Who said life was boring?
The plot's another story. It's been long in coming and has gone through many revisions.
Lastly, please don't steal my characters.
~ ~ ~
Tina woke up the next morning to a frantic pounding on her door. She rolled out of bed, pushed her hair out of her face and stumbled to open it.
"Mm-hmm?" she yawned as she swung it open. Heather hit her knees at Tina's feet, tears streaming.
"What is it?" Tina helped Heather up and over to the desk chair, where she collapsed.
"I-I'm sorry--I didn't know who else t'-" Taja pawed at Heather's leg and pressed a Pokedoll into her hand. "-Who else t' come to."
After grabbing the quilt from the end of her bed and wrapping it around Heather's shoulders, Tina wiped Heather's face. "S'okay--you don't have to be sorry. What happened?"
Heather dabbed her eyes on the blanket and hugged the plush Squirtle to her chest. She sniffled and couldn't say anything else for a minute.
"M-my mom... she's sick. Dad says not to worry, the doctors can fix it."
Tina lifted Heather's face and smiled. "Well, that's good--nothing to cry about, right?"
Another sniffle. "Hospitals take mo-money, Tina... I won't be able t' come back next year..."
Tina's heart dropped a peg. It just wouldn't be PokÃ©mon Tech without Heather. Or without Ricky or Melanie or Steven. There had to be a way.
Taja leaned against Heather's leg and gave a soft whine.
"What about the tournaments?" Tina pulled out her backpack from under the desk and rifled through it, looking for her planner. "The class ones in April. There's a scholarship. You could win it!"
Drawing the blanket tighter around her, Heather shook her head. "I'll never get it. I might as well quit now. Get the refund and wait a few years."
Tina gripped Heather's shoulders and bent to her level. "You can't just quit like that... What would your mom say if she knew you just gave up?"
"She'd say she's glad I got this whole stupid idea out of my head."
"But it isn't a stupid idea!"
Heather's head jerked up--Tina had never raised her voice like that.
"It's not a stupid idea to want to be here. And it's not a stupid idea to train Pokemon and it's not a stupid idea to believe in yourself."
Her eyes turned down again, Heather just shook her head. "I'm not good enough and you know it."
Something else, written in bright blue ink in her planner, caught Tina's attention. She skimmed it and then handed the book to Heather.
"What about the mentor program? It's supposed to help a lot."
"I don't know..." Heather scanned the page. "I've heard that they only pick the worst upper-classers as mentors. I'll just look stupider by being with them."
"What if I joined, too?"
Heather mulled it over. She gnawed on her thumbnail and fidgeted in the chair, looking everywhere except at Tina.
"Please, just think about it?"
Heather sighed, and Tina knew she'd won.
"Good! We'll apply together tomorrow."
Tina took her time dressing after Heather left--there was no way she'd be getting back to sleep now. She brushed her own hair and then combed through Taja's fur, checking for fleas. Finding none, she hesitated and then pulled a Pokeball from her bedside table.
"Ready to meet your other teammate?"
Taja yipped and Tina pressed the button on the ball. She then dropped it and dove between the bed and the wall.
The Pidgey emerged from his ball with the force of a small tornado. He screeched and fanned his wings, then tore through the room, knocking over the chair and a small desk lamp which--all thanks to Kezme--landed unharmed.
"Rowan, stop it!" Tina poked her head out from behind her bed. "Stop wrecking my room right now and behave!"
Rowan spied her and dove, talons-first, for her ponytail; she shrieked and ducked back down. Then he landed on the headboard and cried his authority over the room. His triumph was cut short when Taja bounded onto the bed. She glared at the Pidgey and growled, long and low. Tina took the opportunity to edge out of hiding and try to reclaim the dropped Pokeball.
Rowan, meanwhile, eyed Taja, who sprang at him. He flapped his way to the ceiling and dove at her, beak-first. He was sent spiraling when Taja swatted him with one of her paws. Dazed and wobbly, Rowan sank to the floor. Tina picked up his ball and recalled him as Taja circled her, checking for injuries.
It was during times like this that Tina thought maybe page eighteen did have its uses.
Rowan might never listen, she realized. He might just keep getting stronger and stronger and respect her less and less. Maybe he'd even evolve. And then he really would be dangerous.
On the other hand, she didn't know if he'd listen next time. Maybe he would. It was only for that reason that she kept letting him out at all.
She sighed and clipped the Pokeball to her waist. No sense in worrying about Rowan right now. After all, she could deal with him when she wasn't in such a small space.
"Want to see the rest of the campus, Taja?"
Taja stopped circling, sat and wagged her tail.
"Let's go, then."
~ ~ ~
Pokemon Tech's campus was deceptively large. The land that all of the classrooms and dorms were built on only made up about a quarter of the whole thing. Including the stadiums, the measurement was a little more accurate, but that was still only half. Then there were the woods, where students could try catching real wild Pokemon, time permitting.
Tina loved the woods. More than any of her teachers or any of her classes, she loved the woods. She'd only really been in them once and that was when she'd captured Rowan. There just wasn't enough time in the day to gather materials and plan a hike.
Today, though, she wanted to show Taja the practice yards. Pools with built-in tides and whirlpools, targets of various shapes and sizes and artificial weather machines filled them. A couple rows of computer battle simulators stood in an attached room, but finding a free one was a matter of pure luck.
Tina and Taja entered the yards and headed for the Fire-type courts. Flame-resistant targets and high temperatures made them perfect for a Growlithe.
Or for a Houndour, apparently.
The Houndour caught sight of Taja and snarled, hackles up and teeth bared. Growling a warning, Taja set herself up between Tina and the potential threat. The Houndour returned it with a raised tail: the Pokemon equivalent of a challenge.
