was it just me, or was that a you're on your own look?"

"Sixth goes to Matthew Gammel," Professor Ivy announced, a blush in her cheek because her nephew had embarrassed her.

Matthew was a little unsure of himself. He paced between the sleeping Squirtle and the sparking Pichu. Finally he reached over the glass to select, Pichu. He was most likely thinking of the current champion of the Elite Four, Ash Ketchum, who had started with Pikachu. As he touched Pichu, his eyes widened. He'd been shocked too. A polished yellow Pokeball and pack was now his. Every now and again I'd his eyes would bulge and a spark of lightning would rip through his blond hair.

"Seventh prize is presented to Tiffany Hill!" She stepped towards the case that held Cleffa. But the timid little Pokemon wouldn't leave her crevice behind the rock.

"Try this," Professor Elm said handing her a piece of apple. Tiffany tried again and this time the she happily seized the apple. Tiffany carefully lifted her clear of the case and received her pinkish Pokeball.

"Eighth is Sky Erbacker." Now there were only three Pokemon left, Mareep, Igglybuff and Squirtle. Sky chose Mareep the sheep with little hesitation, although I was sure he had had is eye on a different Pokemon at the beginning. After accepting a Gold Pokeball and pack, the two returned to their seat, the little fluff ball bleating happily and tail wagging.

Kylie Zwiske won Ninth and didn't even have to walk the entire length of the room to reach her Pokemon. Igglybuff bounced out of the glass, but Igglybuff's skin was extra rubbery so when it hit the floor it ricocheted off and bounced on all directions.

"Bulbasaur, grab Igglybuff with your Vinewhip!"

"Iggly!" Fwoof! Off the wall to my right as the vines tried to lasso around it!

"You to, Chikorita!"

"Iggly!" Bonk! It bounced off the ceiling and off the floor!

"Totodile, when I throw you up grab him!"

"Get him, Charmander."

Voices and Vinewhips were everywhere. Igglybuff recoiled off anything and everything with people tripping forward or falling back. Cyndaquil and I huddled in the corner and every now and again I'd feel the burn of her backflame because of her panic. When order was restored, Igglybuff and a strawberry pink Pokeball were handed to her.

"Last but not least Tobias Morris." Tobias stomped forward and grabbed the shell still snoring Squirtle, swinging it without concern for the Pokemon within. Squirtle awoke and not liking his trainer's rough handling he blasted him with a torrent of icy water.

"You little snot!" Tobias snarled prepared to hurl him at a near by wall.

"DON'T YOU DARE!" Professor Ivy yelled shooting to her feet as she shook an accusing finger at her nephew. "I've had enough humiliation for one day and if you don't treat your Pokemon properly you won't get one!"

Intimidated by his Aunt, he stayed his temper a recalled Squirtle into his turquoise Pokeball.

"Now that you have you Pokemon," Professor Oak said somewhat sleepily, breaking the awkward silence. "You may go. You have been registered in the Johto League and have our numbers programmed into your cell phones if ever you need us. It's a big wide world out there, full of obstacles to brave and startling realisations. Follow your heart."

Quick as lightning kids clamoured for the door with triumphant cries, and I was being pushed through like a raging river in flood. While still clutching Cyndaquil protectively I scurried out of the way of the stampede and onto the podium to stand beside Adam and Ashlee who had the same idea. Each of us had a childish gawp on our faces as the area was left in a shamble by the passing feet, leaving only a lonesome tumbleweed to trail through the door after them.

We each raised a sceptical eyebrow.

I knelt down, setting Cyndaquil beside me and began to repack my things. Just as I had expected the bag swallowed everything with ease and still sagged a little at the edges. I looked at it approvingly. It was a WonderBag!

As the last item was sorted a phone's high-pitched trill rang through the lab, aids scattering left and right to look for the source. They were sure a nervous bunch, probably too much caffeine but after a few moments one returned, his glasses askew with a receiver in hand for Professor Elm. Refitting his own glasses on the nib of his nose he answered with a laugh. "Hell-oh! Oh is that so Mr Pokemon! You don't say! You don't say? Is that so? You don't say! Uh huh, uh huh. You don't say! I'll send someone right over."

As he hung up Professor Ivy, leaning against her desk in thought rolled her eyes, she asked, "What did he say he found this time?" She rolled her eyes, continuing to pick at her nails.

"He didn't say," he said attempting the lame joke to which she rolled her eyes again in disgust. Childishly he stuck his tongue out at her and turned to we remaining trainers.

