Sooo, over on the /r/ Pokémon Discord community, we had a writing contest where we had to make a story about how a Trainer got their very first Pokémon! Of course I had to seize the chance to write about Fate's origins, she's just too fun of a character to write! XD I DO plan on illustrating this some time in the future, but unfortunately my drawing time has been severely reduced due to the last quarter of the school year. Hopefully over the summer I can knock a ton of pages out, but for now, I hope you enjoy this story in the comic's place! ^^ Spoiler: Ace of Fates! Fate jogged down the sandy road of Route 106, her green eyes filled with excitement as she saw the cave in the distance growing closer. To her right, the open ocean rumbled softly, while above, Wingulls cawed as they scouted for food. Barely even noticing the sand burning in her shoes, Fate looked down, admiring the new red and white jacket she wore. A gold patch shined proudly on the left sleeve: “Certified Junior Ace Trainer” Fate let out a laugh. “Woohoo!” she cried, picking up her pace. Glancing over her shoulder, she grinned mischievously. “Devin, Sasha, move it, you’re falling behind!” About thirty feet behind her, a young boy and girl wearing similar jackets groaned in response as they struggled to keep up. The girl had long, platinum blonde hair, while the boy had the trademark green haircut of the Hoenn Ace Association. Although technically considered a bit rude for Junior Aces to wear a Pro’s colors, Devin had always been prideful, and he was eager to show everyone his new title. At the moment though, Devin’s pride was feeling rather dashed as he watched the gap between himself and Fate grow wider. Devin wiped his forehead. “How does she do that?” he complained. “Does she ever get tired?” Sasha wheezed, trying to keep her footing on the uneven sand. “Who knows? I mean, it looks like she packed pretty lightly?...” She noted that Fate’s knapsack looked relatively small. Devin rolled his eyes. “Sasha, this is Fate we’re talking about, she never packs light. Who knows what she has in—?” “Heeeey, you two! More running, less talking!~” a singsong voice called out as the two children felt a playful shove on their shoulders. They stumbled, yelping in surprise. Catching his balance again, Devin sighed. “Come on, Kelly, don’t scare us like that,” he complained. Fate, Devin, and Sasha’ teacher laughed as she swept her long, emerald hair to the side. Kelly had all the trademarks of a Pro Ace, from the red and gold jacket to the custom-made shoes. Being the first Pro Ace they had met, Kelly’s students had initially idolized her, but this rapidly changed into a mixture of fear and respect once she began putting them through her training regimens. Kelly smiled devilishly. “Scare you, Devin? I’ve been right behind you the whole time! Didn’t ‘cha notice me?” She ruffled the boy’s hair. “I see you colored your hair already, mister. Didn’t I tell ya not to do that?” “Gaaah, Kelly, stop it!” Devin flailed his arms in protest. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just wanted to look cool!” Kelly chuckled evilly. “Cool, huh? Why don’t you try to catch up with Fate then, hmmm?” she said, her eyes glinting in the sunlight. Devin grumbled. “We can’t all be robots, Kelly! We’re doing our best!” “Oh no, how unfortunate, should I ask Fate to slow down then, Master Junior Pro Devin?” Kelly replied in an exaggerated butler-like fashion. Sasha giggled, enjoying the antics between her teacher and friend. “Yes, please, Miss Kelly – OUCH!” Devin shouted as Kelly rapped him on the head. “Don’t call me MISS Kelly, it sounds weird!” Kelly huffed, switching her voice back to normal. “I’m not that old, ya know!” “Sorry, Miss – I mean, sorry, Kelly!” Devin hastily corrected himself. “Thaaaat’s better, thank you,” Kelly smiled sweetly. She cupped her hands and shouted. “Heeeeey! Faaaaate!” Fate looked back, not even slowing down as she continued to run. Looking slightly confused, she replied. “Yes, Kelly?” “Think you could slow down a bit?” Kelly called out. “Devin’s getting a bit tired, and you should really finish this run together!” Devin muttered something about not being the only one who was tired, but neither Fate nor Kelly heard him. Fate puffed out her cheeks and pouted. “Huuuuh? Whyyyy? I’m already going slow enough, Kelly! This bag isn’t exactly light y’know!” To prove her point, Fate unshouldered her knapsack and shook it several times; heavy metallic clunks rang out from within. Devin, Sasha, and even Kelly, all shivered at the sound. What does she even have in there?! They all thought. “Kelly... Do you think Fate ever realizes how strong she is?...” Sasha smiled nervously. “It’s... hard to say, Sasha,” Kelly laughed with a mixture of concern and admiration. “You couldn’t tell that just by looking at her. I mean, she’s still only about Devin’s size...” “What do you mean ‘only’? I’m tough!” Devin took a deep breath and tried to run with his chest puffed out, but the resulting lack of air caused his sides to cramp. Grimacing, he let out a resigned