A throng of people made their way through Pewter towards the Gym.

The gym itself had taken on a fairground-like appearance with large tents for groups of entertainers, and stalls for people selling local goods, services and produce all aligned in rows.

I could see more than a few people lining up to get their pokemon pampered, primped or just generally pandered to before the contest began. Others were selling fruits or natural aides to improve a pokemon’s appearance. Locals had their own handcrafted goods for sale and I saw Kelly Meadows hawking her wares with her fruit stall.

The battle courts were all in use but more of a space for pokemon to have impromptu style show downs with trainers showing off how good their pokemon looked in various outfits. It seemed like a strange blend of basketball court and model catwalk with everyone participating being rookies apart from the few Hoenn people walking around with amused looks.

Throughout it all people and pokemon wandered.

I stood behind the glass doors of the Gym, taking it all in. I’d donned the brown leather jacket and sturdy jeans with a set of clean tan boots. I was also wearing my glasses, purely to change up my look and break up the roughness of my outfit. I rather liked it.

It had earned a begrudging nod from Monique for being on point, so that counted as a win.


Next to me, Monique was styled to the nines with what looked like it was made from rocky chips that formed a shimmering scale-like dress.

Nurse Joy was merely wearing her normal outfit but with the looks she was shooting Monique and me, she was regretting that.

“You know it’s not too late to swap out your outfit if you wanted to?” I said.

Nurse Joy sighed. “I didn’t prepare anything and it’s far too late to—”

“Oh pish posh!” said Monique, turning on Nurse Joy. “If you want an outfit I can whip something together! Brock can see to the initial announcements and welcoming. With twenty minutes, I can turn you from a sow’s ear into a silk purse!” she said as she dragged Nurse Joy away.

I chuckled and considered whistling an old song from my first life but decided against it. I instead toyed with the new pokeball I had on my side. It had been a bit of a rush order, but Jackson had been more than happy to go for a trip to the islands for it while catching up with some old friends. My hand scraped across the glittery top while I chuckled. I really shouldn’t have left it out where the girls could find it and ‘accessorize it’ for me.


Yolanda jogged up with Alexa and Rachel at her side. “Hey Brock! The Gym’s all ready for everyone to come in!” she said. She shot the throng outside a look and whistled.

“That’s a lot more people than we were expecting right?”

I nodded. “Not all of them are contestants, they are actually just people coming for some entertainment. While it isn’t mainstream in Kanto there are enough people that are curious about it that they’ve signed up for viewing tickets. It helps that we’re doing it here as we’ve been able to offer it as a special to our season ticket holders.”

“Huh,” Yolanda said as she continued to peer about the crowd. When she frowned and shook her head I shot her a look.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Greta and Crystal were going to compete with me using their own or a Gym pokemon,” she said. “They haven’t snuck in the back so I was wondering if they were out there enjoying themselves,” she said shifting from foot to foot.

“Don’t worry they probably just got caught up with something Crystal was doing,” suggested Alexa. “Georgina says her daughter sleeps in enough to cause enough drama so Greta might have gotten dragged into that.”

Yolanda nodded slowly. “That makes way too much sense. It’s probably exactly what happened,” she said, sounding relieved.

I gave her a nudge and she pushed me back.

“Hey! Careful this is real Tauros hide leather!” I said, which got a look from Alexa and Rachel.

“No, it’s not! I was there when you bought it, remember?” Yolanda said with a giggle.

I winked at her, pleased that my little joke had picked up her mood before I rolled my shoulders and hit the button to open the doors. I stepped outside and toggled the microphone which caused a short burst of static over the speakers located over the grounds.

When people continued to mingle, ignoring the opening of the Gym’s doors I huffed.

Guess I’d been getting a big head expecting them to stop and gather around at my appearance.

I chuckled and rubbed my head before an idea came to me. I grabbed the new pokeball and released the Onix within.

It emerged with a loud roar that silenced the fairgrounds as people turned to the pokemon in question. Gasps rang out as they registered the shimmering form of my crystal Onix, the sun bouncing light off like it was made of diamonds. With enough people’s attention on me, I decided to start.

“Welcome! To the first Pewter Contest! I am your host and Gym Leader! Today I have the pleasure to be acting as one of the judges for the Contest! Could those who have registered to take part please make their way into the designated seated areas within the gym as entrants will start to be called soon! For those wishing to spectate please begin to enter! Keep your tickets ready or your entry information ready on your provided lanyard!”

