From: "Chet Weaver - Chicks Dig Giant Robots" <zeroohki@netscape.net> Subject: [PW] Contesting My Tolerance Date: Wednesday, September 01, 2004 1:50 PM "I guess I should start on my next mission, then," Team Magma Grunt Mason "Mace" Adams said after a short and very uneventful meeting with his new Admin. This had not been the first time Mace was transported clear across Hoenn at an oddly convenient moment. That morning he was at the Fallarbor base and on his way to execute what he considered to be an ingeniously cunning plan to break into the computer lab and force the lab techs to give him much of the personal information about himself that he lost when he was struck with amnesia shortly after entering the region. Before he could get near the lab, however, an Admin named Lars had given him a surprise assignment in Lilycove that supposedly required his immediate attendance. "Your next mission doesn't start for another week or so, I'm afraid," the Magma Admin that the little sign on his desk identified as "Rebecca" said. With the exception of Lars, Mace had yet to meet an Admin, male or otherwise, with a man's name. Rebecca was no exception and appeared to have gone to great lengths to prove that he was very much a masculine man of the male variety. The office was practically littered with hunting and sports trophies, highly destructive weaponry, exercise equipment, a women's swimsuit calender, several empty and crushed beer cans, and to top it all off a picture of what was supposedly his wife and kids that could have easily come with the frame that sat on his desk. The office smelled strongly of sweat and aftershave. If it weren't for the fact that the man wore nothing but a pair of Speedos and the standard Magma Admin cape and cowl, Mace would have thought that Rebecca was over-compensating for something. "I was told that I had to be here right away," Mace replied, giving Rebecca a suspicious glare. "Yes, well, unfortunately, none of your other team members had been told that and most of them are currently indisposed," Rebecca reported. "Hopefully, they'll be arriving before our window of opportunity closes." "If I didn't know any better, I'd say this mission was created on the spur of the moment to keep me from doing something I shouldn't," Mace said with an amused smirk. "Funny how this sort of thing works out. I suppose you have some pointless busywork for me in the meantime?" "Personally, I don't think someone in your condition should be working," Rebecca said. "Why don't you take some time off? Lilycove has a lot to offer. More than Fallarbor, I'm sure." Mace considered the suggestion for a moment. "Eh, why not?" he said with a shrug. PokeWars! Presents… "Contesting my Tolerance" starring Mason "Mace" Adams written by Chet "Tech" Weaver As much fear and respect the Team Magma uniform instilled, Mason still felt that it drew unwanted attention from authorities and other misguided challengers. It wasn't the kind of attention he wanted, especially if he wanted to take it easy on the streets of Lilycove City. Fortunately, he discovered his uniform was reversible and the hood was removable. Within seconds, he could transform from Magma Grunt Mason "Mace" Adams and into… "Pokémon Ranger Sam 'Ace' Adamson, at your service!" Mason declared, showing off what were now a red trucker cap, an open red jacket, and black shorts. #More like 'Ace-hole' if you ask me,# Artemis the Ralts telepathically commented from her perch on Mason’s shoulder. #I didn't think it was possible, but you look like even more of a dork than you did before.# "Oh, c'mon," Mason replied. "I think it looks cool." Lilycove was bustling with the assorted mass of humanity. The duo weaved through crowds of people, many of whom were on their way to Lilycove's famous department store, without drawing much attention. After all, it wasn't too unusual to see a trainer with a Pokemon on his shoulder. The weather was a lot different from Fallarbor Town. For one, the lack of a nearby volcano also meant a lack of sky-choking clouds of ash. This allowed for the sun to come shining through, although at present it was slightly overcast and just chilly enough to be uncomfortable while still being too warm for a jacket. The morning fog departed some hours ago, but one could still detect the sea water on the wind. Especially if they were anywhere near the docks, which were alive with fishermen and whatever wares they had that survived the trip to town. #Do you even know what a Pokémon Ranger does?# Artemis challenged. "Sure, they fight evil space aliens with their giant robots," Mason joked. #You can't be serious,# Artemis replied incredulously. "Well, what did you think they do?" Mason asked with a smirk. #How should I know?# Artemis answered. #You never let me go anywhere. You never even let me fight!# "I thought you said you’d never fight for me," Mason said coyly. #Don't quote me!