by Cori Falls
Chapter 3 -- The Top of the World
"Now, those were some great battles! You definitely earned those badges!" Gary remarked.
"So did you," James replied.
Gary winked at them. "Yeah, but I'm more excited about your victories. I'm so happy that you guys have finally been able to compete in some gyms!"
I couldn't help but smile as I listened to the exchange. It had been three days since Jessie, James, and I had decided to give up on catching Pikachu and take our little twerp-free vacation, and we'd been enjoying ourselves immensely! So far, we'd spent most of our vacation in Inland City. Jessie and James had visited the hotel's hot springs every day (and I'd even joined 'em a couple of times), we'd taken a few yoga classes together at the hotel gym, we'd gone shopping and sightseeing in the city, and Jessie and James had even called Annie and Oakley and gotten them to send Vulpix, Growly, Lickitung, and Sunflora to us! And yesterday evening, we'd received an e-mail from our friend, Gary Oak.
Gary had been at home, visiting his family in Pallet Town for the past couple of weeks, but now he was back in Johto to resume his training for the league finals next May. He'd e-mailed to let us know that he'd just arrived in the city of Bluefinland -- he was in the Whirl Islands so that he could watch the Whirl Cup competition next week. He'd also heard that there was a pokemon gym in Bluefinland, so he'd wanted to visit it and earn his ninth Johto badge. The three of us had written back and told Gary that we were in the Whirl Islands too, so we'd all made plans to get together.
Jessie, James, and I had checked out of the hotel early this morning so that we could meet Gary as soon as possible. We had a fairly long journey ahead of us since Inland City was at the southern end of Blue Point Isle, and Bluefinland was at the north, so I'd decided to fly us there in the balloon. And since the weather was good, we reached our destination within a couple of hours. Gary was happy to see us again and happier still to hear that Jessie and James had just won Storm Badges at the Cianwood Gym. And this, in turn, made him all the more eager to take us to the Bluefinland Gym so that Jessie and James could earn another badge!
Gary had once told us that Pokemon League often allows trainers who've demonstrated exceptional merit to open gyms in their hometowns. (He hopes ta have his own gym in Pallet someday...and I hope he does, too -- Gary would make a great gym leader!) Earning badges from these "minor" gyms isn't mandatory, but they provide valuable experience nonetheless. And trainers who win "extra credit" badges in addition to the eight qualifying badges are often considered more talented and harder working since they go above and beyond the minimum requirements. The Bluefinland Gym was just such a place -- its leader, Salina, was a two time Whirl Cup champion, and she'd even trained with Lorelei of the Elite Four for a few years. Winning her badge -- the Vortex Badge -- was no small accomplishment.
And that's precisely what Jessie, James, and Gary did! Salina had three extremely powerful, extremely well-trained pokemon in her line-up, but so did my friends (especially since Vulpix, Growly, Licki, and Sunflora was back on the team). Arbok was able to take out Octillery with a dazzling combination of Poison Stings and Mega Drain, Wobbuffet used Counter and Mirror Coat to send back all of Lanturn's electric attacks, and even Sunflora got a workout and defeated Corsola with her Razor Leaf and Petal Dance. After Salina gave her pokemon a chance to recover, it was James's turn. Weezing beat Octillery with his Sludge Bomb and Thunder attacks, Victreebel's Vine Whip and Razor Leaf drove Lanturn into the ground, and little Arti got a chance to test his mettle when he took out Corsola with his Gust, Peck, and Powder Snow attacks! Once James's battle was won, Gary's Umbreon defeated Octillery with Zap Cannon, Houndoom beat Lanturn with his Flamethrower and Shadow Ball attacks, and Pidgeot finished off Corsola by dodging its attacks with Agility and knocking it out of the arena with a Sky Attack.
Now, the four of us were leaving the Bluefinland Gym, and Jessie, James, and Gary were admiring their new Vortex Badges, which were round and dark blue with white swirling patterns on them, like a whirlpool in a stormy sea.
Gary grinned as he watched Jessie and James bring out the green badge cases that Chuck's wife had given them and place their Vortex Badges next to their Storm Badges. "This is so cool!" he said. "I knew you guys were great trainers -- I'm happy to see you finally getting the chance to prove it."
"Yeah!" Jessie agreed. "Between that fire pokemon tournament we won in Laurel Valley and these two badges, we've been doing really well lately!"
"And you deserve it," Gary told them. "You two are a million times better than Ash -- if you earn enough badges to make it into the Johto finals, I know you'd mop the floor with him!"
James smiled sheepishly. "Well, I don't know that we'd be able to earn the other seven badges by then...especially since Falcner, Whitney, and Morty hate us and probably won't even let us compete in their gyms...."
Gary smirked. "And that's where you're wrong. Back in Kanto, there'd been a lot of problems with the Waterflower sisters turning down challengers at the Cerulean Gym because they were more interested in putting on water ballet shows than competing in pokemon battles, and in Celadon City, lots of trainers were getting banned from the gym for not liking perfume. Grandpa said there was a really low turnout at this year's Indigo finals because so many trainers were having trouble getting all eight required badges. So, after the finals ended, Pokemon League passed a new rule that gym leaders who award mandatory league badges can't turn down any trainers who challenge them, regardless of their personal feelings. Whether or not the trainer actually wins a badge still depends on how well they battle, but at least they can't be denied the opportunity to compete for one. I know independent gym leaders can refuse to battle trainers who hassle them or don't meet their standards -- and that's their perogative -- but the main gym leaders for the Indigo, Orange, Johto, and Houen Leagues don't have that option anymore." His smirk became a smile. "So, if any gym leaders do turn you down or give you a hard time because of your past actions, you can report them to Pokemon League for discrimination!"
This made me smile. I knew that one of the main reasons Jessie and James had always been reluctant to earn their own badges was because Ash usually poisoned the gym leaders against us. We'd always been afraid that our requests for a match would be denied, or get us blasted off.
"That's good to know," Jessie remarked. "But even if we don't get to compete in league finals, it's not the end of the world -- I'm happy with what we've already accomplished. And no matter how many badges we win, we'll definitely be at the Johto finals to cheer you on to victory, Gary!"
"Yeah! You can kick the twerp's ass for us!" I chimed in.
"It'd be my pleasure!" Gary replied. He admired his own Vortex Badge a moment longer before placing it in his badge case with his other eight. "Ya know, before we left on our pokemon journey, Ash always used to brag about how he was going to open his own gym in Pallet after he became a pokemon master, but I just don't see that happening...."
"Yeah! He'll be a pokemon master when Hell freezes over, and Swinub learn how to fly!" Jessie snickered.
"And he never puts in the kind of work required to be a pokemon master -- with all the leagues he's participated in so far, he only gets the qualifying badges, then does nothing but sit around with his thumb up his ass until finals," James pointed out. "How is he supposed to run his own independent gym if he's never even competed in one?"
"Exactly!" said Gary. "I remember, when I was getting ready for the Indigo finals last year, Ash actually confronted me because he thought the three extra badges I'd earned were fake -- he accused me of making them up, just to make him jealous!"
James's eyes went wide. "Oh, my god!"
"What a dumbshit!" Jessie gasped.
"Heh. He'll prolly think yer Vortex Badges are fake, too," I commented. "And dat Jess and Jim stole dere Storm Badges."
"No doubt. That's typical of Ash," Gary snorted. "Grandpa had to explain to him that there are other gyms besides the ones trainers are required to visit. It got him off my case, but I could tell that he was still convinced I was cheating somehow."
Jessie and James rolled their eyes.
Gary smirked again. "Speaking of Ash, I saw that he's still as big an asshole as ever."
"Aw, jeez. What'd dat little shit-weasel do now?" I groaned.
"You should know -- you were there!" came his reply.
Jessie, James, and I exchanged looks.
"Uh...yer gonna hafta narrow it down for us, kiddo," I told him. "Ash is always an asshole when we're around!"
