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Pokémon Find A Way Home

Chapter 1
  • Equitial

    Ace Trainer
    1. espurr
    2. inkay
    3. woobat
    4. ralts
    Morgan, a runaway, and Amanda, an autistic girl who barely managed to start her journey, meet and become lost together after a cave-in. Although at first their personalities seem unreconcilable, they realize just how much they have in common as they try to find their way out of Chargestone Cave.

    A character-focused fic about LGBT+ and neurodivergent friendship.

    Rated T for infrequent language, some injury, prominent themes of abuse and mental health, and remembered/internalized homophobia, transphobia, and ableism.
    All these detailed warnings come from the first draft of the fic, so some details may change during the rewrite. I'll note it if there are any major changes in content. I may provide content warnings for individual chapters, but as of now I don't think it's necessary.

    Language - There is infrequent use of mild swears like "damn" and "piss". There was one instance of strong language (the f-bomb). A character recounts how they were called a homophobic slur by their abusive father. The slur (d*ke) is spelled out in the text.

    Injury - Blood/bleeding from minor injuries is described but not overly detailed. One character is seriously injured; their injuries are shortly described, but not significantly detailed.

    Abuse - Both protagonists have emotionally and verbally abusive parents. Said parents do not appear on-screen, but specific words/actions are remembered or recounted. Remembered verbal abuse may contain swearing/threats of violence. Physical abuse is brought up; a character (truthfully) denies it, but internally worries it may happen. Characters have also experienced bullying from peers/siblings -- some of that is remembered as well.

    Mental health - Characters engage in negative self-talk. Panic attacks/meltdowns/shutdowns are depicted onscreen and in-POV. A character has thoughts of almost wanting to be injured or to "disappear", and there is one instance of impulsive self-harm. There is implied disordered eating, and a character remembers snide comments about their weight.

    Bigotry - Characters remember/recount how they were bullied/abused/stigmatized for being LGBT+ and neurodivergent. A character recounts how they were called a homophobic slur by their abusive father. The slur (d*ke) is spelled out in the text. Characters express thoughts stemming from internalized oppression -- e.g. "Why can't I be normal?" One POV character thinks a couple borderline ableist thoughts about the other before they get better. A character recalls fatphobic comments made at them.

    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9


    Author's Note: Hello, welcome to my fic! I've been writing for years, but this is my first time posting anything in a good while. I appreciate absolutely any feedback, even if it's only few sentences, especially if it's constructive criticism. Don't worry about seeming too harsh -- my main purpose of posting this fic is to improve.


    Chapter 1

    Morgan stared at the phone in her hand. She knew she should have expected something when she logged into her old email, but her hand shook as she scrolled through the long line of messages. The oldest was from three weeks ago. The latest — Meredith, it’s your mom — was sent less than two hours ago.

    You won’t be in trouble. Just call us and we can sort this all out.

    Morgan read the email. In her head, Mom’s words were calm, coaxing. Morgan almost thought… but she couldn’t keep up the facade if she played through the scenario. Maybe if she called, got only her mom, her mom would be able to keep her tone. But any further, and her dad’s voice butted in. Familiar, and very far from calm.

    She knew she shouldn’t, but she scrolled back down to the bottom of the list of messages, sent when they realized Morgan had ditched her phone. The first was similar to the newest. Calm, reasoning. You made a mistake, but you can come back. She read it, then the second. But the third. Its tone was very different.

    It wasn’t from her mom.

    She read the third email, over and over. It was just text, but she heard her dad’s voice: echoing, booming, louder and louder. She remembered when she still had her old phone and couldn’t stop herself from playing her father’s voicemails on repeat. You brat, how dare —

    Her eyes and throat prickled. Her vision blurred, obscuring the words.

    The phone buzzed. Morgan flinched, dropping it to the grass. The same time she realized what had happened she realized her heart was hammering in her chest. She caught herself and knelt on the cold ground, next to the phone which had fallen face up.

    A new email. She could tell from the first line it wasn’t written by her mom.

    Instead of picking up the phone, she drew her legs to her chest and bowed her head. It didn’t even matter, she told herself, pressing her eyes into her knees. They couldn’t — but even as she attempted to reassure herself, her thoughts snagged with the idea that they could find her. Morgan had bought a new phone, and, now that she had logged in, they would be able to track her using it.

    No, no, they couldn’t… but the idea played over and over in her head. She sat there, in a fetal position, and she couldn’t move. Her heart beat so fast it was almost painful. Her breaths grew so ragged they bordered on hyperventilation.

    She clutched at her head, grabbing fistfuls of hair. She heard her father’s voice, screaming at her. You stupid girl. Don’t you ever think? You little brat. You should —

    Morgan choked back a sob.

    Something trilled behind her. Morgan jerked, but it wasn’t the phone. Nora’s wings blew back her hair as the swoobat landed on the ground beside her. Nora crawled forward, angling her head toward Morgan, emitting a questioning hum.

    “Fine,” Morgan choked out. She realized she was rocking heavily back and forth; she forced herself to still. She loosened her grip on her hair, but couldn’t get herself to let go entirely.

    Nora’s head twitched and swiveled. She pressed her body against Morgan’s, rubbing her soft ruff against Morgan’s side. She clicked and reached up with her wings to gently pull at Morgan’s arms.

    Morgan sniffed, somehow getting her fingers to disentangle from her hair. Nora pressed her ruff against one of Morgan’s palms. Slowly, Morgan began to pet her. Nora wriggled under Morgan’s hand and let out a low, uniform hum.

    Eventually, Nora clicked and retreated, taking off into the air again but remaining close. Morgan wiped an arm across their face, let out a breath.

    Beside them, the phone still lay on the ground. Morgan stared at it. A shiver crawled up their spine, like any second they would hear the phone hum again with another message, another threat. How dare you —

    No. Morgan stood up, rocking on their feet.

    No. They were away from their parents, only with Nora now. Dad wasn’t going to jump out from a bush no matter how many messages he sent. Mom wasn’t going to find Morgan, be nice to them at first, then yell at them, blame them for everything. Morgan was on Route 6. Their parents were in Striaton City.

    Morgan was safe.

    Nora fluttered in front of their face, her eyes and tail flitting every which way. “I’m fine,” Morgan muttered. They stuck their hands in the pocket of their hoodie. “I was just…”

    Nora darted forward to stamp her heart-shaped nose against their cheek.

    “Hey!” Morgan said as Nora trilled cheerily and took into the air. Morgan scrubbed at their cheek and glared. Nora just dipped to pull at their hair with her tail.

    “I told you not to do that,” Morgan said, batting her away. Nora took off but continued chirping to herself in a self-satisfied manner. Reluctantly, Morgan gave her a smile.

    “Fine. We’ll leave now.”

    Morgan hiked up their backpack, ready to go. But wait. Their phone.

    It was on the ground where they had left it, screen gone dark. They took a breath, then picked it up. They logged out of their account, leaving their father’s newest message unread. It didn’t matter, and they shouldn’t have to deal with it. Their parents were still at home and Morgan wasn’t. Their parents couldn’t do anything to them. Morgan had left.

    Nora landed on their shoulders. She didn’t pull at their hair, so they let her stay. Morgan reached back to pet her, scratching just under her neck where she liked it best.

    Them and Nora, finally off on their journey. And they weren’t going back.

    Morgan and Nora reached an opening into Chargestone Cave.

    It wasn’t the entrance, the official one most trainers used. Morgan had scouted this one out at the previous town, using a map they had then downloaded onto their phone. This entrance was more to the south than the official one; it was a wide, low mouth, half-hidden behind trees at the end of a vague path.

    Nora squealed when she saw the entrance. She swooped ahead of Morgan, flapping in circles near the opening. She called joyfully to Morgan. Morgan sprinted to her, smiling. They supposed it made sense. Nora was a bat, so she should like caves, right?

    “Chargestone Cave,” they told her once they caught up. “It’s big. It has floating rocks, because of the electricity.” They waved their hand vaguely as they explained.

    Of course, just from a glance into the cave, Morgan didn’t see any electrically charged rocks, hovering and glowing blue like they had seen in pictures and on TV. They would have to go further in. They frowned, tapping their hand against the leg of their pants. Nora seemed delighted now, but would she still be when they reached that part of the cave? Woobat and swoobat didn’t live here, Morgan knew.

    At least she seemed happy now, trilling above Morgan’s head. Morgan took one last look at the natural light that trickled through the leafy filter above, then nodded.

    Into Chargestone Cave they went.

    It didn’t take long for the atmosphere to feel charged as Morgan and Nora continued on. No glowing rocks yet, though. Their path was lit by man-made lights, embedded at semi-regular intervals, and the occasional openings letting in fresh air and sunlight.

    Morgan stopped for breakfast under one of those openings. They opened up a tin of food for Nora, hesitated, then got out something for themself.

    They gnawed on a stick of tough jerky as they watched Nora take her own meal. If the feel of the cave bothered her, she didn’t show it.

    About an hour farther in, Morgan saw the first of Chargestone’s most famous features. They came across a glittering wall, sparsely dotted with larger blue pinpricks. The pinpricks turned out to be mostly tiny stones embedded in the wall. However, some of those bits of stone — the biggest smaller than the nail of their pinkie finger — were stuck like magnets to a fridge.

    They studied the wall while Nora swooped off to examine the cave for herself. Carefully, so their nails wouldn’t scrape against rock (Morgan shuddered at the thought), they plucked off a pebble. It came off with the slightest of resistance.

    It tingled their fingers at first, but the sensation faded after an instant. Morgan let the pebble roll into their palm, then rubbed it with their thumb. Felt pretty normal, a bit smoother than they were expecting. There was metal in it, flecks of it, which was why it stuck to the wall and collected electricity. They tried sticking it back to the wall; it fell once, then stayed the second time.

    Morgan eyed the wall. Impulsively, they pressed their hand flat against a smoother section of it. They felt the same mild shock as with the pebble, just startling enough that they instinctively recoiled.

    They recovered and put their hands to the wall again. Possibly because they knew what to expect, the sensation seemed weaker than before. That was disappointing because… it was interesting. Unique. Kind of crunchy on their skin. They tried rubbing their hand along the wall, and now the sensation came back. It was there, all over their hand and fingers, buzzing and dancing like pins and needles but not so uncomfortable. Textured, interesting.

    The cave rumbled suddenly, only softly, but enough to make Morgan turn and look around. The rumbling subsided, and they realized: god, wait, what? Had Morgan really just been rubbing their hands all over a wall?

    Morgan shoved her hands in her hoodie pocket, her face growing hot for no reason. Memories of her mom yanking her shoulders — people are looking, she hissed in Morgan’s ear — flooded her mind. Mom wasn’t here now but… stop being a weirdo.

    Something brushed her arm. Morgan flinched and spun. But it was just Nora, of course.

    “What’s wrong?” Morgan whispered at her, still feeling that rise of spontaneous embarrassment. The swoobat flapped in Morgan’s face, clicking and looking conspicuously behind herself.

    Morgan frowned, following Nora’s glance. At first, the place seemed empty, but then a flash of white flicked out from behind a stalagmite.

    Morgan started forward. Nora bristled and squeaked, but Morgan held out a hand to hush her. Morgan slowed and edged closer, internally telling Nora to remain calm and quiet.

    There, behind the stalagmite, hovered a small, eel-like creature with a film of outer skin translucent enough to reveal the yellow and blue organs underneath. It jolted and hissed when it saw Morgan.

    Morgan let out a breath. “It’s fine, Nora,” they said as the pokémon, a tynamo, burst off. It fled to a corner of the ceiling, wriggling in the air and pressing its face against the wall. It made a scritching, scratchy sound as Morgan followed it. Eventually, it found some sort of opening, which it squirmed into and away.

    Nora landed on Morgan’s backpack, clicking in their ear.

    “It was just a tynamo. It — wait.” Morgan hesitated. “There’s something I want to show you.”

    Morgan sat down and pulled out their phone. They noted distantly that they had no connection in here. Well, to be expected. The phone had only worked on and off on Route 6. They navigated to the entries they had saved.

    Nora landed at Morgan’s side. “I… want to catch another pokémon,” they said, turning the phone’s screen to Nora. “So we can have another teammate. Here, it’s a joltik. They live here.”

    Nora peered at the phone’s screen, her ears twitching. She studied the picture of the small, fuzzy yellow spider pokémon. Just a plain picture. Morgan switched to another, showing a couple joltik on a sparkling web. Nora clicked thoughtfully.

    Morgan envisioned it. Not just them and Nora, but a galvantula. They saw the pokémon following after them, antennae twitching. They saw its fuzzy body crackling with electricity when they called it to face an opponent. Their first pokémon caught on their journey, the first added to the team they would travel across the region with.

    Nora flapped her wings. “You like that?” Morgan asked her.

