“I hate my life,” said Karl.
“Puhsy!” exclaimed Iceduck, struggling as always to pronounce his species’ name - “Psyduck” - properly.
“Look at me!” said Karl.
Iceduck took a good look at Karl’s white hair, his square Pokéball medallion, his strange logo-free clothing, his pointed nose and wondered what exactly Karl was getting at.
“I’m too shy!” said Karl, dropping his voice to a whisper as he thought he saw someone walk past.
“Fetch!” agreed Nomak, his Farfetch’d.
Karl sighed. “I need to conquer these nerves, or we’ll be on this ship forever.”
Karl reached a decision. He looked up. He straightened himself. He put on a determined face. He stormed through the ship like a man possessed. He made his way relentlessly to the lifts and pressed the relevant buttons. Arriving at his destination, he pushed the door open with all his might, stamped into the room and pulled out a PokéBall, releasing an Unown shaped like a squiggle of some sort.
“FIX IT!!” he double-exclaimed, showing off his temporary bout of courage.
Nurse Marcia gave him an appraising look.
The wind was immediately taken out of Karl’s sails.
“This Unown…” said Karl. “It used to be shaped like an S. It got…broken, though. I was wondering if there was a way to fix it.”
Marcia took a look at the deformed Ess.
“You want me to restore this Pokémon’s shape, then…” she murmured.
“Yes,” said Karl.
A few more moments of silence passed.
“Or if you can make it into a K, I’d…”
He trailed away under Marcia’s shocked expression.
Nurse Marcia narrows her eyes at the rude Trainer who’s standing before her, forcing him to sweat under her withering glare for several seconds before pointing to the counter that’s in front of her. “I’ll need to get a better look at your Unown. Put it on the counter.”
Karl, feeling increasingly embarrassed about his initial outburst, immediately acquiesces to her demand. He plucks the levitating Unown S out of the air, and places it on top of the counter.
When the Unown is in her possession, the first thing that Marcia does is quickly examine it from all angles to check for any traces of shininess. Only after she’s convinced that Ess is a regular Unown without any time-freezing abilities—or worse still, personality-changing, wish-giving abilities—does she relax her hold on its body, and proceed to examine its contusions. As she runs her hand gingerly over one of the unnatural creases in the Unown S’s body, she raises her eyes to meet Karl’s. “How did this happen?”
“Er,” Karl falters for a moment, then gestures to his Farfetch’d, who is trying his best to look innocent. “Nomak here kinda…decided to use it for fencing practice.”
“Far,” Nomak boasts, figuring that since Karl’s let the cat out of the bag, there’s no need to be shy about his exploits.
“I didn’t ask about your Farfetch’d.” Marcia clarifies, “How could you, as a Trainer, allow your Pokemon to get injured like this?”
Karl explains, “I do try to keep Nomak out of trouble, but…” he sighs. “Believe it or not, he usually doesn’t listen to me.”
Marcia glances from the strutting Farfetch’d to the shy-looking Trainer and remarks, “I’d believe it. When did this happen?”
Karl speaks in a meek voice, “About three months ago.”
“Three months ago!?” Marcia exclaims incredulously. “Why didn’t you bring it to a Pokemon Center before now?”
Karl looks at his shoes. “I was afraid I might get yelled at. So…can you fix it?”
“Yes, I can fix it.” Marcia says, still shaking her head in disbelief. She picks up the S-shaped Unown with both hands, preparing to transport it into the treatment area of the Pokemon Center. Before leaving, she turns to Blizzard the Persian, who hasn’t said a word since entering the Pokemon Center, “I still don’t know why you came in here, but I’ll take care of you later. Injured Pokemon take priority.”
“<Very well,>” Blizzard responds. She is sitting on top of Sting the Tentacool, pinning him down to prevent him from lunging at Marcia’s Slowpoke. “<Take your time, caregiver. I would not be one to take your duties lightly.>”
Marcia stares at the Persian for a long moment, not at all certain of what she said. Finally, deciding she has more pressing matters to attend to, she just shrugs her shoulders in agreement, “Right.” She removes two Pokeballs from her belt, intending to recall Luthor and Parasite before taking Ess into the back room.