A flood of people began to enter and I stood to the side nodding and smiling as people bustled past me. More than a few stopped for photos with me and my Onix.

“Who’s the guy in the glasses? Does Brock have a brother?” said one group of girls. Their whispers reached my ears. I shot them a wave and lifted the glasses to reveal myself before putting them back on.

“Huh? Does Brock wear contacts?” the girls said as they walked further into the Gym while shooting me confused looks.

I hummed and ignored them. At least they hadn’t tried to hit on me. Sabrina wouldn’t like the idea of someone ‘sniffing around’ and I’d rather not shoot someone down so publically. I made a mental note to stay in public view for the rest of the day.

“Ahem!” said a rather coarse voice.

I turned and found myself looking at a very well dressed man.

The term dapper fitted him as well as his suit and hat. In one hand he held a cane while in the other he held the hand of a rather elegant-looking Gardevoir. The pokemon in question wore a nice jacket over its body.

I blinked in surprise and made to ask who this man was before my mind suddenly accelerated.

The night I’d told Surge about the listening post a man had come out of the mansion next door to the listening post and cleared away the reporters with but a few words.

I’d asked about him back then.

“You’re the Chairman of the Pokemon club, no? We’ve, well I can’t claim we’ve met before…” I coughed and smiled. “Welcome to my Gym and today’s venue for the Contest,” I said.

“Hmm, while your name precedes you, it is the mark of a good man to still introduce themselves,” said the man firmly.

“Gardevoir,” said his companion pokemon reproachfully.

The Chairman coughed. “Ah, my apologies dear, I said I’d try not to be antagonistic and I’m already failing,” he said.

He bowed his head. “Please forgive my lack of manners and let us start again.” he adjusted his cravat slightly and bowed his head again. “I am as you said the Chairman of the Pokemon Club, you may address me as Archibald Honda.”

“And I am Brock,” I said. “Welcome to my Gym,” I said, deciding to accept the olive branch he was extending. I cleared my throat. “I apologise if it’s a touchy subject but… well with what you said earlier it sounded like you had something of an issue with this event? Or my running it?” I asked, deciding to poke the ursaring.

Archibald worked his jaw before exhaling. “I suppose you wouldn’t know…”

He huffed and muttered something about Monique that I didn’t catch. “In Hoenn, Contests are closely aligned with pokemon clubs with the Chairmen of the various clubs both in small locales or larger cities offering judging positions and inclusion into the process.”

Archibald straightened out. “For you see who else but we could have the insight into the grace of pokemon? The elegance of their moves? The idea of how difficult or easy a move was for them? It takes taste and experience which… I am not sure you or your judges possess.”

The man coughed. “I simply feel like it should have been at the very least offered. We’ve been dying to establish more Contests in Kanto and….”

“And when you heard we’d been starting one up you were excited but then disappointed when you weren’t asked for your insight?” I said finishing his sentence.

The man nodded. “To a degree, yes,” he said.

“Gardevoir,” said the psychic fairy pokemon, leaning into Archibald’s side and rubbing his shoulder consolingly.

Archibald huffed. “I was not inconsolable my dear I was just… caught off guard!”

I nodded, now understanding the issue. “Well, you’ll have to forgive my lack of experience, in hindsight it seems obvious but well, that’s the nature of hindsight. Monique and I have been rather caught up in the planning and establishing of the Contest.”

I waved a hand about. “It seems to at least be starting off well,” I said.

“Indeed,” said Archibald morosely. I grimaced, the seeming success of the event so far appeared to be saddening him. Had he wanted us to fail? I shook the thought away for now.

I considered the man. It wasn’t like he was being horrible, he was just offended about not being included for something that would have been a great experience.

I scratched my chin in thought. “I can’t offer up another position as a Judge, but well I’m sure Rachel could use another shot caller or announcer for this event? Your insight would help and it would link the Pokemon club with the Contest scene once again,” I said, offering the man a proverbial olive branch.

Archibald considered this before nodding, slowly perking up as he seemed to come around to the idea. “That might be nice,” he said, rubbing his chin. “Yes, I think that will work nicely to show we’re involved.”

“Garde?” said his companion.

