“What happened?” Calvin looked down at me and my mankey with a bewildered expression.
My heart was still hammering in my chest but I looked up at him and exhaled a trail of smoke from my nose. “I caught a pokemon,” I said coolly, then glanced at the young boy beside him. “Who’s this?”
“Oh, this is – “
“I’m Ben,” the boy interrupted. “I’m a bug catcher. I’ve been hunting a pinsir that’s been terrorizing this area for the last month. If you see him, find me and tell me. Do not catch him, he’s mine. Understand?” He glared at Princess as he spoke.
I looked up at the child talking like he was an adult with raised eyebrows. “Pinsir? Big bones sticking out of his head?” I asked, and started to repack my spilled backpack.
“You’ve seen him?” He took a step closer and clenched his fist. “Which way did he go?” I gripped a potion and clicked the newly filled PokeBall on my belt. The broken pinser appeared between us and Ben fell to his knees. Tears welled in his eyes and his face grew dark. “What have you done?”
I sprayed the pokemon with the healing mist and its horrible mouth began to reconstruct itself with the clicking of bone and the squelching of meat. “He attacked me while I was… pissing. It was either that or let him die.”
“Fucking bitch…” he said under his breath.
I stopped spraying. “Excuse me? The fuck did you call me, you little asshole?”
Calvin put a hand on my shoulder but I shook it off. “He’s been searching for months Priss, maybe you guys could trade.”
The boy’s eyes darted up to mine, hopeful. “I breed beedrill,” he clicked his own PokeBall and the humming wings of an insect the size of my torso buzzed loudly. “I have many different breeds available. If you value speed,” He motioned to the giant red eyed bug floating next to him, its mandibles clicked and its thin front arms ended in sharp spears of bone. “Yellowjacket here is unmatched.”
My eyes were like two slits of hate and I continued healing my pinsir. “I don’t want your bug," I said, and Princess fidgeted on my shoulder. I ran a hand over Pinsir’s hard plates and smiled, if nothing else, he was hideously intimidating.
“That’s not fair!” I could feel the boy’s rage radiating off him, if he wasn’t a literal child, I might have been worried.
“Life isn’t fair, kid, better get used to it now.”
“Stop. Calling. Me. Kid.” He was shaking and a tear rolled down his cheek. “I challenge you to a battle. Winner gets to keep a pokemon of their choice from the loser.”
“That’s illegal,” Calvin said, horrified.
“Deal,” I said, and stood to face the little bastard.
“Priss, you can’t!” Calvin pleaded but I had already made up my mind.
I made sure my pokemon were fully healed and walked back to our campsite. The boy’s mood had drastically improved. “Standard six, no items, no do-overs, one vs one only.” He stopped in the clearing and held out his hand. I shook it, then stretched my neck and arms.
Calvin came close. He hugged me and I arched my back, not returning the weird gesture. “Good luck, Priss,” he said, and his hand brushed my upper ass cheek.
I wriggled out of his arms, “Not the time man,” I said and glared at him side-eyed.
“Yellowjacket! Fury attack!” Ben yelled, and the battle began.
I grabbed Champ’s ball and flung it out into the campsite. He appeared flexing and stretching his fully healed hand before narrowly diving out of the way of an attack I didn’t even register. Yellowjacket moved like lightning, and Champ continued his dive into a roll as a second stabbing lunge barely swooped behind him.
Champ bounced to his feet and swung his broad fists through the dust of the dive bombing bug, unable to land even a glancing blow. The assault continued and blood trickled down his side and arms. Small criss-crossing cuts began covering more and more of his body with every pass of the yellow monster. “Stop punching where he is and punch where he’s going to be!” I said frustrated. Champ was tiring quickly but he nodded and dug his feet into the hard dirt. Another flash of yellow streaked into the dust cloud and my heart soared as a heavy impact silenced the buzzing wings.
Champ grunted and the hum returned as the dust settled. One of the Bedrills wings was broken, the other vibrated furiously as the bug tried to free its bone spear from the chest of my pokemon. Champ was lying on his back, propped up by the tip of the spear impaling him. He gripped the spear with both hands. “Ma!” He yelled and snapped the bone spike of the flailing bug before passing out.
I recalled champ and released my furry ball of fists who was airborne before I even fully pressed the button. “Yellowjacket! Parting gift,” Ben yelled. The bedrill couldn’t escape without the use of one wing and the two were quickly a rolling ball of flailing fists and wings. Mankey smashed savagely against the bug’s hard outer shell and the fight was over before it had begun. Mankey climbed off the still twitching Beedrill but the bug had repeatedly stung him with a vicious curved stinger protruding from the end of its abdomen.
Mankey stumbled and shook his body, as if trying to clear his head. “What’s wrong buddy…” I asked nervously.
Ben laughed, a bit too cruelly for someone so young, and returned his pokemon. “Yellowjacket also carries the most potent poison. You may have defeated him, but he took your two strongest pokemon with him.” The kid laughed again and my blood boiled. “Weedle, your next.” A small worm with a bone spike on his head crawled out of the ether and looked around for his target.
