His Own Road

Sixteen-year-old Ethan Hawkins just wants to train pokemon. He is enrolled at St. Margaret Academy in Sandy Hills, four hours from the city he’s spent all his life in. He absolutely hates it; his old friends get to stay back in town and attend trainer schools near their homes. Just his luck to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, on his own, away from his favorite types… forced to fit in with peers who want nothing to do with him. What’s a guy to do? One of the first pokemon he accidentally meets is weakling that follows him around like a lost puppy. As the world of the American League unfolds before him, Ethan realizes he may have bitten off more than he can chew. On top of that, he gets tangled in a mess of thievery that could very well end his new journey before it even begins.

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3. A Head Start (The Trial)

Bright tones of white and sky blue made up the interior of the Winetta Lab, a spacious and open area with wide aisles stretching from one end to the other, like some sort of hardware store. The place was nice and cool; buzzing with activity despite going on lockdown in two hours. As Ethan, Clarke, Marco and Xander entered through more glass doors men and women in coverall suits drove forklifts carrying giant cases of supplies past them.

Groups of Machoke, Machamp, Gurdurr and some Conkeldurr helped, lifting packaged things nearly three times their size. Adults in lab coats stood in the aisles. checking everything on the shelves, marking off boxes on their own clipboards.  Ethan guessed the reason for the place looking like a shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon was because of the lockdown.

“This place is huge,” Clarke marveled while observing the lab’s main floor. He extended his arm, for the air to dry the rain off him. “Feels so good!” He started wringing water from his tank top, then he did his shorts.

Marco wiped the rain off his shirt, leaving tiny wet sports to decorate his clothes. Surprisingly enough, his jeans stayed dry. “You’re looking at all of the supplies for the semester. By the time school starts, the floor will look like a real lab. For now, second and third floors are where everything else is. Mr. Humphries keeps his gym on the top floor.”

“You really know a lot about this place.” Ethan noted, holding pushing the duffle bag to his side. His own hoodie and pants were soaked, but he’d just have to put up with it.

“I’m planning on volunteering here this fall.” Marco explained. “There’s an amazing pokemon egg room in the basement. You haven’t seen huge until you’ve been down there.”

“You think we can check it out?!” Clarke asked excitedly.

Ethan was also very interested in visiting this basement.

“Not gonna happen,” Xander rolled his eyes as he folded his arms. He was the only one completely dry. His chains on his pants jingled in his movements. “Noobs like you three aren’t allowed to handle pokemon until September at the latest.”

He elbowed Clarke. “Best thing you can do browse around. That’s if they’ll let you in.”

Marco grinned. “Maybe. I was supposed to technically see him tomorrow but my meeting with Mr. Humphries was real. It involved participating in a little trial that allows a select few to hatch some pokemon eggs, for research purposes of course.”

Xander, Ethan and Clarke stared at him, dumbfounded. Ethan spoke up. “You mean… we can get a pokemon as early as tonight?”

“You better not be pulling my fucking leg, dude,” Clarke warned.

Xander shook his head. “Typical... freaking nerds get all the hook-ups.” He grumbled under his breath.

Marco raised a finger. “Getting one means automatically signing up for some tough breeder class courses though. You’ll use the pokemon as a partner and study everything about it. Any grade below a C means they take the pokemon back and you’re dropped from the trial.”

“Harsh.” Ethan said. “Even after trainers have established a bond with the pokemon?”

“Rules are rules.” Marco sighed.

“I don’t care!” Clarke waved a hand at him. “If it means snatching up a little buddy before everyone else, I’ll work my ass off!”

“Everybody’s gonna hate you,” Xander shrugged. “Once they find out you all got a head start.”

“Who’s going to know?” Marco asked. “I’m not the bragging type.”

“I’m in!” Clarke was so hyped he was running in place. “Where do I sign up? Give me a pen already!”

“Slow down,” Marco patted him on the shoulder. “First, I have to see him alone, this is my meeting. Best thing I can do is keep your name in the conversation. That’s if he wants to hear it.”

“Then let’s go meet this Humphries guy already! I’ll convince him myself.”

