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Pokémon Atmospheric Pressure

#1
Summary:
Calamity hits the Orange Islands, and one festival maiden takes it upon herself to investigate. [NaNoWriMo 2011 story]

Posting this here again because why the heck not, and I forgot it disappeared a while back.


Chapter 1

The distinction between climate and weather is one of scale. Weather refers to the state of the atmosphere at a local level, usually on a short time scale of minutes to months. It emphasises aspects of the atmosphere that affect human activity – such as sunshine, cloud, wind, rainfall and temperature.

Climate is concerned with the long-term behaviour of the atmosphere in a specific area. Climatic characteristics are represented by data on temperature, pressure, wind, precipitation, humidity, etc. which are used to calculate daily, monthly and yearly averages and to build up global patterns.


Melody had read every book and paper on oceanography and meteorology she could get her hands on. She'd even contacted the Weather Institute in Hoenn, visited Professor Ivy on Valencia Island, and coerced Professor Oak's videophone number out of an unwilling Misty Waterflower. That incident was the reason she'd taken up Physical Geography at school and later at college – trying to prove it wrong, trying to prove there was a logical explanation.

Nothing. Nothing she found could disprove the fact that Legendary Pokémon were indeed responsible for the known world's climate. How did people that had never seen them believe in this? Or the people that had no idea what it was like to be at the centre of the ecological disaster ten years ago?

Sighing, Melody kicked her heels against the shrine's granite pedestal below her and looked out over the ocean towards the three islands facing Shamouti's cove. The sun was starting to set, bathing the water and islands in a rich gold, and sending shadows of silhouettes across the ocean surface. A silhouette of Zapdos's barren, dead shield volcano and its deep caldera. A silhouette of Moltres' perpetually active stratovolcano. And between them, casting the longest shadow of all, a frosty mountain stranded in the centre of a tropical archipelago, inhabited by Articuno.

Melody had watched them fighting, and their power terrified her. Never again did she want the guardian, Lugia – beautiful and awe-inspiring as he was – to be called forth to stop them.

Never again should the world be turned upside down due to the interference of humans.

Human interference was exactly what had happened. Had that collector not tried to remove Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno – ultimately Lugia – from their natural habitats, the balance would not have been thrown. Furthermore, what if the Chosen One hadn't happened to have turned up just in time for the festival?

Then again, Melody figured, it probably wouldn't have happened if he hadn't turned up. The legend said it would happen, and probably only with everything in place as necessary.

This was precisely where Melody had got with trying to find a logical explanation for the occurrences: nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. Her thoughts simply went around in circles. Was it the fault of placing nature's balance in the hands of Legendary Pokémon? Or was it the fault of the humans for feeling they had to interfere? Or, just by chance, was it simply coincidence that the imbalance in the climate had happened at the same time as the Legendaries being collected?

On the bright side, at least the whole ordeal had given her excellent material for her last meteorology assignment and rewarded her with a useful qualification; though, if she was honest, she'd not given a passing thought to what she was going to do now she'd left college. Even the Hoenn Weather Institute had failed to interest her. Melody might like to travel, but she had no inclination of ever permanently leaving the Orange Islands, even if she moved from Shamouti Island.

Melody heaved an impressive sigh as the sun finally disappeared from view, and jumped down from the pedestal to start her climb back up to the main island and to the home she shared with her older sister and grandfather. She considered somewhat absent-mindedly that the annual Shamouti Legend Festival would take place in less than two months, and it was her final year as the Festival Maiden. Practice should probably be in order to make sure it was her best ever performance. It took her mind off obsessing over all her dilemmas, anyway.

As coincidence would have it, a ship silently appeared on the horizon as she turned away; unbeknownst to Melody and the other inhabitants of Shamouti and the Orange archipelago, something big was about to begin.
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#2
Chapter 2

Under cover of night, the ocean transporter came.