# Artemis snapped. #I know what I said and I stand by it. I'll never fight for you or Team Magma, and I refuse to abide by your actions. It just gets boring in that stupid ball.# "So you won't fight, and I'm not going to breed you," Mason pondered. Continuing on their way down the streets of Lilycove City, he happened to spy a poster on a nearby telephone pole that put a clever grin on his face. "Then how about that?" #How about what?# Artemis asked. "What do you mean, 'what'?" Mason disbelievingly replied. "Can't you read that poster?" #No, I can't,# Artemis answered in a snide mental voice. #And I would thank you not to rub your eighth-grade education in other people's faces.# "Oh, right," Mason said simply. "It says that there's a Pokémon Contest tonight for cute Pokémon. All you have to do is look cute in front of a crowd of people. You won't even have to fight anybody." #You think you’re so clever, don’t you?# Artemis said condescendingly. #You can’t exploit me one way, so you try to exploit me another. Well, you’re not going to make me debase myself for the entertainment of others.# "Looks like first place not only gets a ribbon, but a sketch of their likeness, a year’s supply of PokéChow, two-hundred thousand PokéDollars, and the starring role in a commercial for Brock's Homemade Brand PokéChow," Mason said as he read off the poster. "You sure you don't want to at least try it out?" #Are you kidding?# Artemis remarked coldly. #Do you seriously believe I’d like being under bright lights, being scrutinized by the camera, postulating for a fawning crowd, basking in fame, fortune, and the adulation of an adoring public…?# Artemis found herself swooning and shook herself out of it. Mason could swear that if her pink, hair-shrouded eyes had sparkled any more she would've gone outright shiny. "I've got a handkerchief if you want to wipe off some of that drool," Mason offered jocularly. #The air must be thin up here,# Artemis grumbled. #It's a wonder you can get any oxygen to your brain. Anyway, I'm not going to whore myself for you, and that's final.# "So, are you entering the Pokémon Contest, too?" a small boy carrying a Natu asked of his friend as they randomly passed by our heroes. "I sure am!" a young girl cradling a Chimecho replied. "Our combo is totally gonna kill the competition!" "Not if our combo knocks you out first!" the boy countered. #Those two are going to be in the contest!?# Artemis exclaimed. #I'm ten times cuter than those goobers!# "Then you better enter that contest and show them what for," Mason suggested casually. #Hey, don't think I can't see through your little ploy,# Artemis growled. #And curse you for making it work! Now let's get to work on my routine!# And work they did. After getting signed up at the Contest House, Mason and Artemis found a quiet, out-of-the-way spot in the park to practice. Cloudy skies eventually gave way to sunshine, although the air was only slightly less chilled than earlier in the day. Fortunately, the practice routines warmed them up enough for it not to be a consideration. Mason was surprised at how enthusiastic Artemis became. She even went as far as chewing out Mason for his sloppy timing on the commands. #What are you smiling at?# Artemis demanded of him at one point. "Nothing," Mason had replied. "It's just that we've finally found something you seem to like." #You better not be thinking of ways to hold this over me,# Artemis said, practicing a pirouette. #'Cause I'm not doing this for anyone but myself, and I'm not about to let you or Team Magma take credit for MY victory. Is that clear?# "Crystal," Mason agreed. #Good,# Artemis said. #Now, let's take this from the top. AGAIN.# And so it went for several hours as Artemis attempted to coach Mason into the proper rhythm. Mason didn't really care to suggest that Artemis could just do the routine without actually waiting for a command. All the while, neither of them had been aware of the mysterious creature that watched them from the shadows of nearby foliage. That night, the mystery followed them as they hurried to the contest house. The contest was in full swing as they eagerly waited their turn in the spotlight. Many spectators crowded into the stands, excitedly cheering on their favorite coordinators and Pokemon. The hot lights and warm bodies made for a hot and musty atmosphere, but as the show went on the fans either didn't notice or simply ceased to care. "This is an awfully charged-up crowd for a pet show," Mason noted. #All the better to dazzle them with,# Artemis retorted from her PokéBall. #Now Clamperl up. We're next.