    Nora cocked her head, slapping her tail against the floor. Then, suddenly, she squeaked and took into the air. She flew around Morgan’s head before swooping toward the other side of the room.

    Morgan stood. Did… that mean Nora was good with having a joltik join them?

    Nora fluttered in front of a passageway, calling out loudly. Wait a minute. Morgan shoved the phone away, following her.

    Nora squealed and circled over Morgan before swooping ahead. She led Morgan down a narrow corridor and into a room with intricate rock formations: bundles of stalactites and stalagmites, twisting columns and spires. Some seemed natural, others purposeful — created by trainers who had their pokémon show off their artistic talents, probably. Holes in the ceiling let in natural light. A big rusty plaque was nailed onto one wall, but Morgan didn’t read it.

    Instead, they followed to where Nora chirped at them from a corner. Below the swoobat, there was a small hole near the ground, about the length of Morgan’s hand. Morgan crouched and peered inside. Dark, and appeared empty even after they pulled out their phone to shine its light into it. But.

    “There was a joltik here?” they asked, showing Nora the screen. Nora clicked, which Morgan took as a yes.

    Morgan stood. If Nora did see a joltik, it probably escaped through the hole. But could there be more?

    They wandered around the stone formations. They glanced at a tall, twisting spire, embedded not with charged stones but with some sparkly, marbled gray and blue kind. It was kind of pretty; Morgan wondered why people stopped coming over here. Maybe because there weren’t very many pokémon, just Morgan’s luck.

    Nora swooped over their head. They moved on and — there! Previously hidden behind all the jutting columns. Sparkling yellow webs strung between dripping stalactites, hanging just over the floor. “Look!” Morgan said, rushing forward.

    The webs were big — the biggest of them almost a yard tall — with threads thick like cables, but they were still delicate, elaborate. Electrified threads, carefully strung and woven into complex structures.

    Morgan leaned in closer, taking in the webs’ smaller details. Their eyes traced the webs’ intricate patterns: arches, gently curving in concentric loops, repeating and repeating, in so many even layers. Their breath twitched the strands. The sunlight coming in from above glinted off them. Behind the webs, interlocking shadows decorated the stone and created yet more carefully crafted patterns — phantom images, cast in steep angles…

    Nora brushed Morgan’s arm, breaking them from their thoughts. Morgan tore their eyes away. Nora had landed next to them, and she now clicked questioningly.

    They turned back to the webs. Now that their initial excitement had faded, they could see that these webs also sagged with dust and caught debris. Some sections had collapsed completely, leaving strands to hang untethered. Old. Despite that they had probably been made some while ago, they still produced errant sparks and the softest of hums.

    Morgan shook their head. “Webs,” they explained to Nora. “Joltik, the pokémon we’re looking for —” they held up their phone again “— make these. They mean joltik are around. Or were around.” They tapped the phone screen for emphasis.

    Nora fidgeted, leaving Morgan no indication as to how much she understood. However, then she took into the air, clicking at Morgan like she wanted them to follow. They didn’t have to go far because into another passageway was another web, or the remains of one, at least. It was basically just some strands barely connected to the wall. But still. Nora looked at Morgan expectantly.

    They grinned; their hands flapped once at their side. “Yeah, like that. Great job.”

    Nora trilled, almost singing in pleasure, and Morgan laughed. They almost couldn’t believe it. They were so… happy. A few weeks ago they wouldn’t have been able to imagine they could be like this, but now they were. And all they had had to do was leave.

    “We’ll keep looking,” they told Nora, straightening. “For joltik or webs. We’ll catch one before we leave Chargestone.”

    This was really happening. Morgan was a trainer now. Not officially, but still. They were going to find and catch a new teammate. For so long it had been just Morgan, and then they had met Nora in secret, but now —

    “Soon we won’t be alone.”

    Nora cooed, circling around Morgan. She took off, and Morgan smiled and followed her.


    No webs, no webs, no webs. They came across some other pokémon — a few ferroseed, a couple of drilburr who darted off as soon as they spotted Morgan and Nora — but no more webs or joltik. Nora’s spirits didn’t appear to flag, but Morgan’s fingers drummed on their pant legs. They hadn’t expected they would catch a joltik the instant they walked into the cave, but still. Seeing those webs had gotten their hopes up, and —

    They shook their head. They plopped on the ground and decided it was mealtime. They paced while Nora ate. The image of the gavantula reappeared in their mind. It swaying its antennae in response to Nora swooping and singing around it; it curling near Morgan at night. It would burst out with electricity at Morgan’s command; it would bristle with satisfaction after a battle, as Morgan wrapped their arms around its furry abdomen.

    The atmosphere became more and more energized the further they went in, sparkling walls and electrified stones now common. Soon, the charged rocks provided all the light they needed. Every once in a while Morgan paused to take in the lights, sparkling against the walls and shifting in the air.

    Nora still seemed happy, singing as she flew, though she didn’t go off ahead anymore. A few hours after lunch, she twitched. She clicked and led Morgan off onto another path.

    Morgan’s anticipation buoyed, but it was just a couple of roggenrola, waddling around in an off-to-the-side chamber. Roggenrola lived in Wellspring, so they weren’t anything Morgan had never seen before. But Nora seemed to like the pokémon — she flitted around them, trilling, brushing against Morgan’s arm and hair.

    “Okay. We can play with them for a bit.” Morgan settled back to watch Nora and the roggenrola, who ground out grunts and circled the room.

    Where were they, by the way? Morgan pulled out their phone. They had drifted away from the trainers’ path, but not enough to be problematic. Probably.

    The cave rumbled, causing Morgan to glance up. Handfuls of dust sprinkled down from the ceiling, and the roggenrola grunted and stamped in place. Nora clicked at the pokémon, but they ignored her. They chattered at each other, then started away.

    Nora chirped after them, and Morgan frowned. "Let them go, Nora. They want to leave now.” They stood, sticking their phone back in their pocket.

    Nora snuffled and flew to Morgan. Morgan held out a hand, but she kept fidgeting and looking toward where the roggenrola went. Morgan wondered, maybe… the roggenrola reminded her of home?

    An uncomfortable lump formed in Morgan’s throat. “It’s alright. We… we’re going to find another teammate. That’ll be better, because then you’ll always have another pokémon to play with.” Nora clung to Morgan’s backpack, and they reached back to pet her. “…Is that okay?”

    Nora chittered, then pressed her nose against Morgan’s neck.

    “Alright…” Morgan shifted. Nora lifted off and flapped in front of the passageway. “Let’s go then.”

    As they walked, a low guilt simmered in Morgan’s stomach. Which was stupid, they hadn’t done anything. Still, no matter how hard they tried to shove it down, it wouldn’t go away. Nora started clinging to them again. “I’m fine,” Morgan told her. But she didn’t stop worrying until she suddenly jumped up and pulled on Morgan’s hair.

    Nora.” Morgan jerked away.

    But Nora continued to pull at them… wait. Nora swooped off. They followed her lead and —

    More web.

    “Nora!” Morgan squealed. They ran to the glittering webs strung up in a ceiling corner.

    Unlike the ones from before, these were new, humming and sparking with electricity. They stood on their toes and squinted. Was there anything caught in the webs? They didn’t see anything. If there was nothing yet, then maybe…

    They whirled to Nora. “Do you hear anything?” They drew out their phone, pulled up the picture of joltik. “A joltik was here.”

    Nora only chirped, fluttering around Morgan’s head.

    “Joltik,” Morgan muttered to themself. “Joltik, joltik, joltik.” Their fingers drummed energetically against their side. They searched the room. Joltik were small — one could be hiding anywhere. Nothing there, but around the corner: another web. It was smaller. Half-finished? Maybe… maybe a joltik had been building it, then had heard something — a human and their swoobat — but was still around somewhere, lurking nearby.

    Morgan gestured Nora close. “Stay with me.” They put a finger to their lips. Nora obediently flapped to their side. Morgan went quiet as well, though inside their brain buzzed: joltik, joltik, joltik.

    In a corridor, a narrow crack spanned from the floor to the ceiling, inside dimly lit by charged stones and particles embedded in the rock. Nora clung to the wall near it, chirping quietly.

    Holding their breath, Morgan peered inside. Nothing at first, but then: movement. A light-colored blotch shifted, then crawled forward, revealing its small yellow form, its four, electric-blue eyes.

    Morgan froze. Joltik joltik joltik joltik. Their hands tapped-tapped-tapped, then rose, fluttering at their sides.

    Morgan waited. You could only catch a willing pokémon; Morgan might be an illegal trainer, but they would never take a pokémon illegally. The joltik twitched but didn’t run. Nora took into the air to hover behind Morgan’s shoulder, but Morgan didn’t dare move.

    The joltik scuttled a body length forward, froze, then scuttled another. It advanced that way, stopping about a forearm’s length away from the main passageway. For a moment it held still, then it began to hum, its yellow fuzz lighting with static.

    A challenge.

    “Nora,” Morgan whispered. Their hands flapped vigorously now; they bounced on the balls of their feet. The cave floor vibrated under them as if mirroring their emotions. As the joltik inched forward, Morgan’s heart pounded, and a grin bloomed on their face. “Get ready.”

    Then a mass of writhing, squawking feathers rocketed out from around the corner, aimed directly at Morgan.

    Morgan hit the ground with a grunt just before a weight landed on their chest and knocked the air from their lungs. They gasped, struggling to find their breath. Above them, a bird with wild eyes squawked in their face.

    “Tranquill, stop! Oh no. Oh no!!”

    Nora swooped in, releasing a watery, air-distorting cry. The pokémon — a gray bird, a tranquill — flapped off Morgan’s chest barely in time to dodge the supersonic. It retreated, hissing, as Nora hissed back, hovering protectively between it and Morgan.

    Morgan sat up, blinking to clear their eyes. What the —

    “No, Tranquill!” a voice yelled. “Did you attack a person? Oh no. Back in!!!”

    A voice. Morgan scrambled to her feet.

    A fat girl with reddish-blond curls and a long red scarf trailing behind her burst onto the scene. The tranquill whirled and reared back as the girl thrust out a pokéball. “In!!!” she cried. The hissing bird burst into the air, retreated as it screeched and cawed. Before it could go far, a beam shot from the girl's hand. The beam hit the tranquill's tail feathers; the bird dissolved into light.

    “Don’t do that, Tranquill!!” the girl shouted at the pokéball once it clicked shut. Behind her, a light blue pokémon with wings like clouds wafted in, humming a discordantly peaceful tune. It landed on the girl’s head; the girl didn’t seem to notice. She jabbed her finger on the pokéball’s plastic. “Attacking people for no reason is bad!!!”

    Morgan stumbled backward, staring wide-eyed at the girl scolding the pokéball. Her presence was out-of-place, jarring. What was she even doing here — Morgan had made sure to keep off the main path. This was the first time Morgan had seen a human since —

    The girl looked up, straight at Morgan. “I’m so sorry!!” she said. “I let Tranquill out but then he got angry at me and ran away. Are you okay???” She spoke very quickly, very loudly, very emphatically, like her sentences ended with excess punctuation. She had a bit of a lisp and a sort of sing-songy cadence. Her eyes blinked rapidly behind thick-framed glasses.

    Morgan stood there, shoulders hunched and mouth hanging open, struggling to process what was happening. There was a person here now, so Morgan had to say ‘hi’ or — wait, the girl had asked a question. Answer that.

    “I’m fine,” Morgan choked out.

    The girl sighed in relief. “Oh good. I’m sososo sorry. I didn’t think he would run, especially into a person!!! I’m so sorry. What’s your name?”

    This girl talked very quickly.

    Morgan’s heart began to pound. Which was stupid. She just had to say words and leave. “That’s okay. I’m Mor — Mere —”

    Oh god. Why. Why was this happening.

    Suddenly, the girl’s head jerked off to the side, the pokémon on it having to flutter its wings to keep its perch. Morgan jerked and turned too. There was Nora, clinging to the wall and slowly creeping her way forward. The swoobat cocked her head, clicked quietly, and glanced at Morgan.

    “And that’s my partner,” Morgan blurted.

    “Oh.” The girl beamed. “I love swoobat!!”

    Nora jumped off the wall and flew forward. “Oh wow.” The girl giggled as Nora circled her, clicking curiously. “Swoobat are so friendly. I think yours likes me!!”

    The pokémon on her head chirped and took to the air as well. It flapped up near Nora. Nora clicked down at it, hovering closer.

    “I think they like Blue too!!” A loud laugh, and then the girl turned her attention back to Morgan. “Swoobat’s so nice! What’s their name??”

    “Uh, Morgan — wait no, um —” Morgan’s face went hot. “Swoobat is Nora. My name is Morgan.”

    The girl giggled again. Nora and the girl’s Pokémon — Blue —started chirping and clicking together, making a kind of dissonant song. “I love Nora!!!”