Considering the owners of the ship, the contents being unloaded were fairly inoffensive; storage units, bits of picket fence, incubators and drums of Pokémon food. Following these items, out came furniture intended for a human living space. Each piece was carried by a seemingly endless crew of men, up to the rented house on the cliff – owned by none other than Melody's sister, Carol.

The operation was silent. Silent enough that only a few of the wild Pokémon in the vicinity were disturbed.

The ground floor of the house was outfitted efficiently and expertly by the ship's crew, beginning to bear more than a passing resemblance to a breeding and day care centre. The fencing and the human furniture was left strewn across the ground floor and upstairs of the house in vague room allocations for the new resident to sort out for himself in the morning.

And so, one young man was left behind to wave farewell to the transporter, muttering to himself about how he considered the size of it rather ridiculous for the job it had just done.

"Howard "Howie" Baker, age 24. Pokémon breeder."

"Hmm. Sounds like someone to keep an eye on."

"We're not thieves, Liran," chided the owner of the first voice, passing her companion the night-vision binoculars.

Liran took them with a pout and watched the new resident lock himself in the house. "Maybe I think he's the sinister one. Who moves onto an island in the dead of night with the aid of a massive boat and a hundred men?"

Cisco plugged a mobile network adapter into her laptop and started it up. "I'm afraid I don't think it has anything to do with us."

Liran watched his partner uploading some incomprehensible strings of data to their allocated section of the organisation's "innovation" database. She stopped typing for a moment, staring blankly at the screen as if deep in thought. "Or maybe...he could help us."

"Huh?"

"We need test subjects! We can't just keep poking about with our own Pokémon. I mean, look at Lieutenant Wang." Cisco swivelled the screen of her computer, displaying a picture of Liran's prized team member – his Gengar – and all his detailed statistics. "That's just not right."

Cisco and Liran had joined this particular organisation because it happened to be the only one interested in their invention; modifying Technical Machines to work with absolutely any Pokémon. It had spawned from Liran's fondness for Delta series Pokémon trading cards as a boy, and Cisco's penchant for programming. Now they had access to the organisation's massive digital repository of TMs and as much money as they could appeal for.

However, for a reason beyond their comprehension, they'd been posted in the Orange Archipelago.

"Excuse me for interrupting, but what are you doing in my bushes?"

Cisco and Liran snapped out of their respective flashbacks to see a rather irritated young man looking down at them. He indicated their camp fire, tent, and Cisco's rather suspicious-looking equipment.

"We were here first, Howard," said Liran.

"All the same, this is technically my property. And I'm not sure how you know my name, but it's Howie."

•••

Melody woke up with a start to the sound of a very loud impact somewhere in the vicinity of her sister's holiday home.

She failed to recognise the noise. An explosion? No. It couldn't be. The Orange Archipelago was one of the most tranquil places in the known world to live – no real threat from the dubious organisations she'd seen on the news, or otherwise. At least not since the incident with the collector ten years ago.

Her ears pricked up at the distant sound of voices, and she listened at the window for a few minutes, cussing because she could not quite work out what was being said. The noises, she concluded after a moment of thought, indicated a Pokémon battle. Should she go out and investigate? Should she stay indoors where it was decidedly safer and take a casual look in the morning?

Melody let curiosity get the better of her, convincing herself that she should check it out since the noises seemed to be coming from the rental house the new tenant had moved into this very evening.

Shamouti Island was approaching Festival season in the coming month – the time of the year being one of the factors panicking her – and the streets had already become decorated with lights. Despite her worries, they were a welcome sight at this time of the evening. Melody ran down the flagstone streets as fast as she could, the thumping of her sandals and her heart almost drowning out the commotion ahead. Carol's holiday home sat on top of the next hill, the other side of the cove constituting Shamouti's natural harbour.

Melody slowed to a halt at the bottom of the hill, leaning to rest her palms on her thighs and get her breath back. She was a swimmer, not a runner.