“Hold on, I have to get to the lost and found first,” Ethan said.

Clarke pounded the bottom of his fist into his other hand. “Okay. Ethan, you go handle your business. I’ll go with Marco.” He turned to Xander. “Why are you still here? You said you didn’t want anything to do with this place, remember?”

Xander, smirked. “Nice try, coco puff. I’m here, like it or not. I’m not passing up a chance to get a free pokemon.”

Clarke frowned. “Moocher.”

Xander raised a fist to him. “And what the hell do you think you are right now, jackass? Don’t call the kettle black!”

They butted heads.

“You wannabe’ punk, wanna go?!!” Clarke growled. “I’ve been waiting to kick your ass!”

Marco dropped his head and sighed again.

Ethan spotted a help desk sitting beside a set of elevators a few feet off. An older girl in a long sleeved shirt, sporting a knotted ponytail sat behind the counter typing away at a computer. She looked up when they all approached her.

“Can I help you gentlemen?”

“Yes you can!” Clarke beamed, before Marco nudged him in the side to stay quiet.

Xander rubbed his temples in his irritation. “I can’t believe I’m with these morons…” He mumbled.

“Hi,” Ethan began leaning on the counter. “I’m trying to find the lost and found. My friends here need to see Mr. Humphries.”

She tilted her head, studying Marco, Clarke and Xander. “Do you three have an appointment? His office closes in an hour thanks to the storm.”

Marco pulled out his sheet of paper and handed it to her. After taking it, she skimmed over it for a quick second. “There’s only one name on here and that’s Marco Zapata.” She looked at him. “I can let everyone up but your friends have to wait in the lobby.”

“That’ll be fine.” He nodded, much to Clarke’s agreement. Xander simply shrugged nonchalantly.

“Alright,” She gestured over to the elevator. “Go on up.”

She turned to Ethan, smiling warmly. “Thanks for your patience. I can help you in the back.” She turned to her right and unhooked a latch. Then she pushed it open, revealing piece of the desk to actually be a small swinging door.

She nodded to another door, a white one, placed behind her.

“Come on through.”

Ethan began to make his way around the desk while Marco, Clarke and Xander headed for the elevators. They all traded looks for the last time. Clarke and the bespectacled teen flashed their thumbs up. Ethan returned their gestures with a reassuring smile. The woman stuck a key into the knob, twisted it and pulled it open. Ethan followed her in.

Inside was another ivory colored room with floors so polished he could see his murky reflection in them. For some reason he expected the place to be bigger. There was a white counter that extended before him from one end to the other. Behind it was a collection of tanned lockers. A leather couch sat off to his left against the wall. It wasn’t as big as he imagined. The woman passed through a second swinging entrance, then leaned on the cool slab, her ponytail swung over her shoulder, her bosom bounced within her top. He had to hold his breath to stop his pulse from rising. She really was very pretty. Not to mention like two years older than him. She definitely was.

“I’m Camryn by the way.” She said with a smile.

“Ethan,” He replied.

“Good to meet ya. Alright Ethan,” She nodded at the duffle bag. “That for me?”

He took it off his shoulders then placed it on the counter, sighing in relief at the weight off his shoulders. While he massaged his sore shoulder he explained his predicament for a few minutes.

“I got it,” Camryn took the bag and unzipped it. “Here’s what I can do. I can check for tags, see if there’s a name and phone number somewhere. Maybe there’s something here that has that too.”

Ethan sat down on the couch. “Was there anything sent out regarding my bag?”

“I’ll check the system.” She said. “You’ll have to fill out some paper work if it isn’t.”

He nodded.

Fifteen minutes later, in a small burgundy lobby on the top floor, Clarke paced around a glass table in the middle of the room. Between him and the table a pair of couches sat to either side of him, pushed up against the wall. Large pictures were nailed into the plaster above them. Xander sat on one the couches, legs stretched out and folded as he scrolled through some social media site on his phone. In front of them, giant wooden double were shut tight. On the opposite end of the room was the elevators.

Clarke stopped to stare at the locked doors for a few seconds, then he paced on, rubbing his chin. What was taking so long?