    The girl clapped her hands, watching the pokémon. Blue hopped on the ground, waving its wings and chirping out short melodies. It seemed like Nora was trying to copy it — though she wasn’t quite as harmonious. She glanced at Morgan and swung her tail happily.

    Suddenly the girl was talking again. “Nora’s pretty small. She just evolved, right? You must be really good friends with her!! Partners only evolve when they have good humans — did you know that almost no swoobat join trainers if they’ve already evolved?? That’s because they don’t want to leave their friends!!! Is she your first pokémon? Where did you catch her?? Oh, she’s a girl, right?”

    Morgan blinked, trying to process. Why did this girl talk so fast?

    “Oh,” the girl said, “oh wait.” She gave a short chuckle and twirled her fingers around the tassels of her scarf. “I was talking too much, wasn’t I? I’m sorry, I just really like Flying-types and —” She broke off.

    “Um, that’s okay,” Morgan responded. Thank god, the girl slowed down. The back of Morgan’s brain still struggled to sort through all the questions she had asked. “Nora’s from Wellspring. I caught her —”

    Wait, catch.

    Morgan whirled. The joltik.

    “Nora!” she called as she pulled out her phone. She aimed its screen toward the crack in the wall, trying to angle the light around the crags. The charged particles in the wall shimmered, but that was the only movement. Morgan held her breath, waited, but no pokémon came out.

    “What’s wrong?” the girl asked, right behind Morgan’s ear.

    Morgan turned, backed away. “There was a joltik.” Her stomach clenched, accompanied by a sinking feeling in her chest. “Nora and I were going to catch it.”

    “Oh no. That’s — wait. Oh no. Did Tranquill make you miss it??”

    Clearly the answer was obvious. Morgan didn’t say anything.

    The girl made a sound of dismay. “Oh no, I’m so sorry, I messed everything up. I — um, wait! I saw some joltik before!! Not too many, but a few! Near the main path. I could lead you to them!!”

    Oh god — “No,” Morgan said quickly. Maybe too quickly. She stuck her hands in her pocket and tried to downplay it. “I want to travel alone. It’s fine.”

    The girl frowned. “But… we’re supposed to travel together. Didn’t your pokédex get the alert??”

    Morgan didn’t have a dex, so no. She stayed quiet.

    The girl pulled out her own pokédex, light blue and covered with stickers. “I thought it was supposed to go to everyone!! Things are okay, probably, but we’re supposed to stay in groups and keep on the main paths because of those rumbles.”

    “I didn’t get an alert,” Morgan said. She remembered her plan: say words and leave. She tried to think fast. “And I haven’t felt any rumbles. Maybe we’re far enough away that —”

    The cave shook again, as if it had been waiting for Morgan to speak. Morgan stumbled; the girl yelped and covered her head as the pokemon looked around in confusion. The ground rocked under her feet, and Morgan thought she could hear some kind of low, churning sound emitting from the walls.

    As quickly as it had come, the shaking subsided. The girl hesitantly lowered her arms. “That’s a rumble!!!”

    Morgan didn’t say anything. Her jaw had clenched with the arrival of the quake, and she clutched her hands together tightly in her hoodie pocket.

    The girl continued: “We’re supposed to get to the main path because it’s safer there. These rumbles could be dangerous!! I was trying to get back to the main path myself, so maybe running into each other was a good thing. Not that Tranquill messing up your catch was good! I’m still so so sorry about that!!”

    Morgan’s mind raced. There had to be reasons why a perfectly legal trainer would not want to travel with another in these circumstances, especially this very bubbly, very loud girl. “I…” Morgan began, but the girl had already turned away.

    Nora and Blue apparently didn’t care much about the shake. They swooped about near the ceiling, playing some kind of game where the goal seemed to be to turn circles as quickly as possible. The girl’s pokémon lost its bearings and fell, squealing musically as it went. It landed with a gentle bounce as Nora clicked triumphantly down at it. Blue chirped back indignantly, puffing out its wings.

    “Those sillies!” The girl laughed. “And our pokémon like each other too, so that’s good!!”

    Nora noticed the humans watching her. She broke into a toothy grin and let out a series of happy chirps. Blue fluttered up and began to loop again as Nora trilled in approval, her tail swinging. The swoobat gave Morgan one last look before starting to play again…

    Morgan sighed. Fine.

    She turned to the girl. “Where did you see the joltik?”

    “Oh, the joltik?” The girl looked back to Morgan. “Not too far away. I think we should be able to find them before bedtime!!” She smiled. “Did I forget to tell you my name? I’m Amanda!!!”

    “I’m Morgan.”

    Amanda giggled. “You already told me that.”

    Greaaaaat. “Sorry,” Morgan muttered.

    The girl laughed again for some reason. Morgan blushed hotly, but she was locked in now. Still, maybe this was for the best. They had been traveling with Nora only having Morgan for company for quite some time, and the girl was right when she said Nora liked Blue. Let it and Nora play together until Amanda helped Morgan find another joltik, and then —

    Morgan thought again of a large, electric spider following after them. A new pokémon, a new partner, a new friend. For both of them.


    Made several minor edits on 9/8/2020 to fix typos and slightly change the tone of some character interactions.

    Several minor typos/clarity issues corrected on 10/10/2020.
    Last edited:
    Chapter 2
  • Equitial

    Ace Trainer
    1. espurr
    2. inkay
    3. woobat
    4. ralts
    Chapter 2

    “So, what do you think could be happening?” Amanda asked, swinging her arms as she led the way through Chargestone Cave. Morgan, that quiet and mysterious trainer, followed behind. “There weren’t any warnings before I came into here, and I made sure to check because I’m very careful like that. It’s curious — very curious. Don’t you think??”

    She did a slow spin, surveying the sparkling walls around her. This cave sure was pretty, but also spooky, considering present circumstances. The lights embedded in the wall cast beautiful, flicker-y light, but sometimes the shifting illumination made the halls and caverns appear strange, almost mystical. The floating crystal-like sparkle-stones helped make Chargestone seem like a magical world out of a storybook!

    “Very curious,” Amanda repeated.

    “Yeah…” Morgan responded. The trainer kicked a small stone, sending it skrt-skrt across the floor. “…Are we almost to the joltik yet?”

    “Oh, um.” Amanda blinked, bringing herself to the present. “We gotta be close!!” They have been walking for a while. “Let me check!!”

    Amanda brought up her dex’s map. She and Morgan were a dot in a web of little rooms and crisscrossing corridors. The chambers and halls all funneled down toward a strong bold line which cut through the cave: the main trainer path.

    “Uhh, we’re getting there, I think!” Amanda squinted at the screen. Definitely close, though Amanda couldn’t remember exactly where… Oh curses!! Why was she so bad with directions?!?

    Morgan glanced over Amanda’s shoulder. Amanda glanced back. Amanda would do this; she had to help Morgan find a joltik, to make up for Tranquill! She just had to try her best!!!

    “We’ll be there soon,” she reassured Morgan, fluttering her fingers near her side where the trainer couldn’t see.

    Across the hall, Blue and Nora swooped past a sparkle-stone as it rotated slowly near the ceiling. The sparkle-stone was about the size of Amanda’s head, crackly blue with electricity. Blue circled it while Nora clung to the ceiling above, approaching cautiously. She got close and booped her nose against it — then eek! Off the swoobat swerved, hair standing on end.

    Amanda held back a giggle as Blue comforted Nora, hugging his wings around her head. Bluey was making a friend!!! After helping Nora, Blue came over to perch on Amanda’s head and chirp a little tune. Amanda laughed, looking to Morgan. The trainer smiled and bowed their head, tapping their fingers on their leg.

    Well, if there was one good thing that came out of this, it was meeting Morgan and Nora! They were both so nice — it would have been super bad if anything had happened to them!!!

    As Blue lifted from her head, Amanda’s mind wandered back to the alert. When Amanda mentioned it to Morgan, Morgan had looked at her all confused. Like, What are you talking about? Maybe… Amanda had made it up??? Not in a mean way, just she had —

    (“It’s nothing about you, sweetie,” Mama said. “It’s just you have to admit that you get… confused. It’s not your fault, and I’m not saying I don’t believe you, but —” She sighed. “I worry.”)

    — gotten confused.

    Amanda bit her lip. After glancing at Morgan, she pulled out her dex. She went to the alert page and, okay, the message about the rumbles and staying together and keeping your dexes close was still there. She let out a sigh.

    As she walked, she read over the message a few more times. “It sure was odd you didn’t get the alert,” she said aloud. “Did they forget you, somehow??”

    Morgan, who was walking ahead of Amanda, looked back, hesitated, then shrugged.

    “That could have been very dangerous of the pokédex alert people — you could have gotten hurt!!” Rocks could have fallen on Morgan. The floor could have cracked open. Lots of things! For all Amanda knew, the only reason this trainer didn’t meet an unfortunate fate was because Amanda’s parents let her go on a journey and she ended up here, in Chargestone Cave. Amanda grinned, puffing out her chest. She might be a hero!!

    She stifled a giggle. “They should really work on that,” she said sternly, “making sure every trainer gets the alerts!”

    “…I guess,” Morgan said.

    So weird that Morgan didn’t get it. Unless… “Are you one hundred percent completely certain you didn’t get the alert?” Amanda asked. “Maybe you just missed it. Can I see your dex??”

    Perhaps this was all a misunderstanding? Plus, maybe Amanda could peek at Morgan’s trainer profile. Morgan, who had a gender-neutral name.

    But Morgan bristled. “I already said I didn’t get any alert,” the trainer snapped.

    Amanda stumbled to a stop.

    (”I said get lost,” Tania said, slapping Amanda away. “This is why no one wants to be around you.” Daddy made a disapproving noise from the couch, but Mama said, “Well, Mandy, your sister has a point. You really need to think sometimes.”)

    No, settle down, Amanda. It’s okay. “I’m sorry.” Amanda’s face went all hot. “I know you already said that. I guess, um, my brain gets all carried up in things, and um…” She reached for Scarf, whom she had looped around her neck. She rubbed his soft fabric against her palm in small circles.

    Morgan just looked at Amanda. Eventually, “It’s fine,” Morgan muttered. “Let’s get going.”

    Morgan continued, and Amanda let out a breath. See, fine, just a little mistake.

    Blue fluttered over, tweeting questioningly at her. Amanda responded with a smile. He returned to Nora, the swoobat swooping around the room. She flew past Morgan; her wingtips brushed against their hair.

    Morgan’s hair, thick and black, framed their acne-splotched face. It was kinda long-ish, but could go either way. They wore jeans and a black hoodie, which didn’t give any hints either.

    That all was fine, but, um, Amanda couldn’t tell what gender Morgan was. Well, technically you couldn’t tell what gender any person was unless you asked them. But in practice, if you asked someone their gender, they usually got super offended. Which was bad news for Amanda, because when she was six she couldn’t tell the gender of her math teacher Mrs. Hudson — and she was Mrs. Hudson.

    Morgan’s voice wasn’t very deep, but it could belong to a boy. Their clothes were baggy, and they were super skinny. It was hard to tell if they had any — wait, don’t look at their chest!! Don’t be a creep, Amanda, ahhh baddddd

    “Hey, um — so joltik!” Amanda blurted, her voice all high-pitched. “Joltik are cute, I think one will be a good partner for you and Nora!!” Morgan put their hands in their pockets and looked at Amanda all confused again. Amanda fluttered her fingers behind her back. “Nora’s really nice. How long have you been traveling together?”

    “Together… knew each other before we left,” Morgan responded. They returned their gaze to the path. “We’ve been on our journey…” They hesitated. “Two months.”

    Amanda smiled, actually feeling happy. “Blue was my friend too before my journey. Years before — we’ve been together for a super long time! I’ve been on my journey for almost three months and I’m so glad — I was waiting for years and years, and now I’m finally doing it!!”

    Amanda’s smile grew into a grin. Her hands did a small happy flap, her arms flying up and her fingers fluttering. “I already have two gym badges,” she said proudly. “And I’m going to challenge another gym leader once I make it to Mistralton City.”

    “I have a gym badge, but only one,” Morgan said slowly. “That’s why I want a joltik. Because I need more team members for gym badges.”

    Amanda nodded in understanding. “Are you going to challenge Skyla once you come out of Chargestone Cave? I am.”

    “I think… I want to train first.” They shifted, then added, “Then, maybe…”

    “Oh yes, that makes sense! I’m really excited to challenge Skyla!!” So excited her steps turned to hops. She took big bounces through Chargestone Cave. “She’s my hero — I want to be a Flying-type specialist just like her!!”

    Amanda couldn’t suppress another brief happy flap. Oh Skyla — Amanda’s heart swooshed just thinking about her!! Skyla was so smart and kind and talented. And pretty.

