Chapter 8: The Midnight Raid

The bobbing flames tantalized Bambi. Dying embers slithered underneath the logs in the fireplace, dissipated to nothing. Bambi couldn’t look away. She knew she needed to study the book in her lap, but she didn’t dare tear herself away from the fire’s gaze. That would be too productive.

“Bambi,” called a voice on the verge of manhood. “Are you still thinking about the question? It wasn’t even one of the hard ones.”

The competitiveness in her lifted her out of her trance. “Sorry, Makua. What was it again?”

The boy shook his head. “You have an unhealthy obsession with fire, I think.” His glasses slid down his face, and he pushed them up again. Beads of moisture formed on the lenses. He sighed as he wiped them, threw his jet-black hair out of his face. “What species of Pokémon was the first to be created by science?”

Bambi scanned her Origin of the Species textbook.

Makua snapped. “Don’t look so easily! Focus!”

Bambi didn’t want to focus. She wanted to play. “Let’s have a battle,” she said.

“Now? It’s almost midnight, Bambi. And we have one of our biggest exams of the year tomorrow.” Makua slowly readjusted his glasses, looked at Bambi cock-eyed.

“Exactly! What kind of studying is better than the real thing?”

“Me and you battling is NOT going to teach us that Mewtwo was the first Pokémon created by science.”

Bambi grinned, her lips pursed together. “Oh, right,” she said. “I knew it was Mewtwo . . .”

Makua dove back into his book, and ignored Bambi. He seemed to have given up trying to teach her. She took him in, knew how badly he wanted to reach the top rank in class. Among the 30 students in their grade, Makua was ranked 3rd after half a year. The top ranked student, number two student and Makua were all neck and neck and probably would be until graduation.

Bambi on the other hand was ranked 10 out of 30. She was one of the top battlers but unfortunately her first semester test scores kept her out of the top 5. She opened her book again, determined to be as well rounded as Makua.

“Sorry, what page again?”

Makua didn’t look up. “I’m not answering that.”

The lights behind Bambi flickered out. Now the only light in the common room came from the fireplace. Bambi saw shadows skirt across Makua’s face as he looked up, a genuine look of alarm there.

And then, the crash, and from where Bambi sat, she knew that there was an explosion.

“What was that?” Makua shut his book, held it close to his chest.

Bambi felt herself lunge forward just the slightest. Whatever had caused the explosion was not the result of a Pokémon battle. This was something else entirely.

“Maybe its Mewtwo,” she joked. Bambi removed a Pokeball from her belt, pressed the center button, and watched it grow to its full size. “Go, Hower!”

A black dog with two grey back plates, a skull piece on the crown of its head, and braces around each of its four ankles, emerged. It bared its fangs, said, “Houndour!”

Hower glowed bright with an orange-red fire that lit the common room.

Makua rose to his full lanky height. He withdrew a Pokeball, pressed the center button, said, “Go, Aipom!”

The monkey-like Pokémon back flipped upon leaving its ball. Bambi saw its face, belly, inner ears, tip of its tail—all white, contrasted by its purple body, which looked darker under the shadows in the room. It stood on its three-fingered tail and balanced there, waiting for Makua’s command.

Bambi took off toward the common room door that led to the corridor, Hower at her heels. When she stepped out, she noticed the silence behind an inevitable roar that was sure to come. She could feel it in her bones, in her need and will to battle that very second.

“Bambi, what are you doing?”

“Hower, give me some more light!”

Hower stepped forward. From somewhere inside its belly, the beast glowed brighter, louder, as though it had swallowed coals from the furnace.

“The lights are out here too,” Makua noted. “We should stay in our rooms until someone tells us what to do.”

“No way!” Bambi snapped. “What if there’s a fire somewhere? That was an impressive explosion.”

Bambi grabbed Makua’s shivering hand, led the way to the elevator toward the end of the hallway.

“Where do you suppose we’re going?” Makua tried shimmying out of Bambi’s grip, but she wrapped her wiry fingers around his bony wrist even tighter.