I blinked and looked to Archibald, unsure what Gardevoir had said.

“Could my dear have a headset as well?” he asked.

“I’m sure that could be arranged,” I said, looking to Rachel who shot me a huge thumbs up.

“This is our head of marketing and today’s announcer and shot caller, Rachel Raul,” I said, making introductions for the trio. Rachel happily led the man off and I watched them go.

“Sorry about him,” said a familiar voice. I turned and found Erika smiling at me.

“Erika? I didn’t know you were coming!” I said rather redundantly.

“I know, it surprised me when I got an opening for the morning and realised I could come! It’s a good thing I came, great uncle Archibald was much more worked up before I spoke to him,” she said.

I blinked in surprise as I made yet another link.

“Oh! That’s right! Your father and uncle! But before them it was Archibald owning Silph Co,” I said, forming a rather tangled mess of links. “He’s your Great-uncle?” I asked.

Erika bobbed her head up and down, like a flower shifting in the breeze. “Indeed, he’s taught me a lot in the past.” She smiled and I felt the sun come out a little more. “Thanks for not being too upset with him!”

I chuckled and rubbed the back of my head. “If I’d known he was your great uncle I might have treated him nicer,” I said.

Erika blinked and stared at me. Then she held up a hand against her lips and loosened a gale of giggles.

I tilted my head cluelessly. “Did I say something?” I asked.

“It’s just that for most of my life I’ve been told I’d be treated well because of him and my uncle and father! But to hear it the other way around?” She grinned widely. “It just sort of struck me as funny!”

I nodded slowly. I could sort of see what she meant. If she’d spent years with people referring to them first before her it would be refreshing to be known first for her own skills. It would also be a bit funny I suppose.

She gave Onix a look over and nodded. “He’s a beautiful pokemon, and a good addition to this show,” she said. She gave Onix a few pats before stopping.

Erika sighed happily and bowed to me. “I’m going to head in, thank you again for not being too cross with Great uncle Archibald. I’ll only be able to catch the first few hours but I’m looking forward to what comes from today!” she said.

I watched her move off before turning my eyes back to the front doors.

There seemed to be an awful commotion with people hustling out of the way along with an ominous rumbling. I stepped forward just in time with the crowd parting to reveal a gang of bikers idling up to the Gym.

Their bikes throttling low only to occasionally roar when people were too slow to get out of the way.

“Watch out!” “Make way!” “Venom pack coming through!” shouted a few of the bikers.

I frowned and stepped forward, palming Knight’s pokeball in readiness. “What’s going on here?” I shouted, my voice, well used to projecting for Gym Matches, carried over the crowd and the noise of the engines.

The bikers came to a stop and kicked their stands into position before rising as one.

I flicked my eyes, my training with the Guardians making me document the threats and assess which of them were the proper trainers. I quickly locked eyes with three such people.

One, a giant swarthy man that was as hairy as he was large. His vest merely held back his chest hair while the hair of his arms drifted down to his gloves. Four pokeballs on his belt.

Another man wore a biker's helmet and full leather. They had six Pokeballs on their belt, three of which were Greatballs. They had an edge to them that made me think they knew they were being assessed. They in turn looked me over.

My hand drifted to my pokebelt, ready to call out my entire team if needed. If you spot this narrative on Amazon, know that it has been stolen. Report the violation.

The final threat was a thin weasel of a man with hair that was drawn up into spikes. He reminded me of the stereotypical biker that you could face in the original games when on the cycling track between Celadon and Fuchsia.

The thin biker stepped forward. “So, this your place then?” he said, his head tilting in a manner that just demanded that I punch his lights out.

“It is. I’m the Gym Leader here, state your purpose!” I said firmly. If they were here to cause trouble I was putting them down hard.

The big man stepped forward. “Ain’t it obvious? We’re here to win it all!” he roared. He held out a pokeball. “Me and Mittens are going all the way!” he shouted.

I leaned forward, my fighting instinct ge— I blinked as I registered the name. “Mittens?” I asked.

The big man nodded and released a well-groomed Persian. “Perrrrrrrrsian!” said the pokemon.

“Kick their backsides Brock!” shouted a nasal voice that made me snap to the side to see a pair of trainers standing in front of a Meowth that suddenly looked like it was regretting its life choices.