    Amanda had a poster of her in her bedroom. It was across from her bed; Amanda loved to look at it as she went to sleep. In the poster, Skyla stood in a confident pose, pumping her gloved hands in the air. Mama always said her gym costume looked silly, but Amanda thought she looked cool!! She was so gorgeous with her big confident smile and lovely sparkling eyes. Her lovely red hair and slender body. Her long, muscular legs and smooth midriff.

    Skyla’s team was also in the poster. Amanda liked the pokémon too!

    Amanda couldn’t believe she was actually going to meet them and Skyla!!!

    “Flying-type specialist,” Morgan repeated. “That why you caught your tranquill?”

    “Hmm?” Amanda said, still lost in thought.

    Amanda loved that blue flower Skyla wore in her hair. She also loved how her swoopy bangs and little ponytails framed her face. Ruby’s hair was like Skyla’s, exactly the same shade of red. Ruby was tanner than Skyla — and her face was covered in these cute little freckles — but Amanda always said Ruby should try to make her hair like —

    (”Oh my god, Amanda,” said Ruby, her voice full of shock and something else. She backed away, her face twisting. “Really?”)


    (”Sometimes people need breaks from you, Amanda,” Mama said, barely glancing from the screen of her tablet. “You have to admit that you’re a lot sometimes.”)

    (”Don’t you have friends you can bother?” Tania asked. “Oh. Oh wait.”)

    “Amanda,” Morgan repeated. They were looking straight at her.

    Amanda jerked. “Oh, um, what?”

    “I asked you about Tranquill.” They fidgeted. They had taken their hands from their pocket and tapped their leg with a finger. “Are you okay?”

    Amanda let out a laugh. “Oh, what?” She waved her hands in the air. “I just got stuck in my head about how excited I was to meet Skyla!!” She smiled. She tried her best to look at Morgan’s face, but her gaze drifted away, down their neck and —

    (Creep. Bad Amanda. Bad creepy Amanda.)

    No, Amanda! She tilted her head back up. Eye contact! “So, um, Tranquill. You asked about him?”

    “Yeah.” Morgan hesitated. “Did you just catch him?”

    “Oh, um, I caught him pretty early on actually. A couple weeks after I left.” Amanda laughed again, though her cheeks went red.

    (”I’m still concerned about whether you’re responsible enough to go on a journey.”)

    Amanda played with the tassels at the end of Scarf. She kept smiling. “He was a pidove when I caught him. He was a lot nicer when he was littler!! Then he evolved, and I knew that pokémon who evolve have evolution changes and tranquill get more aggressive, especially boy ones, but he really turned different!!”

    Morgan looked at Amanda with their eyes narrowed. They nodded in response.

    Amanda tried to think of more to say, but the words got lost in her mouth. Morgan was quiet, walking alongside her. Amanda thought of Tranquill when he was Pidove. (She swore she would think of a name, but she hadn’t found a right one yet.) Amanda was so happy when she caught her first pokémon. She thought Tranquill/Pidove had been happy to get a trainer too, but then he evolved…

    He got meaner, suddenly, until he ended up bowling over Morgan and stopping them from catching a new partner.

    Amanda… had Tranquill ever liked Amanda? Maybe he still trusted her, or else he would have left, but… Her hand drifted to where she kept Tranquill’s ball in her pocket. She hadn’t taken him out since he attacked Morgan and she yelled at him.

    Blue and Nora played ahead — happy and singing with each other. Blue liked Amanda. They had been friends for a while, but that meant Amanda could be a good trainer, right? She tapped where Tranquill’s pokéball rested in her bag, silently promising him that she would one hundred percent definitely let him out and be a good human for him tomorrow.

    Amanda let out a breath. Tranquill did a bad thing, but Amanda was responsible for him. She had to make things right, because that’s what good trainers did.

    “I’m really sorry that I let Tranquill run into you,” Amanda said firmly, looking to Morgan. “It was my fault — I’m his human. I promise I’ll help you find a joltik. I won’t stop until I make things right!!

    “Um.” Morgan blinked. “It’s okay…” They opened their mouth like they were going to say more, but eventually just put their hands in their pockets and continued to walk quietly.

    Morgan was quiet, but Amanda was determined. She had a job to do!!!

    They had been wandering through rooms like honeycombs, same and close and circular, for a while now. But they hadn’t come across any joltik. In fact, had Amanda seen any pokémon at all?? Huh, that was weird. She looked around, but there was just Blue and Nora. And before, it had been quiet and lonely too, right? It was like this place had emptied; now the only sounds were her and Morgan’s footsteps, Nora’s wing flaps and clicks, Blue’s fluttering and trills, and Chargestone Cave’s ever-present hum.

    How odd. She had seen plenty of pokémon the day before. She looked up, frowning. The rooms were small, but the ceilings were high. Some peaked and opened to the sky, like the one she had just stepped into. Overhead, the sky was a blank slate of darkening gray-blue. Did all the pokémon go to sleep???

    Amanda pulled out her dex, thinking both to check the time and the map. However, when she saw the time her stomach sank. Then she pulled up the map and it dropped completely.

    “Oh no,” she said. She meant it more to herself, but Morgan jolted and spun. Amanda looked up to them, crestfallen. “It’s gotten really late. And we ended up further from the main path than I thought!”

    Morgan blinked, and Amanda showed them the pokédex. Oh no, why hadn’t she been checking the dex more often? She knew about the alert — she should have been on that!!

    “We need to head back to the main path,” Amanda said once Morgan looked up, their face tight. “It’s late, but maybe we get at least close before we go to bed. Then, in the morning —”

    “It’s not that late,” Morgan interrupted. “And we’re not that far.”

    What??? The pokémon flew over, watching their trainers. “But we’re supposed to go back,” Amanda reminded Morgan. She looked at the dex again, trying to see what Morgan saw. Was Amanda overreacting? Amanda did worry too much sometimes, but…

    “I think we’re fine,” Morgan insisted. Nora landed on their shoulder. “Have there been more updates?”

    “Oh, um.” Amanda dutifully went to the alerts. There was nothing, just the one from before, instructing to keep dexes close. But there wasn’t an all-clear or anything.

    Morgan moved over to look at the screen. “See?” Nora looked as well, twitching her nose. “It’s fine.”

    “Um.” Oh no. Amanda didn’t feel good about this. The cave floor rocked under her feet, underscoring her worry. But was it quieter? Did it matter?? They were still supposed to go back. Blue approached, tweeting softly. Amanda smiled at him weakly and waved him off.

    “I still need a joltik,” Morgan said quickly. “I really — ” They cut off, looking down.

    Oh no, they were really disappointed. “It’s okay. We can go back tomorrow — I’ll still help you.”

    Nora clicked, looking from Amanda to her trainer. Morgan reached back to put a hand on her; with their other they tap-tap-tapped at their leg. “I mean — it’s okay… I don’t really need —” They shifted, and seemed to take a moment to collect their thoughts. “Maybe, you can go back, and I’ll keep going. Just a little. Until I find a joltik.”

    Amanda’s eyes widened. “We’re supposed to be together!!”

    Morgan blanched. “You… don’t have to go with me if you don’t want to,” they said, nearly muttering. “You don’t…”

    Oh no! Amanda blushed. Did Morgan think —? “I didn’t mean it like that!!”

    Morgan said nothing. They looked down, their fingers still going taptaptap. Nora leaned forward and clicked at them in concern, but Morgan didn’t acknowledge her. Oh no, Amanda was messing everything up. She hurt Morgan, and now she was being —

    (Mama laughed softly and shook her head. “You don’t really think this, do you?” Amanda said nothing. “Oh, you poor girl. You need to loosen up, or else people might not want to be with you. It’s not your fault, but it’s not theirs either. You’re just — well.”)

    — being…

    “You know, um, you’re probably right,” Amanda said slowly. Behind her back, she rubbed her fingers together, thumb against her knuckles. Blue came close again, brushing by her shoulder. “It’s probably not a big deal.” Amanda was overreacting. “But, um, you don’t have to be alone. It was my fault and I should help you. …Just in case something does happen.” She giggled nervously. “So we’ll keep going. Together. Only if you want to, though.”

    For a moment, Morgan just looked at Amanda, their expression inscrutable. Then, they took a breath and nodded.

    Amanda smiled apologetically. She turned to Blue and took him into her arms. She hugged him tight. Breathe, Mandy, just breathe. She had to help Morgan find a joltik and then take them back to the main path. She could do this — she was a trainer now.


    So, Amanda and Morgan kept going. And going and going, Amanda checking her dex every so often. Butterflies fluttered in Amanda’s belly, but Morgan didn’t seem worried, so it was probably all okay. There were no follow-up alerts, and they weren’t heading away from the main path, just kinda parallel to it.

    The pokémon settled down. Nora rested on her trainer’s backpack, and soon after came Blue. He bumped into Amanda’s shoulder, chirping and flapping his wings dramatically. “Oh, you silly.” She took him into her arms. Rocking him back and forth, she glanced at Morgan. “Um, Blue’s getting sleepy now, so, ah, maybe we’ve gone far enough tonight?”

    “Uh, yeah.” Morgan’s hand rose as they looked at the cooing swablu, before falling back to their side. Amanda smiled, and would have encouraged Morgan to go ahead if Blue weren’t sleepy. He was a complete cutie.

    Morgan turned away, petting Nora instead. “We’ll go to sleep.” They eased their tattered backpack to the ground.

    “Um, alright!” Amanda had kinda hoped Morgan would suggest going closer to the main path before settling in, but — ah, it was okay! She returned Blue as Morgan pulled supplies from their pack. Amanda copied them, trying to soothe those stomach butterflies.

    Amanda didn’t usually sleep with Scarf, even after she had left home. However, tonight she slept while stroking his soft, familiar wool. Eventually, despite her silly anxiety, she fell asleep…

    Amanda’s dreams danced with vivid color. She didn’t remember exactly what was happening. Mama and Tania and Blue were there — she thought there was a Psychic-Fairy rapidash that they were chasing??? Then, suddenly, the dream rushed away. She jolted awake in a cold sweat, her stomach churning.

    She reached for Scarf as her heart pounded, her head swam, her body shook, and something roared in her ears. What was happening!?! Was she having a panic attack? She hadn’t had one in a long time — had her dream been a nightmare?

    A groaning sound, and grit rained from the ceiling. She realized it wasn’t her body that was shaking, it was her surroundings jostling her. The roaring in her ears didn’t go away — the cave shouted and moaned all around her.

    Oh no.

    She groped for her glasses. The room was dim; they had chosen a room with only sparse glowing gems to sleep in. The cave seemed to get angrier, the low deep heavy grinding becoming louder.

    “Morgan?” Amanda called after she had gotten her glasses on. Had the shaking not wakened them? “Morgan!” she tried again, louder.

    Amanda managed to stand, Scarf clutched in a sweaty grip. “Morgan!!” She swung her head around the chamber, willing her eyes to adjust. “Mor —”

    She found Morgan’s spot. There was a thin sleep mat shoved in the corner, but otherwise, it was empty.

    Amanda froze. “Morgan?”

    She scrambled forward. Morgan wasn’t there. Some of their stuff remained — the sleeping mat, a few other small remnant belongings — but no trainer or their swoobat. She whirled to the rest of the room, looking to see if they were hiding in a corner. “Morgan!!!”

    No answer except the cave shaking and grinding around her.

    Amanda ran. She scooped up her backpack, shoving Scarf inside and then groping for her pokéballs. Blue. She needed Blue. “Morgan!!!” she screamed as she rushed out of the room. The trembling corridors outside were brighter, but still empty. “Morgan!!!”

    She ran, no idea where she was going, as fast as she could with the cave’s writhing trying to topple her. She called Morgan’s name. In her backpack, her fingers brushed against the smooth plastic of a pokéball. She closed her hand around it and pressed Blue tight to her chest.

    She came into a larger room with multiple passageways. She turned in the center of the room, looking into them all. She had no idea where to go. “Morgan!!” she screamed so loudly it hurt her throat.

    Tears forming in her eyes, she pressed the button to release Blue. However, when the beam hit the floor and began to solidify, it didn’t form into a Blue-shape. Tranquill raised himself, whipping his head around as the cave shrieked. He locked eyes on Amanda and cawed. Oh no.

    “Morgan!!!” shouted Amanda again.

    (”People don’t have to be your friends if they don’t want to,” Mama said, sighing at her daughter’s tears.)

    “I’m here,” came a voice from behind her.

    Amanda spun, and there was Morgan. The trainer, alone without Nora, braced themself on their knees, panting.

    Amanda nearly collapsed in relief. “Morgan!” she cried, stepping toward them. “Where were you?!?"

    “Nowhere!” they gasped. “I was just —”

    Tranquill shrieked. He took off into the air, flapping his wings wildly. He careened toward Morgan; they ducked, narrowly avoiding another collision.