Gary folded his arms across his chest and chuckled. "It was about a week after your fake wedding -- I was watching the evening news, and they had a story about a riot breaking out at a live stage show that some actor named Brad VanDarn was putting on as a promo for his new action flick. They showed some footage of the three of you onstage, and Ash, Misty, and Brock causing a scene -- something about them not knowing that it was only a play and accusing you of trying to steal Brad's Smoochum. There was a story about it on that night's episode of Entertainment Tonight, too."
Jessie burst out laughing when he said this. "So, we made the news, did we?"
"Oh, yeah!" Gary snickered. Then, becoming serious again, "So, what was the deal with that? All the reporters really talked about was Ash and Misty causing trouble -- they never said what you were doing there."
Jessie became serious, too. "There's actually a very long, very complicated story behind that," she told him.
"And I've got time to hear it!" Gary replied.
James wrapped an arm around Jessie's waist. "Our visit to Redwood Heights was an interesting one, to say the least," he began. "For one thing, we learned that Brad VanDarn's real name is Brad Rochester...and that he's Jessie's uncle. That's why he invited us to be in the play with him. We also helped him rewrite the script so that he could include his Smoochum, which led to the...ahem...misunderstanding with the twerps."
Gary raised an eyebrow. "So, that guy is your uncle?"
Jessie nodded. "My dad's younger brother."
I smiled again as I recalled that day. "Hey, Gary, dey didn't happen ta show what became of the twerps, did dey?" I asked.
"They sure did!" he laughed. "I saw Brad's parents beat the living shit out of Ash and Misty after they attacked you."
My smile became a grin. "Good ol' granny and grandpa Rochester!"
"So, Jessie got to meet her grandparents, too?" Gary ventured. "That must've been exciting!"
"It was," Jessie affirmed. "I also got to learn the truth about my daddy and everything that happened between him and momma -- it was quite an experience! Like I said, it's a long, complicated story, but I'll be happy to tell it to you, if you want to hear it."
"You know I do!" Gary exclaimed.
"But it can wait til later," I interjected. I placed a paw to my growling stomach. "Right now, we should get some lunch."
James seconded the motion. "When we arrived in town this morning, I saw a delicatessen that's just a few blocks away from here. Why don't we pick up some submarine sandwiches and have a picnic?" he suggested.
When he said this, I suddenly got a great idea. "Dat sounds like fun, Jimmy! And I just thought a somethin' else!"
The three of them looked back at me.
"After we get dose sammiches, let's take Gary for a ride in the balloon!" I told them. "Dat way, we can get outta the city for awhile and have our picnic in a nice, scenic place. Whaddaya say?"
Gary's indigo eyes lit up. "I say yes! I'd love to go for a hot-air balloon ride!" He paused for a moment and looked up at Jessie and James. "If it's okay, that is."
"Of course it's okay!" Jessie assured him. Then, to me, "That's a wonderful idea, Meowth!"
James placed a hand on Gary's shoulder. "You're in for a real treat -- Meowth is quite the pilot!"
Gary smiled at me. "You can walk, talk, read, and fly balloons? You're full of surprises, aren't you?"
I felt myself blushing.
Jessie picked me up and gave me a hug. "He also knows how to drive -- James and I taught him."
"And let's not forget what a wonderful musician he is," James chimed in. "He can play all kinds of instruments!"
Now Gary really looked impressed.
Jessie gave me a kiss on my golden charm. "Meowth is one talented pokemon."
"Yes. He's smarter than most humans," James agreed. He reached over and scratched behind my ears.
My cheeks started getting hotter than they already were. "Stop it! Yer embarrassin' Me-owth!"
"Alright, alright," Jessie chuckled as she set me back on the ground.
"Anyway, Meowth loves to fly, and he's damn good at it," James said, getting back to the original subject. "Jessie and I couldn't ask for a better pilot than him."
Gary knelt down and scratched behind my ears, too. "Then, I'm definitely looking forward to that balloon ride!"
When we arrived at the deli, we ordered four foot-long Italian subs, four large sodas, two bags of potato chips, two bags of pretzels, and some sugar cookies with rainbow sprinkles for dessert. With all of that food, the bill was fairly steep, but Gary offered to pay for everything. Jessie and James protested, of course, but Gary insisted -- he was so excited about the balloon ride that he wanted to thank us by treating us to lunch. (And Me-owth certainly had no complaints about dat!)
Now, the four of us were flying high over Blue Point Isle in the basket of the Meowth balloon. The day was clear and balmy, and a cool fall breeze was blowing from the north -- perfect weather for an outing!
Gary surveyed the landscape below and smiled. "This is really great! I can see why you guys love traveling this way," he commented. "It's kinda like riding on Smaug or Pidgeot...only a lot more leisurely -- whenever I ride my flying pokemon, they usually want to go fast!"
"We can go fast in this thing, too," Jessie told him. "James designed some booster rockets that we can attatch to the balloon when we need more power."
"Whoa! That's awesome!" Gary exclaimed. He closed his eyes and smiled, letting the wind rustle his spiky auburn hair. "Thanks again for suggesting this, Meowth! I'm having a wonderful time!"
"Yer welcome," I replied.
I smiled too as I gazed out at the crystal-blue sky and inhaled the fresh, fall air, which had only the slightest tang of saltiness at this high altitude. For as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed flying. When I was a kitten, I spent many a night gazing up at the moon and stars...wishing that I could reach them and escape my miserable earthbound existence. And when I taught myself how to walk and talk, I realized that I could probably make my dream of flying and reaching the stars come true as well. And that's exactly what happened when I met Jessie and James!
After the boss partnered me with Jessie and James and made the three of us field-agents, our friends, Annie, Oakley, Mondo, Cairdea, Emanuela, and Simone, all chipped in and bought us the Meowth balloon to celebrate our promotion. Jessie and James loved the balloon because it would allow us to travel in style. I loved it for that reason, too...and because I saw it for the golden opportunity that it was. When I looked at that balloon with its Meowth face smiling back at me, I knew that I was, indeed, going to learn how to fly...that it would bring me closer to the moon and stars than I'd ever dared to dream!
I still have fond memories of those first few weeks of learning how to fly the balloon. Of James holding me up so that I could fire up the engine to ascend and pull the rip-cord to descend, and Jessie teaching me about the weather and how to use wind and air currents to steer. And I'll never forget how proud of me they were when I mastered all of those lessons and began flying it on my own. I've been the captain of our vessel ever since!
Yes, realizing my kittenhood dream of learning to fly is definitely one of the things in my life that makes me truly happy. Sometimes when I'm piloting the balloon, I really do feel like I'm at the top of the world...that I can soar above all my problems and reach the moon and stars! And knowing that it's another skill I've mastered with hard work and dedication...and that my best friends are always here to help me and encourage me makes it all the more satisfying!
"Told you Meowth was a good pilot!" Jessie's voice stirred me from my reverie.
James placed a hand on my shoulder. "Yes. I'm sorry you weren't able to prove it at the hot-air balloon race last month, but we all know that you're the best, Meowth. There's not a doubt in my mind that you would've won if we'd entered."
I felt a pang of sadness when he said this, but it quickly passed. "Thanks, James. Dat means a lot," I muttered.
Gary raised an eyebrow. "Hot-air balloon race?"
"This happened a couple of days before Jessie's family reunion," James explained. "We read about the race in the paper, and Meowth wanted to enter. It would've been a golden opportunity for him to test his skills."
"And the prize for winning was a brand new hot-air balloon engine," Jessie chimed in. She laughed bitterly and pointed to our balloon's current engine. "I'm surprised this poor old thing still works -- it's been fried, water-logged, and blown up by the twerps...and subsequently repaired by James more times than I can even count! It would've been nice to win the new engine and let this one retire...."
"Then, why didn't you enter the race?" Gary inquired.
"Cuz when we went ta register, we saw dat the twerps was in the race, too," I sighed. "Apparently, Ash had buddied up ta some local balloon maker and his son, and dey loaned him one of dere balloons since he was all gung-ho ta compete."