“Stop being such a wuss, Makua!” Bambi pressed the elevator button and whipped him inside. “Aipom and Hower boarded.

Bambi pressed the button to go to the 7th floor.

“Why are we going to the Pokémon Center? Our Pokémon aren’t hurt.”

Bambi breathed in, tried to be patient. As the lights in the elevator flickered on and off, she saw the fear on her friend’s face. He really was terrified. Then again, something strange was definitely going on. Were they safe?

“The break room is up here. If no one flipped the switches we should do it.”

“Why? Shouldn’t we leave it to the adults?”

“Makua! You’re never going to be top student acting like that! You think Chelsea and Ximen back down from a challenge like this? No! And that’s exactly why they’re still ahead of you.”

Bambi caught her breath, tried to reel in her anger. For a moment she felt bad, and then relieved. She knew Makua needed to hear it.

He buried his head as low as it would go, and said nothing.

At that moment, the elevator door opened to the Pokémon Center. Hower’s ears shot back, sensed danger inside. He shot forward into the darkness, barking.

A powerful vacuum sounded, as though it had come from space.

“What is that?” Makua stepped forward. His Aipom snaked up his body, rested on his shoulder.

In the abyss before them, Bambi heard the clash of steel, two trainers commanding their Pokémon against each other.

The elevator doors closed behind them, returned to another floor to pick up more passengers.

Suddenly, the lights flashed on, brought everything into sharp focus. Bambi’s heart jumped as she took in the scene. It looked misplaced, distorted. What had happened in such a short amount of time?

Two Pokémon Center nurses, dressed in their long blue night shift attire stood next to each other, or rather, one leaned against the other for support. Blood gushed from her knee, down her milky white legs. Her arm was wrapped around the other nurse’s shoulder.

Bambi noticed the machine that was making all the noise. A woman with bright blonde hair held it between her two hands, like it was a block of ice, careful not to touch anything but the sides. It continued to make a horrible sucking noise. A tube connecting to the back end, ran somewhere out of sight.

The man hunched next to her controlled some sort of steel-dinosaur. It smashed its horn into the blue metal Pokémon resembling a four-legged spider. The sound paled in comparison to the one coming from the machine.

“You get hurt every time you try to stop us,” said the man.

His face swam into focus as Bambi ran closer, a mask of skin pulled over a skeletal face, nose and eyes sunken in.

No one seemed to notice the Houndour growling at them, as it waited an order.

“Hower!” Bambi called. “Give em’ a flamethrower!”

Hower reared back, released a stream of fire from its mouth. It connected with the steel dinosaur, roasted its arm. Slowly the thing noticed, turned its attention to the pup.

“What is this about?” The man turned as well. He scowled at Bambi and Makua. “Get these children out of my sight! I don’t want any of their deaths on my hands.”

At that moment, a familiar voice called to Bambi. Even her Hower stopped attacking, readjusted his position as the man and nurse’s fight continued.

“Kids,” Professor Durridge said. “Take the stairs and get out of here. Now. These individuals are not interested in preserving life. If you care about yours, you’ll move now.”

Before Bambi could ask anything, a cold, unforgiving hand clutched at her wrist. This time, it pulled her onward, away from the fight, to the flight of stairs outside the Center.

Bambi locked eyes with Makua, felt a loss for words.

He filled the silence with, “this time you have to listen to him. We have to listen to him.”

Bambi nodded, returned her Hower to its Pokeball.

“There’s someone above! Let’s move!”

Footsteps flew down the stairs with lightning-quick precision. They did not belong to students, but adults—adults that came to their Academy with a mission.

Bambi let herself off on the 3rd floor, stumbled into the corridor. The darkness had been lifted, replaced by an eerie quiet that made her stomach wrench with sickness. She noticed the emerald green light activated above her common room door, which meant that everyone had been notified of this attack. The only thing that allowed someone to sleep through it was death or comatose.

“I need to get my stuff!”

“No! Let’s just go, Bambi!”