    “Oh no, Tranquill, it’s okay!” Amanda reached out for the terrified, thrashing bird. “I’m so sorry,” she said to Morgan. She almost got Tranquill, but he lashed at her when she got close. Her tears finally started down her cheeks. “I meant to get Blue and-and-and —”

    “Just return it! Pokémon can’t get hurt in their pokéballs! We need to get —”

    From far off, a great crashing sound, booming against Amanda’s eardrums. The cavern heaved violently. Amanda shrieked. She threw out her arms, but found no purchase and lost her footing.

    She collapsed right into Morgan. She and they hit the ground with an oof. As they lay in a heap, the cave shook, shook, shook. Above them, Tranquill screamed all the more frantically. He flapped panicked circles, ricocheting off the walls. Rumbling over his cries, the low grinding drove into Amanda’s ears.

    “Amanda!” Morgan wriggled out from under her and staggered to their feet. “Return Tranquill!”

    Amanda could barely hear them. Her blood pounded in her ears and her stomach churned so much she felt like she was going to be sick. She trembled, unable to move.

    Tranquill swerved toward Morgan, causing them to flinch away. Muttering something under their breath, they dropped to their knees next to her. They snatched the pokéball from her hand. As Tranquill barreled toward the other side of the room, Morgan aimed the pokéball at him. The beam sucked him up, silencing his shrieks.

    Morgan grabbed Amanda’s arm. “Amanda, come on. We need to go.”

    “I’m sorry!” she cried as Morgan pulled her up. When Morgan let go, she hugged herself tightly. Come on, Amanda, you need to be a trainer!! (”I’m worried.”) “There — maybe we should —”

    The cave jolted. Amanda yelped and Morgan flinched. Stone powder dusted their hoodie with gray.

    When things settled: “Come on, we need to go,” Morgan repeated, straining their voice over the noise. “I left my backpack in the other room. We need to get it and get out of here.”

    Amanda nodded, but didn’t move. Morgan grabbed her arm and started running.

    They led her through a series of small chambers, into a broad hallway containing several small tottering sparkle-stones. Amanda had never been here before, but Morgan darted around a corner without hesitation.

    The trainer took her into a room, a big room bright with flickering man-made lights and murals of glowing electric crystals adorning the walls. Sparkly spikes jutted from the ground. “Here!” they shouted.

    “W-Wait,” Amanda responded. She wasn’t sure Morgan could hear; the grinding and other sounds had gotten louder. The noise was so loud it was almost worse than the shaking.

    “The pokédex!!” Amanda continued, easing her backpack to the ground. “M-Maybe there’s something —”

    Amanda fell to her knees; her legs trembled like Jello. Morgan said something, and Amanda nodded even though she couldn’t really hear. She struggled to open her backpack.

    When she did, Morgan shoved Tranquill’s pokéball into her hand. “— stay here. Going to get —” Amanda nodded again.
    She dropped Tranquill to safety and groped for her pokédex. In the edge of her vision, Morgan started off, holding against walls and cave spikes to keep their balance.

    Amanda had trouble turning her dex on, her hands were so sweaty and trembly. Once it was on, the screen was hard to make out because of how everything shook. She gripped the dex with both hands, struggling to steady herself. In the corner of the screen, there was a pop-up for a new alert.


    Amanda gasped and looked up. Morgan’s silhouette as they clung to a twisty spike was framed in the flickering lights overhead and the starry walls around them. On the far side of the room, the wall crack-ed with ear-splitting sounds. Spiderwebs carved into the crystal-splashed stone as Amanda watched.

    Morgan froze as Amanda pushed herself up, shakily returning her backpack to her shoulders. The cracks crawled toward the floor, then boom crash!!! Not in the room, but close.

    Morgan’s hands flew up to protect their head as dust and small rocks fell around them. “Morgan!” Amanda shouted, reaching out a hand, but Morgan had already turned back.

    The wall bloomed with large fissures. The floor near it began to crack, churn. It fractured, throwing up rocks like something was pocking up from beneath the stone.

    Morgan stumbled to Amanda and threw themself against the wall next to her. The churning inched haltingly across the floor; the wall continued to break. Morgan and Amanda watched together, spellbound, until a rock loosed from its place on the ceiling and smashed onto the ground. They both jolted. They looked at each other.

    Without a word they turned and ran.

    Amanda had been on her journey for almost three months, but she had never, ever run so fast or so hard. Her heart pounded thudthudthud. Her breaths were heavy gasps, but she couldn’t hear them over the sounds of the cave. A painful stitch formed in her side, but she barely noticed.

    Amanda ran as fast as she could, but Morgan gradually gained ahead of her. The trainer turned a corner past a caved-in passage, and Amanda almost lost them. Amanda wanted to shout, “Wait! Please, don’t leave me alone!!” but she was too focused on running.

    Eventually, just when Amanda thought she couldn’t go any farther, no matter how scared she was or how hard her heart pounded, Morgan stopped. Amanda nearly fell over, panting.

    “We — we —” she gasped. It was hard to speak past her heavy breaths. “We — that was really scary.”

    Morgan turned to Amanda. They were also breathing heavily, flushed, but they held their mouth tight. Against their legs, their fingers tapped quick quick quick.

    Amanda swallowed. (Come on, be a trainer. Get yourself and Morgan out of this.) (”Not sure you’re ready —”) She opened her mouth and words tumbled out, “We need to find somewhere safe!! A bigger room — in case things start falling again so we don’t get hurt or trapped?? Maybe we can find some kind of shelter???”

    A booming sound echoed, followed by the noise of what sounded like an entire avalanche. Morgan flinched, as did Amanda. Amanda shouted, “Let’s go!!”

    Morgan started off through the corridor. Amanda followed. Morgan looked into any passageway they came across, and eventually went into one and didn’t come out.

    Amanda entered into a vast, sprawling room with several levels, the sides of which were covered in metal scaffolding. The sparkling ceiling domed over the cavern, meeting the wall ages away. This place could have fit multiple pokémon arenas, even the big ones used in high-end tournaments. In the air in front of them, sparkle-stones — huge ones, huger than Amanda had seen yet — hovered shakily or drifted in lopsided orbits.

    A few yards in front of the entrance was a tall railing. Morgan ran right up to it. Amanda followed, though stayed back, not nearly brave enough to go straight to the edge.

    Over the railing, the cave plunged. More sparkle-stones whirled below. These traveled or hung in the air even more precariously than the others. Some collided into each other, making sparks and causing them to ricochet into yet more wild paths.

    Far, far below, on the ground, was some kind of trainer area, though it was completely empty. Wide areas were marked out, and there were benches, signs and maps engraved into walls and mounted on stands, water pumps and other facilities. Morgan pointed to one corner. “Look!”

    There, partially obstructed from Amanda’s vantage point, was some kind of structure. A cave pavilion? It was a little building with patterned walls and archway entrances. The domed roof wasn’t solid, but its gaps were small.

    A sturdy shield, to protect them from any falling rocks. Amanda hadn’t known quite what she meant when she said find shelter, but that pavilion was just about the most ideal possibility. That is, it would have been if it weren’t down below.

    Morgan turned their head along the railing where there were several openings, to stairs and a lift judging by the scaffolding on the other ledges. They started toward them. “Come on!” they called to Amanda. They hesitated at an opening, then stepped forward.

    Oh no. Amanda did not like. Very definitely did not like. They were very high up; if Amanda fell, it would not at all be nice. But Morgan went on, and — she forced herself ahead.

    Morgan had chosen the stairs. They made their way down, holding tightly to the railing. The railings were high; it was unlikely that Amanda could fall over. And the stairs turned every ten-ish steps, so if the worst came, Amanda wouldn’t fall all the way down. But still.

    (”I worry, darling,” Mama said. “It’s not your fault, but…”)

    Be brave, Amanda. Think, what would Skyla do?

    She put her dex in her pocket, tightly grabbed onto the railing, squeezed her eyes shut, and stepped forward.

    Of course, the instant her feet touched metal, the cavern heaved. Amanda shrieked, clutching two-handed to the railing as her eyes flew open. Below, Morgan did similar, their knuckles turning white. When the shaking calmed, they looked back, toward Amanda. Frozen near the top, Amanda made herself nod.

    (”Crying doesn’t show me that you’re ready,” Mama said, her voice mean. It wasn’t a good day for her. “God, you’re like a little kid. Won’t you ever grow up?")

    No. Amanda shook her head, picturing Skyla. She could do this. She started down.

    Closing her eyes was evidently a bad idea, so she didn’t do that anymore. She had to keep her eyes on the next step so as not to lose her balance. There were gaps between the steps, not big enough to fall through, but she could see what was below — did they want the trainers going down to be scared?? Whose idea was this?!? She tried not to think about it. One foot in front of the other. Come on, Mandy, come on.

    She turned the first corner; each twist of the staircase had about ten steps. Amanda decided to count them next time to keep herself calm. She turned. One, two, three, four, fi — another rumble. She clutched the rails. When it died, she continued shakily. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

    After three more turns, the stairs met the ground and Amanda could have cried. Morgan waited at the bottom for her, beckoning. The sight of safety allowed her to go faster, and she almost jumped into Morgan’s arms. “Morgan!!” she shouted. A dozen yards or so away was the pavilion, which had walls and ceiling of twisted metal like the bars of a decorative birdcage. Protection. “We did it!!!”

    Morgan said something, but Amanda didn’t hear it. Instead, she pulled out her pokédex. She had made it down the stairs — she was safe!! She remembered the alert and went to it hoping for more help, more instructions. She got several sentences in before realizing it was only a repeat of before. All trainers, make sure to keep to the main path and to keep together.


    Amanda looked up as a hunk of rock the size of a basketball collided against the ground. “Come on!” Morgan shouted as other sounds began to boom.

    Amanda and Morgan ran for the pavilion. Amanda leaped through one of its archway entrances. Her shoes bounced against the metal. Inside the pavilion was mostly empty except for sets of tables and benches anchored to the floor. Across the wall, large gaps showed off a view of a multitude of sparkle-stones tottering in the air. Gaps in the ceiling let in the glow of the cavern dome up above; the floor below was similarly grated.


    Amanda gasped, turning around. Normal rocks and whole sparkle-stones hit the ground. The walls cracked, just like before, as the floor tore up. Something rose from the rubble: a wide beam which sparkled with electricity in the flickering light. The crackling beam arced up, stretching as long as Amanda was tall. Amanda heard Morgan’s indistinct shouts. She tore her eyes away as the beam torqued back down and cut through the stone like butter.

    Morgan had run to a bench and wrapped their arms around it; they now called for Amanda. Amanda dropped to the ground just as the floor underneath her tilted. She yelped and hugged her own bench, pokédex still clutched in her grip.

    Cracking, groaning, creaking, clanking. Noises so loud Amanda thought she would never hear anything else again. The cave convulsed. Amanda held on hard to the bench, the metal digging into her arms and torso. She raised her head to see what was happening outside, but before she could there came a giant, earsplitting crack.

    Amanda shrieked, pressing herself against the bench. Metal screeched as the cave roared. Amanda stared at the floor as she hung on for dear life. Past the floor’s grating, lights trembled down below with the cave’s convulsions…

    Amanda clutched the bench tighter, then — a big crash — the biggest yet — followed by a feeling of swooping. The sparkles below swooped, like they were falling. Like Amanda was falling. She hugged the bench so, so, so hard, and —


    The falling feeling ended with a huge impact — bang!!! Amanda held on as hard as she could, but her arms tore loose. She flew through the air.

    Her back hit the ground — ouch. She rolled over, curling her arms over her head. Pebbles and grit rained from above. Clangs against the pavilion’s roof, but it was actually quieter now? Eventually, the pings and clatters tapered, leaving only distant crashes and groans.

    Slowly, Amanda removed her hands from her head. She… she was still alive?!?

    She was alive, but she had… fallen?? She looked up. Where before the gaps in the ceiling showed the starry stone above, Amanda now saw only faint pinpricks in the distance. Through the pavilion’s walls and archways, the sparsely dotted cavern provided a dim glow. The whole pavilion tilted at a slight angle.

    “Morgan??” Amanda pushed herself up. Her heart raced and her legs were shaky and oh wow that was scary, but she thought she was okay. She heard a moan behind her. Amanda turned and OH NO WAS THAT BLOOD???

    “Morgan!!” She bounded to Morgan, who lay in a heap near an archway.

    Morgan groaned again and sat up. Blood dripped over their lower face, though not as much as Amanda had first assumed. The trainer wiped their nose, smearing blood on the back of their hand as well.

    “Are you okay???” Amanda asked them.

    “Fine.” They noticed the blood on their hand and winced. “Hit my face.” They stood, wiping their hand on their hoodie.

    Amanda should have felt relief, but for some reason she started getting all shaky again. “Are you sure??” She sucked in her breath, and something occurred to her. “Wait, Blue can —”

    Her trembles got worse as she pulled off her backpack. When she took up Blue’s pokéball — actually Blue’s this time — she had trouble just pressing its button.