"Would you be able to do me a favour?"

"Of course!" Adam volunteered, an enthusiastic arm shooting into the air. I made a squawk of indignation, I never agreed to that! Things to do, people to see, Pokemon to catch!

Professor Elm eyed me with faint disapproval but carried on regardless. "That was Mr Pokemon. He lives North of Cherrygrove City and has made an interesting discovery and I'm too busy. If you could please go and bring it back I would be very grateful."

"Of course we will!" Adam assured, appearing cool and layback. "We'll start right now."

He followed Elm to grab the directions while I shot questioning glances at Ashlee. Ashlee shrugged and rolled her eyes, mouthing the word, suckup. We sniggered.

"Hmm," I mumbled squatting and hauling it onto my shoulders. Whatever my bag looked like it was still bloody heavy and I staggered a few steps around the room before balancing and shifting it so it fit comfortably into the curves of my back. Swallowing hard, I righted myself, looking pretty ridiculous with my legs spaced further apart and a goofy grin. What ever was to slow us down, it didn't matter, I was on my way to fame and glory!

"Okay lets get goin' Cyndaquil," I grunted. I spared her a critical glance. "You're not going to get far on those paddle feet, climb aboard."

Cyndaquil snorted insultingly, lifting her feet for her own inspection but falling flat on her back. I laughed musically, bending down for her to scramble up. She perched satisfied on the seat of the bag with her paws hooked into my collar and with "Cyyyyndaquil!" she thrust it out towards the door.

"Yeah, yeah! Who's the trainer round here! You's two coming?"

"Yep!" they chorused, petting their own Pokemon and slanting to one side with the weight of their pack. This was so cool! I was doing it! Me, Topaz Soarhire, a scrawny country kid of average grades and had been looking at an average future probably at a desk job. My dream had been to become a Pokemon Ranger, but this was ten times better!

The exultation was so strong, I couldn't help but whistle as I teetered around the room to get out the door!

         "Whow-ow!" I whined, tugging of my sneaker and examining the blisters that had formed on my heel. I was tired, dirty, hungry and dishevelled, but I felt a certain contentment at the long day of walking. It was obvious that the other trainers had been before us, the wild Pokemon had learnt their lesson and fled until the coast was clear. No matter how hard we looked not a Pidgey was to be found. I guess it was a good thing we didn't find anything because there would have been such a row over it it would have escaped anyway.

         The thought stopped me as I unfurled my sleeping bag on the floor of the Cherrygrove PokeCentre, trapping Cyndaquil beneath. She sneezed, poking her head from beneath it and snuggling on top with purring sound.

         "Hey guys."

"Yeah, Tez?" Ashlee answered from in front of a mirror of our cosy little room, and when I say cosy I mean cramped, brushing out her blond hair from the tangles and prickles we had picked during the day. Adam had misjudged the track and as consequence we rolled to the dusty bottom with cuts and scratches to boot. I was not pleased and I let him know, just short of my fist.

"I don't reckon we should travel together, it'll get to competitive among us if wild Pokemon stay this scarce. I'll be knocking off on my own tomorrow."

"Knock yourself out," Adam answered vacantly, rubbing his hand on the smooth surface of the egg we had retrieved. It was white with pale blue and pink geometric squiggles over it. Nothing spectacular so I wondered what had the short, stocky Mr Pokemon so excited.

Ashlee looked anxious. "You're going to leave me with him? How will I be able to survive his know-it-all-ness!" she wailed mockingly, flopping backwards with her hand on her heart and moaning. With a gleeful cry her Chikorita leapt onto her stomach and her trainer blanched at the impact.

I smiled dryly. Within a few hours I had dubbed Ashlee the Queen of Corny. There wasn't one joke she told that didn't make me groan. "You'll survive."

"Hey!" Adam retorted. "You didn't listen to anything I said?"

"Of course not," I said soothingly. "You see Adam, most kids your age would be obliged to stop talking when the people their talking to begin to show signs of exhaustion, coma and rigger-mortuus, not you."

"Yeah, well at least I don't threaten everyone with a fist."

"Shutup."

Sunlight.

I hate sunlight.

With a groan I rolled over in bed, reaching clumsily to pull my blinds closed and shut the penetrating beams out. I groped, leaning further and further across without meeting it.

"Huwhoa!"

THUD!

"Cyndaaaaa!"

Fwooooof!