"We couldn't disguise the Meowth balloon or send for another one in time, and we knew that if Ash saw it, he'd figure out it was us and throw a shit-fit...and in all likelihood, that would've led to him getting us disqualified somehow, and maybe even blasted off," Jessie grumbled. "We didn't want to deal with that, so James and I talked Meowth out of entering the race."
James gave my shoulder another squeeze. "Poor Meowth was heartbroken about missing out on the race, but it was for the best...."
"That's not fair," Gary growled. "Ash shouldn't be able to keep you out of a legitimate competition. I really wish people would call him on what a pukey little shit he is and give you guys the benefit of the doubt when something like that happens!"
I smiled again. "Ah, don't worry about it. I was disappointed for awhile, but Jess and Jim are right -- provin' my skill as a pilot and winnin' a new balloon engine wasn't worth puttin' up with Ash's bullshit or runnin' the risk of him hurtin' me and my friends," I told him. "Besides, I felt a lot better when I read about the race in the paper the next mornin'. As it turned out, Ash was so bad at flyin' dat it took him forever ta get his balloon offa the ground...and even when he did, he couldn't steer it worth a damn -- he almost fell outta the basket a few times and had ta get pulled back in by Brock and Misty, and he ended up flyin' the balloon into some trees and bustin' a hole in it! The twerps was disqualified since dey never even made it to the finish line, and the balloon maker's son, Skyler, ended up winnin'."
James nodded. "Yes. We were glad that the victory went to somebody who had actual flying experience and a use for the prize."
"Well, at least that," Gary sighed. "But still...."
"It's okay," Jessie assured him. "We're just happy that nobody was hurt...and that the twerp didn't walk away with a victory and a prize that he didn't deserve. It wouldn't have been fair if an idiot like Ash, who showed up and decided to compete at the last minute, had beat out experienced pilots who'd been practicing for years. What the hell would he have done with a hot-air balloon engine, anyway?" She winked at me. "Oh, well. Like James said -- Meowth doesn't need to prove himself to us. We know that he's the best pilot around, and that's what really matters!"
I felt myself blushing once more.
"Alright, I think we're embarrassing Meowth again," James said. "So, why don't we change the subject and tell Gary what else we've been up to lately?"
Gary nodded. "Yeah! I still wanna hear how Jessie met her family! And I'd love to hear more about how you won your Storm Badges, too!"
"Then, pull up a seat and get comfortable!" Jessie laughed. "We have a lot to talk about!"
For the next hour, the four of us continued our flight over the island and got Gary caught up on everything we'd been doing since the last time we saw him. Like me and James, he was happy that Jess had finally met her grandparents and uncle and learned the truth about her dad. And like us, he wanted to rip Ash a new asshole for the way he'd left Jessie to die after she'd saved his life in the Arbor Forest. He also agreed wholeheartedly with our resolutions to give up stealing and to quit following the twerps, and he reminded us once again that he and his family would be there for us if this move ended up costing us our jobs.
At length, I steered the balloon over a tiny island that was nestled in one of the bays on the eastern side of Blue Point Isle. The island was heavily wooded, and it was connected to Blue Point by suspension bridges that crossed the bay on either side. From the air, it looked like some kind of park -- the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch! So, I brought the balloon down in a small clearing, and we disembarked.
But little did I know just how perfect the location I'd chosen was...or what an uplifting adventure it would lead us to!
"....And dat's how Jess and Jim won dere Storm Badges!" I said as I finished off the last of my sandwich and opened my bag of chips.
Gary ate a few of his own potato chips and smiled at us. "Chuck and his wife were really nice to me when I visited the Cianwood Gym, too. But I know they weren't paying you any idle compliments -- it sounds like you really did fight some great battles to earn those badges!"
Jessie and James returned his smile.
Once James finished his sandwich and pretzels, he brought Arbok, Weezing, Victreebel, Articuno, Vulpix, Growly, Lickitung, and Sunflora out of their poke balls so that he could feed them their lunch, too. (Jessie had given Wobbuffet half of her sandwich and some of her pretzels, so he'd already eaten.) Following his cue, Gary brought out Umbreon, Blaze, Smaug, Houndoom, Pidgeot, and Rhydon.
James knelt down and petted Growly. Growly responded by placing his paws on James's chest and licking his face. Then, Articuno perched atop James's head and took his rogue wisp of blue-violet hair in his beak. Meanwhile Vulpix came to Jessie's side and rested her head in her lap while Arbok, Weezing, and Victreebel introduced Lickitung and Sunflora to Gary's pokemon.
I couldn't help but smile as I watched the exchanges. I was happy that Jessie and James finally had all of their pokemon with them again, and it was nice to see how well they all got along with Gary's pokemon. I've often heard that pokemon take on the personality traits of their trainers, and from everything I've seen, it's true -- all of Jessie, James, and Gary's pokemon are strong, brave, friendly, smart, and loyal, and they're all friends, just like we are!
Like piloting the balloon, it's times such as these that I feel truly happy. After spending so many years alone, being shunned by humans and labeled a freak by my fellow pokemon, it feels good to know that I finally have friends...that I've finally found people and pokemon that accept me for who I am and love me unconditionally. It's one of the best feelings in the world.
After playing with their pokemon for a few minutes, Jessie, James, and Gary brought out the pokemon food. While they were filling the dishes, however, we were suddenly swarmed by a flock of Pidgeys. And not just any Pidgeys, either -- they were all incredibly fat, like Thanksgiving turkeys filled with stuffing!
"Holy crap! Where did all of these Pidgeys come from?!" Jessie cried as she held up her hands and tried to shoo them away.
James quickly put away the pokemon food to keep the invaders from stealing it. "Normally, I'd offer them something to eat, but they look like they'll explode if I do!" he said.
"Yeah. I doubt dese birds have been skippin' any meals," I remarked.
Gary chuckled. "Well, I think I have a pretty good idea where we are now."
Jessie, James, and I looked at him.
"If I'm not mistaken, this is Pudgy Pidgey Isle," he told us.
James snatched Articuno's dish away from two of the Pidgeys. "Appropriate name."
"Though pudgy may be a bit of an understatement," Jessie said as she shielded Lickitung's dish from two more Pidgeys.
"True, but Morbidly Obese Pidgey Isle just don't have the same ring to it," I commented.
"Grandpa was telling me about this place awhile back -- it's a bird sanctuary," Gary went on. "There's no natural predators here, and there's always an abundant food supply, so the Pidgeys who live on this island have all grown fat and lazy over the years."
"And they've apparently gotten greedy, too," a new voice said.
Jessie, James, Gary, and I looked and saw a young man with dark blue hair standing at the edge of the clearing. A small Pidgey wearing a flying ace helmet was perched on his shoulder.
The man smiled at us. "Hello."
Jessie arched an eyebrow. "Who are you?"
"My name is Wilbur -- I'm a park ranger of sorts here on Pudgy Pidgey Isle," the man replied. He nodded to the Pidgey on his shoulder. "And this is my friend, Orville."
"Pleased to meet you," Gary said. "I'm Gary Oak, and these are my friends, Jessie Parker, James Woodson, and Meowth."
Wilbur nodded. "It's nice to meet you, too. So, what brings you to Pudgy Pidgey Isle?"
"We were having a picnic...until we got interrupted," James explained. He shooed away a couple of Pidgeys that were trying to take Weezing's food.
"I'm sorry about that," Wilbur laughed. Then, to the birds, "Come on, guys. Leave our guests alone." With that, he produced a handful of berries from his pocket and scattered them on the ground. The fat Pidgeys instantly forgot about taking our pokemon chow and went after the fruit instead.
Jessie, James, and Gary breathed a collective sigh of relief. "Thanks."
Wilbur smiled again. "Follow me."
"Where are we goin'?" I asked.
"To my cabin," came his reply. "That way, you can finish your lunch and feed your pokemon in peace."