wheeze and went back to running normally. Sasha smiled. “It’s okay, Devin, like you said, we can’t all be robots.” Hesitating for a moment, she then added. “You’re still stronger than I am at least.” As she said this, her face drooped slightly, her eyes turning to the ground. Devin grumbled in response. As everyone continued running, Kelly frowned as she eyed Sasha with concern, thinking back to the time when she and Sasha had first met. Judging from her outstanding academic scores, it was clear Sasha knew a lot about battle strategies... in theory. However, on the day of practical assessments, she froze, and Fate defeated her in an overwhelming victory. Due to her essay and exam scores, Sasha still passed, but since then, she still hadn’t found her rhythm... I wish she’d believe in herself a bit more... Kelly thought to herself. She really is quite smart... Turning her attention back to the road, Kelly noticed Fate had stopped running, and was now hopping up and down impatiently. “Okay, okay, I’ll wait!” Fate yelled, waving her arms. “Aaaa, hurry up though, guys! I want my first Pokémon already!” Kelly chuckled. “Sure thing, Fate!” She nodded towards her two other students. “Devin, Sasha, double time!” Her students groaned. “Yes, Kelly...” they replied. As Fate’s friends finally reached her, they took a few moments to cool down. “You really can’t wait to get started, huh, Fate?” Devin rolled his eyes as he took a swig from one of his water bottles. “Nope! We gotta get there now! Now, now, now!” Fate cried out, pumping a fist into the air. “I wish I had your energy,,” Sasha sighed wistfully. “Why didn’t you become a Ranger like your mom?” “Because Aces are awesome and they have cooler outfits!” Fate replied grinning. “You should become one of those triathletes instead,” Devin said stretching. “You’d win every time.” Fate made a face and shivered. “Eeyuck, no!” she said, sticking out her tongue. “Running clothes are super tight and itchy! I’d rather be a nerd like my Dad than wear a—” “Yo, Kelly! What’s up? You’re here early!” A young man’s voice cut Fate off. The group turned to see who was talking, and saw another green-haired individual strolling up to them. Like Kelly, he wore a red and gold jacket. “Oh, there you are Zane!” Kelly waved happily, running up to her old classmate. “How’s it goin’? Terry and Nick doing okay?” “All good, thanks!” Zane replied grinning. “Terry and Nick are fine! Their test isn’t ‘til next week actually, so that’s why I’m hanging out here! So!” Zane said, turning to the trio of Junior Aces. “Who’s ready for action?” As Kelly’s students walked up to him, Zane took a moment to get a first impression. Not too shabby, he thought to himself. They look pretty tough! He noticed Devin’s green hair and decided not to comment. He looks good in it anyways. Turning his attention to the other two, he noticed the blonde girl staring at him excitedly, while the black-haired one munched absentmindedly on a box of crackers she had removed from her bag. “He’s so cooooool!” Devin exclaimed, eyes shining. “He’s... really handsome,” Sasha squeaked out, burying her face into her hands. “His zipper’s down,” Fate said, her mouth still full of food. “Eh-huh?” Zane said, freezing for a second. He turned to Kelly to see if he had heard right; she was trying her best not to laugh. He looked down. What the—Zipping up hastily, he tousled his hair, trying to preserve an air of dignity. “Th-thanks, kid,” he said, forcing a smile. Fate blinked. “You’re welcome, Mister Zane!” “A-anyways,” Zane continued. “Lemme walk you guys over!” He walked towards the cavern, nose held a bit too high. Kelly followed behind, still snickering at her student’s remark. Never change, Fate, never change. Devin, Sasha, and Fate tagged along. “Faaaate, why’d you say that?” Sasha whined quietly. “You made him look silly!” “Yeah, he was looking so cool!” Devin complained. Fate stared. “But his zipper was down! I was just trying to help!” Devin rubbed the sides of his head. “You know, Fate, you’re really strong, and you’re usually really smart, but sometimes, you are just dumb.” “What? I am not!” Fate shot back, feeling her stray lock of hair spring up in anger. She hastily swatted it back down. “I’m super nice and helpful!” Sasha sighed and smiled resignedly. “It’s okay, Fate, we love you just the way you are, really.” ----- As the group stood outside the mouth of Granite Cave, Zane called everyone into a circle. “So!” he said, clapping his hands. “You all know the drill, right? Kelly explained the rules to ya already?” “Yep, we know what to do, let’s go!” Fate chirped, practically dancing on her toes in eagerness. The innards of her knapsack continued to clink. Kelly laughed. “Slow down, Fate, just a little while longer. Zane and I have to go down a checklist before sending you off.” Fate groaned. “Awwww, okaaaay.” Kelly smiled and noogied Fate’s head in affection. “Ow ow ow,” Fate whimpered, trying to escape. “Now, now, Fate,” Kelly teased. “I know you kids are smart, but you’re still just eleven. The last thing we’d want for you is