# "Up next is Pokémon Ranger 'Ace' Adamson and his Ralts, Artemis!" they heard the Contest Announcer announce. "Guess we're up," Mason said. He stood up and walked out on stage. "The stage is yours, Artemis! Use Will-O'Wisp!" Mason tossed the PokéBall out onto the stage and Artemis emerged in a burst of blue flames. "Use Calm Mind," Mason commanded. Artemis focused and the chaotic drifting of the flames organized into a fanciful dance around her. Mason pulled a bundle of sticks from his jacket and tossing them out he ordered, "And now, Psychic!" A blue sphere expanded from Artemis and the sticks paused in their descent. The sticks soon oriented themselves around the Will-O'Wisps and danced as if they had been there the whole time, creating puppets of wood and flame. One puppet, whose design was slightly more detailed than the others, stepped out of the crowd and bowed to its Psychic puppeteer. Artemis curtseyed in response and the two began to dance in what was now a miniature ballroom in the middle of the stage. The crowd was quite charmed. Mason kept an eye on the timer. The dance could only last a couple minutes, and as their time wound down Mason called out, "Artemis, Psychic." Artemis and her dance partner parted as the puppets began to swirl together. They formed into a ball floating above her and Artemis wore an awed expression as she circled beneath it. Then, when the ball reached a height roughly equal to that of Mason's, the ball exploded and Artemis looked devastated. She crumpled into a ball of theatrical despair as the flames flickered out around her and the lights dimmed. "Give it up for Ace and Artemis, everybody!" the announcer called out as Mason recalled Artemis and strode off stage. "I sure hope we did okay," Mason said to the PokéBall in his hand. "I'm not sure if that was actually cute, strictly speaking." #Hello? Are we in the same contest?# Artemis snapped. #We knocked 'em dead!# "Maybe," Mason conceded, "But there are an awful lot of coordinators at this shindig, and some of them are pretty good." #Believe me, 'pretty good' has got nothing on us,# Artemis said informatively. A little more than an hour later, the initial appeals round ended and the judges made their decision. Eight finalists were announced. "Looks like we made the top eight," Mason reported. #You mean we didn't win!?# Artemis exclaimed. "I dunno," Mason replied uncertainly. "There don't seem to be any rankings... I think there’s going to be a second round or something." "You're up first, Adamson," a man with a headset and a clipboard said. "So there is a second round of appeals?" Mason confirmed. "What? No," the man replied with some surprise. "There aren't going to be anymore appeals." "Then what’s going on now?" Mason asked. "Is this your first contest or something?" the man answered. He then sighed and added, "Only the first round is the appeals round. After that, the remaining eight contestants fight elimination style until one of them is the champion. You got that?" "Wait, what?" Mason remarked in disbelief. "I thought this was just a show. A non-violent thing." "Uh, no," the man responded. "That was last night. Tonight's more of a tournament thing." "But-" Mason started. "No more chit-chat!" the man interrupted, shoving Mason towards the stage. "You're on in five!" "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome again 'Ace' Adamson and Artemis!" the Contest Announcer cried out over the cheering crowd as Mason stepped out on stage. "Artemis, you have to believe me," Mason said in a low voice. "I had no idea it would come to this." #Yeah, right,# Artemis retorted. #You knew about this all along, you liar!# "I swear, Artemis," Mason continued. "I..." "And their opponent," the Contest Announcer said. "The mysterious Ten and Tobueh!" The appearance of Ten immediately grabbed Mason's attention. Ten was an old man with a white mustache and flowing, white hair. He was wrapped in an old cloak and had a red bandana tied around his head. His piercing, red eyes bore into Mason, as if they could see into his very soul. Mason could sense a strong air of mysticism around him and could swear that, somewhere in the distance, and ancient, oriental instrument was being played. #I know you can hear me, Mace!# Artemis mentally screeched. #Get us out of here right now!# "Hold on, I think I know this guy from somewhere," Mason muttered. #What!?# Artemis exclaimed. She could feel her PokéBall being moved. #Oh, Hell no! You're not sending me out there, you bastard! Put me back this instant!# "Hey, you're the one who was complaining about not getting enough fighting in," Mason said. "Besides, I want to find out who this guy is, and I'm not one to disappoint a cheering crowd." #He's nobody, that's who he is!# Artemis insisted. #Now. Let's. Get. Out of here!# "Then use a mind scan, if you're in a hurry to leave," Mason suggested. #Fine,# Artemis conceded. A moment later, she reported, #I can't get in. He's blocking me somehow.# "Your Ralts is talented, but undertrained," Ten said as he took his place on the opposite side of the stage. "Blocking her probes is a simple matter. I'm surprised at you. You should know better than that." "Then it looks like we're gonna do this the ol' fashioned way," Mason said as he readied Artemis's PokéBall. #Dammit, Adams, you better not send me out there!