“CATWOMAN!” Luthor the Slowpoke abruptly bellows, having finally decided on the perfect way to address the Persian who he hasn’t seen in over a year. Caught off guard by his outburst, Marcia lowers the hand containing his Lure Ball.
“<Greetings, Luthor,>” Blizzard purrs, a hungry look in her eyes, “<it is pleasant seeing you again. I believe you still owe me a dinner.>”
“Do not trust her, Rogue!” Luthor bitterly cautions Marcia, not listening to Blizzard’s greeting at all. “Luthor made the mistake of trusting Catwoman once. Luthor even offered her a chance to join his army—and how did she thank him? By forming an army of her own! Catwoman is the most devious and cunning of villains. Not only has she convinced the brutish Killer Croc and antisocial Penguin to aid her in her misdeeds, she has even crossed continuities to recruit the traitorous Dr. Octopus to her side!”
“TentaCOOL!” Sting screams, enraged that Luthor has called him by his slave name. He claws rabidly at the wooden floor of the Pokemon Center with his tentacles, trying to pull himself out from underneath Blizzard so he can strangle Luthor.
Marcia never even entertains the notion that Luthor might be telling the truth. She presses the recall button on her Slowpoke’s Lure Ball and firmly states, “Luthor, it’s time for you to get some rest,” seeking to contain him before his delusional ranting sparks a fight.
A blast of Confusion sends the ball flying into a wall! Marcia stares at the Slowpoke in shock. Knowing what she knows about Luthor’s personality, she isn’t really surprised that he attacked her, but she is amazed that he was able to react so quickly.
Luthor’s lips curl into a slow smile of satisfaction. “Luthor anticipated your betrayal, and took the precaution of readying his psionic attack long before you reached for his Lure Ball,” the Slowpoke growls out in explanation. “Luthor is well aware of your deceitful nature, Rogue, and from the moment he met you, he vowed to remain vigilant. You may have gotten the better of Mystique, but Luthor shall not fall victim to the same mind games. Make no mistake about it, Luthor’s Psychic powers are dwarfed only by the potential of the power he will possess once he is fully evolved. If you cross him, Luthor will destroy you, just as he will destroy Catwoman and her pitiful assortment of minions.”
Marcia sighs, and walks over towards the wall to retrieve the Lure Ball.
Karl stands with his mouth hanging open, torn between feeling amazed by the fact that Luthor can talk, and being disturbed by his obvious psychosis. Nomak simply laughs derisively, thinking it stupid of Luthor to speak English when ideas can be expressed so much more succinctly in Poke-speak.
Cerberus the Dodrio lowers one of his long necks and speaks into Blizzard’s ear, “<White Lioness, mayhap we should ask the Slowpoke to join our army. Cerberus thinks he’s scrappy.>”
“COOL <no,> tent<hole!>” Still unable to extract his body from beneath Blizzard, Sting has to settle for flailing his tentacles around in fury.
“FARF!” Nomak chimes, as much enraged by the suggestion as Sting is. He cannot fathom why Cerberus is thinking of recruiting Luthor, when he is so obviously superior to the Slowpoke in every way. When Blizzard, Sting, Avalanche, and Cerberus all turn to stare at him, he makes a big show of jabbing at the air with his leek, and squawks out as ferocious a battle cry as a Farfetch’d can squawk. “Feehh!”
“Persian.” Blizzard sizes up the Wild Duck Pokemon. “<Cerberus, it was you who suggested we seek out allies within the walls of this facility. Would you consider this diminutive creature to be a potential asset?>”
Cerberus stares down his three beaks at the smaller bird. “<Aye, Farfetch’d have their place on the battlefield.>”
Nomak puffs out his chest in pride.
The Dodrio continues, “<In Cerberus’ experience, they make excellent cannon fodder.>”
Nomak sputters and begins to choke violently. Iceduck the Psyduck rushes to his aid, slapping Nomak on the back until he dislodges the spittle from the Farfetch’d’s throat.