    Blue formed in a little bundle. He chirped softly and raised his wings. “Blue,” Amanda said. “M-Morgan’s hurt. The rumbles happened again. Everything c-caved in. There was a thing, and-and-and it broke up all the walls and —”

    “A thing?” Morgan cut in, their voice muffled. They were tilting back their head and pinching the bridge of their nose.

    “I think!!” Amanda reached for Scarf, but he wasn’t there. "Everything was loud and shaking and falling apart!!” Her hands went to her hair instead. “We fell, and we’re together but we’re not near the main path and I don’t know where we are and-and-and — wait! Pokédex!! We can try to get help!!”

    Amanda whirled. She tugged her fingers through her curls. The pokédex, Amanda had been holding it, but now her hands were empty. She must have lost it when she lost her grip on the bench. She searched through the dim light, but she didn’t see her dex inside the pavilion. Blue fluttered to her as she looked toward the nearest archway.

    “Pokédex,” she said to him. She stepped into the cave proper, where the light was so dim and wavery it was like a dream. (Though with all the things that were happening, the dream was closer to a nightmare)

    “Need to find —” She spotted something half-behind a rock. “There!! It’s right — oh. Oh no.”

    “— wrong?” Morgan approached.

    Her pokédex, given to her three months ago when her parents told her she was finally allowed to be a trainer, lay on the ground, broken. Pieces of shattered blue plastic scattered on the stone. The screen was mostly intact, somehow, but fissured with cracks. She bent down to pick it up and, oops — there went the screen. Glass pinged near her shoes.

    “Oh no no nonono.” Amanda backed away from the remains of the broken pokédex. Her broken pokédex. It was her first, and how would she and Morgan get help, if her pokédex was broken? “Oh no, oh no,” she said before any coherent words were overcome by her gasps. In her hair, her fingers snagged on a tangle and pinched.

    “Amanda,” Morgan said uncertainly behind her.

    “I can’t,” Amanda said. She tore both hands through her hair. “I’m sorry, I can’t — I can’t —” Tears fell on her cheeks.

    Blue rose in front of her face, blocking the broken dex from view. She tried to say something to him, but couldn’t.

    He pressed up to her anyway. Amanda took a deep, ragged breath and took him into her arms. Hugging him, she closed her eyes and turned away. He chirped and hugged her back with his wings.

    She heard Morgan scuffle around behind her, though she couldn’t acknowledge them. She pretended it was just her and Blue. She sat down and rubbed her hands in his cloud-fluff. He chirped a happy, repetitive song: the one he made up for when Amanda was sad. She held him and rocked him and felt her tears drip down her face.

    Slowly, slowly, slowly, she calmed down. She took a gulping breath, and managed to slip off her backpack. One of her hands flapped in the air while the other pulled out Scarf. She wrapped him around the flapping hand. She looped him tightly around her arm, pulled him off, and did it again. Blue perched on her head and continued to sing.

    Time passed. She wasn’t sure how much. Eventually, though, she took a final deep breath, clutched Scarf to her chest, and looked up.

    Blue jumped into her lap and tweeted questioningly. She tried to smile at him, waving her fingers weakly.

    “Are… you okay?” Morgan stepped forward, arms wrapped around themself. Their face was kinda confused, kinda concerned.

    “I’m sorry.” Amanda wiped away her remnant tears. “I, um, I’m autistic. When I’m upset, my emotions sometimes go all big and I, um, do that. The cave crashed in and then I saw my dex —”

    Wait a minute… Amanda’s dex was broken but — “You!” Amanda jumped to her feet, sending Blue into the air. “You have a pokédex!!”

    Morgan blinked, while hope rose in Amanda’s chest. Right, how could she have forgotten that she wasn’t alone?!?

    Blue twittered, and Amanda remembered why she had called out him in the first place. “Wait, I called out Blue to try to help you. Blue, use Heal Bell, please!”

    Blue immediately opened his beak, letting out a clear, reverberating chime. Morgan backed away and flinched, which oops, Amanda probably should have warned them. But soon enough, the trainer relaxed. They touched their face gingerly, glancing at Amanda.

    “I’m sorry, I should have asked you first,” Amanda said as Blue chimed again. His sound wasn’t loud, but it was deep, echoing primly throughout the room. Amanda’s hands moved through the air. Normally, she might try to tamp down her stimming but, well, she had already melted down. She let her hands flutter along with Blue’s chimes.

    “Um, he’s using Heal Bell,” she continued. “It won’t work as well because you’re not a pokémon, but I think it helps anyway?” It should. Amanda wasn’t even hurt and she felt better.

    Morgan looked at Blue as he let out a few more chimes before running out of energy. He flew to Amanda; she petted him thankfully. Eventually, Morgan touched their face again and nodded.

    Amanda sighed. “Good. Wait. Your pokédex.” She approached Morgan. “Yours is fine, right??”

    Morgan stiffened. “…I don’t have my things. My pokédex was in my backpack.”

    Amanda only then noticed that Morgan’s back was bare. She thought back to that first room, and realized that they had never been able to grab their things.

    “Oh.” She reached for Scarf; Blue perched on her head again. She took a deep breath. Focus, Mandy. Mama and Daddy believed in you. They said you were ready to go. “Th-then, maybe we should —”

    “Wait.” Morgan reached into their pocket. “I have this.”

    They held out their hand. In it was a phone.

    Again, Amanda felt hope. “Call someone!!”

    Morgan shook their head. “It doesn’t connect in here. It won’t work.”

    “Oh.” And Amanda plummeted right back down. She rubbed Scarf’s tassels. “That’s… okay. We could just… wait for someone to come.”

    She seized on that thought. Amanda’s dex was broken and Morgan’s was lost, but people knew that she and they had entered the cave. Surely, someone would eventually realize she and Morgan were missing.

    “Yes! It’ll be okay, we just need to wait!!”

    “No,” Morgan said. “We don’t need to.” They held out their phone, showing the screen to Amanda. “It’s okay,” they said confidently. “We have a map. We can get out ourselves.”

    Chapter 3
  • Equitial

    Ace Trainer
    1. espurr
    2. inkay
    3. woobat
    4. ralts
    Chapter 3

    Amanda’s eyes narrowed, then went wide. “What?” Her pokémon, perched on her head, fluttered its wings. It chirped in quiet confusion.

    “We find a way out,” Morgan repeated. “By ourselves. We don’t have to wait around.”

    Wait around to be found. Wait around to be found out.

    “I—um—I’m not sure that’s—” Amanda fidgeted with the ends of her scarf.

    “We can do it.” Morgan words sounded calm, even though her heart pounded at her ribcage and her mind rushed.

    Internally, Morgan was screaming: OH GOD WHY.

    Morgan’s memories flicked back to the emotions of last night. Anxiety, vague fear, and formless worry gnawing on her stomach as she tried to sleep. Until she just got up, grabbed her bag, and left.

    But the anxiety didn’t go away. She kept thinking of the girl, lying asleep and clueless, and then the shaking started, actually started.

    Even when she heard Amanda scream her name, there was one last rebuttal in her mind. Now, run away. And Morgan ignored it, but she wanted to leave, as if ditching Amanda would make the cavern calm and everything else be fine.

    And now, Morgan couldn't leave Amanda, could she? Autistic kid, she had had a fit or something—she got really scared about her dex. Morgan couldn't just leave her alone.

    Not that Morgan was much better. She had been afraid if Amanda saw her with all her things, she would know that Morgan had tried to run away. So Morgan panicked and dropped her pack. Why. What an idiot. Was Morgan really any help to anyone?

    But she had to be. She wouldn’t get caught and sent back home. Morgan would rather die in this cave.

    If not for Amanda.

    Amanda, who had actually been talking all this time. Morgan jerked, refocusing on the girl’s words.

    “—don’t really know how deep we’ve fallen, and my pokédex is broken so I can’t do anything with it at all. After everything that happened, it could be really danger—”

    “No.” Morgan clutched her sweaty hands into fists. “No, we—we just need—wait—just wait.” Suddenly, she was groping in her pocket. “Nor—first let me call out my pokémon.”

    Morgan released Nora with a flash of red. The swoobat immediately starting clicking, orienting herself. She landed on the metal bars on the pavilion, then stared straight out Morgan. She clicked more loudly, twitching her tail.

    “Nora.” Right, of course. Nora had no idea what was going on. Morgan instantly regretted her decision to release her—now Morgan had two people to appease.

    But breathe. Confidence. She had to project confidence. She could do this.

    “The phone. It has a map.” Morgan held it out; she pulled up the map, navigating through the layers of Chargestone Cave. ”We can retrace our steps. Come on, here.

    “First, we were here, looking for joltik.” Morgan tapped a finger emphatically on the phone’s screen, then led the map down a path further into the cave. “Then we went over here, to sleep, then… uh… then—this room. This is where we tried to run.” She looked to Amanda, who, still biting her lip, nodded.

    “I guess that looks right…,” Amanda said, reaching up to her pokémon.

    “So, we were there. Then… we fell.” Morgan swallowed down a lump in her throat. “But look, we can still find our path.” She navigated to a different portion of the map. “Different level, but still near the same spot. If we fell from that room up there, then we must be—here.”

    Morgan tilted the phone toward Amanda, though she did not tap precisely where she thought they were. She half-hoped Amanda would say, ah, I see, we’re right here, but the girl just stared down and fussed with her fingers.

    “But—but there were the shakes! What if it happens again?? And some of those caves were knocked around—what if things got rearranged down here too? I don’t think I like this. Not, um, not that I think—I just think people would want us to wait if they knew we were in this situation!”

    “But we can get out ourselves,” Morgan reasserted. On the pavilion, Nora swiveled her gaze between the two humans. “Why should we do nothing if we can take care of ourselves?”

    “Um—I, I um….” Amanda stammered, wringing her fingers.

    “If we didn’t have any way to to get out ourselves, then we should wait. But we do.” Morgan gestured at the map. Then, a wave of inspiration hit. “Besides, even if we can’t find a way, we can just turn around and go back here.”

    Amanda halted, considered. “Um, I guess maybe…”

    Buoyed by Amanda’s concession, Morgan continued:

    “If we get out ourselves, then there won’t be so much trouble. If we just stay here, they’ll have to dig us out or find the way to us themselves. But we’re trainers. Sometimes trainers get into trouble, but we can take care of ourselves.”

    Morgan let out a breath. “That’s why we’re here, on our journey as trainers. No one has to take care of us anymore.”

    Morgan thought, no one has to control her anymore.

    The phantom sound of shattering glass rang in her ears.

    Morgan didn’t have to be so afraid anymore.

    “Oh…” said Amanda. The girl was still, stiff. Her hands were frozen on her scarf; her eyes were wide behind her glasses. On her head, her pokémon fluttered its wings and looked down at her.

    Morgan held her breath, waiting for what Amanda would say.

    Slowly, the girl relaxed. “I, um, guess you have a point,” she said hesitatingly. Then, she let out a small smile. “I think we shouldn’t worry other people, if we can at least. You’re right, we did get allowed to be trainers. Then, I guess we really should try to take care of ourselves??”

    Morgan nodded, a weight lifting in her chest. To the side, Nora took into the air again. Suddenly smiling Morgan held a hand, gesturing for her to come

    Morgan felt that weight replaced with a light, focused feeling. This was a mess, but she could fix this. She would get out of here and learn from her mistakes.

    No more people. Just Morgan and her pokémon.


    Eventually, Morgan and Amanda set out into the cave again, this time through its bowels.

    Although the pokémon started off subdued, soon they were chirping and flying together, following obliviously in the humans’ wake. Or, obliviously in Morgan’s wake. Morgan led, phone out in front of her; Amanda, on the hand…

    “Okay, you birdies—remember to stay close!” She spun to the pokémon; clumps of tangled blond curls bounced at her shoulders. “We don’t know exactly where we are, so we have to be careful!”

    Considering how anxious and hesitant she had been before, the girl sure was perky now. At least she was taking care of her pokémon. Morgan bit her lip, flipping her eyes from her phone to the cave tunnels furling in front of her.

    While Amanda had grown louder and louder, the gears in Morgan’s head churned and rumbled. Was Amanda pretending to be all happy, or had her mood really switched? Morgan remembered the girl falling apart after her pokédex broke. That wasn’t that long ago. Morgan breathed, taking a quick glance behind her. Was this part of Amanda being autistic, switching so suddenly. Though Morgan thought autistic people were supposed to be quiet and stand-offish.

    Maybe Amanda just really trusted Morgan.

    Another reason Morgan had to get them all out of here. She turned back to the map.

    Walking through deep echoing halls, Morgan kept waiting for her sense of direction to suddenly get better, but it didn’t. Still, the general direction had to be easy enough, right? Down to the left, there was a long strip of metal embedded near the ceiling. An old light, maybe?

    “There,” Morgan said, turning in that direction. “And we should keep looking for man-made things like that.”