Makua caught her by the forearm. For the first time she noticed his stubbornness that was absent before. Stubbornness or wherewithal. Makua stood his ground, pulled her to him. “You want to die today?”

“You’re being dramatic!” Bambi tried to yank herself free but she couldn’t. Makua suddenly seemed taller, less wimpy.

“The door from the staircase blasted open and two men dressed in raven black and blue skin suits appeared. One of them said something into his Poke-talker. The other pointed a blinking device at them, nodded.

“That’s her!”

The other man shut off his Poke-talker, jammed it into his pocket. “Go, Pidgeot!”

“Bayleef, I choose you!” Bambi cast her Pokeball onto the carpet. She shrugged Makua off her, who seemed to wither as soon as other humans entered the fray.

Bayleef kept its long neck on a swivel. Its array of leaves circling its neck opened. The single leaf on its forehead reacted to something in the room, like a flower reaching toward the sunlight.

“Bayleef!” It said.

“Capture the Hayline girl alive!”

Bambi and Makua exchanged a glance.

“Are you sure that’s her? She’s just a child . . .”

“That’s what the reading says. Now, stop wasting time!”

The Pidgeot filled the width of the corridor and the feathers on the top of its head nearly reached the ceiling. It spread its red, orange, yellow wings, squawked a terrible, starved sound.

“Pidgeot! Whirlwind!”

It was one of the quickest attacks Bambi had ever seen. She did not understand how it came upon her without even being able to utter an attack. But the winds came. A gust of air, turned sideways wrapped her in a vortex of incomprehensible power. She turned upside-down and backward, screamed but felt that no sound came out.

The first thing she understood was that she headed for the window at the end of the hall. She could not get her feet on solid ground. “Makua!” She couldn’t see or hear him. The window flew open, glass shattered, and with a force of a thousand gales, Bambi was cast outside.

A single vine wrapped around her ankle, pulled her back toward the Academy. It would break her fall against the ground, but now she was swinging back toward the concrete of the building. Without knowing exactly where she was, she kicked. Her foot connected with the wall and she bounced off.


Her Bayleef’s vine had been cut and again, Bambi fell. Something grabbed her hair at the scruff of the neck, scaled her down the wall as she sank lower. Then they fell together. It wasn’t terribly painful from that distance. She touched at her scalp, felt where the little monkey had tried to save her. She eyed Makua’s Aipom in the moonlight, hugged the tiny creature.

“Where’s Makua?”

Bambi felt dizzy. When she tried to stand up, she fell. The next thing she knew, Makua came from around the building, running at full speed.

“Where’s Bayleef?” Bambi asked. She looked up at the open window, saw the pear green leaves hanging there.

She held her Pokeball in the air, said, “Bayleef, return!”

Makua pulled her to her feet, said, “Are you alright?”

Bambi nodded. Considering what could have happened, she was fine. She touched at her hair again.

“We better move,” Makua said, peering into the forest thicket to his left.

Bambi peeled around the edge of the building, out of the sight of the men above. They hadn’t seen them, but they were sure to follow.

“Who are they?” she asked.

Makua shrugged. “I don’t know, but Professor Durridge did not seem comfortable with them being there.”

“I’ve never seen him like that.”

Bambi envisioned the laughing professor, his windowpane glasses making his eyes look bug-like. What she had seen of him in the Pokémon Center minutes before made her second-guess his jovial nature. There was seriousness and a level of expertise Bambi had never seen, not even from her parents.

“Shouldn’t we go back? He told us to go but what if no one else will help?”

Makua walked into the darkness, away from the moonlight. “He can handle it. We can go back for our stuff later when things get figured out.”

Bambi watched the way Makua navigated the entrance to the forest. She studied how he ran his hands along an invisible line, checking for a trap or Spinarak webs like they were taught. In the light, Makua exuded fear. It covered his face like rainfall covers a canopy. In the dark, Bambi sensed a different ten-year old boy. There was a dark side there. It made her think of Professor Durridge and his words to her weeks before.