I landed sprawled on the cold lacquered floor with all my blankets pulled with me. The harsh squeal came as I rolled over and bright yellow flames flared up kindling my tangled around my waist.

"HOTHOTHOT!!!!" I wailed leaping up wide-awake, struggling to free myself of my sleeping bag bunched around my ankles and furiously clapping my hands on my hair. Racing around the room in panic and with sudden clarity I stuffed my head into the mountain of my blankets, smothering them out.

I flopped to the floor panting, glaring at the Pokemon grinning in amusement; even her squinting eyes seemed to be laughing at me. With a groan I rubbed my eyes, looking around groggily. Of course this wasn't my bedroom, it was the bloody freezing room at the Cherrygrove PokeCentre I had stayed in last night. I rubbed my arms shivering a little as I scanned the room. Packs were gone and most was tidied up. How did I sleep through that?

"What do we do now, Cyndaquil? What do they have in the way of food around here?" I ventured, standing up ready to get dressed. I gave her a stern look and she gave an exasperated Quil! before turning around obligingly. I pulled on my nifty new uniform and when I still looked like a trainer I smirked arrogantly. If anyone was going to get on this journey it had to be me!

After squandering a good half hour at the PokeCentre's complimentary trainers buffet table, we wobbled out, bloated and satisfied. Oh I love a hot meal, but that meant that going out into the world would be all that much difficult. I had inherited my fathers cooking abilities, which is to say zilch.

Peering up and down the street I wondered which way to go. It was larger than New Bark town, but then again so was my room at home. Wriggling my shoulders to fix my uncomfortable pack I observed a green tiled roof rising above the others and figuring that there had to be a reason for making it so noticeable.

"You know, what about the Pokemart, its not like I need to stock up but you never know what we don't have but might need," I suggested to her on the back of my pack again. She shrugged, gazing in wonder at the houses and the buildings. I kept forgetting how young she was in Pokemon years, she couldn't be more than level 6 at most, considering how little battling we could do yesterday.

"Come on, mate," I called to Cyndaquil who was snuffling around quaint streetlamp curiously.

It was big, but then again I was a country hick, and what did I know. It took no less than thirty seconds for me to wander around and realise I didn't know which way I had come, but that didn't really matter. On every side were gidgets and gagets and thing-a-ma-bobs galore. I prodded a bizarre item that looked like a calculator, except for the antennae and feet and it took off on a musical jig, bobbing up and down while it sang in a computerised voice. I quickly tried to find the off button but only continued louder and louder.

Needless to say I put it down and shuffled away, whistling innocently.

I coasted along the aisles aimlessly, looking at nothing in particular, till bold black lettering caught my eye.

"Translator," I mused to Cyndaquil turning it over in my hands, examining the tiny black box no bigger then my thumbnail. This could make things a hell of a lot easier than second guessing what my Pokemon were saying. I excitedly waved a shop assistant over wondering how something so bland could work.

"Hi!" interrupted the copper haired girl, thrusting her hand into mine without hesitating and ripping my arm from my socket. "I'm Shop Attendant Jheta! My relatives and I are experts in Pokemon care and if there's anything you ever need, don't hesitate to ask!"

"Yeah, thanks," I drawled withdrawing my hand and patting Cyndaquil on my shoulder. "Do these really translate Pokemon speech?"

"Absolutely positively! They're the latest technology once only available to the rich and famous with the ability to convert anything your Pokemon says for you to understand is now yours to own!" She bugled like carnie in Sideshow Alley at a carnival. She caught sight of Cyndaquil, eagerly lifting her from her perch and ignoring her warning growl. She disappeared down another aisle for a second and returned with a dog collar, slipping it around my Pokemon's neck. "Would you like to test it?"

Annoyed at her presumptuous attitude I gave a surly, "Yes please."

Jheta beamed, palming the black box from my hand like a magician and snapping it onto the collar, giving an encouraging nod.

"Hi Cyndaquil!"

"Don't be stupid! There has to be something more intelligent in the human vocabulary than, 'Hiiiii-iiii."

"Hey!" I snapped back angrily, recovering from my astounded gawking. "Have you been making snide comments like that the whole way?"

"Maay-be," she purred slyly. The translator made her sound exactly like her soft Pokemon voice. I laughed, thinking how cool it would be to have conversations along the way. She stuck her round paw through the collar and looked at it disdainfully with a meaningful look. I shrugged turning to the shop attendant and asked if there were any collars more fashionable.