"Wait..." she muttered to herself, controlling her breathing enough to hear what was going on up the hill.

Nothing.

"Nothing?" Melody sighed and pulled herself upright. She shivered, suddenly realising it was indeed the middle of the night and she was no longer active enough to stay warm.

As she turned to walk back to her house, disappointed, a faint murmur of voices could be heard, drawing gradually closer to her.

"What do you see?"

"Let me just..." the voice paused, as if concentrating on something else. "It's a girl a bit younger than us. Long hair, sort of auburn. Oh. Oh, Cisco, she's looking."

"That's because you talk too loudly, Liran."

One figure on the hillside – 'Cisco' – halted in the manner of someone alarmed, though the other continued walking towards her, one arm raised to hold binoculars. The hair pricked up on the back of Melody's neck, wondering who these people were and what they were doing heading towards her.

"Liran!" Cisco shouted. He stopped, turning his head in an irritated manner to look back at his companion. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Melody.

"Who are you guys, and what were you doing up there by my sister's house?" she demanded, resolving that it was best in this situation to stand up rather than running away. Besides, in the dark, they probably couldn't tell she was scared.

"We were camping," explained Cisco – Melody now recognised her voice as being more female than not, even though her figure was slightly ambiguous, as was her haircut – "and your tenant up there told us to take a hike."

"Not before I wiped the floor with his-"

Liran found a hand slapped across his mouth. "Quite. Anyway, love, we'll take our leave now. We don't really want to cause trouble. Well, I don't. Liran's another story."

Melody studied the two of them, dressed in what looked like a modified version of a company's uniform; black for the majority, accented with white and red. Cisco's hair was nondescript and short, bleached to a bright white, and Liran's appeared to have been chopped and coloured so many times that his natural colour was impossible to discern. It had settled at being slightly longer than his partner's, and a sandy blonde colour.

Melody held up a hand and waved indifferently. "Just don't go waking everyone up again, and stay off private property. You're welcome to camp anywhere on the island otherwise, of course. There's plenty of space." She cast one more dubious glance over them and turned to leave. "See you around."

•••

"No, Carol. I object. I didn't sleep well at all last night," Melody complained loudly into her pillow.

"Melody, darling, you yourself asked me to wake you up this morning, because you're helping our new tenant organise himself and familiarise himself with the island." Carol opened the shuttered windows and tugged the bed cover back. "And he's paying you for it, you freeloading student."

Melody snatched her sheets back, groaned and then sighed. Carol was about ten years older than her – approaching 30 – engaged to a guy known only as "Rip", who taught kids and tourists how to surf down on the beach. They lived together here, and Melody was indeed freeloading, having completed her education a few weeks ago.

"You, my dear sister, need some direction. And even if it's just a few part-time jobs, so be it. You're not just going to lounge around here and wander aimlessly around Shamouti with your head in the clouds for the rest of your life." Carol sat down on her younger sister's bed, taking care not to sit on any extremities of the silent body under the sheets. "The tourist industry here in the archipelago is huge, Mel, particularly around our festival. You could look at that. You're a good swimmer and surfer, so you could even help out Rip down at the beach. I think you'd be going to waste, though. Look at that amazing qualification you got in meteorology and geology. You should have contacted that place in Hoenn."

Melody sat up in bed, gazing out of the window at the ocean. The Weather Institute near Fortree City in Hoenn had been a consideration of hers, but, as she'd convinced herself thousands of times, she just didn't want to leave her home. Besides, she wanted to get out and do research, not sit inside a stuffy building and look at data – at least that was her impression from documentaries about it on TV. Even so, something had to be said for their methods, since contacting them had got her through several assignments throughout the last two years.

"Maybe for work experience," Melody mumbled bleakly.

Carol rolled her eyes and stood up. "Well, let's focus on today. Get ready and then head up the cliff to help our new friend, okay?"