I narrowed my eyes at the trio and they stepped back, in what must have been Jessie’s hands a brochure detailing the Contest was held up as a flimsy shield.

I stared at it and jerked my head towards the Gym dismissing them, as I turned to the people that had caused the actual disturbance. I’d remember that the Rocket trio were here however, and deal with them soon.

“We’ll talk soon, keep your noses clean,” I whispered as they edged around me.

I locked my eyes back onto the bikers and did another double take when the helmet-wearing rider was revealed to be Georgina Glass, my accountant now sans her helmet.

I stared.

“Georgina?” I asked.

“Ahahaha! Sorry for the disturbance Brock! The gang and I were doing some speed work last weekend and I happened to mention the Contest. Zek and Bosco wanted to have a go with their darlings!” she said.

I turned my head to the large man. “Bosco?” I asked. He nodded. I turned to the other smaller, wiry man. “Zek?”

“Short for Ezekiel,” he said with a huff. “I prefer Zek, it’s short and sweet and the ladies love it!” he said before winking at a lady in the crowd. “Sup babe?” he said. The woman stiffened and turned red as everyone looked to her. She released a Graveler and inched behind it to hide.

I chuckled. “Riiiight, well cool your engines when coming in next time, also that’s not where you park your bikes,” I said waving a hand to the side.

Georgina giggled and bonked herself on the head. “Teehee sorry!'' She then rounded on her gang, her leather jacket proudly displaying an Arbok with lightning flashing around it. “Venom Gang! Move your bikes! You’re making traffic and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s traffic!”

“Too slow for you girl!” shouted one man before he kicked his bike into life. He then slowly idled his bike to the set section along with the others.

I watched them go before shaking my head as my fighting instinct died off.

“Yolanda!” shouted a familiar voice as Crystal and Greta were revealed clutching onto the back of a pair of bikers.

Yolanda trundled out to talk with her friends and meet Georgina’s biker friends. I shook my head and walked back into the Gym. That hadn't been how I’d expected things to turn out.

I walked into the arena and found Rachel leading Archibald in a slow circuit around the edge of the stage that we’d assembled. When she reached the announcer’s booth she set up herself, Archibald, and then Gardevoir with a headset each.

From her hand movements, I could see that she was still talking. She saw me watching and waved her hand towards the judges' panel. I nodded and moved.

Rachel then got the camera crew that was covering today’s Contest to direct them her way. She did a quick countdown and then waved with both of her hands.

“Hello viewers and contestants! Welcome to Pewter Gym! Today we have the inaugural pewter Gym! Joining me today is the chairman of the pokemon club and Gardevoir! Experts in their field, welcome Archibald and Gardevoir!”

“Hmmm thank you Rachel,” said Archibald regally.

“Garde,” said Gardevoir.

Rachel grinned. “Now seeing as we’re looking to get things underway quickly I’ll be brief for those of you who have never participated or watched a contest! The name of the game is style over all else! Today Contestants and their pokemon will be competing to perform the best and wow the judges! This will come in two stages! The first stage is known as the Performance Stage where Contestants—”

“Ahem!” Archibald said.

Rachel blinked. “Something wrong Archibald?”

“My apologies! But having watched a number of the Hoenn events I felt it important to point out that it is not Contestants, but rather Coordinators that will be competing today.”

“Ah right you are! Thanks for the correction!” said Rachel affably.

Rachel shot Gardevoir a look. “Are the pokemon still pokemon?” she asked the expert.

“Gardevoir!” said the pokemon with a flourishing gesture and a nod.

“Ah! They are but so much more?” asked Rachel, earning herself a nod. “So elegant!” Rachel then turned back to the crowd. “So! The Coordinators will be competing with their prized Pokemon to wow the Judges in the first stage! Then in the second, they will perform in a head-to-head during the Battle Stage! It’s not enough to just brute force your way to the win however! You need to show something more!”

Rachel turned to Archibald to get his thoughts on the matter and I relaxed knowing that Rachel had things well in hand. She was working Archibald into the discussion and prompting him for key insight in places he could really shine while also drawing in his pokemon.

It seemed like a winning combination.

I tuned back in as Rachel gestured back to me. “And today’s judges are Brock! The Pewter City Gym Leader who’s chosen to style a fetching brown faux leather jacket with denim jeans! He’s softening the tough image with a clever use of spectacles to keep himself looking sharp without overplaying his hand!”