Xander glanced at him, then looked back at his phone. “Would you sit down already? You’re starting to make me nervous.”

Clarke ignored him and continued circling the table.

Xander shook his head, returning to scrolling through his phone.

Within the office, tall cabinets had been placed in the corners beside pots of plants. Bookshelves were next to the windows. Lightning was flashing outside now. Marco was sitting in a comfortable chair before a grand wooden desk. A burly man stood behind it, wearing a striped button up, dark slacks. His hair was cut low, styled into a neat fade. Below that, a salt and pepper streaked beard around his mouth.

Beyond him was a wide glass panel, revealing an enormous, empty battling area. The skybox they were in had been converted into an office space for Mr. Humphries.

“Whatever circumstance led you here, I’m glad it did,” the ebony man placed a huge hand on his seat. He spoke with a commanding tone. “Some important matters have come up and I was actually going to cancel all my appointments tomorrow.”

He waved a hand at Marco dismissively. “Nothing you have to worry about now that we’ve talked.”

“Thank you for the opportunity, sir.” Marco rose from his chair. “I promise I’ll work hard!”

“It seems you’ve already started,” Mr. Humphries nodded. “Finding more students interested in our little test. How many were there again?”

“Three, Mr. Humphries. Two are in your lobby and one is at the lost and found on the first floor.”

“Well, isn’t this project coming along? Right before my eyes. I’m glad. I’ll need a good look at them,” Mr. Humphries reached for the blazer on one arm of his chair. Then he grabbed a stack of papers from his desk. “Come on. How much do they know about raising pokemon?”

Back downstairs in the small white room, Ethan handed the last sheet of paper to Camryn. She stapled it with the others and placed it beside the bag on the counter. Then she began to dig inside the bag, feeling around the nylon walls, feeling for something. She smiled when she came across a small card in a plastic pouch.

“Ah! I found it!” She said watching Ethan jump up from the couch.

“What is it?” He leaned in, eager to see.

She pulled out a paper card with some information on it. Camryn looked over it for a second. “Okay, this bag belongs to… Summer Belair. I have her cell number here too. I’ll give her a call right now.” She reached for the phone under the counter.

Ethan exhaled with relief. A weight had left his shoulders. “I can’t believe I didn’t come across that when I opened it. Honestly I was too busy freaking out.”

Camryn smiled as she continued to dial the numbers into the landline. “That’s totally understandable. No worries now, right?”

She put the receiver to her ear, right as the door behind him opened. Ethan turned to watch Marco, Xander, Clarke and an ebony man with a broad shoulders step inside. Ethan raised his eyebrows, lifting his head to look him in the eye. Wow… this guy could have been a football player, or a professional wrestler!

Camryn flashed a quick smile at Mr. Humphries and raised a finger at him. He waved back at her, patiently. Behind him, another girl appeared, dressed in jeans, a t-shirt with a red cardigan over it. Long thin braids fell down her back, decorated with yellow and pink beads. She was carrying a stack of textbooks and forms on top of them. A cutiefly floated beside her, wings buzzing softly. She stepped through the pack of boys to put her load on the couch next to Ethan. Then she shook her arms, sighing to herself.

“Hello?” Is this Summer Belair? Great, this is Camryn from the lost and found at the Winetta Lab. Someone has found your gym bag.” Camryn looked at Ethan.

“And you must be Ethan,” Mr. Humphries stepped toward him, extending a huge hand. “Nice to meet you, I’m Mr. Humphries. Marco tells me you’re interested in our little trial.”

“Yes sir,” Ethan replied shaking his hand.

The girl with the braided hair beamed. “Awesome! This is so awesome. So many students, all on the first day!” Even her cutiefly seemed thrilled. It flew in circles making high-pitched buzzes.

“Cuuuuuuuuuu~”

She turned to the burly man. “I think we just set a record!”

“This is Tasha,” Mr. Humphries said. “She’ll be one of the upperclassmen observing you all.” He nodded at Camryn. “I see you’ve already met Camryn, Ethan.”

He went on facing Marco, Xander and Clarke. “Camryn is another observer. She’ll also be the one to test the strength of your new partners. She’s a very capable battler.”