Everyone has a dark side, Bambi. Even you. No matter how much time we spend with someone, we may never see it. The darkest sides are never shown to anyone but ourselves.

“We need Hower,” Makua said. “But no noise. We need light if we’re going to make camp in a safe place.”

Bambi threw her Pokeball to the ground. “Go, Hower!”

Hower came out of the ball and immediately its ears went back.

“Stay quiet, Hower,” Bambi warned. “Give us some light, okay?”

Hower growled lowly. That stone furnace inside its belly came alive, gave off a dim, coal-orange color.

“Now lead,” Bambi ordered. “Find us somewhere safe and quiet.

Hower sniffed at the stale air. Presently, its ear relaxed. It moved into the thicket, its head and shoulders lowered.

“Capture the Hayline girl alive,” Makua repeated.

Bambi recalled the moment. Now that she was away from the situation, a shiver ran up her spine.

“Hayline girl . . .”

Alive? As opposed to dead? Were those quickly interchangeable?

“Why would anyone be looking for you?”

“I don’t know . . .”

She shuddered to think that they really were looking for her. “It probably was about my cousin. The other Hayline girl.”

“Kirish,” Makua confirmed. “It seems weird though. Why would they be looking for Kirish at our Academy? Everyone knows she’s on the Islands.”

Bambi followed Hower’s trail, whistled to her pup. “Wait a second, Hower.” Bambi found a seat on mossy stone near the base of the forest floor and sat down. “I need to think about this.”

Makua stopped, pulled his Aipom closer to him. He eyed Bambi through the dark, seemed to agree that she needed time.

Bambi pulled the zipper to her jacket higher, felt the chilly air around her. The wind rustled crisp leaves, pried them from the ground, sprinkled them through the air like stardust. For a moment, everything was still. Bambi touched at her neck, felt something amiss.

She gasped. “My necklace!”

“What’s wrong?”

Bambi shot up. “It must have come off when I got caught in that whirlwind!” She looked back through the path where they had come. It wasn’t far back to the Academy. “We have to go back! That was my grandmother’s birthstone necklace. You can’t find Opal like that anymore.”

Bambi eyed Makua, pleaded with him.

“We can’t,” he said firmly. “We need to stay away from there.”

“But we don’t have anything. We could starve out here. We should go back and get stuff.”

“We can make it to Fuchsia city in a day or two, depending on how fast we move. Until then, we can find food in this forest.”

Bambi sighed. She knew that those men had probably already picked up her necklace. They wanted to capture her alive, but they had almost murdered her by throwing her out a window. It was so strange. She racked her brain, tried to think of a logical reason why the visitors would be there. Logic wasn’t her strong suit. That was Makua’s. Perhaps she could get something out of him.

“My parents were acting funny before I left for Academy. They were all hush-hush about me leaving. I wonder if they knew about these things before they happened.”

“That was six months ago,” Makua noted. “Are you saying these things are that pre-meditated?”

“Maybe. When I got into Academy my parents were worried about sending me here. Like there was something they weren’t telling me. They were on the phone with Professor Durridge a lot.”

Makua looked up suddenly. His Aipom hopped off his shoulder, peered up into the trees, saw something there. “Aipom, return!”

“We didn’t see anyone else from the Academy,” Bambi said. “I guess they followed the notice pretty quickly. Where do you think your brother would go?”

Makua walked forward again, his shoulders arched. Hower stalked along, led the way.

“We said if there was ever an emergency that we’d meet at the Fuchsia city Pokémon Center. That’s where he’s headed.”

A sinking feeling filled Bambi’s stomach, pulled down on her heart. Something inside her growled. She thought about Jed, Makua’s older brother, how he would know exactly what to do in this situation. Bambi wished Yumin was around, or Kirish even. At that moment, a very relevant thought struck her.

“It’s possible they were after me to get to Kirish. Whoever they are, they’re acting like a unit—a unit with a clear and decisive plan.”

Makua nodded, turned back, said, “What would they want with Kirish?”