I smiled and waved, earning a few whistles and shouts along with some applause.

Rachel then pointed to the tunnel in time for Monique to make her entrance. “Sporting a signature style that is of her own design we have Monique from Pewter City with a fetching granite scale dress that’s sure to shake things up in all the right places! Watch out if she gets a dance floor under her! She’s going to shine!”

I chuckled and clapped along as the crowd got into the impromptu fashion display.

Then I joined the crowd in gasping as Nurse Joy strode onto the stage.

“Oh my! In a shock entrance! Nurse Joy is turning up and turning heads!” shouted Rachel.

Nurse Joy seemed delighted with this reaction as she strode forward, her long pink skirt which fell to her ankle swishing with each step. She too sported a jacket but hers was pink and opened at the front to display her white smock underneath. She also had on a pink face mask with a green x across the lips.

“Stealing the show! Nurse Joy is looking for some serious rep with this showing! I’m just now being told that this is also Monique style on display so good for you girls!” shouted Rachel. Both Monique and Nurse Joy shared a hug before walking toward me.

I made sure to stand and offer them both their seats. When they sat I pushed them in before taking my own seat.

Monique smiled and waved. “Well that was the fun part over, now we have to do the actual job, prepare yourself,” she said out the side of her mouth.

I copied her. “How many performances are there?” I asked.

“Eighty-three booked in,” she said. “I expect at least a quarter will have Geodude or some Rock pokemon,” she said.

“Oh well, let’s hope for the best!” said Nurse Joy as she lowered her hand and signalled for the first Coordinator to step forward.

“Would Jessadia please step forward for us?” she said.

I straightened up. Well that was a good way to make me invested in the first pokemon.

Jessie stepped forward nervously. Monique smiled. “Hello dear? First Contest?” she asked.

Jessie nodded frantically, her eyes shifting to me. “Y-yes! I hope I’m well received?” she said tentatively.

I nodded slowly. “All will be welcome if they enter this Gym with good intentions, otherwise they will be crushed,” i said, giving her a stern warning

Everyone shot me a confused look with Jessie swallowing and nodding, understanding the message I was giving her. The crowd murmured in surprise at my words, confused and I grimaced as I realised I’d overplayed my hand.

I started thinking up ways to lighten the mood only for Rachel to get on the speaker system before my words could become awkward.

“Oooooooh! It seems Brock’s stepping into his tough man persona earlier! People were worried that he was going to be soft for Contests! It seems he’s going the opposite way though! People are going to face a cliff early on, let’s hope they know how to climb!”

This got a round of appreciative murmurs and Archibald nodded at me. He seemed to approve while I repressed an urge to look to the side guiltily.

That hadn’t been my intention at all.

I had been planning on making it easy, but with Jessie being first and my need to be cryptic I’d type cast myself into my often seen ‘heel’ persona.

Damn it! I wanted to relax!

I frowned sternly, using the frustration to feed into the look.

“Don’t worry dear! We want to see your best!” said Nurse Joy, her soft words coming from a very thuggish-looking appearance.

Jessie nodded her head, then straightened her spine and sent out her first pokemon. “Come out Mawile!” she shouted.

I gaped. That wasn’t the pokemon I was expecting! I’d been expecting her tried and true Arbok with perhaps James’ Weezing. I shot her pokebelt another look and counted four pokeballs. So with her Mawhile’s pokeball that made five pokemon!

I laced my hands together and watched, suddenly very interested with what she was going to do.

“Let’s Rock Surf!” Jessie said, making her pokemon dash forward and kick the ground.

An arch of stone rose up with jagged edges which Mawile landed on only to slide around like she was actually surfing on the rock. My mind furiously went to work, breaking down how she’d done this.

Rock Slide with a controlled burst, and then Iron Defense on the knees of her pokemon to allow her to surf like she was on a kneeboard. She ended the display with a twirl, a soft white glitter wafting off her as she performed a triple axel spin before landing. She stumbled the landing and shot her hands up into the air like a gymnast, her eyes quivering into Fake Tears.

Jessie shot her hands forward, representing her pokemon.

The crowd broke into applause and Archibald praised Jessie for going first, he felt it had been a strong showing.

Jessie, and the crowd turned to the judges.