"Taja, don't!" Tina wound her hands into Taja's fur to prevent her from pouncing, though she didn't know how effective that would be.
The Houndour lunged and Taja pulled free from the grip. She proved the slower and the Houndour pinned her and latched his teeth around her throat.
"Get off her!"
Tina grabbed the Houndour around the neck and pulled. He didn't move, just rolled an eye in her direction and growled. Taja jerked, trying to free herself, and Houndour tightened his grip.
"I said get o-!"
With a savage lurch, Houndour threw Tina from his back. Taja whimpered at the added pressure to her throat and Tina pulled Rowan's Pokeball from her side. If ever a little chaos was needed...
"C'mon." Tyler--had he been standing there the whole time?--nudged the snarling Houndour in the side with his foot. "The school has better things to eat than scrawny Growlithe pups."
After one last squeeze for good measure, Houndour released Taja-Tina ran to check on her. Taja wasn't in any hurry to get up off the floor. Her breath came quickly and shakily and what if she was seriously hurt?
"Just take it easy for a minute, Taja..." Tina stroked Taja's side, felt the way her heart raced. "It's okay, you're okay..."
She fished through her pack and found a small purple spray bottle--a potion for healing injuries like this.
"This might sting just a little bit," Tina said, lifting Taja's head. She sprayed a bit of the liquid over Taja's neck. The Growlithe whined shied away from her, but Tina persisted. She parted Taja's fur and made sure that the Potion seeped through to the skin. Its healing properties went into effect almost immediately and Taja opened her eyes.
"Hey... How are you feeling?"
Taja pushed herself to a sit. She whimpered a little at the residual sting but otherwise seemed fine.
"That Houndour's a menace," Tina seethed, checking Taja's neck over for more damage. "He's dangerous and he's too strong for a first-year."
Speaking of, why was he there to begin with?
There were rules in place against certain types at Pokemon Tech. First-year students could make a team from any of the nine Pokemon they were given through the year. So far, everyone had three--a Flier that they'd caught on the capture hike, a Fire-type and a Psychic (though the last came only after being tested to see if they could control one--the rest got a Rock-type). Later in the year, they'd get a Grass-, Electric and Water-type. Supplementary types were Normal, Ice and Ground. Some would even get a Fighting-, Bug- or Poison-type.
A second-year student was allowed to bring a Steel-type to school with them if they were lucky enough to catch one and third-years were allowed Ghost-types. Dragons and Dark-types, since they were so unpredictable, generally weren't allowed until the fourth-year curriculum.
And those rules were there to protect the Pokemon and the trainer. Next time that Houndour got let out, someone could really get hurt. Something had to be done. But if there'd been a bribe or something like that to bring it in, who would be able to do anything?
Tina called Taja back into her Pokeball--research said that they didn't feel any pain when they were tucked safely away and Tina hoped it was true.
She couldn't go to the Board of Directors because the Whites were on it. She thought there might've been one in the treasury, too, but the likelihood that the treasury could do anything to help her was low, anyway. Miss Pyre had already given the Houndour to Tyler, so she wouldn't be willing to take it back.
Maybe if she skipped straight to the head, then? Headmaster Bennet could do anything, that's what her grandpa had told her when she started school and Tina believed him.
At least, Tina hoped he could.
~ ~ ~
The entrance hall never failed to make Tina feel small. Smaller than small when no light came in through the windows, like now. The ceiling looked so high that Mew herself would have trouble reaching it.
At the end of the corridor stood the headmasters' offices, the center door belonging to Headmaster Bennet. Tina approached it, swallowed hard, raised a tentative hand and knocked.
Someone inside groaned, "Come in if you must!"
Tina edged the door open and peeked inside. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the sudden increase in light--the late-afternoon sun filled the window directly behind the headmaster's desk--and a strong stench like old ink spun her head. The graying man at the desk didn't look half as intimidating as he sounded; he looked more than twice it. Scribbling away in a notebook, he didn't even raise his eyes.
Now he glanced at her. "Come in and sit down, if that's what you're here for." Tina scuttled inside and shut the door behind her. Then she smoothed her skirt and sat in the straight-backed chair in front of the desk.
Headmaster Bennet looked her over and Tina shrank in her seat. "Shouldn't you be in class?" He then returned his attention to his papers.
"There's no class today--it's Saturday."
Another penetrating look.
With a sigh and the snap of a book closing, he focused his keen eyes on her. "Get on with it. What's the problem?"
Tina twisted the bottom of her skirt in her hands. "Well, sir. There's a boy in my class and-"
"-And he pulled your hair. I'm sorry to hear that, but I do have more important things to do."
"But, sir, you haven't heard me."
Tina swallowed hard when those dark eyes narrowed in her direction.
"If that isn't the issue, then what is?"
Tina pulled out Taja's Pokeball and fumbled it a bit. She tightened her grip around it and the whole story spilled out. As she spoke, Headmaster Bennet's expression darkened. He didn't interrupt, not once, pressed for time though he might have been.
"Tyler White, you said."
Tina nodded and he pulled a file from one of the many cabinets near him. He leafed through it for a moment, mouthing names, before he found what he was looking for.
"It says here he was given a Vulpix."
"No, sir--he got a Houndour. The whole class saw it. Melanie Ferris--she's one of my friends--she said that Elaine North said that-"
"You've said that once. I don't need to hear it again. Go back to your dorm, Ms. Oak. I'll bring this to the attention of my vices."
Tina jumped up from the chair and wasted no time doing just that. There was nothing else she could do but hope Headmaster Bennet would keep his word.