My breath caught in my throat. I stepped out of the gym, looked at the building, then went back inside. Yup. Not crazy.
The gym was bigger on the inside. It went up at least four stories, but the outside suggested it was no more than twelve feet high inside. Was I about to travel in time, as well as dimension?
While I admired the intense change of scale, a man approached me. He was middle aged, but his hair was completely white. He wore sunglasses indoors, as well as a full suit: white suitcoat with black slacks.
“Yo, Champ in the Making!”
“You’re so flattering,” I said, still staring up, wondering. “I bet you say that to all the pretty girls.”
“You got me,” he said, chuckling. “But if it makes you feel any better, I think there is a champion inside all of us.”
Sure, I thought. Like Mom and her boyfriend. They’re real champions, I’ll bet.
“So,” I said, pulling my thoughts away from the impossible interior dimensions, the platforms overhead, and the circling birds near the skylights. “Who are you?”
“Me?” he asked, innocently. “I’m your coach. I’m here to give you some hints about what you’re up against.”
“Why would they allow someone like you inside the gym if you’re working against them?”
“Hush now. Don’t give me away.”
He smiled, as if privy to some inside joke–but there was almost a sense of fear in his brow. Maybe the sunglasses concealed his true intentions.
“Anyway,” he said, breaking the awkward silence, “You should know that flying has advantages over grass and bug-types. But they’re weak to Electricity–”
“And Rocks,” I interrupted.
“Very good,” he said, a smile spanning his face. “I don’t think you’ll have much trouble then.”
I felt the fluttering in my stomach, the fear of failure looming–
“Scratch that,” he continued. “You’ll be positively smashing.”
Despite being a stranger, his words motivated me. The fear abated, and I nodded and smiled at him, then stepped forward to the elevator.
As soon as the computer registered my weight, and the weight of Quartza, the elevator shot towards the heavens.
The scaffolding, a sorry excuse for sturdy footing, lead to the gym leader, who danced on a platform in the distance. How pretentious. It couldn’t just be a flat room and a guy at a desk who takes challenges according to his calendar?
Whatever. I stepped forward, determined to beat the leader and his two lackeys that stood in my way.
Their Pidgey and Spearow fell to Quartza’s massive thrown rocks.
It was weird to watch, but when I ordered Quartza to use rock throw, she would hold out a hand and it would reshape, forming a ball, then her fingers would form around the ball and she’d throw it–just like that. Rock turning to liquid, grinding and reshaping, then bam! She has a basketball-sized rock to throw.
And her aim was spot on today. The birds fell to the dirt floor far below, landing with a thud and splat.
I had to tell myself that I was only doing this to get to the Pokemon League. Every Pokemon I killed had to be mourned.
I took a moment with each trainer, but they didn’t have the same reverence that I did. I left them alone, hoping to have my badge by the end of the day, so I could forget about everything that had happened. The murder tree, the stupid tourist trap ruins, the creepy archaeologist and his stupid clipboard, and finally, the physics-defying Pokemon Gym. I wanted that stupid badge.
“Hiya,” said the leader. “I’m Falkner.”
“I know. It said on the door.”
“I’m going to show the world the power of bird Pokemon.”
I looked Falkner over. How old was he? 15?
“They say that you can clip a bird’s wings with a jolt of electricity–”
“And they would be right.”
“–but I’m going to prove that they can’t! I’m Falkner and–”
“You’re weird. How long has it been since you’ve had a decent meal?”
I may have been trying to intimidate him, but really, he seemed a bit… out of touch with reality. Call it a moment of weakness.
“Prepare to battle!” he cried, throwing a Pokeball straight up, where it released a Pidgey who fluttered in place for a moment before landing on Falkner’s extended arm.
I stepped aside and let Quartza hop to the center of the platform.
“Pidgey! Use sand-attack!”
The Pidgey dove off Falkner’s arm, flipping up to hover just in front of Quartza, where it kicked up a bunch of sand right into Quartza’s eyes.
“You little cheating twerp!” I said, hoping Quartza wouldn’t wander around blindly until she found the edge of the platform and a hundred-foot plummet. “Quartza, try a rock throw.”
To my surprise, Quartza was able to zero in on Pidgey’s mocking flapping feather beak and huck a boulder at it.
Down, down, down, the bird fell.
But when I looked up, Falkner already had his Pidgeotto out and standing next to him. Pidgeotto were quite a bit bigger than Pidgey, and they had these cool feathers on their foreheads. It almost felt bad to hurt it.
“Pidgeotto, use gust.”
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked, watching the blast of air hit Quartza. She looked around as if to say, “Funny place for a gentle breeze round my nethers.” and I ordered her to use rock throw again.
The rock struck the Pidgeotto square in the chest, knocking it off the platform. Both Falkner and I ran to the edge of the platform and looked down, but the Pidgeotto flew back up. Battered, bloody, and bruised, but better able to abandon alliteration–err, its shit was harmed, but alive.
“We can still fly!” cheered Falkner.
“Are you high?”
“The wind is finally with us! Pidgeotto! Use gust!”
Once again, gust was not very effective. I no longer felt bad about killing this remarkable bird–I was putting it out of its misery, dealing with this psychotic gym leader.
Like its predecessors, the Pidgeotto fell to a bone-shattering death.
“Aw,” sobbed Falkner. “My dad’s cherished bird Pokemon…”
“What?!” I asked. “You let me kill your dad’s Pokemon? What’s wrong with you?”
“Well,” he said, ignoring me. “I guess you earned it. Here’s your Zephyr Badge!”
He handed me a little pin.
“And take this! It’s a TM. Roost.”
He handed me a little device.
“And I suggest you tackle the other gyms as well. Head to Azalea Town!”
“Shut up. Come on Quartza.”
Quartza bounced along, proud of her success.