"Sounds good to me," Gary chuckled as he shooed one last Pidgey away from his Pidgeot's food dish.
Once we'd gathered all of our belongings, Wilbur led us along one of the forest trails. After about ten minutes of walking, we arrived at a small log cabin with a green tin roof.
"This is where I live," Wilbur told us as we followed him inside. "Since the Pidgeys on this island can't fly and have no way to defend themselves, it's my job to keep an eye on them, just in case predators or poachers ever do show up. I've also been trying to teach the Pidgeys how to fly again...or at least get them to lose some weight, but I haven't been having much success."
"Have you tried cutting back their food?" James inquired as he brought out the pokemon chow again.
"Or getting them to excersise?" Jessie queried.
"I've heard Pilates works wonders," I remarked.
"Yes, I do monitor their diets and encourage them to excersise, but I'm just not getting through to them," Wilbur sighed. He paused for a moment and patted the small Pidgey's head. "So far, the only one who's really taken an interest in flying is Orville, here."
Gary winked at me. "You hear that, Meowth? You're better at flying than most of these birds!"
I smiled at him.
Wilbur got up from the table and gestured to a painting that was hanging on the wall. It was a picture of a Pidgey soaring over the clouds...flying so high that he could reach the sun, moon, and stars! "My grandfather painted this picture when he was about my age," he told us. "There's an old folk-tale about a Pidgey who wanted to fly higher than any pokemon ever had before. The little Pidgey worked hard and made his dream come true -- he flew so high that he could practically touch the moon and stars! Grandpa always loved that story when he was little, and it inspired him to do this painting."
Jessie, James, and Gary examined the picture for a moment and smiled again.
"How wonderful," said Jessie.
"I heard that story when I was little, too. This is really cool!" Gary commented.
James nodded. "This painting is excellent -- it sure makes me feel inspired."
Wilbur smiled sheepishly when they said this. "I showed this picture to all of the Pidgeys when they were chicks and told them the story, hoping that it'd motivate them to live up to their potential." He shook his head and laughed a little. "That probably sounds really flaky, but...."
"No, it doesn't!" I interjected. "I think it's great dat ya been communicatin' with the Pidgeys. Dey may not be takin' yer advice ta heart, but I know firsthand dat pokemon can understand what humans say to 'em...and dat humans can understand pokemon if dey really listen."
"Meowth is right," said James. "He worked hard to teach himself how to use human speech. Nobody knows more about communication between humans and pokemon than he does."
"You have a point," Wilbur told me. "Because this painting did inspire Orville. I remember, when all of the other Pidgeys ignored the picture and went back to eating, Orville kept staring up at it, like he was studying it. And when he looked back at me, he seemed to be telling me that he wanted to be just like the Pidgey in the story."
Orville nodded. I did...and I still do, he affirmed. I was really moved when Wilbur showed me his grandpa's painting and told me that story! It made me realize that sitting around, getting fat and lazy was no way to live my life -- I want to be the best I can be and do something that matters!
"Dat's really great," I said to Orville. Then, to Wilbur, "Showin' the Pidgeys dis picture was a good idea -- ya reached out ta Orville, so dat proves dey can be motivated!"
This made Wilbur smile again. "After Orville saw this painting, he started training day and night, teaching himself how to fly. Then, he started teaching himself how to fly faster and higher. Sometimes, he flies so high, he's impossible to see from the ground!"
Jessie reached up and stroked Orville's brown feathers. "Sounds like you really are living your dream...."
Wilbur and Orville's expressions became serious again.
"What is it?" James queried.
"That's the problem -- Orville's not living his dream. Not yet, anyway," Wilbur explained. "He wants to fly higher than any pokemon ever has before, but we don't have any way of measuring just how high he can fly. I can't exactly go with him to record everything -- I don't have a helicopter or a plane, and I can't afford to charter one...."
Gary's brow furrowed. "That does complicate things, doesn't it?"
Suddenly, I got another idea. "I think I may have the solution to yer problem," I piped up.
Everybody turned to look at me when I said this. Jessie and James were both grinning, and I could tell that they already knew what I had in mind.
"We can take ya up in our balloon," I told Wilbur. "We've got an altimeter dat you can use ta measure how high Orville flies, we can keep in touch with him and be dere ta help him in case anything happens...and it wouldn't cost you a thing -- we'd be happy ta do it for free!"
Wilbur and Orville seemed genuinely touched by my offer. "Y-you'd do that for us?" Wilbur asked.
I nodded. "Of course!" I looked back at Orville. "I know how difficult it can be ta make yer dreams come true. I was all alone when I taught myself ta walk and talk, and it was a real struggle. I know exactly how ya feel, Orville, but yer not alone -- I wanna do whatever I can ta help ya! Besides, I love flyin', too! We birds of a feather gotta stick tagedda, after all!"
Now Wilbur was grinning, too. He knelt down and shook my paw. "We really appreciate this, Meowth. And we'd be happy to take you up on your offer."
Orville's eyes grew moist with tears. Thank you, Meowth! Thank you so much! How can we ever repay you?
"Fly higher den any pokemon ever has before. Be the best you can be, and make yer dream come true. Dat's all the thanks I need," I replied.
Jessie scooped me into her arms and gave me another kiss. "This is very sweet of you, Meowth."
"Yeah! You're the best, Meowth!" James agreed as he scratched behind my ears.
Gary gave me a thumbs-up. "You rule!"
I felt myself blushing once again. "Aw, come on, guys -- it's nothin'!"
"Believe me, it's not -- this really means a lot to me and Orville," said Wilbur. He paused for a moment and laughed. "And it's a much better idea than the one we heard the other day...."
Jessie, James, and Gary all turned their attention back to him.
"A couple days ago, three kids were passing through. The little girl was chasing after some Corsola, and they showed up here and asked if I could loan them a boat so they could go out to catch them," Wilbur told us. "Well, I don't have a boat, and I had to explain to them that the riptides and whirlpools in this bay make it way too dangerous for sailing or swimming. That's a big reason no land-based predators have ever come to Pudgy Pidgey Isle -- it's nearly impossible for anything except flying pokemon and water pokemon to get across the bay." He laughed again. "Anyway, I invited the kids to stay for lunch since I hardly ever get visitors here, and I told them the story of my grandpa's painting and how it inspired Orville, too. They couldn't do anything to help us, though. And the little boy -- I think he said his name was Ash -- actually suggested that I could measure how high Orville flies by tying a string to his leg!"
The four of us all burst out laughing.
"Like that'd work!" Gary snorted. "I think the current record for the highest pokemon flight is seven miles. Where the hell are you supposed to get a string that long...or longer?"
"Plus, wouldn't a string that's over seven miles long encumber Orville, or get tangled in something on the way up?" Jessie pointed out.
"Yes," James replied. "Not to mention the fact that there's no practical way to measure the string...and if he flies higher than the string is long, then there's no way to measure it at all!"
"Well, dis is Ash we're talkin' about, here," I reminded them. "I think we all know dat the twerp ain't famous for his bright ideas."
"This is true," Jessie sighed.
"Yeah. He's definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer," James chimed in.
Wilbur raised an eyebrow. "You know him?"
"Sadly...yes," came Gary's reply. "Ash and I are both from Pallet Town -- he was one of my neighbors. And Jessie, James, and Meowth met him when he started his pokemon journey almost three years ago. He's a real pain in the ass, to say the least."
Wilbur smirked. "I didn't want to say anything, but Ash was pretty annoying," he admitted. "Kept going on and on about how he's the world's greatest pokemon master. And the girl, Misty, kept talking about how she wanted to catch a Corsola, win this year's Whirl Cup, and be the world's greatest water pokemon master. Quite frankly, I was relieved when they continued on their way -- they gave me a headache!"
"Welcome to our world," Jessie and James snickered.
"Anyway, I think using the balloon to follow Orville and monitor his flight is a great idea," Wilbur said, getting back to the original subject. "Thanks again, Meowth. I'm so glad that the four of you showed up!"
