We were in Gary's car on the way to Celadon City. Kerra was bent over his Paras clan, talking to them in a low voice I couldn't hear. Terri was leaning out of the car door to see how many different leaves she could pull off of nearby trees - a typically dangerous and stupid hobby for her. Anita was singing loudly, and kind of off-key, as if nobody else was around. Maybe that was why I couldn't pick out what Kerra was saying.
As for me, I had the Pokemon book Gary gave me out on my lap, and was flicking through the pages. I knew most of the Pokemon in it by now, either through seeing them or through reading the book. I wasn't an expert yet, but I wanted to prove that I could be good at this. To prove to my father I could have another career, but more for myself.
My concentration, already shaky, was completely shot when Terri suddenly clambered over into the front seat and took up the song with Anita, singing at the top of her lungs.
"You two sound like a coupla howling Growlithe," yelled Kerra, trying to make himself heard.
I didn't recognise what they were singing. Kerra shouted to me that it was an old trainer's song.
"And if it should happeeeeeeeeen," howled Anita.
"If it should happeeeeen," echoed Terri.
"We'll know greatest poweeeeeer!"
"Know greatest poweeeer!"
"It's as old as the hills."
"It's as old as the trees."
"It's in the reeeeeeeach ooooof yooooooou aaaaaaaaand MEEEEEEE!"
"AGH, SHUT UP!" roared Kerra, as they crescendoed at the end of the song.
The girls grinned, and I held my head. "Psy, psyduck," I said, "you're giving me a headache."
"Please accept my humble apologies," said Terri, leaning over the seat and taking both my hands in hers, "it would... mean so much to me... if you could ever forgive me for the appalling evil I have wrought."
"Gee, Terri, don't strain your vocabulary," said Kerra.
"You're creeping me out," I said.
"WOAH!" screamed Anita, and the car suddenly screeched to an abrupt and awkward halt. We were all jolted forward, especially Terri, who was not even in a seat, let alone buckled in. She went flying over the front windscreen and fell over the bonnet.
The reason for our sudden stop was obvious; a girl on a Ponyta had galloped up and pulled back on the reins just in front of us.
"What's the big idea?" snapped Kerra, quickly scanning his Paras/ect for damage before scrambling out of his seat to check Terri. I followed suit, and we rolled Terri onto her back. She groaned.
"She's alive," he said in relief.
Anita looked at her calmly. "Guess she jus' hit her head too hard."
"Well, that shouldn't do much damage then," grinned Kerra.
"I heard that," she mumbled.
The Ponyta neighed, drawing our attention back to the girl who was responsible.
"You MANIAC," fumed Kerra, "you shouldn't be allowed to ride if y..."
He trailed off as the girl dismounted. We could see something was wrong; her Ponyta looked exhausted and haggard, and the horse Pokemon usually have very good stamina. The girl herself was wide-eyed and kept glancing behind her. She swiftly recalled Ponyta into a ball and jumped over the car's door to land on the seat by me!
"What are you-" began Kerra, but she shushed him.
"Please," she said, breathing heavily, "please, get her back in this car, and drive, drive, hurry."
Terri groaned again but managed to slither (that's the best word I can find) over the dashboard into the front seat. Anita floored the accelerator and the car took up speed. The new girl pointed behind us, and I could make out a figure on a motorbike.
After we were a safe distance, Anita pulled over and raised an eyebrow at the girl over her sunglasses. The girl patted one of Kerra's Paras and sighed.
"I should explain probably," she said, looking sad. "Ponyta and I were trying to escape from a member of Team Rocket. He wanted to steal my Pokemon."
"If you had Pokemon worthy of being stolen, why didn't you use them to fight him?"
"I tried this of course," she said, and now that she was breathing more calmly I could pick out some sort of accent. "But is hard, my Pokemon are not for fighting very much. And I send out my Wigglytuff - bang, is shot dead."
"You're kidding!" I sputtered, "that's awful!... a Wigglytuff... that's a rare Pokemon, why would they want to kill it?"
"I am not knowing. But man said he was not messing around. So I got Ponyta and ran away fast."
"But how could you outrun him? He was on a motorbike! You didn't have a chance!"
"Ah, is true, but my Ponyta is a fast one."
"It'd have to be."
Terri, regaining sense, joined in the conversation. "No way can a Ponyta be faster."
"Well, you saw was not very much faster. But my Ponyta is the fastest in the world!"
"Really," said Kerra, sceptical.
"I should introduce myself now," she said, undaunted, "I am Lee. I was winner of the Pokemon League Speed Tournament and Laramie Ranch race two years in a row, but last year I had to stop."
"You're a big star!" said Terri, eyes sparkling. "I think I've seen you on TV! But your hair was shorter, wasn't it?"
Lee pushed back her hair. It was long and dark and in a slightly tangled braid. She sighed a little. "My parents was wishing I would become a musician instead. I like it too, I suppose... I am having to respect my parents' wishes."
"Unlike some people," said Kerra, nudging me in the ribs.
"That really sucks," said Terri, "you don't wanna be a musician, do you? I mean, whadda letdown from racing!"
"So what sort of Pokemon do you have, Lee?"
"Well... I had to be keeping my Ponyta of course. I can show you my others if you would like to see. That Wigglytuff was a new one, I had not trained it yet."
"You could show a *little* more remorse."
"I am not caring. It is not fast enough, and its song made me tired."
"That's a terrible attitude to have!"
"No use crying over spilt water."
"Let's see your Pokemon," interjected Terri, before Lee could become any more confused.
"My musical stars," she said, and from the bag she carried, pulled out about ten Pokeballs.
"I thought you could only have six Pokemon at once."
"I have collecting license. I got special case. Anyway, have a look."
