The rumble of thunder began to get louder and louder as the sea ferry charged on to Feron Grove. Several passengers enjoying the outdoor air began filing into the interior of the ship as rain began to drizzle upon them.
Ash, Misty, Brock, and Tracey were on the second level of the boat in a large social room, enjoying the last of their breakfast and keeping an eye on the weather outside.
"What a day for a cruise, huh?" Misty said, dabbing at her mouth with a napkin. Rain began to fall faster than before and pelted the windows while another thunderclap rang out.
"Whoa!" Ash called out as a couple of bolts of lightning stabbed the distant water. "Awesome! Good thing we aren't out there or we'd be cooked!"
"Speaking of cooked," Tracey said through a mouthful of blueberry pancakes. "This boat really knows how to fill us up."
Brock chuckled as he drained the last of a third cup of coffee. "That's an understatement, but it's just a couple shades below what I eat at home."
"Yeah," Ash remarked, getting up from the circular table and stretching his legs. The other three got up to join him. "Your food's A-Number One. Your cousin's gonna love it."
"Man, I can't wait to see Stu," Brock replied. "It's been years."
"Same here," Misty acknowledged, with Tracey nodding in agreement. "We all have family we haven't seen in a while." She looked over at Ash, who simply shrugged. The girl put a hand on his shoulder and said, "It'll certainly be interesting," and the boy breathed a sigh nodded his head to the side.
The four began to walk up a small flight of stairs to get to the third level of the ship, which would surely provide a great view of the ocean storm. As they stepped upward, a couple of kids ran down the opposite side of the staircase, dropping a newspaper in their wake.
"Hey! Calm down the both of you!" their bearded father ordered, shuffling past everyone to catch up with the children.
"Hey, you dropped this!" Tracey said, picking up the paper and waving it to the man, but he was long gone. The others shook their heads and smiled, and the group continued to go up to the highest floor.
"Let's see…what's going on?" Tracey uttered, flipping through the pages and humming. The four teenagers made it to a large rectangular window facing east. The rain continued to pour and run down the glass in rivulets, creating an almost peaceful sound until it was broken.
"Now this is insane…"
"What?" Brock asked, turning to Tracey.
"Check this out, guys," Tracey answered, opening the paper wider so everyone could see an article entitled, "Shuttle Still Lost in Space." The friends perused the article, their eyes widening as they read.
"No contact for four days?" Misty spoke. "What could be wrong?"
"Beats me," Ash added, scratching the right side of his face. "I'm guessing those moon-bound Clefairy had nothing to do with it.
"Of course not, Ash," Brock said, raising an eyebrow at the joke. "That'd be totally crazy."
Tracey rubbed his eyes and said, "What's crazy is that Mission Control hasn't even gotten an image of what's happening on the moon." Another lightning bolt crashed into the sea and thunder loudly rolled. "You have all that expensive tech and nothing to show for it? Those astronauts are in real trouble."
"Astronauts?" a nearby woman said, pulling some headphones off of her ears. "They just found something about them now."
The four friends instantly walked over to the lady, who detached her headphones from her tablet and let them see. A news program was playing on a radio app that the tablet featured.
"We here at NPR have just received breaking news regarding the missing lunar shuttle Frontier and its two pilots. Space program officials said they have finally gotten a lock on a feed on one of the astronauts'—former Air Force Captain Charlie Meadows—body cameras, which had been ripped off of his spacesuit. Though the footage is grainy, we are dismayed to report that both he and copilot Lieutenant Valerie Burrows have died. Officials say that the video shows both astronauts prone on the moon's surface with their suits razed with burn marks and tears. The appearance of the tears suggests that the suits were slashed open. The outline of the Frontier appears in the background, apparently intact. Nothing that could have possibly caused the astronauts' deaths seems to be visible in the shot. No news source will be showing the video or any of the gruesome images out of respect for Meadows and Burrows and their loved ones. The president will be holding a press conference at 1:00 PM today, and all American flags shall be flown at half mast. We will bring you more updates as they come in.
"No way. That's so terrible…" a teenage boy who just came by the group said. A couple of other people who had also stepped by gasped, sniffled, and talked amongst themselves. Brock, Tracey, Misty, and Ash just stood where they were, too shocked to move.
Miles away in Feron Grove, Lia had come across the same broadcast on her way to her next destination. She paced along the tile floor of Feron Grove Hospital after having taken one of the city trolleys to get there.
"It's all adding up to something…" she muttered, flipping through the pages of Island Legends. She paused when she saw the pages she was looking for. "Something…"
THE UNKNOWN PLAUGE
Eleven thousand years ago, the Amalei Region was home to a vast array of peoples and wondrous creatures, many of which are predecessors of the Pocket Monsters of today. The network of islands and locales had recently come through a time of war, and peace had finally returned. However, it would not last as an unseen force crept into the region. War, slavery, and plague returned with a vengeance, and countless innocent lives and species were lost over a thousand years; some of those that did not immediately perish were rendered immobile, watching as the lives they used to know fall apart.
Unfortunately, much of what happened has disappeared in the mists of time. After one thousand years of darkness, the plague and the mysterious dark forces that ruled over the Amalei Region vanished, never to be seen again.
Lia walked through the white-walled halls of the hospital, eventually stopping at Room 34. She stepped through the archway and sat in an empty chair next to a man with short gray hair and a matching mustache. The man sat by the bedside of a woman with light blonde hair, her face pallid and her body shivering. A mass of bandages covered her left shoulder.
"How's Mom holding up, Dad?" Lia asked, taking a deep breath.
"Still stable, honey," her father replied. Smith Feran dipped his head away from his daughter. "But she still isn't moving or speaking. The doctors still don't know what's in that slime that was in her bite. It isn't from any known Pokémon."
"Seems like the unknown is the answer," Lia said, drumming the spine of her book and showing her father. "Here and in space."
Smith looked at the page and shook his head. "Could be anything. You don't need to be wrapping yourself up in more of this bad news, Lia. I want you as far away from here as possible. You kids don't need to worry."
"Sure, your mom's catatonic. No worries. Just sit back." the daughter droned, slapping the sides of her black cargo pants. "You know me and Hayashi."
"Yeah," Smith sighed, clutching his wife's hand. "He said he'd be here after practice. Seriously, she hasn't gotten worse, so you need to just keep your head up…and out of a book the whole time."
"Says the librarian," Lia remarked. She rose from her chair and craned over her mother, giving her a kiss on the cheek. An unwelcome warmth and pressure rose to her cheeks and crept to her nose and eyes, but she took a deep breath and turned to give her father a hug. "Then I'll get going. I have to find something."
"What?" Smith asked as the girl walked away and out the door.