“DR. OCTOPUS!” bellows the Slowpoke on Marcia’s stretcher, addressing the furious Tentacool still being restrained by Blizzard the Persian, “By opting to gurgle nonsensically in your native tongue as opposed to answering the question that Luthor posed to you earlier, Luthor has deduced that you have not been acting as a spy for Luthor’s army…”
Sting shouts, “<No> TENT, <Slowpoke!>”
“…but have indeed betrayed Luthor’s cause. As such, Luthor shall now punish you for your traitorous deeds - prepare to…” Luthor’s rant is cut short when a beam of red light sucks him into a Lure Ball in Nurse Marcia’s left hand. A second red beam transfers the trembling Paras who was hiding behind Luthor into a Fast Ball in Nurse Marcia’s right hand. The three Pokeball slots on her belt occupied, she deposits the two Pokeballs in the pouch where she keeps her medical supplies.
The angry Slowpoke contained, Nurse Marcia grabs the deformed Unown floating beside her. She’s about to take it to the treatment area of the Pokemon Center, when she gets an idea. She tells the only other human standing in the room, “You look like a typical Pokemon Trainer, what with the white hair…”
Surprised that someone seems to be addressing him, Karl asks, “Who, me?”
“Do you SEE anyone else with white hair in this Pokemon Center?”
Karl points at Blizzard. “That Persian has white hair.”
“Does that Persian LOOK like a typical Pokemon Trainer?”
“Hmm…” Karl pauses to think about it.
“Ugh. ‘No’. The answer I’m looking for is ‘no’.” Marcia sighs. “Look, forget about who has white hair. I just wanted to ask you if you can understand Pokéspeak.”
“I sure can!!” Karl double-exclaims, happy that he might be of some use to someone.
“Good.” Nurse Marcia points at the Tentacool pinned under the Persian that Karl pointed at earlier, “While I treat your Unown, can you please find out what that Tentacool knows about the Slowpoke I just recalled? I’m trying to cure Luthor of his delusions, so I’d like as much information about him as I can get.”
Nurse Marcia left the room, leaving Karl alone with the quartet of strange Pokémon.
“Hi,” he said, greeting Sting the Tentacool. “My name’s Karl.”
“Tenta tent,” said Tentacool condescendingly.
Karl was speechless. He opened his mouth a few times, but couldn’t get any words out for several seconds.
“Tent tenta COOL?”
“You swore at me! Those are really bad words.”
“I mean, I assumed you and that Slowpoke were enemies or something,” said Karl sulkily. “But what have I ev-“
“COOL!” exclaimed Sting. “Tenta tent cool coola tent!”
“At least he speaks politely,” said Karl, who’d not picked up on Luthor’s insanity.
“Tent!” snorted Sting. “Cool tenta tent tent coolta cool, tent cool cool.”
“Actually, I thought he was perfectly pleasant!” exclaimed Karl hotly. “And anyway, how can you talk about Slowpoke that way when you’re so foul-mouthed.
“Fetch,” whispered Nomak, making a clever pun based on the word “fowl”.
“Pur,” purred Blizzard softly. “Persian sian, purrrr.”
Karl smiled. He preferred this Pokémon’s softer tone, despite being rather alarmed by her words.
“Look,” said Karl, and this time he looked at Avalanche and Cerberus as well. “All I want is to know what’s going on between you lot and that Slowpoke.”
“Drio?” asked Cerberus enquiringly.
“Otherwise the nurse will be annoyed with me,” said Karl, as though of all the things in the world, he knew that this specific fact was a constant, never inaccurate.
“Why can’t you just TELL me?” snapped Karl. “I mean, why is it so important to you that I’m kept in the dark? I don’t want to get too involved in this. I just want to help the nurse out.”
“Purr,” breathed Blizzard. She found this boy quite amusing. He was quite flustered around the nurse, as though he couldn’t deal with a member of the same species, but left in a room full of Pokémon - who were, of course, much more of a threat to his well-being than the nurse was - he confidently demanded answers. She reached a decision, and jumped down from atop Sting, keeping her eyes on Karl as she approached him.