to get hurt.” She looked towards Devin and Sasha. “That goes for you two as well. Remember everything I told you?” “Mhm!” Sasha stepped forward to speak first. “Rule number one! Keep checking your Pokenav Map! Granite Cave is pretty mapped out, but it’s still easy to get lost!” Kelly nodded. “Good! Devin?” Devin cleared his throat. “Rule number two: if we think we’re in serious trouble, use the Pokenav to call you guys. ‘The Pro will know’, and all that. We also have Repels and First Aid in our bags for emergencies.” Zane gave a thumbs up. “Right on, little man. And you, Fate?” Fate took a deep breath. “Rule number three! We’re only allowed to catch one Pokémon in the cave! That Pokémon will be our new partner, so choose carefully!” Zane nodded, satisfied with their answers. “Okay, all good, I guess! Lemme just make sure your Emergency Kits are all set! Can I see your bags real quick?” Devin, Sasha, and Fate lined up, handing over their packs one by one. Zane looked inside, made sure everything was accounted for, then handed it back. When it was Fate’s turn, she hesitated for a moment before handing her bag over. “Something wrong, Fate?” Zane asked, frowning. “Uhhhm... no?” Fate said, smiling nervously. “... Okay!” Zane said, taking Fate’s bag and almost immediately dropping it to the floor from the unexpected weight. He wheezed as he lifted the bag up again. It had to weigh at least thirty five pounds. “Fate... What exactly is in here?” Fate shuffled her feet on the floor. “Iron Balls...” Fate mumbled, looking at the ground and scratching the back of her head. “I asked my dad to give me some for the trip...” “Iron... Balls? For what?” “Well I, uh...” Fate stuttered, tapping her fingers together. “I know there’s a lot of different Pokémon in the cave, but... I really wanted to find an Aron! I think they’re really cute, and I read that like to eat metal so I... I thought that if I find one, I can feed it those, and then maybe it would like me and...” she trailed off. “Are Arons hard to find?” she asked nervously, looking back and forth between Kelly and Zane. “Did I bring enough for it to eat? What if it doesn’t like what I brought?” Looking at Fate’s concerned face, Kelly couldn’t help but feel glad that she had to decided to take this girl under her wing. Fate was definitely talented, but above that, she also cared about making sure her Pokémon were happy. Even with her Loan Partners, Fate tried to make sure everyone was treated well after battling; more than once Kelly had caught her trying to sneak extra food to them at night. Sure she could be a bit careless with words, maybe she didn’t know her own strength, but her heart was in the right place. She’ll be a great trainer one day, Kelly smiled as she knelt down and took Fate’s bag from Zane. She grimaced. Oh jeez, that really is heavy. “Not to worry, Fate,” she said. “You’ll find your Aron, I’m sure of it!” “Really?...” Fate asked, frowning. “You’re not just saying that, right?” “No, no, I really mean it!” Kelly said, handing Fate her bag back without checking it. “And don’t worry, Arons can definitely be found in the main caverns!” Fate’s face brightened up instantly. “Okay!” she said grinning once more. “Thanks, Miss Kelly!” “Miss Ke—“ Kelly cut herself off and shook her head, still smiling. “No problem, Fate. So,” she said facing the whole group. “You all ready to go?” “Yes, Kelly!” the Junior Trio called out in unison. “All right then, time to choose your Cave Buddy!” Zane said, bringing out a circular case of Pokeballs. “This is one of the last times you’ll have a Loan Partner, huh?” he remarked. “Don’t forget these little guys though! Remember how much they’ve helped you!” “Yes!!!! Finally!” Fate dashed forward happily, snatching the bottom Pokéball and tossing it high into the air. With a flash of light, a small, green, dog-like Pokémon emerged, its fur crackling with static. As it looked up and saw Fate, it barked excitedly. Fate giggled. “Hi again, Electrike!” She knelt down to scratch its head. “Sorry, I don’t have any treats for you today! Kelly got mad at me the last time I brought you seconds. And thirds. And fourths...” Electrike whimpered in disappointment, but didn’t seem to mind that much. It continued to roll around on the sand as Fate scratched its belly. Devin grabbed the top ball, chucking it to release a Pokémon that looked like a small blue dinosaur. It stood up confidently, growling softly as it awaited orders. “Hey there, Bagon! Ready to do some explorin’?” Devin asked, pumping his fist. “Bagoooon!” the small dragon replied, spitting out embers in determination. Sasha chose the Pokéball on the right. “L-let’s go!” she stammered, pressing the release button. A small, blue and yellow rabbit-like creature popped out, squeaking happily. It jumped up onto her shoulder, growling playfully and barking like a guard dog. Sasha giggled. “You’re so serious right now, Minun, it’s too cute!” “Mi, mi!” Minun yapped in response. “Good luck, Junior Aces!” Kelly shouted. “I look forward to seeing what you come back with!” “Yes, Kelly!” the three