"Yer welcome," I replied.
"Well, if we're going to take the balloon higher than any pokemon has flown before, we have a lot of preparations to make," Jessie said, getting back to the original subject.
James nodded. "I'll need to put on the booster rockets to keep the balloon stable in the high winds and make ascending and descending easier."
"We should go back to town and pick up some supplies, too," Jessie added. "We'll definitely need oxygen tanks, as high as we're flying. And we'll need warm clothes, too. The air temperature fluctuates, depending on the layer of the atmosphere, but once you reach the upper half of the troposphere, it doesn't get above freezing until the ionosphere...and then, it gets really hot. I don't think we need to worry about that, though -- it'd be impossible to get that high unless we were in a rocket."
"This means we probably won't be able to do the actual flight until tomorrow," James informed Wilbur. "The prep-work is going to take the rest of the day, at least!"
"Perfectly understandable," Wilbur replied. "Take all the time you need -- Orville and I would rather wait awhile and have this go off without a hitch than rush in unprepared."
I gave Orville a thumbs-up and grinned again. "Well, ya won't be waitin' much longer, pal!" I promised. Then, to my friends, "And what are we waitin' for? Let's start gettin' ready!"
After finishing our lunch and feeding our pokemon, the four of us, along with Wilbur and Orville, returned to the balloon and made a quick trip back to Bluefinland. While we were there, we bought oxygen tanks, winter clothes, tinted goggles to protect our eyes from UV rays, and parachutes, just in case there was an accident or an emergency. Wilbur also treated us to dinner to thank us for what we were doing.
When we returned to Pudgy Pidgey Isle, we spent the rest of the evening fitting the booster rockets onto the balloon, and James set up the altimeter software so that we could use our laptop to monitor Orville's flight and record how high he flew.
Now, Jessie, James, Gary, and I were camping outside of Wilbur's cabin. The four of us were sitting around the embers of our campfire, roasting marshmallows and gazing up at the starry night sky.
"Dis is so excitin'!" I said as I skewered a pair of marshmallows on the end of my forked stick and held them over the coals. "I can't wait til tomorrow!"
Gary smiled at me. "I'll bet! I'm pretty excited about it, myself -- if Orville sets a new record for pokemon flight, then this is history in the making! Grandpa's gonna want to hear all about it...and I bet he'd be really interested in the story of how that painting inspired Orville, too! One of his passions is studying pokemons' relationships with humans and how communication can strengthen the bonds between them."
Jessie blew on one of her marshmallows to cool it. "Then, he should definitely meet Meowth someday!" She winked at me. "The two of you would have a lot to talk about!"
"No doubt," Gary agreed. "I really would love to introduce you guys to him -- I know he'd like you if he got to know you without Ash's interference."
James polished off one of his marshmallows and dabbed his mouth with a napkin. "I'm sure he would -- he was good friends with my grand-mama and grand-papa, and he liked Jessie's parents, too."
Jessie's sapphire eyes sparkled as she reached over and took James's hand in her own. "I still think it's so cool how you and Gary met when you were little kids...and how my daddy met both of you."
"I think it's cool, too," said Gary. "I just wish I'd been old enough to remember it. Your dad sounds like he was a really nice guy, Jessie."
"He was," Jessie affirmed. "He is...."
"Ya know what else is cool? We won't just be watchin' Orville's flight -- we'll be right dere with him while history's bein' made!" I said. I looked to the sky again and smiled. "I always used ta dream about flyin' when I was a kitten...wishin' dat I could reach the moon and the stars. In a way, I'm makin' my dream come true, too. I know I won't be flyin' as high as Orville, but I'll be settin' a new record for myself. I've always loved the moon. It'll be nice ta get closer to it den any pokemon ever has before...."
"I did a lot of stargazing when I was a tiny tot, too," James remarked. "Grand-papa used to have a book on the solar system in his library. I loved reading about all the different planets and such...wondering what it'd be like to visit them." He paused for a moment, and his smile grew even wider than it already was. "Whenever I thought about going to other planets, I'd imagine the craziest stuff, like building snowmen on Pluto, or standing on the surface of Mercury and being able to reach up and touch the sun...."
"You guys sound just like me!" Jessie chuckled. "When I was a little girl, I used to daydream about visiting the moon, the stars, and other planets, too. I remember, Saturn was always my favorite planet because of those gorgeous rings. One of my favorite childhood fantasies was of wearing a beautiful sequined outfit and ice skating around Saturn's rings...."
Gary's smile became a grin. "Sometimes when I was little, I'd dream about going to Mars and meeting Martians." He leaned back on his sleeping bag and put his hands behind his head. "And sometimes, I still think about it, to tell you the truth. I've always been fascinated by those canals. Makes me wonder if archaeologists will ever go to Mars and discover the remains of alien civilizations...."
"Who knows? Maybe they will someday," Jessie told him.
James nodded. "I'm sure of it. There's an entire universe out there, full of mysteries that are just waiting to be solved!" He reached over and patted my shoulder. "And even our own world is filled with wonders that we're only beginning to discover!"
"Dat's really cool," I replied.
Jessie, James, and Gary nodded.
The four of us spent the next couple of hours continuing to discuss our childhood dreams and fantasies and how much we were looking forward to tomorrow. Once the final embers of the campfire died away, we all said good night to each other and climbed into our sleeping bags.
After Jessie, James, and Gary fell asleep, I remained awake awhile longer and continued to gaze up at the heavens. The crescent moon was just a tiny sliver in the western sky, and since we were far away from the light pollution of the cities, tens of thousands of stars were visible, glittering and illuminating the darkness with their silver light.
I smiled again. Tomorrow, Orville and I are gonna reach dose stars! I mused as I slowly closed my eyes and drifted off into pleasant dreams of discovering alien civilizations on Mars with Gary, building snowmen on Pluto with James, and watching Jessie don a beautiful sequined outfit and figure skate her way around the icy rings of Saturn. And havin' my friends here ta share dis experience with me will make it dat much better....
Too excited to sleep for long, we were all awake at dawn the next morning. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, we started making the last-minute preparations for our flight. While Orville did some stretches and warm-up excersises, James, Gary, and Wilbur checked the balloon, the engine, and the booster rockets again to make absolutely sure that they were running perfectly. Meanwhile, Jessie logged on to the internet to get a weather forecast and studied the skies for awhile.
"Everything's in working order on the balloon!" James announced once he finished running his diagnostics.
Jessie licked her finger and held it up. "The forecast calls for clear skies. Current air temperature is sixty-seven degrees farenheit with light winds from the northeast. I think it's safe to say the weather will be cooperative today."
"Den let's get dis show on the road!" I cheered.
The four humans nodded. Once they'd loaded all of the equipment into the basket of the balloon, we put on our protective clothing and strapped on our parachutes. Then, Jessie and James knelt next to Orville and fitted the tiny altimeter gauge to the back of his helmet.
"Now listen carefully, Orville -- this is important," Jessie said as James booted up his computer and ran a few tests to make sure that the altimeter was working properly and providing accurate data. "I know you want to fly as high as the Pidgey in the story, but you can't push yourself too hard. I'll tell you right now that it's not physically possible to go much higher than the stratosphere and survive. It can get as cold as sixty below at the top of the troposphere, and the air is so thin that it makes breathing difficult -- you won't be able to use an oxygen tank or bundle up like the rest of us, and you're exerting yourself a lot more than we are, so you have to be especially careful. It's also not a good idea to be exposed beyond the ozone layer for long periods of time -- when you get that high in the atmosphere, there's nothing protecting you from the sun's radiation." She winked at him. "Sorry if I've rained on your parade, but we do have to be realistic, here. We want you to make your dream come true, but we'd also like to see you live to fly again."
Orville nodded. It's okay. I understand.
"Wow. You sure know a lot about weather and the atmosphere, Jessie," Gary remarked.