"Of course! Follow me and you'll find a range of stylish collars to fit the personality of even the wildest Pokemon!"

"Whatever."

We toddled after Jheta who lead us to a brightly coloured rack and she motioned for us to find browse through. We perused over them, picking some up and holding them against Cyndaquil's fur with mock voices.

"What about this one daaaahling!" I crooned, holding one up with a gross pink floral design. She gave a disgusted Ug! batting it away and tossing it into the growing pile in the corner. After a minute or two more, Cyndaquil poked her head up from beneath a pile of them, with one hanging over her nose.

"This one!" she said resolutely. I held it up to the light, watching the sun glitter on the sparkling red and yellow flames. I turned it over and checked the price tag. Yeesh! All that for a strip of leather? I sighed dolefully but reached into my pocket and plucked out a twenty dollar note. What a rip, but when I affixed it and she posed hither and thither in from of a mirror I smiled wanly, it was worth it I guess.

"Looks pretty snazzy, Cyndaquil," I complimented, wondering if any of my other Pokemon would be so pricey. She nodded smugly turning her neck again to reflect the sun.

"That's another thing Topaz," she said, not turning away from her reflection. "Could you not call me 'Cyndaquil, it'd be like me calling you 'Human."

"Yeah, no worries, what do you have in mind?"

She uttered a bark like laugh, "You couldn't pronounce it if you tried, so I guess it's up to you."

I paused thoughtfully; head cocked trying to find something that would suit her. "Flame?"

"Pfft! Why not just call me Fido and be done with it," she scoffed.

"Hey," I retorted defensively, I was never good at name my pets. "Ok, Blaze."

"Zzzzzzit, wrong!" she droned like a game show buzzer.

"How about Fury?"

"Fury," she murmured reflectively. "Its better than Blaze I guess."

"Glad you like it. Now how about we catch a few Pokemon, Fury?" I suggested.

Fury's face lit up like a candle. "My first battle, let's go!"

Thirty minutes later I had finally navigated my way out of the town into a quiet patch of long swaying panic grass, scouring it and trying to flush out something with loud noises and hulking steps. I wiped the sweat of my brow with my sleeve, leaning against a tree watching the road. This was harder than they made it look on TV, they just jumped out at you there. As I rested, watching the long green blades part for the invisible Fury as she scurried around ardently for an opponent.

My attention lagged further when suddenly meters away to my left, the grass stirred with an alarmed squeak.

"Fury!" I yammered excitedly, my thoughts racing for everything I'd learnt in the pre-journey classes. Ok, I thought flustered as Fury appeared from the wall of grass, head whipping left and right. First thing is to get it into view, then choose a tactic to suit the Pokemon type.

"Ember attack Fury, flush it out of the long grass!" A weak flash of her first learnt attack and the Pokemon leapt squealing into view, pupils wide with alarm. It looked very much like the one in I'd seen in my textbooks, as there were no Sentret in the Metone region but I had memorised its information anyway. Better safe than sorry, I directed the Pokedex sensor at it in case it had been updated since those textbooks were written.

"Sentret, the Scout Pokemon. Very cautious, it raises itself up by using its tail to get a better view of its surroundings."

'Fury! Ready for you first battle!" Fury gave a long triumphant Quuuuuuiiilll!, her paw bunched into a threatening fist at the muddled Pokemon.

"Hahahah," she scoffed. "Its going to be way to easy too hit this thing. He's even got a built in target!"

But while Fury laughed, Sentret lost its wild and frightened expression and aimed his attack too late for Fury to dodge. He surged forward and struck her again and again with his paws, puncturing each contact with a "Tret-tret-tret!" A fury swipes attack!

"Fight back with ember!" I ordered. Fury wheeled around with her back facing the panting Sentret, who lined up his paws again. Unprepared, the spluttering flames caught Sentret and wrapped around him like a blanket. When they vanished, it left the soot coated Sentret right and ready for me to capture.

"Pokeball go!" I hurled it with everything I could muster and it struck him a glancing blow. It was enough and Sentret was absorbed into the ball as a red light. It rocked, once, twice, three times and went still. I waited eagerly and at last it gave a glorious PING! I caught my first Pokemon!

"Yes! You little beauty!" I whooped racing forward and snatching Fury up by her tummy and tossing her into the air. "We captured our first Pokemon!" I cried as I caught her.

"Please, I get air sick!" the Cyndaquil groaned as I threw her higher, somersaulting before landing in my cradled arms again. 