children replied, already sprinting off into the cave. Zane walked up besides Kelly, chuckling. “They’re good kids, Kelly,” he remarked. “I’m impressed.” “Of course they’re good kids,” Kelly said teasingly. “I taught them.” ----- Fate, Devin, and Sasha’s footsteps echoed as they continued running deeper into the cavern. The smells and sounds of the ocean were gone, replaced with the musty scent of stale air and stagnant water. Despite the chill, the three Junior Aces had never felt more fired up. “So... You want an Aron, huh, Fate?” Devin asked, keeping his eyes forward as he shined his flashlight on the cavern floor. “Yeah, for sure!” Fate replied; the clinking of the Iron Balls in her bag was now more apparent than ever. “I’m gonna have Dad send all the scrap metal he can get from now on! My Aron will be so happy!” “What about you, Devin?” Sasha asked. “What are you hoping for?” “As long as it’s strong, I’m good!” Devin grinned. “A tough Pokémon for a tough guy!” he said, thumping his chest. “And you, Sasha?” Fate said curiously. “What would you like?” “Ummm...” Sasha pondered for a moment. “I don’t really know! I was thinking about Mawile, because it has the ability Intimidate, but Zubat is okay because it evolves into something really, really fast. Makuhita has a lot of stamina and health, and Guts is an great ability for something like Façade, but then there’s also—” “We got it, we got it!” Devin interjected, chuckling. “Man, how do you remember all this stuff?” Sasha flushed. “I... I read a lot...” she replied. “I’m sorry...” “No, no, it’s not a bad thing!” Devin said quickly. “Honestly, I’m kinda jealous that you know all that! It’s cool!” “Oh! Umm... th-thanks,” Sasha mumbled back, blushing. “Oh! I almost forgot, I have something for all of us!” She reached into her bag and pulled out three circular cases, each containing a shiny-looking disc. “These are TMs for the move Flash! I thought we might need them in case our flashlights died or something... Just wanted to be prepared!” “Hmmm...” Devin said thoughtfully. “Maybe! I think exploring in the dark is pretty exciting, but good job thinking ahead!” “Oh... o-okay!” Sasha said, looking a bit deflated. Looking ahead again, she pointed. “Hey! Isn’t that the entrance to the lower levels?” Several dozen feet ahead, an electric light shined dimly, revealing a faded wooden signboard. Fate’s eyes lit up. “I think it is!” she said, excitedly. “Let’s go!” As the trio reached the cave’s lower entrance, they noticed that below the board, a worn metal ladder descended into the depths. Despite the light above, the pit below was ominously dark. Fate grinned. Looks spooky! I like it! The trio stopped to read the sign. GRANITE CAVE: LOWER FLOORS CAUTION! DARK! BRING A POKÉMON WITH FLASH TO LIGHT YOUR WAY! Sasha looked at Devin again. “Are you sure you don’t want to use...?” Devin waved a hand dismissively. “Nah, we’ll be fiiiiiine! The more adventure, the better, I say!” “I agree!” Fate concurred. “Let’s go!” Without skipping a beat, she lowered herself into the pit and began climbing downwards. Just you wait Aron, she thought. I’ll find you yet! ----- Thirty Minutes Later... “... Okay, I take it back, it’s really dark in here,” Devin groaned, gritting his teeth as his toes collided with the side of a cavern wall. “Could we use those TMs now, Sasha?” “I can if you want!” Sasha said, both excited and relieved. She wasn’t nearly as bruised as Fate or Devin, but she was still worried that her friends’ stubbornness was getting them hurt. “Fate, you okay with that?” Fate looked up to respond and immediately hit her head on a low-hanging rock. She hissed. “Yes, please...” Sasha beamed. “Okay! Let’s take a quick break here! I’ll go and get Minun back!” She ran off, calling for her Loan Partner, which had gone ahead looking for action. Devin sat down to massage his foot. “Man,” he complained. “Where are all the Pokémon? I haven’t seen anything yet!” Bagon growled in agreement, slumping down in boredom. Fate walked off to a corner and called out Electrike. She reached into her knapsack, bringing out a plastic bag filled Pokémon food. Electrike yelped excitedly. “Shhhhhh,” Fate said smiling, putting a finger over her lips. “Don’t tell Kelly! I thought she would take it away, but she didn’t check my bag! Lucky you!” “Trike!!” the Lightning Pokémon ran forward and began eating happily. As Sasha and Minun returned, Sasha pulled out one of the TM cases and showed it to her Loan Partner. Minun sniffed it curiously. “Can... can I teach you a new move with this?” Sasha asked. “It’ll really help us out!” “Minun!” Minun jumped up, squeaking in affirmation. Sasha clapped. “Okay, thank you!” She placed the disc on Minun’s forehead, and the TM began to glow brightly. A few seconds later, Minun stood up, blinking as it took in the new information the disc had transferred over. A few moments later, it raised its arms up and yelled. “Miiiiiiiii-nun!” Minun’s cheeks and tail began to give off an intense light, and within a few seconds, the entirety of the cavern was visible. “Whoa-ho, awesome!” Devin