Jessie smiled. "Well, I should hope so -- I studied it for awhile at Pokemon Tech!"
Now Gary was smiling, too.
"James and I had all of our general education classes together, but we'd signed up for different electives -- while he was studying pokemon nutrition, I was taking ecology," Jessie explained. "There was a unit on meteorology and how weather patterns and atmospheric conditions affect climate."
James wrapped an arm around her waist. "That class came in really handy -- it got Jess a job as a TV weather girl for awhile!"
"Yeah?" Gary asked.
Jessie nodded. "It was this past May when we were in Goldenrod City. We needed some extra cash, so we took second jobs while we were in town. During our job-hunt, I went to a local TV station and found out that their regular meteorologist was sick, and since I had a bit of experience, they hired me as a temporary replacement. The job only lasted about a week, but it was fun...."
"She was the best weather girl ever!" James said proudly. He gave her another hug and planted a kiss on her cheek. "The best looking, too! Meowth and I got all of her segments on tape."
"If we ever get a chance, we'll show 'em to ya," I told him.
"I'd like that," Gary replied.
Now Jessie was blushing.
"Alright, I think we're embarrassin' her," I chuckled. I turned my attention back to Orville. "Today is yer day, so you should be the one in the limelight."
He smiled at me.
I brought out a little headset and put it on him. "Here ya go. Now you'll be able ta keep in touch with us and tell us all about yer flight. And we'll be able ta talk to you."
Thanks again, Meowth, Orville replied. This means more to me than you could ever imagine.
"Oh, I think I can imagine," I told him. "Now, come on. Let's go make yer dream come true!"
Once Orville was ready, he took to the air, and Jessie, James, Gary, Wilbur, and I got into the balloon and followed him. Since I was the only member of the party who was fluent in both human and pokemon language, it was my duty to stay on the walkie-talkie and keep the lines of communication with Orville open -- the job of piloting the balloon went to Jessie and James instead. Meanwhile, Gary stationed himself at the computer to monitor Orville's flight data, and Wilbur kept lookout.
After a couple of minutes, my walkie-talkie buzzed, and I could hear Orville's voice. Hey, Meowth, can you hear me? he asked.
"Loud and clear!" I told him.
Alright. Just wanted to make sure this thing was working and let you know that everything's going well so far!
"Good ta know," I replied. Then, to everybody else, "Orville's doin' fine so far."
I'll be sure to keep you posted every couple of minutes or let you know if something is wrong, he went on. Over and out!
I smiled. "Roger, Roger!"
"We have clearance, Clarence!" Jessie chuckled, catching on to the joke.
"What's our vector, Victor?" James laughed.
Gary laughed too, but quickly became serious again. "Let's just hope that what happened on Airplane! doesn't happen to us."
"Yeah. That'd definitely fit into the bad things category," Wilbur agreed.
"I wouldn't worry about it if I were you," James assured them. "Everything's running fine, and we're prepared in case something does go wrong." He winked at me. "Besides, we've got the best hot-air balloon pilot in the world with us!"
"Yeah! We're in good hands...er, paws!" Jessie added.
I smiled again.
The next ten minutes passed without incident -- every time Orville contacted us, he reported that he was doing fine, and all of our equipment continued to run smoothly.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to last.
"Uh, oh! We've got trouble!" Wilbur said suddenly.
Jessie, James, Gary, and I looked to where he was pointing and saw a flock of almost thirty Fearow. They were heading straight for us, and they looked like they were ready to fight!
"This is the Fearows' migratory season, and they don't take kindly to anything getting in their way!" Gary informed us. A drop of sweat formed on his temple as he looked back at the computer monitor. "The Fearow usually fly at an altitude of three miles, which is exactly where we are -- we've gotta get out of here now!"
I grabbed the walkie-talkie. "Hey, Orville, we got an emergency -- dere's a huge flock a Fearow comin' in at twelve o' clock!" I cried. "Use evasive maneuvers! I repeat, evasive maneuvers!"
Copy that, Meowth! came Orville's reply. With that, he began a rapid ascent.
Meanwhile, Jessie and James fired up the engine and the booster rockets to hasten our own ascent.
But it was too late -- the Fearow had already spotted Orville, and they were swooping in for an attack!
I felt my stomach tying itself in knots, and I covered my mouth with my paws to keep from losing my breakfast. "No! Dey'll tear him ta shreds!"
"Not if I have anything to say about it!" Jessie interjected. She opened one of her poke balls, and Arbok emerged at her side. "Arbok! Aim a Poison Sting attack at those Fearow!"
Arbok nodded and fired her Poison Sting into the flock of Fearow. Her aim was true, and she hit the three that were closest to Orville, knocking them out of the sky.
Gary grinned and lobbed one of his own poke balls. "Hey, Fearow, why don't you pick on somebody your own size? Go, Pidgeot!"
"Pidge-ot!" the bird cried as he emerged from the ball and took to the sky.
"Pidgeot! Keep those Fearow away from Orville!" Gary commanded.
Pidgeot nodded and began shadowing Orville, knocking out any Fearow that got too close with his Gust attack.
But we were still outnumbered.
Luckily, James brought the odds back into our favor. "Weezing! Articuno! Go!!!" he shouted, tossing two of his own poke balls.
Wilbur's eyes went wide as the baby bird perched atop James's head. "You've got an Articuno?! I'm impressed!"
James smiled proudly and turned his attention back to his pokemon. "Articuno! Keep those Fearow away from the balloon! Weezing! Make a Smokescreen so that Orville can escape!"
Doing as they were instructed, Articuno began circling the balloon and keeping the Fearow at bay by hitting them with his Gust and Powder Snow attacks, and Weezing exhaled a cloud of black smoke that obscured Orville.
Once they were sure that Orville was safely away from the battle, Jessie, James, and Gary issued their next commands.
"Arbok! One more Poison Sting!"
"Weezing! Use your Thunder attack!"
Simultaneously, Arbok fired another barrage of poisoned darts at the flock of Fearow, and Weezing sent forth a blast of lightning. The attacks knocked most of the Fearow out for the count, and Pidgeot blew away the last few with another Gust attack.
Once the Fearow were gone, I picked up the walkie-talkie again. My stomach felt like it was in my mouth as I pressed the button. "Orville, can ya hear me? Are you okay?" I asked nervously.
The next couple of seconds seemed more like an eternity. But then, a static buzz emanated from the walkie-talkie, and I could hear Orville's voice on the other end. I copy, Meowth! Everything is A-OK!
My knees buckled as I exhaled a sigh of relief. "He's okay! The Fearow didn't hurt him!" I told everybody.
Jessie, James, Gary, and Wilbur all breathed a collective sigh of relief as well.
For the next several minutes, my breath came in short, rapid gasps. My heart rate had returned to normal, but my lungs felt as if I'd just finished running a marathon.
Jessie and James knelt next to me and placed their hands on my shoulders.
"Think it's time...for the oxygen?" James asked.
"Definitely," Jessie replied. They both sounded like they were having trouble breathing, too.
Gary consulted the computer again. "According to the altimeter...we just broke...five miles. We probably...should've started on the oxygen...a long time ago."
Jessie and James nodded in agreement.
"Ya...hear...dat...Orville?" I huffed into the walkie-talkie. "Five miles! Two more...and...you'll...break...the record!"
Then I'm...definitely...going...to make it! Orville replied in a voice that sounded every bit as strained as my own.
We were all feeling the effects of the thinner air now. And the change in pressure was making our ears pop like crazy!
Jessie, James, and Gary called back Arbok, Weezing, Articuno, and Pidgeot. Then, we all blew out our ears to equalize the pressure and put on our oxygen masks. It felt good to breathe again, but it was difficult to relax. Orville had really exerted himself while escaping from the Fearow, and he was still flying as hard as he could -- I couldn't help but worry about him.
And it was getting colder and colder with every passing second. Even with my fur coat, a thermal suit, and a parka, I was freezing, and I could see all of my friends shivering, too. I could only imagine how cold Orville must've been.