I unlaced my hands and raised up a six causing a ripple of shock to go through the crowd.

“You used four moves, Rock Slide, Iron Defense, into Icy Wind. You didn’t nail the landing and you kept the surfing going a little long for my taste. The use of Fake Tears to garner pity instead of simply owning the mistake also didn’t win you any points, I see that from my siblings daily, and far better. Munchlax can do better,” I said firmly.

This earned another gasp while Rachel whistled. “Ouch! Tough Judging!”

Monique playfully swatted my shoulder. “No! I shan’t let you crush this dear girl and her magnificent performance! You’ve come first and you’ve come out strong! Your pokemon has played around and you’ve nurtured it well. It is a healthy pokemon and your demonstration was sublime! It will set a standard for all! So I award you nine points!”

Nurse Joy giggled. “It’s a nine from me as well! Nail the landing next time and you’ve got yourself a strong opening act!”

The crowd roared their approval as Jessie’s picture was displayed on a leaderboard for the top sixteen trainers. She took pride of place as the first and only coordinator duo to go first with a score of twenty four.

When Jessie departed the next Coordinator was called up. A young girl shot me a hopeful look and revealed a Geodude with a leather jacket. I had to give her props for the styling.

Monique merely giggled. “So it begins,” she said, like she was Theoden in Helm’s Deep about to endure a siege.

“Geodude! Use Rock Throw to juggle!” she said, calling out her intention and plan straight away.

I nodded, alright that was a good start if a little more a talent show than a contest but she could build on it.

Which she didn’t, she instead merely built up the number of rocks which Geodude was tossing up and down. Admittedly she did achieve seven rocks which was much better than the three I could but it lacked… a lot.

I grimaced when she turned to me with hopeful eyes.

“I like that you brought your pokemon to the gym with some style. The jacket is a good touch. The following act however?” I shook my head. “We need something more than just one move, we need a blending of moves to demonstrate a tough style. I’m sorry to say that you’ve only hit the mark on a few parts. So I’m going to award you a three out of ten,” I said, ignoring the tearful looks the girl was giving me.

Monique and Nurse Joy were kinder, giving the girl a six and a seven respectively.

I grimaced as the girl sprinted off the stage like I’d set my pack of security Growlithe on her.

“Next Coordinator!” said Rachel, “Here’s hoping they bring a little more to the show!” she said.

When the next person came up with a pokeball clutched in their hands and a fearful look I felt my hope die a little. It plummeted with the release of their pokemon.

“Go Geodude!” The trainer's eyes flicked from me to where the previous girl had just run off.

“Geodude… use Defense Curl… then…” their eyes darted around and I got a sense of desperation wafting off them before they had a lightbulb moment as they gained a confident grin. “Use Rock Throw into the air! Throw them in a line and then take them out with Rollout!”

I nodded pleased at a slightly more complex adaptation. The geodude threw the small boulders up and clenched up tight to roll before leaping high.

I sighed, knowing the outcome already as the Geodude hit the first boulder… only to miss the next two, leaving a very lacklustre performance.

When they turned to me I gave them my verdict and a four.

When the next coordinator came forth wearing a gi I raised an eyebrow as they bowed towards us like we were a group of martial artists he was about to face. “Hoha! I’m Walter from Saffron! And there aren’t any tougher pokemon than a fighting type and I’m going to show you just that today!” he said glaring at us.

I shared a look with Monique. “You realise this isn’t a Gym challenge… yes?” I said, causing a wave of chuckles to ripple through the crowd.

Walter huffed and released his pokemon. “Let’s go Chopper!” he said, revealing a Machoke with a sleeveless fur-lined coat.

“Hoha indeed! Coordinator Walter is showing up!” Rachel announced as I relaxed from thinking I was about to be challenged.

“Start with Rock Tomb!” said Walter and his pokemon stomped the ground and from the hardened earth a large rock formed.

Walter then punched and kicked through what looked like a kata screaming ‘right, left, right, left’ for perhaps thirty seconds. As he did this his Machoke copied him only for the attacks being thrown to be much more dynamic as Machoke punched, chopped, kicked and flipped around his training post of the raised rock.

It was dynamic, and thankfully different but it was more brutish than tough.

I got ready to give him a bad score only for Walter to make a loud keening cry. “Keeeeya! That’s good! Now show me your finisher!” he shouted.