cried. “Good job, Minun! That’s a lot better!” “Yeah, thanks, Minun!” Fate agreed, still feeding Electrike in the corner. Then, noticing something behind her friend, she shouted. “Sasha, behind you!!!” “Huh?” Sasha said confusedly, before turning around and crying out in fright. Minun’s light had revealed a previously unseen Pokémon. It was small, but its smile revealed a mouth full of wickedly sharp teeth. Its jewel-like eyes stared at Minun with undisguised greed. “SAAAAAAAABLEEE!” the Pokémon screeched, launching itself towards the glowing Electric Pokémon. Minun didn’t see the attack coming, its eyes still unused to the amount of light it was emitting. “Asaaaaaaa!!!” Sasha cried out frantically, running to defend her Loan Partner. She hastily pulled a Repel out of her bag and sprayed it wildly, hoping it would ward the Pokémon off. “Go away, go away, go awaaaaaay!” “SAAAAAAAB!” the Pokémon screeched again, but this time, it was out of confusion and disgust as its nose was assaulted by a sudden, unbearable stench. All thoughts of attacking forgotten, it overshot its jump and tumbled to the floor, completely disoriented. “Minun!!! Quick, Helping Hand, no, Growl, no Quick Attack, no, Spark! Spark! Use Spark noooow!!!” Sasha waved her hand haphazardly at Minun’s would-be attacker. Fate, Devin, and their Loan Partners looked on, unsure if they should intervene. “Miiiiii!” Minun responded, crouching down on all fours. Cloaking its body in blue lightning, itcharged forward, hitting the Darkness Pokémon dead on. “SAAAAAA!” The Sableye cried out as it went tumbling. It whined in frustration, upset that the shiny blue and yellow jewel it had wanted was now attacking it instead. As it tried to get back up to counter, electricity crackled around its body. It collapsed groaning, unable to move. Sasha recognized the symptoms at once. “It’s Paralyzed! Good job, MInun!” She reached into her bag, fumbling for an empty Pokéball. Finding one, she chucked it forward. “Pokéball, goooo!!!” “SAAAAAABLEYE!” The jewel-eyed goblin screeched one last time as it disappeared in a flash of light. The ball clattered to the floor and rocked wildly as Sasha watched on nervously. A few seconds later, it stopped. A loud ping echoed through the cavern. Devin opened his mouth to speak, not exactly sure what to say. “Well.... that’s uhhhh.... that’s... one way to catch a Pokémon, I guess!” “Hooray!!! Sasha, you did it!” Fate cried, running up to hug her friend happily. “I... did?” Sasha asked, still bewildered at what had just happened. “I mean... I did! I got it! I got my first partner!” Gasping excitedly, she ran over to retrieve her Pokéball. “Sableye, go!” “SAAAAAABLEEE!” the Sableye tumbled out, still very much confused. For a moment it paused, but then, sniffing the Repel lingering on its face, it clasped its nose and began flailing on the cavern floor once more. Sasha hurried over, grabbing a water bottle and towel out of her bag. Wiping down her new partner’s face, she stammered apologetically. “Oh, noooo! I’m really sorry, Sableye!” Sasha cried. “You just really scared me and -- and I panicked and I sprayed you and – Aaaaaa, that was really mean of me!” “Sableye...” Sableye grumbled in agreement, though it now seemed somewhat relieved that it was being cleaned up. “I’m really sorry!” Sasha repeated. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise! Uh... here! Have some of these!” Sasha reached into her bag and brought out a small case of Pokeblocks. “I’m not sure what flavor you like, but have as many as you want!” “Sable?” Sableye sniffed as it smelled food. It grabbed a red cube, and after examining it for a moment, it popped it in its mouth. Chewing, its diamond-like eyes glittered. “Sable!!!!” it hissed happily. “Oh, uh... you-you like them? Oh, that’s great!” Sasha sighed in relief. Fate laughed. “Seems your Sableye likes Spicy food, Sasha!” she giggled. She turned back to Electrike to see if it had finished eating. “Hey, Electrike, how’s your--?” She froze. A Pokémon she hadn’t noticed before was now running around with Electrike, the two play-fighting as they both laughed happily. The newcomer was a bit smaller than the Lightning Pokémon, and had large blue eyes, and a head and shell covered in shiny grey metal. It scampered up to Fate’s bag and sniffed it. Squealing excitedly, it dug its head inside and retrieved one of the Iron Balls. It nibbled on it in delight. “Aron!” the Pokémon squeaked. “WHAAAAAAT?!” Fate cried out in shock. “Aron?” the tiny Pokémon’s head jerked up in surprise. Noticing Fate, it hastily picked up the Iron Ball in its mouth and ran off. Electrike ran after it, obviously wanting to play more. Fate sprinted after them, snatching up her bag. “Waaaaait! Come baaaaaaack!” she yelled. “F-Fate?!” Devin yelled. “W-where are you going?!” “Electrike ran off with an Aron! An Arooooon!” Fate shouted. “I gotta get it! I gotta, I gotta!!!” “H-hey! Fate! Wait up! Hey!” Devin cried back, but Fate was already long gone. He groaned. “Uggggggh, we gotta go! Sasha, come on!” “Huh? Uh, right!” Sasha