That made Xander grin. “Oh she is, huh?” He stared at her, drinking in her fair skin and brown hair, her supple pink lips and bright eyes. He liked a girl that knew how to battle.

Tasha moved quickly, passing out some forms and a text book to each of the boys. “I’ll need you guys to fill out the sheets, and have four chapters of that book read by the first day. Got all that?”

Ethan looked down at his book, it was thick, brown and heavy, the type of school book that made students groan when they saw it. Breeding Efficiently, the title was in big white letters. Written by C.C. Margolis. Forward by Sophia Willows.

His eyes went wide as he stared at the last name. Willows… could this writer be Ms. Willows?!

“Alright. I’ll tell him. Thanks! See you tomorrow.” Camryn hung up the phone. “Ethan, Summer will be here tomorrow afternoon with your bag, around two. Will you be around?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” He turned to her.

“I’ll keep this here then. She said she was in such a hurry with things today, she didn’t even realize it’d been switched.” Camryn zipped up the bag. She glanced at everyone now standing in the room. “Geez this place got full fast.”

“A girl named Summer did stop by here earlier to get her egg and her book.” Tasha folded her arms. “Blonde hair, corduroy pants, kind of impatient?”

Ethan snapped his fingers. “That’s exactly her!”

“Yep, she’ll be in your cozy little class too.”

“Man, small world.” Clarke said.

Once everything was wrapped up, the entire group took the elevator down to the basement. A chime rang through the cart as the thick steel doors slid open, revealing a green colored room about as big and open as a school gym. Granite tables joined shelves of all sizes in filling the space, creating aisles that seemed to go on and on. Shelves had also been built into the walls.  Adults wearing rubber gloves stood at the tables, carefully examining pokemon eggs. Placing them in glass cases full of cool saltwater. Wires from computers were attached to these extra-large tubes.

In the corners, behind massive windows, pokemon families roamed around colossal yet artificial habitats. Huge rooms for a variety of types to live in. In one across from them, they saw it was cluttered in thick vegetation and tall plants. Packs of vigoroth swung from tree branch to tree branch. Slicing down bundles of fruit. A slaking lazily picked its nose while the food fell all around it. In a second room nearby by, Ethan noticed it’d been filled with sand and rocks and cactuses. Groups of sandshrew and sandslash were busy digging deep holes. Ethan almost couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing. A lab… and a zoo all built in one place!

Xander put his hands in his pockets. He looked around the room, nodding. “Alright. This is cool.”

“Told you.” Marco laughed.

Mr. Humphries held his arms out. “Why are you kids still standing here? Go nuts! But bring back one egg only!”

He had to shout his last words out as the boys took off running, everyone except Xander. Clarke screamed the whole way like he’d won the lottery. Each of them wandered to a different section of the room.

Mr. Humphries laughed heartily. “Ah, to be a young trainer starting out. I live for moments like this.” Tasha faced her cutiefly and giggled. Camryn smiled.

Ethan raced through the aisles, zig-zagging past groups of adults. There were so many eggs, he didn’t know where to start! They were all as big as footballs. He found an area where every shelf was several feet taller than him. The eggs on the shelf eye level with him all had pictures underneath. He rubbed his chin. Which to choose? There was a cacnea egg, which was emerald green with yellow triangles covering it. One poliwag egg, dark blue adorned in black swirls. Nah, he didn’t want any of those. Not even the magby one, a scarlet egg with flames circling around it.

A seel egg, white shell sporting light brown spots. An espurr egg, gray with purple rings all over. He did like the gray color. Plus, the psychic type generally had some strong pokemon. He’d come back to that. At the end of the row sat a bliztle egg, a mix of black and white lines that seemed to be struggling to be the dominant color. It certainly looked cool. He’d have put that one his ‘maybe’ list as well. Right under it, on another shelf, he found a second gray egg, this one decorated in chocolate diamonds. It didn’t have a picture below, so what was growing within was a mystery. Instead was a numbered tag, 66723. Perhaps he could ask, but that’d ruin it for him, honestly.