Mankey blinked and fell to his hands and knees. He looked so different than he had fighting the pinsir, then I remembered the rage in his eyes. “You hear that buddy? He’s laughing at you!” Mankey’s tail witched and his eyes narrowed at the boy.
Ben swallowed and stopped laughing. “Weedle string shot!” A spray of thick goopy white ropes launched from the little bug’s mouth but Mankey was already flipping through the air and the jet of fluid landed instead across my foot.
“Ew!” I said and tried to pull my foot away, but the liquid had hardened into thick webbing that held fast to the dirt of the ground beneath. Princess hopped off my shoulder and her beak easily severed the hardening strands. When I looked up the boy’s face was white. His weedle was a brown smear of twitching legs. Mankey had moved on from the dying bug and was now charging the dumbfounded Ben. I fumbled with Mankey’s PokeBall but he collapsed about three feet from the terrified boy as he succumbed to the poison.
I recalled him and we both threw out our next pokemon. His was green, mine was brown. They circled each other like old enemies, neither making the first move. I had never seen his pokemon before. It had an armored raptor-like head that snapped out at my pinsir. An emerald green carapace covered its entire bipedal body from head, down to its three-taloned toes. Instead of arms sprouting from its shoulders hung two razor sharp scythes of ivory bone. Pinsir kept his body bent towards his opponent, snapping his bone scissors in warning. The green brute flapped its insectoid wings lazily.
“Scyther, Quick attack!” Ben screamed and the green pokemon dashed in, propelled by its wings, scythe blades turned horizontal.
“Pinsir!” I yelled, but didn’t actually know what my new pokemon was capable of. Pinsir pivoted but the scyther was too fast and the bone scythe sliced cleanly through Pinsir’s long wrist. The stump left behind spurted a gout of blood. “Defend yourself!” I yelled and Pincer planted his feet, squatted, and his armored plates gleamed in the morning sun. “The fuck…”
“Fury cutter! Take his other hand!”
“Focus Pinsir! Use your…” I used my arms to make chopping motions above my head. Pinsir clenched his remaining claw and squatted deeper, shaking and chittering in place as the scyther’s long blades came in with deadly accuracy, severing his other arm at the elbow. “Do something!” I screamed but Syther’s onslaught continued and my pokemon refused to move.
Scyther’s blades collided with Pincir’s hard plates but my pokemon didn’t budge a single inch. His chittering slowly grew louder and I gripped his PokeBall, ready to recall him as soon as his armor was breached.
Ben was laughing again. “Strong pokemon don’t obey weak masters. You might as well hand him over now.”
I sighed and raised Pinsir’s PokeBall but his eyes locked with mine and I understood. He wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t ignoring me. He was waiting.
“He’s lost a lot of blood Priss, pull him out,” Calvin said, but I made a cutting motion with my hand, eyes still locked on my pokemon.
I watched as Syther’s blades bounced off Pinsir as if he were made of stone. The loud hollow knocks of bone against carapace echoed through the trees and I held my breath.
“Finish him Syther, slash, now!”
Scyther pulled back, winding up a heavy telegraphed swipe. Pinsir suddenly lunged forward with terrible speed and caught the scyther by the waist with his giant bone shears. Scyther’s wings flapped frantically and a high pitched squeal pierced the campsite. I covered my ears and closed my eyes as the sound threatened to burst my eardrums, then it was silent. I looked up to see the two halves of Scyther’s body glow and dissolve back into Ben’s PokeBall.
Pinsir fell to his knees and more blood squirted from his arm stumps. I wanted to run to him, but Ben was already throwing his fourth PokeBall. I raised Pinsir’s ball and recalled him. “Okay Princess,” I whispered to the bird on my shoulder, “your turn.”
Princess soared high into the air as Ben’s newest combatant materialized. Large wings fluttered and the butterfree yawned awake, slowly blinking its big eyes. It was beautiful. The next instant it was pinned to the earth, squealing as Princess’s beak ripped its wings off with practiced efficiency.
“Poison powder!” Ben yelled and the butterfree exploded into fine green spores.
I watched the gruesome scene with little satisfaction. “Don’t stop Princess.”
The butterfree’s desperate cries of pain had been replaced with the sounds of tearing flesh and Ben reluctantly recalled his pokemon. Princess hopped free of the cloud. She flew a few feet toward a branch but landed short, flapping the spores out of her wings and shaking her head.
“How long can she last?” Ben asked with a wicked smile. He threw his next PokeBall and more wings filled the arena. “Supersonic!”
“Princess! Attack!” Princess launched toward the giant moth like a cannonball. Another terrible high pitched sound echoed through the campsite and soundwaves buffeted the charging spearow. Her beak struck true, slicing open the meat of the moth’s abdomen but she didn’t follow up her attack and the moth took flight.
“Toxic!” Ben yelled
But she didn’t. The moth vomited thick purple slime that rained down onto Princess. She tried to flap her wings but the thick slime made her movements slow. Something else wasn’t right, she looked disoriented. “Attack,” I pleaded. She flapped the liquid free of her wings but flew straight into the trunk of a tree. I covered my face and my hands started to shake. “Come on…”
Calvin put his hand on my shoulder. “Recall her Priss.”