moved to call Sableye back into its ball, but hesitated. She brought out her TM case instead. Hmmmm... “Sableye, Minun, let’s go!” ----- Fate continued to chase after Aron and Electrike, the former of which was still happily munching on the Iron Ball even as it ran, leaving messy trail of metal flakes behind it. For a Pokémon of its type, it was surprisingly fast. “Aron! Electrike! Waaaaaaait!” Fate yelled again. The two made no signs that they had heard her and continued to run, scurrying off around a sudden sharp corner. “Oh, no you don’t!” Fate said, picking up her pace. As she turned around the corner as well, Fate cried out as she tripped over something squat and rubbery. Whatever it was, it cried out in indignation after her, but Fate kept running, not wanting to lose the Aron or her Loan Partner. “I’m sorry!!!!!” Fate shouted back apologetically. ----- Devin and Sasha trailed behind, following the trail of metal flakes the Aron had left behind. Along with Minun, Sasha’s new Sableye now illuminated the cave, its jeweled eyes sending out light like a pair of disco balls. Devin heard a shout of surprise echo from around an upcoming bend. “Fate!” he shouted, quickening his pace, not sure if his friend was hurt or not. As Devin and Sasha rounded the same corner, they skidded to a halt as a round, squat, yellows and very angry-looking Pokémon turned to face them. Fate was nowhere in sight. “MAKU!!” a Makuhita shouted, pointing its fists furiously at the two strangers dressed exactly like the one who had just kicked it in the middle of its nap. “MAKUHITA!” Sasha eyed it nervously. “Devin, it looks, really mad. Do you think we can go around and...?” Devin wasn’t listening. He stared at the Makuhita and smiled. “Hold that thought, Sasha,” he said, advancing towards the Guts Pokémon. “Devin, Fate might be—” Sasha began, but Devin cut her off. “Fate’s fine!” he said, gesturing towards the trail of metal flakes ahead of them. “I trust her to take care of herself. There’s something I wanna do first.” “Maku!” the Makuhita pounded its fists, sending an echo throughout the cave. Devin called Bagon forward. The Dragon Pokémon sized up the Makuhita and growled determinedly. “I’d say this guy looks pretty tough, huh, Bagon?” Devin asked. “Wanna put that to the test?” ----- Fate collapsed to her knees, exhausted; Aron and Electrike had taken her for quite the run. However, after dozens of twists and turns, Aron had eventually led the way to a spacious cavern, with more than enough room to play freely in. Fate smiled as she watched the two Pokémon resume their antics. “You’ve guys have a lot of energy, you know that?” she remarked. “A-ha-ha-ron!” the turtle-like Pokémon laughed back. “Triiike” Electrike called. “Aron!” The Aron stopped, calling Electrike over to watch it. It rolled over onto its shell and began spinning on its back spike, almost looking like a shiny metal top. “Aroooon” it squeaked. Fate clapped delightedly. “That’s awesome, Aron! Where’d you learn to do that?” “Aron!” “Trike!” Both Pokémon ran up to Fate and nuzzled in her lap. Fate restrained a groan of discomfort. Electrike might not have been that heavy, but Aron was by no means light. “Heheh, you’re just a little cutie, aren’t you?” she cooed, rubbing the Aron’s head. “Aron!” the Aron chirped happily. “You know...” Fate noticed something about the Iron Armor Pokémon. “You’re actually kinda small for an Aron...” She frowned, knowing what often happened to Pokémon that were born undersized. “Do... Do the other Arons not want to play with you? Is that why you wanted to play with Electrike?” “Aron? A... ron...” the Aron looked down sadly. It slid off Fate’s lap and slumped to the floor. Electrike walked up to it, sniffing it in concern. “Oh no, I’m sorry!” Fate stammered apologetically. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings! I think you’re great!” She reached into her bag and pulled out another Iron Ball. “Here! Take it! Take all you want! I have some more for you too, Electrike!” She reached into her jacket pocket for another bag of Pokémon food, her backup plan in case Kelly had confiscated the food in her knapsack. “Aron?” Aron’s eyes lit up in joy as it looked at the Iron Ball in Fate’s hand. “Aaaaa!” It squeaked, jumping into Fate’s arms, and nuzzling her again. Fate toppled, unable to handle the weight. Still hugging it though, she giggled and wiped a tear of happiness from her eye. Electrike ran up and began licking her face. “Okay, okay! That’s enough!” she laughed. “Eat up, you two!” She dropped her bag, flexing her shoulders before setting the Iron Ball and food bag on the ground. “Aron!!” “Trike!” The two Pokémon stepped forward to eat, but suddenly, they paused. Aron looked back towards the cave exit, while Electrike tensed up, growling. “What’s wrong?” Fate asked. As she looked towards the cave exit, a cloud of dirt surged towards her and straight for Aron, ripping up the cavern floor and sending rocks flying everywhere. The tiny Pokémon cried out in fear as the ground beneath it began to give way. Electrike jumped in front