The next few minutes passed in relative silence. The only audible sounds were the whistling wind, the humming of the balloon engine and the booster rockets, and the chattering of our teeth. But then, Gary began to applaud.
"Yes! 7.1 miles!" he cheered in a muffled voice. "He's officially become the highest-flying pokemon in the world!"
Jessie, James, and Wilbur began to cheer, too.
"All right, Orville!" Jessie and James cried in unison.
"I knew you could do it!" Wilbur exclaimed.
"Orville, ya did it!" I said, picking up the walkie-talkie again. "7.1 miles and countin'!"
So...I...heard, he told me. But...I'm not...done...yet. I'm not...giving up...until...I've flown...as high...as I can....
"He's gonna keep on goin'!" I translated. "He ain't stoppin' til he's gone as high as he possibly can!" Then, to Orville, "Good luck, my friend. We're all rootin' for ya!"
Jessie took the walkie-talkie from me. "Be careful, Orville -- it's only going to get more difficult from here. You need to conserve your breath as much as possible, so you don't have to call us with updates anymore -- only call if there's an emergency."
"He understands, Jess," I told her.
When the transmission ended, I looked up at our surroundings and saw that we were all ascending into a thick layer of clouds. The air was colder than ever now, and my ears were starting to plug up again. The wind was also blasting us harder than ever, and Jessie and James had to adjust the rockets to compensate for it and keep the balloon stable.
"If I'm not mistaken, this is the tropopause -- the upper boundary of the troposphere," Jessie informed us after blowing out her ears a second time. "These winds must be a jet stream."
"Yeah. According to the altimeter, Orville's at eleven miles, and we're not far behind," Gary affirmed.
I shivered. "Damn, it's cold! I don't know how much longer Orville can last if the temperature keeps droppin' like dis!"
James picked me up and zipped me into the front of his coat. After a moment, some of the chill went away, but I was still freezing.
"Don't worry, Meowth -- this is as cold as it's going to get," Jessie said. "But there's still about ten miles to go before we hit the temperature inversion in the stratosphere...and I don't know if Orville can make it that far...."
James's brow furrowed. "Don't jets and airplanes do most of their flying in the stratosphere?" he queried.
Wilbur nodded. "Yes, they do. And I've come prepared!" With that, he brought a radio from his backpack and turned it on. "We can use this to listen to flight transmissions. Then, we'll know if anything is coming our way."
"And we'll be able to get out of the way!" Gary surmised.
James nodded. "At this altitude, pilots aren't on the lookout for birds and hot-air balloons...so we're the ones who have to look out for them."
Wilbur spent the next few minutes tuning the radio. Through the static, we could hear a few other pilots announcing their coordinates. Thankfully, it didn't sound like any of them were close enough to concern us.
And so, our flight continued. Up and up we went, through the wispy cirrus and stratus clouds and beyond, Orville flapping his little wings for all he was worth and soaring higher and higher all the while. A feeling of peace came over me as I looked out at our surroundings. The sky looked even more clear and crystal-blue up here than it did from the ground -- it was easy to see why people call it "the wild, blue yonder." Beneath us, I could see the blue oceans, the green and brown land, and the fluffy white cumulus clouds -- we were up so high, it was almost like we were looking at Earth from outer space! And above me, it really did seem like the tiny sliver of the waxing moon in the east was closer! I knew that we weren't literally going to touch the heavens today, but at that moment, it sure felt like we were!
At length, the walkie-talkie buzzed again. Meowth...Meowth...are...you there?
James quickly picked it up and handed it to me.
I felt a drop of sweat forming on my temple and freezing there as I pressed the button. "Yeah, I'm here, Orville. What's wrong?"
Nothing's...wrong. I just...wanted...to tell you...what it's like....
I looked out the balloon again. When we'd reached the stratosphere, Jessie and James had slowed down the engine and the rocket boosters so that they could conserve energy and concentrate instead on keeping us stable, and as a result, we weren't able to follow Orville as closely as we had been. He was now so far above us that he looked like nothing more than a tiny black speck in the sky!
"Dat's okay, Orville -- save yer breath, and tell me about it when ya get back!" I told him.
No, Meowth! he retorted. This is...your dream...too. I wish...you could be here...with me...and see...what I see. It's...so beautiful...Meowth. The Earth...the clouds...the sky...I really do...feel like...that Pidgey...in the story...that Wilbur told me...when I was...a chick. I feel like...I really am...touching the heavens...and it...feels good! It feels...better than I...ever could've imagined! Thank you...Meowth. Thank you...for helping me...make...my dream...come true.... His voice was so weak it was barely audible.
Tears filled my eyes as I told everybody what he was saying.
When I finished translating, Gary looked back at the computer and whistled. "Oh, my god! No wonder Orville feels like he's touching the heavens -- according to the altimeter, he's at thirty-one miles!"
Jessie's eyes went wide. "Thirty-one miles?! That's the upper limit of the stratosphere!" She quickly grabbed the walkie-talkie from me. "Orville, did you hear that? You're at thirty-one miles...and I don't recommend going any higher! At this altitude, we're above the thickest part of the ozone layer -- it's not safe to stay here for long!"
James took the walkie-talkie from her. "Jessie is right -- there's going to be too much radiation and not enough air to breathe if you go any higher!" he said. "I know you want to tell Meowth about everything you see, but trust me -- he'd rather hear it from you in person!"
"Listen ta Jess and Jim, Orville!" I pleaded. "You've already flown way higher den any pokemon ever has before, and ya said yerself dat yer dream finally came true! Now ya gotta come back and live ta tell the tale! Please...come back...."
There was a long pause on the other end before Orville finally replied. I didn't think...I could fly...any higher...anyway. Don't worry...Meowth...I'm on...my way down....
I brushed my tears away and smiled at everybody. "He's comin' back!"
Jessie, James, Gary, and Wilbur all began to cheer and applaud.
But our celebration was premature -- when Orville came back into sight, he looked as if he was out of control!
"Shit!" James cursed as he looked through his binoculars. "I think Orville's fainted! And his feathers look like they're caked with ice -- he won't be able to come out of that tail-spin, even if he tries!"
My blood ran cold when I heard this. "No! A fall from dis height will break every bone in his body!"
"A fall from this height will burn him to a crisp before he even reaches the ground!" Jessie corrected me.
The color drained from Wilbur's face.
"Don't worry -- it's not gonna happen!" Gary assured us. He threw one of his poke balls and released Pidgeot again. "Pidgeot! Go catch Orville and bring him back to the balloon!" he commanded.
Pidgeot nodded and sped off.
Time seemed to come to a standstill as Jessie, James, Gary, Wilbur, and I watched Pidgeot race towards the plummetting Orville and catch him in his talons. The five of us breathed a collective sigh of relief when Pidgeot returned.
But Orville wasn't out of the woods yet!
"He's out cold!" Wilbur cried as he took Orville from Pidgeot's talons and began cracking the ice off of his feathers.
James took off his oxygen mask and placed it over Orville's beak while Jessie wrapped him in a blanket and started rubbing him.
I closed my paws over one of Orville's wings. "Come on, Orville! Wake up! Stay with us, buddy!" I pleaded.
Jessie looked up at the rest of us. "James, Gary, start taking the balloon back down," she told them as she gave the oxygen mask back to James and placed her own over Orville's beak. "Wilbur...keep listening...for aircraft."
"Yes, ma'am!" the three of them said in unison. With that, Wilbur went back to his radio, James turned down the engine and pulled the rip-cord to let some of the hot air out of the balloon, and Gary called back Pidgeot and adjusted the booster rockets.
I wriggled free from James's coat and returned to Jessie's side. "What can I do?" I asked.
She smiled tenderly at me. "You can...help me...revive Orville. He's...going to need...your moral support...Meowth."
"Jess, why don't ya put yer mask back on and let me give him some oxygen for awhile?" I suggested. "Ya sound like yer about ta pass out, and we can't have dat happenin' ta our resident nurse!"