Karl, not understanding the body language of a Pokémon not owned by a trainer, followed his instincts.
“Iceduck! Use your Ice Beam!”
Iceduck released a beam of ice, hitting Blizzard’s face. Both Karl and Iceduck realised that they’d made a huge error of judgement as they spotted the look on Avalanche’s face.
“GRAAAAAN!!!” Avalanche pauses to let out a reverberating roar before lunging at Karl, mouth open and fangs exposed.
“Oh no…” His first glimpse inside the maw of the advancing Tyranitar leaves Karl in a state similar to paralysis, but when the sulfuric stench of the Pokemon’s breath permeates his nostrils, the sensation is enough to prompt him to action. With speed that is nearly unreasonable, he grabs his own Pokemon—first Iceduck, and then Nomak—and dives to one side, narrowly avoiding the snapping jaws. He scrambles across the floor and ducks behind the Nurse’s Station; flattening himself against the back wall and hoping the four-foot-tall counter will prove to be a suitable barricade against the beast.
“Graan!” Avalanche grumbles in annoyance, stopping short in front of the counter. Too lazy to step over the obstacle, and unable to easily reach across it, he opts for completely different plan of attack, and fires a Flamethrower at Karl’s head.
“You’ve gotta be—” Karl presses his Pokemon to the ground, barely managing to duck the powerful stream of flames. The flames dance out of existence a few inches above Karl’s body, narrowly avoiding anything combustible, but still making him unbearably hot. The second that Avalanche stops for breath, Karl jumps to his feet, and begins pounding frantically on the door leading to the treatment area. “HELP! HELLLP!!!”
From her work station inside the treatment area, Nurse Marcia hears the pounding, the shouting, and the roars that follow. Without taking her eyes off of the Unown that she’s reshaping, the blue haired nurse grouses, “I gave that Trainer the simplest job in the world, and he’s already asking for help. What’s the matter with kids these days?” Disgusted by Karl’s ineptitude, Marcia puts down her pair of pliers, reaches into a nearby jar of cotton balls, selects two puffs, and sticks them in her ears. “If I can’t hear it, it isn’t happening.”
Karl continues to pound on the door for another five seconds, hope fading as help fails to arrive. Hearing the sound of movement behind him, he turns to brace for another wave of attacks. As Avalanche prepares to exhale another blast of flames, Karl asks weakly, “Please don’t kill me.”
“Pur.” Blizzard is rubbing at her cheek with one forepaw, trying to brush the ice crystals from her fur. At the same time, she is monitoring the unfolding battle with the detached interest of a child who’s watching a particularly boring television program. After listening to Karl’s plea, she turns to her Tyranitar companion, “<Avalanche, that will suffice. Cease and desist.>”
“Ran,” Avalanche grunts. He’s annoyed that Blizzard is ordering him around, but figures that as long as she’s unharmed, there’s really no reason for him to continue to bully Karl. He shoots the Trainer a dirty look, and sits down on the floor.
Karl remains in his hiding spot, heart beating rapidly. He stares at the opposing Pokemon unblinkingly, unsure of what their next move will be.
“Persian,” Blizzard says after a few seconds, “<I like this human. He is courageous, yet not too proud to beg for his life. He has moxie, but he knows his place. I propose that we make him an honorary member of the Brotherhood.>”
“Cool <that> tent, tenta!” Sting roars. “<The Brotherhood has too many> cool<ing members already! You let that> tacool <Dodrio join, and now any> tent <we score has to be split four> cool<ing ways. If *this*> ta coolta <joins, we’ll be> cool<ed even worse, so> cool <that> tent, <and OFF the> tenta coolta <before he> tent<s up our bottom> cool<ing line!>”
“Purr.” Blizzard responds calmly, “<Sting, you are being rash. Please contain your emotions, and kindly consider both sides of the issue before making your decision.>”
Sting thrashes around, enraged. “COOL! <You can’t let every> tenta tentcool <we meet join the Brotherhood! We’ll lose our mystique!>” Realizing that Blizzard isn’t listening to him, Sting balls the tips of his tentacles in utter frustration. “Cool<ing> tent…<fine, let’s hear your> coolta <argument.>”
Blizzard nods politely. “Shan. <I have suggested that we allow this human to join our party. You have objected. I am double your size and quadruple your level. You are vulnerable to my Thunderbolt attack.>”
Sting’s eyes are suddenly the size of dinner plates. A full minute of silence passes before they slowly begin to narrow again. “Tent <you.>” He mutters, “<Do whatever the> cool <you want, I’m the> coolta <treasurer, anyway.>”
A hesitant voice pipes up from behind the Nurse’s Station. “Er…so…you’re NOT going to kill me?” Karl thinks this point deserves clarification.