"Whatev." Melody yawned, hearing Carol leave the room. Reluctantly she dragged herself out of bed and wandered into the bathroom to prepare.
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#3
Chapter 3

Melody made a leisurely stroll along the waterfront. A radiant equatorial sun picked out copper, rust and auburn in her hair - a genetic trait that baffled so many members of her family. Market Street was different to the night before; the flapping and whistling of multicoloured festival flags in the wind was no longer ominous, and a warm, pleasant breeze sailed in from the ocean.

She ignored a chime from her PokéGear - probably Carol nagging her - choosing instead to sit on the sea wall and watch a family of Lapras congregating in the distance, babies included. She scolded herself for not bringing her camera, or having a communication device with such a built-in function.

Fishing said gadget out of her pocket, she reluctantly hit a button to display the new message. Just as she suspected: Carol demanding to know if she'd arrived yet.

r u ther yet? dnt keep him w8ing!! xxx

Melody wasn't quite sure whether to lament more her sister's interference or her thoughtless violation of the English language.

She dragged herself to her feet and continued with a remarkably brisker walk up the hill. She mused that this morning was playing out rather like--

A male voice cheerily greeted from nearby; "Ah, hello again!"

"Oh, you two from last night." Melody muttered, casting a cursory glance over the campers, and then stopping to stare.

Liran and Cisco sat around a kettle on a small camping stove, dressed in casual clothing. In Liran's lap was a snoozing Togetic and on Cisco's shoulder sat a young Aipom.

Around them was gathered a further assortment of seemingly well-trained Pokémon. Most noticeable was a sinister couple composed of a particularly menacing Gengar and a shifty but glamorous Mismagius, nursing an egg between them. A blushing Clefairy sat not far away, riveted by the monologue of a male Clefable.

Melody stumbled forwards as something warm and furry collided with the back of her legs; an Umbreon and Espeon play-fighting together in the coarse grass, crying happily, and clearly the closest of friends.

"Are these your Pokémon?" Melody asked, astounded.

A happy smile from Liran, followed by Cisco and her Aipom, answered the question. Melody smiled. The beauty of the scene had for the moment dissipated any doubt she'd had about her new acquaintances.

To her distaste, her PokéGear chimed once again.

rang howie & ur nt ther yet!! hurry up mel! xxx

Sigh. Carol had done nothing but interfere since Melody had finished college with no further direction. Her sister meant well, but it was beginning to grate on her nerves.

"I have to be off." Melody apologised, casting another look over the Pokémon. "Have a good day. It looks like a good one."

Cisco and Liran simply smiled and waved as Melody made her way further up the hill.

She looked up at the sky, out at the sea, down at the grass beneath her feet. The two of them had looked so happy with all their apparently well-trained, happy and healthy Pokémon. Maybe she could have considered the trainer challenge, at least until another opportunity arose. The Orange League only had four gyms and a championship; it would have given her something to do and time to think.

Perhaps it was time to make that trip to Valencia Island to register with Professor Ivy.

Well, after this odd job for this mysterious "Howie" person; an innocuous young man, of average stature for someone his age. Unkempt sun-bleached hair was held back from his face with a typical Recognised Pokémon Breeder's bandana - red with simplified Poké Ball motifs - further folded up and used as a headband.

As Melody approached, he was stood watching a small Poochyena frolicking amidst a distressed flock of Natu, barking happily. While the house looked distinctly like a daycare centre, it was unmistakably empty.

"You must be Carol's sister." Howie ventured, extending his hand. 'Melody, am I right?"

She nodded, taking his offered hand and shaking it firmly. 'Yes, I'm the less interfering one."

Howie laughed good-naturedly, running his fingers back through his hair so as to sweep it from his face, the effect of which lasted a good three seconds. "Shall we get started then? I'm afraid the first couple of days are going to be boring and kind of slow, but I'll pay you fairly and you should get some good experience. You like Pokémon, don't you?"