    Amanda tilted her head, considering, and the pokémon looked to see what was so interesting. “Yeah, that makes sense. We’re more likely to find something where people used to be. Or maybe find a way to figure out more exactly where we are.”

    Morgan nodded.

    As they trekked down the broken metal passage, Morgan squinted through the dim for marks of humanity. More metal on the walls, and her ears picked up buzzing sounds and muffled echoes. She spotted a shadow dashing quickly around a corner, but couldn’t make out what it was.

    The number of charged stones diminished the further they went on. In the path ahead, only a handful of pinpricks provided scant glows. “Oh, just a moment,” Amanda said. She reached into her bag and pulled out a flashlight. Morgan was about to do the same but, oh yeah.

    Morgan’s back suddenly felt very light. Nora clicked, twitching her head in Morgan’s direction

    Amanda came up beside her. “Oh right. Your stuff.” Morgan stiffened. The girl’s face looked sad, really sad. Guilty?

    Morgan said quickly, “I’ll use the phone,” and flicked on its light. She tromped ahead, the worn soles of her boot crunching on gritty cave grit.

    As they kept going, lights in hand, they started seeing native pokémon again. The shadow from before had probably been a drillbur. They came across a few more, though the pokémon locked eyes with the humans and immediately dashed away. Not so much disturbed, a troop of Roggenrola walked in a line across a passageway. Unfortunately, now wasn’t a good time for Nora to appreciate the company. Ahead, a cluster of sparkling free-floating charged stones lit the next area; a half dozen klink bobbed near it, murmuring to themselves. Amanda’s swablu approached, but the klink didn't respond, only rotated around each other in their gear tracks.

    Then another, darker room. Amanda swung her flashlight toward the ceiling. "Look, Morgan!" She pointed, her eyes wide through her smudged glasses. "It's the bigger klink! Uh—klang!"

    Indeed, a klang drifted near the ceiling, several of its pre-evolutions clunking around its rim. Morgan turned her light on it, and its eyes turned to her.

    Morgan tensed. "Nora.” She held out a hand, urging her swoobat to her shoulder.

    Amanda just continued to gape as she passed right under it, her swablu wafting free. Morgan kind of wanted to say something but felt blocked by a lump in her throat. Dimly, she suddenly realized that among the two of them, they had three Flying-types in a cave full of Electric and Steel and Rock. Well, in Amanda’s defense, the girl did say she wanted to be a specialist.

    Nora’s rubbed her ruff again Morgan’s skin. The klang’s soft hum and grinding radiated all in the air.

    Amanda spun around to watch the klang and klink as she waited for Morgan to catch up. “Wow, that’s so cool, isn’t it? I’ve never seen any pokémon like that before in this cave.” Then she kind of shivered. Maybe she wasn’t as unworried as she appeared. “Maybe now that we’re deeper there are stronger pokémon around.”

    “Maybe.” Morgan repressed her own shudder.

    “Mmm.” The group left the room, but Amanda turned back for one last peek at the klang and its followers churning above.


    Eventually, the cave got brighter, if due to the cave’s natural charged stones and not human intervention. As they walked, they saw more metal and then deep, round holes in the cave walls. Morgan didn’t think pokémon—too even and clean. Maybe people had gone and removed things?

    Amanda kind of hemmed, knocking Morgan out of her thoughts. “I think maybe we could take a break now?? Bluey’s getting kind of hungry.” In Amanda’s arms, her swablu lay limp and chirping weakly.

    Morgan looked at her phone. When she first checked it after the cave-in, it had been a little before five AM. Time had crept by; now it was past when Morgan would have usually stop for a meal. On the map, she saw that they had walked a ways. Morgan chose to believe they were making progress.

    Anyway. “Yeah,” Morgan said. Amanda sighed and plopped to the ground. Blue sprung into the air, singing cheerfully as its human pulled off her bag.

    Nora landed, sniffing the air. “Eating time,” Morgan explained, feeling a quick twinge of guilt. She wondered if her own pokémon had been getting hungry too, not just saying anything. Her hands instinctively reached for the straps of her backpack, but again, oh right.

    On the ground, Amanda turned around. “Oh, er, I have a lot of food. For humans and pokémon! So don’t worry about any of that!!”

    Morgan shifted. She felt like she should thank the girl, but for some reason the words caught in her throat.

    Amanda plunged into her backpack. She dove in up to her armpit—an expansive bag obviously, and a pretty good one. Blue landed as she pulled out packages; Nora went to join it, and Morgan hesitated, then followed. Her eyes wandered past Amanda’s shoulder, into the bag’s depths…

    Amanda rose with another load in her arms and noticed Morgan. “Oh, hi.” Morgan realized that maybe she shouldn’t be staring into someone else’s possessions; she fought the urge to scramble away. “I have a whole bunch of pokémon food. A lot should be good for your swoobat, but I’m not sure exactly what she likes, so…”

    Morgan looked to the pile of boxes and containers Amanda had pulled from her bag. In her own backpack (expansive, but mostly just weight-reducing), Morgan had had one package for Nora. It had about a third of its contents remaining. Morgan had spent nights awake, thinking of how she would get the funds for a new one. She would get some money back if she returned the original expansive packaging, but just the idea of going into public made her stomach twist.

    Morgan crossed her arms. Well, at least she had other problems to think about now. “What other stuff do you have?”

    Amanda blinked. “Oh, I restocked before coming into the cave, and I like to be prepared, so we should have plenty of stuff.”

    Amanda began pulling more things out of her backpack. Amanda’s bag was a very, very nice expansive one. She had plenty of water, all in lightweight expansive containers. Not so much human food as pokémon, but enough. Lights, batteries, first-aid stuff, and other on-the-road essentials.

    “I think there’s one thing, and it’s clothes,” Amanda said. “I have more clothes for me, but, uh…”

    She trailed off kind of nervously. The girl was fat—was that what she was worried about? Morgan just nodded, sticking her hands in her pockets. No matter if they were the same size, Morgan wouldn’t take her clothes anyway.

    Morgan took a box in her hand—the kind of food Nora liked. A full box, and there were more. Morgan should just be happy because in the worst-case scenario she wouldn’t want to starve. But she felt something else, a squeezing in her chest. Her free hand curled in her pocket.

    “Oh, you lost your stuff, so…” Amanda's tone dropped. “I’m sorry. I would be really sad if I lost any of my things. Um, did you lose anything that made you really sad?”

    Morgan hesitated. “No,” she finally said. That third of a box of food. Water and some food for herself. A few changes of clothes. There was a big expansive water bottle that was nice and held a lot, Morgan supposed. After this all was over, Morgan would spend more nights up thinking how to replenish everything, but nothing that made her upset.

    “Are you sure?” Amanda asked, blinking again.

    Morgan cut her eyes to the girl. “Yes.” Was her first answer unclear at all? She wondered if she was missing some kind of nuance, and then realized her second response had been quite curt. She shifted uncomfortably, digging for something to say.

    “I have Nora,” she eventually blurted. “I don’t really care about anything else, as long as she’s fine.”

    Amanda’s eyes darted toward the two pokémon. They had been eating, chattering to each other between bites, but Nora looked up upon hearing her name. Seeing the humans, she thumped the tail against the ground and crooned.

    Amanda turned back to Morgan. All of a sudden, Morgan’s face got hot.

    “Ah, um, okay. I still feel pretty bad, though,” Amanda said. “Maybe… after we get out, I can help you get more stuff??”

    That would be a nice offer, if Morgan could stick around after leaving here. “Sure,” she said, her voice coming out weird. She cleared her throat. “…and thanks.”

    The air stilled with silence. Impulsively, Morgan grabbed a bite of food and jammed it into her mouth.

    Amanda smiled and began eating too.


    Morgan and Amanda finished eating first—the pokémon spent time dawdling by shouting at each other and randomly taking off to fly a circle around the room. Amanda was putting possessions back away, Morgan just sitting there awkwardly, when Amanda suddenly jumped upright, digging through her pockets. “Wait, I forgot! I need to say sorry to—”

    Before Morgan could do anything, Amanda came up with a pokéball. The other pokémon looked over as she released a beam of red light to the floor. Nora wrinkled her noise, clicking questioningly, while Blue trilled and jumped into the air.

    “Tranquill!!” Amanda stepped forward. Said tranquill solidified with its head swiveling. “I’m so sorry. I meant to send out Blue, not you. But really I shouldn’t have sent out either of you because that would just be putting you in danger. I’m so sorry you were so scared!”

    Tranquill’s eyes locked on Amanda. The bird stiffened.

    “What—Amanda…” Morgan stood. Things had happened so fast, she barely had anything processed.

    Amanda didn’t appear to hear her. “I want to be better to you from now on,” she said, approaching more. “It’s, um, not exactly the best time to do any big changes, but I can still try! I’m your trainer, and I’m responsible for you, and I can try to improve things, at least a little bit. Like think of a name so you feel more like a part of me and Blue…”

    Tranquill was rigid.

    Amanda took another step. “Anyway, I’m sorry. Like I said, we’re kind of a little lost right now, but later I’ll do things, I promise. Um, so…” She trailed off, holding out a hand.

    Tranquill blinked, then hissed, then burst forward in a batter of beak and wings.

    Amanda yelped, staggering backward, but the pokémon swerved, fleeing to the other side of the room.“Tranquill, I—” Her swablu came over to land onto her half-outstretched arms instead, singing obliviously as if everything was a game.

    “Tranquill,” Amanda said again. Tranquill screeched in response.

    Nora approached as Morgan balled her hands. “I—Amanda, wait.”

    Amanda turned round. She hugged a bewildered Blue tightly; her face was crestfallen, like she was going to cry again.

    “Listen… I think Tranquill just needs time…” Morgan was truly, truly afraid that Amanda was going to burst into tears.

    For a moment the girl just looked, then suddenly she pressed her face into Blue’s wings. “You’re right. I know, I know. I’d be super scared and upset too, if I had just suddenly been called out into a cave that was shaking and breaking and everything. Oh no, this just—all my fault. Why did I do that??”

    Amanda’s swablu stilled; it reached to wrap its wings around its human’s head.

    Nora clicked, pressing forward. Morgan shifted uncomfortably. “I mean, the cave was breaking. It wasn’t really your fault for not thinking clearly…”

    “But he’s still afraid!” Amanda retorted, looking up. “It didn’t matter what I was thinking, or not thinking. I still messed things up, and now he’s scared for no reason. Here, Bluey. Just go.”

    Amanda gently pushed him from her arms. He flew up, watched her hesitantly a moment, but Amanda hugged herself tightly. Slowly, the swablu looked and floated to Tranquill.

    And so Amanda was left alone. She raised her gaze timidly to Morgan. Suddenly, Morgan felt hot again.

    “There’s nothing you can do about it now,” she muttered. After a second, she realized that might have come off as dismissive. “You feel bad about scaring him, anyway." Wait, that wasn’t good either. Oh gods. Amanda bowed her head.

    Morgan’s face screwed up. “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be rude or mean or something to you. I’m just… not good with words.”

    Amanda shook her head. “No, you’re right. I messed up, I made him sad, and now—”

    Abruptly, Nora crooned. She took off with a flap of her wings toward Amanda, who backed away in surprise.


    “Wait—Nora—” Morgan began. But Nora was chirping, nudging forward determinedly. Blinking, Amanda accepted the swoobat into her arms.

    “Uhhh,” Amanda said. “I’m sorry, Nora. I just…”

    Morgan realized. Nora had given them a pause.

    “Wait, Amanda. Listen.” Morgan sucked in a breathe, rolling the words in their head before letting them out. “What I was trying to say, you did something you probably shouldn’t have, but you want to make up for it. Your tranquill… You want to be better; you want to be good to Tranquill.” They gestured at the pokémon, who quieted a bit, Blue having perched on his back now. “Tranquill’s… a lot. A lot of trainers would have just given up and released him, but you haven’t. He still wants to stay with you, so you still put up with him.”

    They shook their head. “I don’t know, you want to be good. You actually care about your pokémon.”

    “Wait,” Amanda said. She looked back to her pokémon. “Tranquill wants me?”

    Now it was Morgan’s turn to blink. It… seemed obvious? Like, right now Tranquill noticed that Amanda was looking at him, and he was suddenly hissing again. But… it was like a schoolgirl on TV, who had a crush on some boy and could only show it by calling him an idiot.

    “Tranquill… is being loud, but not too loud,” Morgan said. “It’s… like he’s acting out to get your attention, but it’s to get your attention. He still wants you. He just… wants things to change.”

    “Tranquill?” Amanda said, wide-eyed. Tranquill, of course, responded by resuming his shrieks and waving his wings in a dramatic theater of discontent. Blue fluttered and joined in with his own melodic cries.

    “… If I’m right, he’s not going to answer you.” Maybe Morgan should put some kind of disclaimer—this was just their immediate assumption after all. But before they could think of how to word that, Amanda returned her attention to them.