“<Do not worry, human.>” Blizzard gazes at him through glistening blue eyes. “<Now that you are officially part of the Brotherhood, you shall be granted immunity. None in this room shall harm you.>”
“What about people in other parts of the Pokemon Center?” Karl gestures to the door behind him. “That nurse is the one I’m really worried about.” He ponders, “Actually, I think she’ll spare me if you guys can just tell me a little bit about her Slowpoke. What do you say?”
Blizzard smiles. “<Naturally, you shall be privy to such knowledge, as you are now a member of our in-group.>”
“Member of…” Karl repeats, his eyes taking on a glassy look as the reality of his situation suddenly dawns on him. “Oh my god…”
The four wild Pokemon exchange looks, wondering if Karl is about to be sick.
“Oh my god,” Karl dances excitedly, “I’m a member of a group again! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been considered a member of a group?”
The four Pokemon shake their heads.
“It’s been a long time!” Karl states emphatically. “Oh, I’ve encountered groups—the Search Party for Smasher, the Unown Hunters—but none of those groups ever invited me to join them. But now! I’m part of a group again! I’m a functional, interacting member of society again!”
Nomak quietly murmurs, “Fetch,” thinking that if a group intended for Pokemon is the only group that Karl can get into, Karl is probably less functional than he thinks he is.
“I’m a member of a group again! I have people to travel with again! I’m—oh no…” Karl’s eyes suddenly widen in terror. “I’m going to become a zombie again!!”
“<Zombie?!?>” A loud voice booms from Cerberus’ middle beak as the Dodrio uses his left and right heads to cross himself. “<By Lugia’s wings—Cerberus likes not the sound of that! Warrior though he may be, this Earth-Bird does not wish to tangle with the occult!>”
Karl cuts in quickly, “Oh, but I didn’t mean that literally. See, it’s just that the last time I traveled with a large group, I lost control of my actions for a while—”
“<Then travel with us you shall not.>” Blizzard sniffs. “<We have no desire to deal with zombies.>”
“Wait, you don’t understand!” Karl’s face falls. This is his chance to join a group, and he’s blowing it! “I—”
“Purr,” Blizzard lies down on the floor and begins to groom herself. “<This is an unfortunate turn of events. After accepting you as my underling, I had intended to order you to brush the dander out my undercoat. However, I do not wish to see my fur tainted by the hands of the undead.>”
Karl protests hotly. “But I’m NOT—eww, that sounds really gross.”
Blizzard is clearly offended. “<Ridiculous child, better men than you have risked their lives for a chance to touch my coat. If you cannot comprehend the value of my offer, then you clearly are not fit to join the Brotherhood.>”
“You know…” Karl scratches his head, having second thoughts about joining the Brotherhood by this point, “…maybe that’s for the best.”
Nomak and Iceduck both quack in agreement, approving of their Trainer’s choice. The Brotherhood members simply shrug.
Glad that the wild Pokemon haven’t attacked him for refusing to join their group, Karl decides to press his luck. “So, for old time’s sake, do you think you can tell me about that Slowpoke?”
Blizzard and her cohorts huddle briefly. After a few minutes of deliberation they reach a decision, and Sting toddles over to Karl, one tentacle extended expectantly. “<Sure, we’ll talk,> ‘Cool. <Fee for non-members is $12.95 a minute.>”