Jessie smiled at me once more. "Thanks, Meowth," she sighed once she was able to breathe again.
As I took off my own oxygen mask and gave it to Orville, I felt as if my lungs were being crushed, and I found myself wondering how he ever managed to fly as high as he did!
"Come on, Orville, wake up!" I heard Jessie whispering. I looked and saw that she was continuing to rub him through the blanket in an attempt to stimulate his bloodflow. There was the slightest edge of fear in her voice as she spoke.
James, Gary, and Wilbur's faces were all etched with worry as they watched us, and I knew that things didn't look good.
I closed my eyes and felt tears rolling down my cheeks. Suddenly, I felt guilty for suggesting this. I'd only wanted to help Orville make his dream come true -- I'd never be able to forgive myself if it ended up costing him his life! "I'm...sorry. So...sorry...."
James knelt down and placed a hand on my shoulder. "It's okay, Meowth. This isn't your fault."
Gary nodded. "Yeah! You can hardly be blamed for wanting to help another pokemon."
"Your friends are right, Meowth," said Wilbur. His eyes were filled with tears too, but he was smiling at me. "I know Orville well enough to know that he never would've been truly happy until he had a chance to do this. You gave him that chance...and that happiness, and for that, I'll always be grateful. Besides, I wouldn't give up on him just yet -- he's a tough little bird!"
This made me smile again. "Ya hear dat...Orville? We're still...rootin' for ya!"
At length, Jessie stopped rubbing him and began doing CPR compressions on his chest. "Come on...come on...." she kept whispering, over and over again.
"Yeah! Come...on!" I chimed in. "If you...could fly...dis high...den...you...can...make it...through...dis...too!"
"That's right! You can do it, Orville!" said Gary.
"We still believe in you!" James told him.
"Wake up, buddy," Wilbur implored. "Please...."
As if on cue, Orville's eyes slowly fluttered open, and he looked up at all of us.
All five of us breathed another collective sigh of relief.
Wha-what happened? Orville muttered.
Jessie made me put my oxygen mask back on and gave her own to Orville once again.
"Ya blacked out when yer flight was over," I explained. "Pidgeot had ta bring ya back to the balloon, and Jess had ta revive ya. We was worried about ya for awhile dere!"
"But...you're okay...now," Jessie assured him.
"And we should be on solid ground again before too much longer," James informed us as he consulted the computer. "We're already back to twenty miles!"
How high did I fly again? Thirty-one miles?
I nodded. "Yep! Ya broke the record by twenty-four miles and officially became the highest-flyin' pokemon of all time! I don't think it's a record dat's gonna be broken anytime soon!"
Orville smiled. The record isn't what really matters to me -- all I really cared about was being the best I could be. And thanks to you, I got that chance. He cast another glance to the heavens that we were quickly leaving behind. I really do wish you could've been there with me, Meowth -- it was amazing!
"And you can tell me all about it...after you've recovered," I replied. "For now, just take it easy -- you've more den earned it!"
After another hour, the balloon was back at the altitude we usually fly at, and there was no more need for the oxygen tanks or the warm clothes. And a couple minutes after that, we were touching down on Pudgy Pidgey Isle again.
And we had an audience!
As the balloon landed, all of the fat Pidgeys gathered around, chirping excitedly -- they were all cheering for Orville!
"Looks like the rest of yer friends are all proud of ya too, Orville!" I remarked.
Orville said nothing, just smiled again.
When we disembarked, the Pidgeys all swarmed on us and continued to cheer.
That was amazing, Orville! said one.
We knew you were a great flyer, but we never would've guessed that you'd actually become like the Pidgey in the painting! said another.
Yeah! I always thought it was just a story! still another agreed.
Maybe there's something to that story, after all, a fourth one commented. If Orville could fly high enough to touch the heavens, then there's no reason we can't at least get off the ground!
"Heh. Ya hear dat, Orville? Yer an inspiration!" I told him.
Now Orville was grinning.
Wilbur grinned, too. "I think this might be exactly what the others needed to get motivated! Maybe now I can help them start losing weight and teach them how to fly...."
"I'm sure of it," Gary concurred.
Jessie picked me up and gave me a hug. "Meowth, you made Orville's dream come true, and you helped Wilbur and all of the other Pidgeys! You're wonderful!"
James took me from Jessie and gave me a hug, too. "Of course! Meowth is the best!"
I blushed as I returned my friends' embrace. "Well, I couldn't have done it without ya," I replied. "Youse guys are the best, too!"
We spent the rest of the day on Pudgy Pidgey Isle, recovering from our adventure. After lunch (and a quick trip to the Bluefinland Pokemon Center to make sure that Orville was okay), the four humans went to take a nap, but I was too excited to sleep...and so was Orville. Besides, we had a lot to talk about!
"So, don't hold out on me any longer, Orville -- tell me about yer flight!" I exclaimed.
Meowth, it was amazing! came his reply. You know those pictures of Earth that satellites take from outer space? That's what it looked like up there....
"Dat's what I thought, too," I told him. "I was almost as high as you were, ya know!"
You're right! Looks like we both broke records today!
"Yeah, we did, didn't we?"
I don't know about you, but it was the most wonderful experience of my entire life! Orville went on. For a few glorious minutes, I was the Pidgey who flew so high he touched the heavens! I've never been happier....
"It was a pretty incredible experience for me, too," I agreed.
As the two of us continued our conversation, I looked to the sky again and smiled. I may not have flown as high as Orville, but knowing that I'd helped him make his dream come true was more than enough for me. And in a way, I'd made my own dream come true, too -- today, I'd been closer to the moon and the stars than I ever had in my entire life...and I'd put my skills as a pilot to the ultimate test! Yes, what I'd accomplished on this day was definitely something to be proud of...and having my friends there to share it with me had made it even better!
Today, I'd literally been at the top of the world, and yet, I don't consider it the greatest of my accomplishments or the best experience of my life. No, that honor will forever be reserved for something else -- becoming friends with Jessie and James. Everything in my life that makes me happy happens because of them -- they mean more to me than fame, riches, and greatness ever will.
It's times like these that I think of one of James's lines in our motto -- to extend our reach to the stars above -- and realize just how true it is. The love and friendship we share always lifts our spirits to the heavens and puts us at the top of the world, even when our feet are planted firmly on the ground!
And for that, I will always be grateful.
To be Continued....
As you've probably guessed by now, this chapter is my WRH of "Fly Me to the Moon!" This episode was pretty good as far as Master Quest eps go (I especially liked how sweet Meowth was, and Orville was cute, too...and it was refreshing to see a guest character who wasn't nasty to TR), but the ending our heroes got totally ruined it for me. It was completely pointless and unfair for J, J & M to get blasted off by a rocket malfunction, especially when they'd been heroic and helpful! >P So, I did away with the twerps' involvement since (as always) they basically did nothing except take up space, got rid of the rocket malfunctions and blast-off, and made this a TR & Gary adventure that fits the canon of my timeline rather than the canon of the show.
I also did a LOT of research while I was writing this chapter. (I think I learned more about the Earth's atmosphere from writing this story than I ever did in science class! lol) I know the details of Orville's flight may not be 100% scientifically accurate, but I wanted my story to have its basis in scientific fact and be at least somewhat realistic. The record for the highest pokemon flight is based on actual bird records. At 7 miles, the highest-flying bird on record is the Ruppell's griffon vulture. (Source: The Bird Almanac by David M. Bird, PhD.) All of the information on the layers and temperatures of the Earth's atmosphere is factual as well. I knew there was no way Orville could possibly fly to the outer limits of the atmosphere and survive the way they depicted on the show, so I combined some scientific research and my imagination to see how high it might be possible for him to fly.
And I'd also like to give a big thanks to my friend, Shigeru1313. As always, her feedback, support, and technical help meant a lot to me while I was writing this. (She came up with the name of the Vortex Badge.) ^_^
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