of it, ready to fight, but a large Pokémon burst out from the cloud, smashing into both Aron and Electrike alike. They flew backwards, crashing into the rear cavern wall and hitting the floor with an ugly thud. Electrike whimpered but pushed itself up again, growling in rage at the intruder. Aron, however, lay on the floor, quivering and obviously in a huge amount of pain. “A......” it shook feebly. “No!” Fate shouted. She began to run towards her friends, only for the newly arrived Pokémon to block her way. “Ar-heh-heh-heh,” it rumbled maliciously. Fate stared in shock. It was another Aron! But this one... This one was huge, easily dwarfing even the normal-sized Pokémon of its kind. And its eyes... Arons didn’t normally have red eyes, did they? The newly arrived Aron advanced menacingly. Fate took a step back. “H-Hey,” she said, her voice shaking. “Y-You... You leave my friends alone!” “ARON!” the red-eyed Aron growled and charged. Fate yelped and leapt out of the way, but the Aron shot right past her and towards the knapsack she had left on the ground. It flipped it over, causing the remaining to Iron Balls to roll out. Laughing triumphantly, it began greedily gorging itself on them. “Hey!!!” Fate yelled, furious that this new Aron was stealing her friend’s meal. “TRIIIIIKE!” Electrike charged at the red-eyed Aron in anger, intent on hitting it with a powerful Spark attack. As it closed the gap though, its opponent planted its feet and charged as well, Headbutting Electrike right in its face. With a cry of pain, Electrike was sent hurtling backwards, fainting from the overwhelming blow as it hit the ground. “Electrike!” Fate screamed, running towards her bag to get its Pokéball. However, once again, she found the red-eyed Aron in front of her, rumbling maliciously. “Move,” Fate growled, balling her fists. “AHRON!” the Aron snarled. Before Fate could react, it struck forward, hitting Fate square in the chest. Fate went flying. She hit the ground hard, wheezing as she felt the wind leave her lungs. “You...” she hissed furiously. Looking back at the smaller Aron, she saw it was still lying on the floor, unmoving. She stumbled over to it, gasping as she saw its injuries. She hadn’t noticed it before, but apart from just being smaller, this Aron’s shell was dangerously thin; the force of the larger Aron’s attack had actually cracked it in some spots. I need to get it to a Pokémon Center NOW! Fate thought, trying to suppress her panic. She knelt down and tried to pick the tiny Aron up, but even with all her strength, even an undersized Aron proved just too heavy. It didn’t even budge. Screaming in frustration, Fate yelled as loud as she could. “Devin!!! Sasha!!!” she shouted. “AAHHHHR!” Fate gasped in fear as she saw the red-eyed Aron hurtling at her yet again. Her mind screamed at her to get out of the way, but seeing how badly hurt her new friend was, she refused to move. Throwing herself over the helpless Aron, she closed her eyes, bracing for the hit... It didn’t come. “Sableye, Flash!!” Fate shielded her eyes as a blinding burst of light lit up the whole cavern. The red-eyed Aron hissed and recoiled, temporarily blinded. In front of it, a Sableye cackled, its diamond-like eyes glittering. Sasha ran forward breathlessly. “So it does have Prankster?” she said, smiling despite the situation. “Only a Sableye with Prankster could use a Status Move that fast.” “Fate! You okay?!” Devin ran in behind Sasha, looking around wildly before spotting the Shiny Aron. His mouth opened in shock. “What the—Fate! Is this what you were going after? Like, holy—what a find! How are you so lucky with this kinda stuff?” “It’s not that one!” Fate yelled, still hunched over her injured friend. “The one I want is right here! Get Electrike back into its ball! That bigger Aron knocked it out!” “Huh?” Devin looked at Fate again, just noticing the tiny Aron she was shielding under her arms. “But – that other one,” he started. “That other one is— yours is so little!” “I don’t care!” Fate shouted angrily, gritting her teeth. She was fighting to hold back tears. “I don’t care if it’s little! It wanted to be friends with me, so I’m going to be friends with it too!” “But, but...” Devin stammered, looking at the red-eyed Aron again. “Do —do you have any idea how rare that one is?” “I. DON’T. CARE!!!” Fate screamed. “I don’t care if that one has some weird color! I don’t care if it’s stronger! I’ll never use a Pokémon if it’s mean like that! The one I want is right here, and it’s hurt, and I need help! Help it! Help it, please!” she cried, tears now streaming freely down her face as she sobbed with worry. Seeing that Fate, tough-as-nails Fate, was actually crying, Devin, gulped, eyeing the red-eyed Aron with longing. Sasha had taken advantage of its blindness, grabbing Fate’s belongings and cramming them back into their bag. Returning Electrike to its its ball, she hoisted Fate’s knapsack over her shoulder, groaning with the effort. “Devin, let’s go!”she shouted. “AHHRRROON!” As the Shiny Aron’s vision returned, the first thing it saw was a