“Beats me. Maybe they’d want some of her starter Pokémon, or control over some of the Islands. Or something with my Uncle. My parents were whispering about him a lot toward the end. Which means Yumin might be in danger too . . . and even . . . No that wouldn’t matter.” Bambi trailed off.

“What wouldn’t matter?”

“They might go even more direct and go for Kirish’s brother.”

Bambi thought about how peculiar it was to talk about her cousin this way.

Makua had picked up on it. He stopped walking, turned abruptly. “Kirish has a brother? How come I’ve never heard about him?”

“Probably no one has. His name is Zakana, and he hates Pokémon. He’s not a trainer.”

Makua’s face distorted, formed an ugly frown. “What do you mean he hates Pokémon? What kind of a person hates Pokémon?”

Makua acted as though Bambi had personally offended him because her cousin didn’t use Pokémon. Bambi knew the reason. She knew the stories, what her parents had told her when she was young. The other cousin she had and could not remember because she was too young.

Her answer came as a whisper. “He has a complicated past.”

She thought about how childish her cousin was, how elementary his mind was, even at his age of 18. How could it have gotten to that point? He was probably at home, doing his workouts or looking at the stars.

“What does someone do in this world when they don’t have Pokémon?”

“He wants to go to space. When I say he wants nothing to do with Pokémon, I really mean it. He wants to be as far from them as humanly possible.”

“But there are still Pokémon in space. Dangerous legendary Pokémon,” Makua said with a quiet reverence.

“It’s the best he’s got.” Bambi turned away from Makua, thought deeply about her cousin. If he really was in danger, what could he do to protect himself?

“Where is he, now?”

“His hometown, in Pallet.”

Makua sighed deeply, as though Zakana was his problem now too. In a way perhaps it was. The Academy would be taking an intermittence it seemed. There would be no midterm test tomorrow. There would be no students in the classrooms. Makua was no longer just a study partner and friend. He was with Bambi to protect and be protected. Bambi knew this was true as a thick substance enveloped her body, dragged her to a tree in its incomprehensible stickiness.


“Bambi!” He called back. “Stay calm. These are Ariados webs. They’ll release us once they see that we aren’t Pokémon.”

Adrenaline rushed through her as the warmth of the thickening web swallowed her. It encased her jeans, her jacket, moved up her neck, to her mouth. “Are you sure? What if we suffocate first?”

The spinning sound became louder, more grotesque. “Hower, chew through these webs!”

But Hower was being encased as well. Bambi couldn’t do anything to get to her other Pokeballs. Her arms were glued to her sides.

A chance of the moonlight showed Bambi one of the spider Pokémon above. Its large bulb-like hung over a branch, an impregnated sack of ooze.

“Makua! This web is about to cover my mouth!”

“But Pokémon won’t attack people . . . they won’t eat people . . . will they?”

“I’m sure you don’t want to find out.” An unfamiliar voice came from across the path.

A halo of blonde hair glistened there, and then, a young woman stepped into the light.

“Help us!”

The woman shifted her focus to the Ariados above, acted quickly. “Scizor! Slice through that web! Show those Ariados something to be afraid of!”

With a flash of blood red, something emerged from behind the woman, zipped to the trees.

Snap. Slice.

Bambi no longer felt constrained to the tree. Her head hung forward. Tiny feet scurried above her, scattered away with arachnid-sounded moans. Moments later, the woman appeared in front of Bambi. The emerald green inside her eyes looked exotically foreign, and for a moment, Bambi thought she recognized her.

“I would ask you what you’re doing out here all alone, but I think I already know the answer.”

Bambi swung her gaze to Makua, who still shivered with fear. He stared at the woman cutting through Bambi’s webs.

“I heard the explosion coming from the Academy.”

With an obvious stutter that was either from cold or fright, Makua said, “You’re Celadon’s Gym Leader, aren’t you?”

With a final slice, the woman slid her knife through Bambi’s webs, and cast them off her. She straightened up, eyed Makua, and smiled. “Please, call me Farore.”