Bending over a little, he picked the egg up, removing it from the placeholder. It was warm in his hands, heavier than he expected. He wrapped his arms around it, then brought it to his chest, letting the heat soak into his clothes. He felt something inside shudder against him, almost as if the little one was snuggling up to him. He smiled. Did he just have a connection with this baby pokemon?

“Aww. It looks great with you.” Said a woman from behind him she was pushing a cart of more eggs through the aisle. She wore a turtleneck and jogging pants, black locks of her hair were braided around her head to fit like some kind of tiara.

Ethan looked down at the egg then back up at her. “Y-you think so?”

She nodded, pulling off her gloves. “Gray is really your color.”

“Thanks.” He chuckled sheepishly.

She glanced at the empty place on the shelf, over him, spotting the labled tag. “I can tell you what kind of pokemon you’ll be hatching. Would you like to know?”

Ethan shook his head. “Actually, I’d like to be surprised.”

The woman nodded. “Not knowing is half the fun, if you ask me.”

It was settled. He’d keep this one. Ethan didn’t even know if this one was a ground type, then again he supposed it didn’t matter. He felt like, if he put this one back, he’d be sad.

“Little gray.” He pushed the egg back to his chest, turning around to head back to the elevators. He couldn’t wait until this weekend to show his mom!

Four aisles over, Clarke had already chosen his own partner, yet to be born. In his hands, he held a sand tinted egg decorated with navy blue marks shaped like… puffy clouds? Cotton balls? What the hell were these things? He glanced at the picture of a lillipup under the now empty placeholder.

“Dad…” Clarke mumbled to himself.

Memories flooded through his mind; times of when he rode on the back of father’s stoutland, playing with all the pokemon on his ranch. All those times that furry behemoth rescued him from danger in the wilderness…

“One day, pop,” He lifted the egg over his head. “One day.”

He spotted Ethan walking past his aisle and hurried after him. “Yo, E! Wait up dude!”

Ethan turned to see Clarke jogging toward him, carrying his future first partner.

“That’s whatcha got, huh?” Clarke asked when he finally reached him.

“Yep,” Ethan said. “I don’t know what’s going to hatch from this but I prefer it that way.” He nodded at his friend’s choice. What about you?”

“This here’s gonna be a lillipup. It’s the same pokemon my pop got when he started out.” He made a fist. “One day, when I’m strong enough, we’ll see who has the best stoutland!”

Ethan blinked at him, taking in his words. He wished he had a goal like that. All he wanted to do was call a bunch of pokemon his own. For some reason he felt as if that wasn’t… big enough. He felt he could do more. But what?

To their surprise they found Marco and Xander coming from aisles on the far end of the room to their left. Both of them had found what they wanted. Marco carried a jade colored egg with three white stripes circling its center. Xander’s egg was black as coal, marked in red crescent shapes. It looked kind of ominous, if he was being truthful with himself. What kind of pokemon would hatch from that?

“Excellent!” Mr. Humphries clapped when they all returned in front of him. “We didn’t have to wait long at all, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you all knew exactly what you wanted.”

“Preparedness is key.” Marco nodded.

Clarke’s face was serious. “I’m gonna surpass my pops. I have too.”

Camryn approached Xander, arms folded. She tossed a hip out. “Whoa. That is one wicked looking egg.”

Xander shrugged. “That’s why I picked it. Figured something interesting has to pop out. I like to be surprised.”

Ethan looked at him, raising his eyebrows. “Me… too.”

Tasha bounced next to Ethan a big smile on her face. She examined his choice. “Oh! Your egg looks so cute, I love those diamonds!”

Mr. Humphries cleared his throat. “You boys will be starting from scratch, you know? You’ll be the first thing your partners see when they’re born. They’ll rely on you all for a lot of things. Are you fellas’ up to the task?”

“Of course.” Marco said.

“Definitely.” Clarke added.

“This’ll be easy.” Xander rolled his eyes and waved a hand.

“I’ll try my best.” Ethan replied.

Tasha giggled, rubbing Ethan’s egg. “I can’t wait this little guy!”

He suddenly arched an eyebrow. “How do you know it’ll be a little ‘guy?’”

“Juuusst a hunch~”

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