Machoke swelled as his muscles bulged through what could only be Bulk Up. Machoke’s hands then shot forward as though he was going to crush the training post only for his foot to slide back in a controlled shifting of stances and instead of destroying the post, he clapped his hands together just shy of the post.

Sand shot away from the raised rock to reveal a carved statue of what looked to be an actual martial arts training post.

I blinked in surprise as everyone ooohed at the surprising development.

When Walter turned and offered us a smug grin I chuckled. “The art of deception in a fight is one not often thought of, but you’ve displayed hidden depths and lulled us into your pace before tripping us up. I’m pleasantly surprised by this and therefore award you eight points!” I said, raising the highest score of the contest so far from me.

Joy and Monique both scored him a ten granting him the first place thus far and causing a wave of applause to wash over us.

Rachel was quick to capitalise on this as Machoke and Walter raised their fists. “Oh my! So it’s a fighting type that takes the lead with a clever demonstration!”

Archibald nodded. “It takes control and skill to do what he did. Any person can do it in a training field with an axe or their pokemon but to hide it under our noses? That was truly impressive.”

“Gar, voir,” said Gardevoir with a nod and a wave of her hand as though to say she wasn’t that impressed.

I smiled, feeling better about how this was going to go.

The next coordinator dashed my hopes as they sent out a geodude with a hopeful smile at me which I met with a stoney expression.

Within the span of an hour, I watched as multiple people presented themselves and their Geodudes expecting me to be biased. Some of the pokemon were freshly caught and poorly trained and even more poorly understood. Those trainers got flat stares of disapproval from me, along with low scores.

For the people who put in some effort however?

I always made sure to complement part of their performance. Whether that be the move selection, the costume they came in, or the way they used the moves.

I watched one Coordinator and their Geodude both perform breakdancing routines with Rock Polish on repeat until the Geodude became an orb of light with how fast it started to spin.

When their act crashed out they left a scratch mark on the floor!

When they collected themselves and had been checked over they stood before us. “Bad luck on the crash out, until then it was impressive. I hadn’t even known that was possible for a Geodude!” I admitted.

“You’ve got style kid, but you don’t have control, if you’d pulled it off I would have been impressed, sadly you bombed. Nice job being right there with your pokemon for the performance, but I can only score you a six for what you’ve given me,” I said, raising the paddle.

If they’d nailed it I would have scored them way higher.

Another Geodude and Coordinator chose to put their lives on the line by having their Geodude Perform some Rock Throws that shot into a raised platform behind the person. It was like a knife-throwing trick you might sometimes see at a talent show.

The first throw shot past the boy’s ear, the second nailed them in the elbow which the trainer ignored, the third hit them in the shoulder because the trainer flinched, and the last rock hit somewhere sensitive.

Everyone winced in pain and crossed their legs.

“Ouch!” Rachel called. “That might have ended that boy’s chance at entering the gene pool!” she said.

“That was a low blow,” admonished Archibald.

Gardevoir made a show of peeking through her fingers and shaking her head.

I grimaced with much of the crowd.

When it was my turn to judge him I gave him a pitying stare. “My fallen brother, I feel your pain. I didn’t want to feel that pain, so take a three and wear a cup next time,” I said.

“Indeed,” said Monique. As she scored the boy quickly

Nurse Joy smiled and gestured to the watching cameras. “I’m sorry to say that you’re now going to be Pokenet famous… for all the wrong reasons,” she said.

The boy turned, looked straight down the camera’s lens and his face turned as white as a sheet as realisation set in.

Failure wasn’t just something local these days. It was international. And it wasn’t fame, but infamy.

Had we just witnessed the birth of a meme? I offered the kid a prayer. I hope his meme was well received and the mocking was minimal. Please be kind pokenet, he’s just a dumb kid, I thought to myself.

With that said, I still had to stop myself from laughing as the poor kid staggered off stage, his time in the sun far from done I suspected. I made sure to not let out even a chuckle. Even the smallest of such laughs would be horribly cruel right now.

“Next!” called Monique as she sat up with a prim smile.

I shot her a small frown only to perk up as I caught sight of Solidad marching onto the stage.

Ah, we’d seen the surprise entries, it was time to see what a true ‘coordinator could do’.