# Artemis warned. "...And begin!" the Announcer declared. "Go, Tobueh!" Ten proclaimed as he tossed out a PokéBall. A lean Growlithe materialized on stage. "Let's do it, Artemis!" Mason called out. "Use Psyc..." Mason's command was interrupted as he found himself being slammed into the nearest wall. #Adams, I swear...# Artemis growled, projecting vulgar and disturbing imagery into Mason's mind. "Your style seems to have changed much over such a short time," Ten observed calmly. "And not for the better. Tobueh, Ember." Tobueh spat out minute balls of flame that singed Artemis's backside. That definite got her attention, if not her ire. She lashed out with a Psychic attack that sent Tobueh tumbling. "Do I know you from somewhere?" Mason inquired as he took his place again. "Artemis, Calm Mind." #Mason, shove it,# Artemis replied snidely. "We've had our encounters," Ten replied sagely. "Though I wouldn't expect you to remember, not in your condition. Tobueh, Quick Attack." Tobueh quickly pounced on Artemis, pinning her to the floor. She knocked him off with another Psychic attack and climbed to her feet. "So, you know who I am, then," Mason noted. To Artemis, he sternly commanded, "I said use Calm Mind." #And I said shove it!# Artemis snapped back. #I can smack this punk around without your help!# Artemis shot yet another Psychic blast at Tobueh, who dodged it with ease. "You’re quite well-known where I come from," Ten said. "The Orre Region?" Mason inquired. "Is that what you believe?" Ten remarked with raised eyebrows. "Tobueh, Ember." Tobueh spat flames at Artemis again, this time giving her a nasty burn on her arm. "Artemis, he took two of your Psychic attacks with hardly any damage!" Mason warned. "You have to calm down, focus, and power up! Use Calm Mind, now!" #I'll calm down when you SHOVE IT!# Artemis screeched, psychically knocking Mason off his feet again. She then cradled her burn and suck in air through her teeth as she felt its sting penetrate her flesh. "Tobueh, Bite," Ten commanded. Artemis could feel her opponent looming over her. She turned around just in time to have Tobueh's teeth clamp down on her red horn. Artemis's eyes welled up until she let out a maddened scream accompanied by a Psychic burst that left the Growlithe clinging to the horn like windsock tethered to a pole in a hurricane. Tobueh held fast and Artemis soon passed out. "Artemis is unable to continue battling!" the Contest Announcer declared. "The winner by knock out is Tobueh and his coordinator, Ten!" "Tobueh, return," Ten commanded, recalling the Growlithe into its PokéBall without flair. He crossed the stage and helped Mason to his feet. "Do you understand why you lost this day?" Ten inquired. "Yeah, because Artemis wouldn't listen to me," Mason replied, recalling his fainted Psychic. "It is more than that," Ten instructed. "The Ralts line is sensitive to disharmony in one's character. She questions your doubts, and this may prove to be your downfall. You lost because you are on the wrong path." "Yeah, well, this contest was screwed up anyway," Mason said disapprovingly. "Or did you mean my current... affiliation?" Ten gave him a knowing glance. "Are you saying I should quit my day job just because one Pokémon won't listen to me!?" Mason demanded. "No way! These people mean everything to me! They're the closest thing I have to a family!" "There have been those more involved than yourself in what they thought they were who benefited from such a course of action," Ten said as he walked away. "But in the end, only you can choose your own path." Mason watched as he strode out the opposite side of the stage. Looking to Artemis's PokéBall, he couldn't help but imagine that the unconscious creature inside was waiting expectantly. "Quit Team Magma?" Mason asked himself. He put the Ball back on his belt, saying, "Yeah right. Like that's gonna happen. I'll earn your respect somehow, Artemis, but not by abandoning my ideals. This is my journey, and I'll travel on it the way I want to." Mason turned around and walked off stage. "At least, I think I will." To be continued...? [NS: I hope no one minds that I assumed that Lilycove was anything like San Francisco. I was going to write it sunny and warm, but since there was no one on the beach in the game, unlike in Slateport, and was farther north so I assumed it was a lot colder.] -- Chet "Tech" Weaver AIM: PanGatomon MSN: Nichirasu@hotmail.com eMail: zeroohki at netscape dot net Yahoo! Messenger: tech_weaver ICQ: 122744531 Webcomic: http://desperadocoyote.keenspace.com My Adventure Quest character: http://www.battleon.com/aq-chardetail.asp?temp=131213 You can play Adventure Quest at http://www.battleon.com Sometimes, I notice someone has posted a reply to one of my messages and I think, "Oh, great, what did I say this time?"