Some materialised in the car, some outside and some in the air. Kerra grinned and said, "okay, Aurora, let's see if you've learned anything. Who's that Pokemon?"
"Umm, okay. There's a Pidgeotto, a Butterfree, a Magnemite... that one's a Dodrio... Ma...ma something. The four-armed one. Chansey. Squirtle. Hey cool, a Cubone. Poliwag. Umm, I dunno that one."
"That's a Marril," said Lee, "its tail is pretty cool, right."
"Lots of these Pokemon aren't all that fast," said Kerra, "why d'you have them then?"
"They have music talent."
Anita looked over her seat and asked, "they're real nice hon, but we gotta be goin' pretty soon if we wanna reach Celadon before dark."
Lee's face brightened. "You are to be going to Celadon? I go there too!"
"Well then, recall your Pokemon and we'll be headin' off."
And so, we found ourselves with a new travelling partner.
We didn't make it to Celadon by dark. In fact, we got lost and had to park the car in the middle of nowhere to set up camp. As Vulpix was lighting a fire, I noticed Kerra stiffen across from me. I turned in the direction he was looking. Problem identified.
Two teenagers, one male, one female, both with telltale red "R"s imprinted on their chests. They were standing watching us. They didn't seem to be taking many pains to keep hidden. Once they could tell that we knew they were there, they stepped forward and bowed, introducing themselves.
"To introduce the world to devastation!"
"Inspiring fear for all in this nation!"
"Denouncing weaknesses like truth and love!"
"Extending our reach beyond the stars above!"
"Team Rocket, ruling the world through Pokemon!"
"Dedicated to the defeat of right from wrong!"
Lee stood up and clutched her bag protectively. "I am not letting you take mine! You try but you will not be getting them!"
Billie smiled patronisingly. "Actually, we don't wanna waste time stealing your stupid Pokemon. We are here for the rare and valuable Pokemon."
Kidd scowled. "Just give it to us and save yourselves some grief. Saffron's Dojo leader gave it to you. You can't keep secrets from the mighty Team Rocket!"
Terri had been glowering silently through this, but now her eyes took on that gleam they got when she was plotting something.
"Oh, that Pokemon!" she said, "well, it's really a shame to have to let you have it... but we have no other Pokemon on us, except this low-level Vulpix and these Paras. I... I wouldn't want to have to battle someone as threatening as Team Rocket."
"Good attitude," said Billie calmly, "of course we would obliterate you weaklings in a battle. Now give me the Pokemon, please."
Terri sighed, fumbled in her backpack and pulled out a Pokeball. Billie and Kidd's eyes lit up and they snatched it from her eagerly.
"How PERFECT!" squealed Billie, "what saps, they put up no fight at all!"
Kidd pressed the button on the Pokeball. All of us watched it cautiously, wondering what Terri was plotting. We all knew that the real rare Pokemon was in my bag.
We all showed amazing restraint, keeping our faces perfectly straight, as a Magikarp appeared and started flopping around on the ground.
"You little creep," seethed Kidd, "you thought you could trick us, eh?"
"What do you mean, sir?" asked Terri, no outward sign of that she was lying, "that is the only Pokemon we have other than what you see here. So naturally I assumed you must have been talking about that."
"You guys aren't Pokemon trainers?" asked Billie, suspiciously.
"Why did that other girl say she wouldn't let us have her Pokemon then?"
"The Paras are belonging to me," said Lee hurriedly, "my Pokeballs for them are in this bag."
Billie and Kidd looked us over, scepticism written all over their faces, but must have decided we looked too sweet and innocent - hah - to be tricking them.
"Sorry for the inconvenience," said Kidd. Billie smacked him and the two started walking off through the woods, arguing loudly.
"What are you apologising for?! We're evil!"
"But my mother said I should have good manners in awkward situations."
"What woulda been better was if we beat them all up."
"What good would that do?"
"I feel like pounding someone."
"Don't look at me."
"Ehh, well, that was a false lead. What should we try next?"
"Not like Butch to give us a false lead..."
"D'you think he did it on purpose?"
After their voices had completely faded, we all looked at each other and started laughing.
"Good cover," said Anita.
"We coulda just fought," said Kerra, "we woulda thrashed 'em."
"You got your Leafstone," said Terri, "why d'you want to keep fighting?"
"Hey, when ARE you gonna evolve your Weepinbell?"
He looked at the sky. The sun had set, and the sky was gradually dropping in shades of grey.
"When it's less cold," he said, "when the sun is shining, and the next warm patch has arrived."
"Eee," said Terri happily, "that's a poetic statement! Our Kerra is a poet!"
He raised an eyebrow at her.
Within five seconds, the two were arguing madly again, as usual with no hostility. I think it was like a hobby for them.
We arrived in Celadon the next morning. Terri, being the only early riser among us, still had more authority than all the rest of us (if only one person wants to get up and get going, they won't stop being annoying until everyone else is up and grumpy). My Farfetch'd flew up high to find the way out of the forest and showed us where to go.
We were driving down the main street when Kerra said, "stop the car. I'm getting out."
Anita obliged, and Kerra climbed over Lee to get out. His Paras and Parasect jumped out after him. "Aurora, can I have the Pokeball? I'm going straight to Celadon Gym. You can meet me there later today after you've checked into the Pokemon Center, okay? I can't wait any longer."
I tossed him the Pokeball and with a wave, he ran off down the street. Anita took off again, finding her way to the Pokemon Center with no effort. I wondered where in Celadon she lived. She never said much, so I didn't like to ask her.
Terri and I got out of the car to go to the Center, but Lee stayed in.
"My family is living in Celadon too," said Lee, "I will be going to visit them. So I will see you later."
They left. We turned into the Center, ready for something new to start.