I looked at him, tears of rage and despair spilling over my cheeks. “I can’t,” I snapped. “She’s still in this.” I looked back toward my bird, “Come on Princess, we’ve been through worse than this. Please, just one more.”
“Finish it Venomoth, tackle.”
Venomoth dove from above. My eyes followed the soaring moth and my mouth moved without thinking, “Quick attack now!” branches and debris skirted the ground behind Princess as she launched toward Venomoth. The two collided in the air and spun to the ground. “Kill it!” I screamed and the curved beak went to work. The moth’s soft body relented and orange blood spurted from its numerous wounds. The moth went still and Princess hopped off her latest victim. She wobbled on her legs, but stood her ground.
Ben recalled his moth and my heart dropped as he reached for a sixth PokeBall. There was no way Princess could even stay standing for another battle, let alone actually fight. A giant mushroom appeared in front of Ben and I wasn’t sure what I was even looking at. Then I saw the pinsirs peeking out below the large mushroom shell of the creature. A small insectoid head stared out from under its canopy with bulging eyes.
“You can do this, babe, just one more.” Maybe she would get a lucky hit, I couldn’t give up.
“Parasect, protect,” Ben said in mock boredom. The pokemon’s pinsirs and head retracted under the giant mushroom and it settled down flush against the earth.
“Princess, break through!” Princess hopped forward cautiously. There didn’t seem to be any way to get at the pokemon. She pecked the hard shell a few times but swooned with the effort, before hopping back toward me.
“I saved my most defensive pokemon for last, now all I have to do is wait,” Ben said with a smug grin. “Who’s your next pokemon?”
Every second Princess’s condition worsened. I tried to think if any of my pokemon could still fight.
“Wait, is that your last pokemon?” Ben laughed a gleeful squeal of victory. “Wow you don’t even have a six stack? What kind of trainer are you?”
I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t give the kid the satisfaction. I looked at my spearow and dread filled me. How could I fail so many times? Calvin put his hand on my arm but I jerked it away and wiped a tear that threatened to fall.
“Priss,” Calvin said gently. I turned my eyes on him and I couldn’t even be angry with him. My lip quivered and I knew I’d be a sobbing mess in the next few seconds. “What about your Pidgey?” He asked, and motioned to the small of my back.
“What?” I asked. Then my eyes widened and my jaw dropped. I reached behind my back to the empty slot of my belt, but it wasn’t empty. Just above my ass cheek, a PokeBall sat securely fastened into my belt. I pulled it out and held the red and white sphere in front of me. “Sneaky fuck…” I whispered, and threw the PokeBall as I recalled Princess.
“Pidgaww!” the pokemon screamed as it soared into the open air. Tears fell freely down my cheeks now, tears of joy, at seeing a pidgey…
“Gust!” I ordered, “Then quick attack!”
The Parasect clawed desperately at the dirt but there was nothing to cling too, and the heavy wind forced the weird crab onto its back. From there, it was pretty much over. Calvin’s pidgey feasted on the pokemon’s soft underbelly until Ben recalled it with a string of curses not fit for a child’s ears, let alone his mouth.
I walked up to Ben and held out my hand. “Good battle,” I said, trying not to dance. I had never won a pokemon battle, but I felt like rubbing it in this kid’s face might be a little too juvenile. He swallowed and forced the most insincere smile I’ve ever seen.
“Good… battle,” he said through clenched teeth. “Who do you want?”
I stared straight into his eyes and remembered that he had called me a bitch. “Yellowjacket.”
Panic gripped him and he fell to his knees, grabbing at my bare legs. “Please miss, any of the others, I’ll give you my Scyther!”
I kicked him off and he fell back against the ground. I stepped over him, my bare crotch clear for him to see but his eyes didn’t leave mine for even an instant. It was unsettling, and I decided I didn’t trust the kid. “Give me your Beedrill,” I said, and reached down expectantly.
He closed his eyes and dropped the heavy PokeBall into my hand. I gave him a gracious smile and curtsied above him, but he had curled up into a ball, shaking with loud sobs.
“Let’s go,” I said to Calvin and walked past him to gather our small campsite.
“We can’t leave yet,” Calvin said.
I stopped. “Why?”
Calvin sighed and shook his head. “He hasn’t relinquished Yellowjacket to you yet. Having a pokemon’s PokeBall doesn’t give you ownership. He has to relinquish ownership in front of the pokemon he wants to give away.”
“Shut up!” The boy screamed and sat up, glaring a spear of hate through calvin.
I looked between the two and shrugged, then called Yellowjacket from his ball. The Beedrill crouched in the dirt, one wing dangled useless, one spear snapped halfway. I pulled a potion out of my pack and began to apply the healing salve.
“Go on then,” I said
Ben looked up at his pokemon and his brow furrowed. “Yellowjacket, I relinquish ownership to…”
“Priscilla,” I said.
“Priscilla…” he said, defeated.
The pokemon turned its head curiously from Ben to me.
I couldn’t read the emotionless face of the beedrill but he seemed to relax as his wounds healed fully. “Good. Yellowjacket, I release you,” I said, and all eyes turned to me.