"Think about it Fury, that was the first step on the way to becoming a true blue legend! You and me all the way, ay?" I put her down, squatting and showing her Sentret's Pokeball proudly. After returning to town to have him healed, I fitted him with his own translation device and a hip new collar. He scrapped at it happily with all four feet rocking on his back as he watched it glitter in the sun. I wanted to get in a little more training before lunch time so I encouraged him to help search. It was only a matter of minutes with his keen Sentret vision and strong tail before another was spotted.

"Topaz!" Target called in his shrill voice lost amongst the bushes. When I arrived puffing, I was sooo out of shape, Sentret was already dodging and dancing and trading blows with another Pokemon.

"A Pidgey!" I exclaimed as I recognized the brown bird. It was perfect for the beginning trainer because of its calm nature, my head recited from the guidebook, and it would evolve into a Pidgeot I had only admired from afar before. Also a flying type would be the ideal type to add to my newly formed team.

"Pidgey, the tiny bird Pokemon. It would rather defend itself than attack. Kicks up blinding dust to escape."

"Not this Pidgey! Target, quick attack."  With a running jump Target slammed Pidgey with tremendous speed that I only saw it as an eclipse of movement. Pidgey countered with its quick attack and they both collided with such force they both fainted. A few seconds and a Pokeball later, I had my second Pokemon.

"We're hot today!" Fury twittered from my pack as we returned to the PokeCentre for the second time that day. I rolled both full Pokeballs in my hand. Fury was also coming along well too, challenging a few Pokemon I didn't intend on capturing, only for experience.

"I reckon we're ready to go to the next town. As soon as Talon's healed we'll start on Route 30," I ventured gazing dreamily at the gift of a day around me. Life was good.

"Hey!!!" I stared, halting in my tracks. It stared back. From a far off tree perched a lone sentry, a Pidgeot. Even from the distance I could feel its intense eyes on me. Oh it was beautiful, just as beautiful as the ones back home. With my breath caught in my throat, I desperately wanted to try my hand at its capture, but as if sensing my thoughts, it launched into the air, pumping its powerful wings for altitude before catching a thermal and soaring out of sight behind the trees.

"Ohhwhoa!" I moaned staring after it. What was a wild Pidgeot doing out here? It was probably some master trainer hanging around to pick of the newbies. I thought miserably.

"Whatcha whining about? You can evolve Talon can't you?" Fury tried to comfort me on my shoulder.

"Yeah, I guess," I said reluctantly, trudging towards the PokeCentre. When Talon was healed I felt a little more hopeful. He certainly was hungry for battle. I released him inside the PokeCentre and the first thing he did was challenge a Paras. It ducked timidly behind its protective trainer, an uppity teenage girl who thought a five minute lecture was in order. I apologised profusely, sweeping each of my three Pokemon into my arms and hurrying outside. I consulted the map and after some time, I figured which way north was, tried for the north gate and Route 30.

I took barely three steps when from behind sprang a little kid, he could only have gotten his license days ago.

"Hey!" he called, tossing his Pokeball cockily from hand to hand. "I just caught my first Pokemon and I'm ready for a battle!"

My hands went to my hips unimpressed, swishing my long blue ponytail of my shoulder with a playful smirk. "Sure, but better be prepared to lose my impertinent little friend. Go Fury!"

Fury bounded from my shoulder, poised for battle, mimicking my smug posture.

'Go Rattata, tackle attack now!" the little boy ordered, thrusting his finger at her.

Without me asking, Fury exhaled a cloud of smoke, a smokescreen attack, and the Rattata raced by, missing her by inches as a patch of blue darted around. She snarled, ramming the Rattata's side as it passed.

"Now Ember!" A dim flame still learning to be controlled licked out and the Rattata wailed from inside the plume, fainting with a thump

"Another victory!" Fury's outburst had startled the trainer before he realized she was using a translator. He grumbled but handed over our winning stash. We continued on our way, my Pokemon defeating three more trainers, without a single casualty, and as the day ended we set up camp for our first night on our own. It was wonderful watching the sun sink in the western edge of the sky in a haze of pink and orange, knowing you only had yourself to rely on.

Fury set the fire while I cooked a dished out some Pokechow into some plastic bowls, releasing my two new Pokemon, Target and Talon. After I finished shovelling the last mouthful in I turned thoughtful, asking my Pokemon what it was like to live in the wild. As it turned out, both Target and Talon were no more than children that had just ventured to far from their families.