    “That’s—um, I never thought about that. I guess…” Amanda paused, rubbing Nora’s ruff just as Morgan did. “I even stopped by the place I found him, showed him other trainers. I guess—I guess that means— ” She looked back to Tranquill—that produced an expected reaction. “You believe in me, so it’s extra important that I make things better!!” She threw out her hands suddenly as Nora took into the air with a series of excited chirps.

    Morgan stared. “Yeah,” they said for a response.

    Amanda turned thoughtful. “Tranquill shouldn’t be hungry—we would definitely know if he was, and he doesn’t like eating with other people anyway, unfriendly birdie. We’re in this cave, so I can’t really—wait, I know what I need to do!”

    Abruptly, Amanda was striding toward Tranquill. The bird bristled and cawed, but Amanda stopped several paces away, reaching into her pocket.

    “Tranquill, we need to go on soon. Here, in Chargestone Cave. I know I scared you, but here.” She placed something on the ground—a pokéball. “You should decide whether you want to be out with us or not.”

    Tranquill froze, wings in the air. For several moments, he eyed the pokéball suspiciously. Then, slowly, he relaxed. He raised his head to his trainer. Amanda’s eyes shone with a sincere, determined look.

    Then Tranquill took off into the air again, squawking loudly.

    Fluttering near Amanda, Nora wrinkled her nose. Blue, on the other hand, jumped crooning into the air after his teammate. Morgan turned to Amanda, copying Nora’s expression.

    “Does he even know how to return himself?”

    “Yes!!” Amanda answered. “He likes to do it a lot! Wait, maybe he doesn’t want to be near me.” She rolled the pokéball across the floor. Promptly Tanquilled swooped down and released a gust of wind from his wings, sending the ball ping-ponging across the room.

    “Eeep!!” Amanda chased after it.

    Morgan grimaced, pulling their hood over their ears.

    “Well,” Amanda said, panting. “I did tell him he could choose. You know what—okay!!” She whirled, pointing back to her pokémon. “You better follow us, though! I would not be a good trainer if I let you hurt yourself!”

    Tranquill screamed.

    Oh cool. Morgan supposed Amanda was being a decent trainer, but… “Lucky you aren’t my partner,” they muttered, giving Tranquill a Look. He flashed by and they stuck their tongue of him.

    “Uh, sorry I guess…” Amanda went back to Morgan, chuckling nervously. She… had probably seen Morgan do that. “Well”—she glanced wryly at her bird—“at least now if any people are around, he’ll make sure they find us!!”

    And Morgan remembered what was going on.

    Nora flew to Amanda’s shoulder as Amanda wrangled her pokémon. Morgan kind of wanted to shrug her off, but she made herself run her hands over her pokémon’s ears instead.

    “Alright, let’s go, birdies!! Wait—” Amanda turned to Morgan. “Are you ready?”

    Morgan’s heart began to pound; Nora pressed her head against her trainer, as if she could hear. “Yeah,” Morgan responded, numbly pulling out her phone.


    At least Tranquill being out provided a good distraction for Amanda and the other pokémon. Morgan swallowed, tried to think on the bright side as she tried to lead some kind of twisting way upward.

    Compared to before, Morgan had a better sense of where they actually were. Not exact, not certain, but better. Not that that was hard. She looked at the phone. She could say where they had probably first landed then where they got but—why was this hard? Was the map bad, was Morgan bad? Amanda didn’t say anything, but Morgan was the one who talked her into this and—

    No, stop. Bright side. Morgan—she was pretty sure she could get them back to where they had fallen if it came down to it. Not that she would ever resort to that, but she could. And really, Morgan didn’t need to know exactly where they were. They just needed a way up, toward the main area. Once they were there, it would be fine. Not that Morgan especially wanted to run into more company, but…

    She just wanted out. Get herself and everyone safe, and then never get into a situation like this again.

    After another couple hours, Tranquill grew (amazingly) more restless. Soon he was refusing to move, screaming at a corner, and Amanda said:

    “Oh, right. Um, Morgan, Tranquill is probably hungry now. I’ll need to take him somewhere—he doesn’t like eating in front of other people. Uhhh, sorry, but don’t worry. He eats really fast.”

    “It’s fine,” Morgan muttered, holding her phone tight in her hand.

    Amanda left her swablu behind. He looked to Morgan inquisitively, along with Nora, who was wagging her tail in thought, maybe concern. “I’m okay,” Morgan said. “Just—hang out for a bit. I want to look around.”

    Keeping the pokémon in earshot, Morgan wandered through the big, quiet cavern they had stopped in. At least they were succeeding with their goal of finding more human stuff—this was an old, partially-dismantled camp-spot maybe? Morgan looked around. There were flat shelves carved into the wall that were maybe supposed to be benches. More of those round holes in the wall—bet they used to be location markers, people just removed them.

    Morgan came across what she realized was a water pump coated with rust. She put a hand to the handle; at first, it seemed like she wouldn’t be able to get it to budge, but then with muscle work it shifted with a groan. For Morgan’s efforts, a thin line of brown liquid dribbled from the tap.

    Morgan had attracted the pokémon. “Water pump, old,” they explained. Nora sniffed at it. “…Please don’t drink that.”

    Blue remained back. He was… disturbed, scared? “It’s just dirty. Look.” Morgan placed a finger under the tap, coating it with water and gritty brown sediment. Of course, then Blue let out a whistling cry and fled.

    Humming, Nora gave Morgan a look. “I think… Amanda said swablu don’t like dirt? Here, wait.”

    Morgan wiped their hand on their jeans and followed after Blue. Blue kept his distance, tweeting loudly. “Look, I cleaned it off,” Morgan said, showing Blue their dry hand. Blue still seemed suspicious, but Morgan approached and he didn’t move away.

    Morgan hesitated, then looked around—it was still just them and Nora and Blue. Slowly, they reached out with the hand they hadn’t put under the water. Eventually, Blue shifted forward.

    His wings were soft.

    After Amanda returned, her tranquill thankfully calmer, for some reason the girl was apologizing. Morgan just shook her head, and the group carried on.


    They stopped for another meal, during which Tranquill wanted to be returned. Nora and Blue still seemed fine, but Morgan couldn’t make herself feel hungry. She forced in some bites of food because Amanda was there.

    Come on, they were coming across more human stuff. They had to be close. They had to be. Except, now it was like a do or die. Either Morgan’s plan would work, or it wouldn’t. And nothing that came from the latter half would be good.

    She closed her eyes and imagined her mom’s voice, sharp, cutting. Her dad’s—she froze. Stop—everything was fine fine fine fine.

    Even though she was stupid stupid stupid stupid.

    Morgan gave some excuse and walked off to be alone for a minute. Amanda was dealing with her swablu, but Nora’s head tracked her. When Morgan retreated around the corner, Nora landed on the wall next to her.

    Morgan hugged herself. “I’m sorry,” she muttered, though she didn’t know what exactly she was apologizing for.

    Nora clicked softly, shifting toward her trainer. Morgan sighed and put her head against the wall next to the swoobat. The coolness of the cave wall sank into her forehead. No charged stones, so there was only the slightest prickle along the cool stone.

    Morgan thought she detected a faint grinding—the remnants of the shaking and writhing from earlier, maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe whatever had happened before was still going on, and they were just far enough away they didn’t notice. Or probably it was just normal—typical cave pokémon doing their things. Of whatever Amanda thought she saw churning up the earth…

    “Morgan, are you okay??”

    Morgan lifted her head. Amanda had come around the corner, not Blue but Tranquill in tow. Had Morgan gotten lost in her thoughts again?

    Whatever the case, “I’m fine,” she answered. She straightened, putting her hands in her pockets, because she was fine.

    “Oh, that’s good—I was just... Uhh, Blue was getting tired, so I let him back in his pokéball. Tranquill’s still going strong though.” She gave Tranquill a wry look; in return, Tranquill puffed up and returned a fine death glare.

    “Cool,” Morgan responded. She idly wondered what Tranquill would be like without Blue around to keep him company.

    It was kind of quiet for a little. “Soooo,” Amanda said, “where are we now?? I figure we have to be close. You know, at least to being under the main area.”

    “Close,” Morgan repeated. Steeling herself, Morgan pulled out her phone again.

    Amanda came in closer to look as well. “So the little tower thingies are ways up. There are a bunch of them. That means we have to be near one by now, right?”

    “Yeah. We’re…we’re around here.” Morgan put a finger on the map, which was more than she had done for a while. She half-expected Amanda to call her out. Amanda only nodded, looking close at the map, and Morgan made herself do the same. The caverns twisted; Morgan traced out from her finger, trying to connect to one of the ways up and—

    “Wait.” Morgan blinked, sure she wasn’t actually seeing what she was seeing.

    “What is it?” Amanda squinted.

    Morgan waited, but neither the map nor her interpretation of it changed. She jerked her head up, staring down that tunnel they had entered this chamber from.

    “Morgan??” Amanda circled in front of her while Nora chirped, swinging her tail.

    “The place before—where Tranquill ate—the water pump.” Morgan steadied herself. “I think I found a route.”


    Morgan was already starting forward. “We just need to retrace our steps—we were almost there. Follow me!”


    Part of Morgan tried to call herself stupid because she didn’t notice this before, but the most of her didn’t care. As a chirping Nora and a bewildered Tranquill followed, Morgan explained to Amanda what she had seen. The place where they had stopped for Tranquill, with the water pump, it had been a campsite, abandoned a long time ago.

    And it was marked on the map.

    The map marked it with a number instead of something more clear, but it had marked it. It hadn’t gotten rid of it when it was taken apart. So, now Morgan could say actually where they were—they could take the closest way up available.

    Which wasn’t actually that far. In an alternate chain of events, they could have wandered across it themselves. They had just taken a wrong turn, and now they could correct it.

    When they made it back to the camp-spot room, Tranquill squawked almost politely, looking at the humans in utter confusion. “Here!!” Amanda proclaimed while Morgan checked her phone. “This way,” Morgan announced after a couple moments.

    As Morgan led Amanda down one of the final stretches of this journey, Morgan was just so, so relieved. Now, toward the end, she could admit how much trouble she could have gotten into. This was all Morgan’s fault—and she hadn’t just dragged in herself but also Nora and some random autistic kid and her team. But, she had fixed it. After this she just had to not do anything like this again and—

    Nora brushed by Morgan’s hair; she was trilling with Morgan’s emotions. “Almost,” Morgan muttered, turning a corner. There, into that room.

    “—well, this was a great adventure!! It was kinda fun but also I’m kinda glad it’s over—”

    Morgan tripped over a pile of gravel half-hidden in shadows; she staggered and caught herself on her hand and knees. It was mostly bright in this room, with the wavering light of charged stones. Morgan looked up and saw a multitude floating near the high ceiling.

    Morgan had expected stairs, like before, but besides the high ceiling the room was relatively small and narrow. A trail of metal led to an indentation in the wall, maybe where it a lift was supposed to be. But, if there had been a lift there, it had gotten an expansion.

    As Morgan stood, she realized Amanda had entered and been shocked silent. In front of the humans, whose pokémon cautiously approached, was gouged a massive hole, bigger and wider than either of them were tall. Deep gashes marred the inside of the broken-in wall. The destruction was new; dust drifted from its ceiling with Morgan’s footsteps as she got closer. Darkness shadowed the inner parts of the tunnel so that Morgan couldn’t see where it ended, but considering how chunks of rock dropped at random intervals, she figured she shouldn’t explore.

    There was more than that, though. The broken wall was new, but the rest of this place wasn’t. It looked half-dismantled, like the camp-spot. Besides the massive one, there were other weird holes in the wall, jammed with weird, white stuff. Some rusted bits and bobs remained embedded in the rock, but Morgan could barely guess what they had originally been. There was a big pile of random scrap metal heaped in the room, like some kind of pokémon’s nest—yeah, that. Morgan caught the yellow eyes of a ferroseed looking out wearily.

    The back of Morgan’s throat closed up and burned.

    Amanda, on the other hand, regained her voice.“That’s—woah—pretty big. Do you think it was maybe that pokémon from before? This place is um—Morgan?? It’s, um, it’s okay. I know you thought you knew the way.”

    Morgan remained quiet, for too long. “I think we’re lost,” Morgan eventually croaked.

    “Oh—it’s okay! This, um, isn’t your fault or anything.” Amanda hesitated. “Come on, don’t worry. We can still try, and you said it—if it looks too bad we can just go back, right? We have stuff, so we’re not going to starve. And even if worse comes to worse, people will be looking for us.”

    Morgan felt herself nod. Nora chirped quietly behind her. The swoobat tried to approach, but Morgan stayed stiff. She and Morgan were in a random cave, no idea where they were, with another random girl and her pokémon.

    Morgan was finally beginning to accept that she had really, really messed up.

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