Melody's ears perked up; Carol hadn't mentioned pay.

She affirmed the last question enthusiastically, then explained to Howie the crossroads she was at. She wasn't sure if she'd make a very late (but not unheard of) entry to the Orange League, look for a job or development opportunity pertaining to her qualifications, or go into further education - though she wasn't too sure about the last one, if she was honest.

"Well." Howie said at great length after this monologue, ignoring the Poochyena now pawing at his leg. "If you're not sure you want to be a trainer, I'm sure you'll have made up your mind by the time I'm done with you."

•••

It really did turn out to be hard, but enjoyable work. The breeding centre attracted a lot of attention, as it meant inhabitants of the Orange Islands didn't have to travel to Johto or Kanto for a daycare centre.

Every day she worked was spent getting up at the crack of dawn - sometimes to relieve Howie for a few hours while he slept in - letting the hosted Pokémon out into the fenced-in area at the back of the building, preparing their food (differing per type and even sometimes per species) and manning the desk and phone.

Poochie had at first caused havoc, running between Melody's ankles, constantly tripping her and yapping incessantly. After a couple of weeks they'd become friends, and he quietly followed her around, occasionally even helping to herd stubborn guest Pokémon and bring brushes and other tools to her.

She had several challenges and mishaps. A tearful and homesick Azurill she'd had to stay with overnight until its trainer returned; several habitually aggressive Spearow, and the odd Thundershock or Ember sent her way by difficult inhabitants. Luckily enough, Howie made sure to pay her a little extra or treat her to lunch every time something untoward happened.

Sometimes they would work together, and Melody would talk about growing up on Shamouti Island, her family's role in its legends and her current status as Festival Maiden. Every so often Howie would ask her to bring her ocarina and play the song for him. He seemed ever so interested in her and the intricacies of the legends so deeply rooted in this part of the Orange Islands; in particular the happenings of ten years ago and her educated opinions on the causes. It seemed strange that he was so eager to learn about all of this but would never share much about his own childhood or interesting anecdotes.

All she learned about the charming Mr Howard Baker amounted to the fact that he was born in Lilycove City, Hoenn, and that the Poochyena - "Poochie" - was one of his three Pokémon. The others were a Sharpedo named Athena, with whom Melody had occasionally gone swimming and surfing, and an unnamed Crobat that seemed to spend most of its time in the attic space of the building.

Howie would never speak about how he'd got the funding for his daycare center, but Melody decided it was his business and it might be best not to press him about it. Besides, she was building a wonderful working friendship with him.

Today Howie was doing most of the work, and Melody was sat a little way away from the breeding centre, fondling Poochie between the ears as they sat on the cliff edge looking out to sea. She'd not seen that little family of Lapras since her first day at work, and it saddened her a little, especially since she'd brought her binoculars every day just in case. She hoped they were safe - rare Pokémon such as those beautiful creatures were sought-after and often ruthlessly obtained, especially the younger ones.

What else had happened on that first day? That had also been the last time she'd seen those dubiously inquisitive travellers, Liran and Cisco. Maybe they'd moved on somewhere else...

"Hey Melody, come and look at this!"

Poochie, startled, bounded off back towards the house, barking loudly. Melody considerably more carefully got up from the edge and made her way back in.

In Howie's hands was a large egg, a pale green colour flecked with a darker shade. Melody's eyes grew wide - she'd heard of Pokémon eggs but she'd never seen one until today.

"What is it?" She asked, awed.

Howie examined it carefully for a moment. "I'm not really sure. They seem to produce them inexplicably when nobody's looking. I picked it up and none of the Pokémon seemed to care, so..." He carefully deposited it in a wide-eyed Melody's arms. "I'm giving it to you as a personal project. It might even be something rare."

Melody stuttered, failing to comprehensibly form the word "what".

He simply chuckled. "It's yours. Whatever it is, it's yours."
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