"A trained Pokemon is stronger than a wild one," I explained, trying to reason why they were better off with me, though it felt a little half hearted. Luckily, they took it in stride.

"If I return one day, I'll be able to beat the rest of my friends easy," crowd Talon, lifting his own with a menacing gleam in his eye. "I mean, how many wild Pidgeot's are there? I learnt more today then I had in month!"

I nodded pleased. I think Talon was referring to when he had learnt its whirlwind attack when we battled a pretty tough bug trainer.

"She's a great trainer. I bet if we stick with her we'll make it to the Elite Four," Fury chipped in, clapping her paws together.

I grinned, falling into silent ponderings, gazing affectionately at the three as they took off for a game of tag amongst the trees around off, darting in and out with gleeful cries. Now was the time to devise a strategy of how I would take on the League. It was proven the 90% of Trainers that set themselves a goal to achieve, like capturing all Pokemon, or being a Gymleader, or even to become Master, no matter how difficult it is to accomplish do far better than those wandering aimlessly. I frowned in deep thought, I didn't know what I wanted to be, only that I wanted to bring out the best in my Pokemon.

Well, the first thing could be earn at least eight badges to enter the Pokemon League, I thought slowly, stirring my spoon around my second helping. I looked at it with distaste.

"Yo Talon," I called," you want more?"

He gave a greedy chirp and burst from the branches to land with hopeful eyes at his dish. As he bent his head to scoop out some of the reddish orange pellets, a voice rang, bouncing of the trees. I shot to my feet with fright, readying my fists. Even Target and Fury stopped what they were doing to peer warily around them.

"HootHoot!" The branches rattled above and a silhouetted Pokemon glided down, landing sluggishly with a hop skip and a jump, the single foot clamping onto Fury's bow and gobbling down her leftovers without pausing for air. I gawked amazed that a wild Pokemon would come so close to an open fire, especially with a so obvious Pokemon trainer around. After she finished with Fury's she made her way to Target's, both Pokemon too stunned to move. Then after a second's deliberation she made a pass at Talon's share, snapping her beak angrily but the Pidgey blocked the way, flaring his own wings in a scare tactic.

"Don't even think about it you little..." But the threat fell flat on HootHoot. Her eyes flashed brightly and tackled the blind Talon aside, gulping it down frantically. Outraged, Talon lunged for the ravenous Pokemon and bludgeoning her head on. HootHoot squawked tumbling into a near by tree and hopping around dizzily. She glared cross-eyed at Talon, springing forward to devour his food yet again. The whole thing held me entranced. This time Talon ripped at HootHoot with his clawed feet until she was fainted on the ground.

Recovering from the surprise, I plucked one of the spare Pokeballs on my hair tie and tapped it on the unconscious Pokemon. It bounced in my hand but remained shut. When it signalled the successful capture. I rolled it in the dying light, the orange glare pooling on us. "I didn't know you had such a temper Talon," I said finally.

"That was mine!" he answered defensively.

"Hey, I understand. That's the way it was around my place, first in best dressed. I wonder why she wouldn't give up?" I released HootHoot from her Pokeball and revived her using a potion and set her own share of Pokemon Chow before her. While she shook off the effects I snapped a translator around her neck and asked why she was so hungry.

She looked at me suspiciously, finishing her meal before answering, eyes flicking around the forest. "Yesterday morning a boy was chasing me, he wouldn't give up. Every time I tried to rest he came at me with his Wartortle. I finally lost them just before and I haven't eaten in two days and now I'm still caught!"

Wartortle! That meant Tobias was around here somewhere, it made me just as cagey as her!

"Don't worry HootHoot. Topaz is a great trainer and you'll never be hungry again," Target squeaked enthusiastically, rubbing his round little tummy. "But now your part of the team, you need a name too."

"What if I don't want a new name?" she snapped, still no happier.

"Then you don't get one. HootHoot's fine with me." I reassured. "Anyway its time for bed."

"What if I don't want a bed time?" she demanded sulkily.

"Well too bad."

"Hang on," Fury snorted. "What do you mean? You're out on your own, you don't need a bedtime."

"I do if I have to get up early."

I recalled my Pokemon even the petulant HootHoot, and slipped into my sleeping bag with Fury. I thought about my first day as a trainer. I'm pretty good and I'm only going to get better I thought to myself. Also tomorrow I could fight my first Gymbadge.

Rewritten: 20/9/2003