new girl running off with a bag, and within it, it could smell the metal it had followed while stalking the smaller Aron. Screeching in rage, it chased after her. Sasha cried out, but burdened by the weight of Fate’s bag and her own, she stumbled. Devin didn’t hesitate. “Not happening!” he yelled, throwing out a Pokéball. “Bruce, use Arm Thrust!” “MAKUUUUU!” Devin’s newly acquired Makuhita burst out, delivering a series of super effective palm strikes. The powerful blows sent the red-eyed Aron hurtling across the cave, embedding it deep into the wall, where it struggled and screeched furiously as it tried to free itself. “Yeah? You just stay there!” Devin said nervously. He turned his attention back to Fate; she was still hunched over the smaller Aron, crying softly as she cradled it. Sasha ran over to her and punched a number into her Pokenav. “Kelly! Zane!” she called worriedy. “We need help! Fate found a Pokémon, but it’s hurt really bad!...” ----- Dewford Pokémon Center Kelly and Zane had arrived as fast as they could, meeting the three Junior Aces near the lower caverns entrance, the large Shiny Aron in hot pursuit. Kelly sent out her Armaldo to fend it off, while Zane escorted the kids out. As they exited the cave, he had his Machamp carry the injured Aron the rest of the way back. Upon running into the Pokémon center, Aron had immediately been rushed off to intensive care. Fate now sat in the waiting room, sniffling as she waited to hear back from the nurse. “Fate?” Fate’s head turned as she saw Kelly walking up to her. “Kelly!” Fate replied, hastily wiping her eyes and trying to put on a brave face. “Did... did Sasha and Devin show you their Pokémon?” Kelly nodded. “Yeah, they did. They’re outside training with Zane right now. I just came in to check on you... You okay?” “I... I’m fine!” Fate tried to sound confident but her voice cracked as she spoke. She gulped. “Kelly... is Aron gonna—?” Fate shot up as Nurse Joy walked out from the emergency room. “Is Aron all right?!” Fate asked frantically, running up the nurse. “Will it be okay?!” Nurse Joy nodded, but frowned worriedly. “Yes, but...” Fate’s stomach dropped. “But what?...” The nurse sighed. “It’s a very small Aron, Fate, I’m sure you noticed that. It’s very malnourished, and even if it recovers I’m not sure it will—” “Don’t say that! Please don’t say that!” Fate pleaded. “Let me take care of it! I’ll take good care of it!” “W-what?” Nurse Joy asked, confused. Kelly stepped forward. “Fate...” she began. “I’ll take good care of it!” Fate repeated again, not hearing her teacher. “I promise! Let me catch it, please! I’ll have my dad send over any metal he can get! I’ll do everything I can to make it happy!” Kelly and Nurse Joy looked at Fate nervously. It was obvious how earnest she was being, but if something were to happen... Kelly spoke up first. “Well...” she said slowly. “From what Zane told me earlier, it seems it already likes you...” She turned to Nurse Joy. “What do you think?” “Me? But...” Nurse Joy began. Seeing Fate’s face though, she stopped herself. She inhaled sharply. “Okay, I’ll let you catch it,” she said. “Really?” Fate cried, her face lighting up immediately. “On one condition!” Nurse Joy said sternly, holding up a finger. “You’ll bring it in for checkups on a regular basis! I’ll give you a schedule soon once we plan it out! Make sure you do take good care of it, otherwise it’ll have to stay with us for a while!” “Okay! I will!” Fate said, nodding her head vigorously. “I promise! Can... can I see it now?” Nurse Joy smiled, impressed with Fate’s dedication. “Of course,” she replied. “Right this way.” Fate walked as fast as she could to Aron’s room. The Iron Armor Pokémon was resting on its bed, but upon seeing Fate, it looked up and mewled weakly. “A...” Fate laughed in relief and ran up to it. “Hi again, little guy. Are you feeling better?” Aron whimpered softly, gesturing towards its heavily bandaged shell. Fate gulped. “H-here!” she said, handing Aron the last Iron Ball she had in her bag. “I’m sorry I don’t have more. The other Aron ate the rest...” “Ar...” Aron scooted forward and began nibbling feebly. “Aron...” it smiled in appreciation. Fate softly rubbed Aron’s head, being careful not to touch its back. “Umm... Aron?” she asked. “Do... do you want to join my team once you’re feeling better?” “Aron?” the tiny Pokémon stared at her, tilting its head. “Nurse Joy said I could take care of you!” Fate said nervously. “I promise, I’ll make sure you get lots of food, and play time, and everything! We’ll be friends for sure! I mean, if.... if you want to... Huh?” Fate blinked as Aron shuffled up to her slowly. It smiled and softly bumped its head against her cheek. “Aron!” it mewled in confirmation. “Aron, A!” Fate gasped. “R-Really? O-okay!” she said. She gently wrapped her arms around her new partner. “I’ll take good care you, Aron, don’t you worry!” In spite of herself, Fate felt her eyes watering again. This might have been the happiest moment in her life. “Aron!” the tiny Iron Armor Pokémon squeaked. It felt the same way.