Chapter 14: The Black desert and Scorplack!
The next town on the path to the pokémon league was Scorpion city. It was placed in Scorpivalley, a valley shaped a little like a scorpion. The town was at least in the valley, and from a plane it looked like a giant scorpion. But Scorpion city was also the smallest town in Ouen with an official gym. The gym was in the “tail end” of the scorpion shape. The gym leader’s name was Mitch. He liked Bug/Poison type pokémon, and was an expert on poisons and antidotes.
As Mark and May made their way out of Metal city into the Black desert, they saw a whole lot of Skarmories, but when they came into the desert, the Skarmories slowly became fewer and there were more other pokémon. Mark battled them as his pokémon needed training more than May’s. He used Charmeleon very much, and he was pleased for getting to battle but not Scyther. He also used Sandslash a lot and his other pokémon except for Gyarados, as there was no water for him to be in. The desert seemed to be very big and it was a possibility they’d have to sleep on the way and continue tomorrow.
After endless walk in the heat and no sight of Scorpion city, the sun was disappearing behind the mountains far away. It was suddenly getting ice cold.
“Maybe we should sleep here somewhere, it’s getting too late to be traveling and it gets very cold here at night, or so am I told,” said May and looked at Mark.
“Yeah... I’m freezing. Should we light a fire or something?”
“We have no firewood, Mark, but you have a Fire pokémon that just happens to have a fire on his tail that doesn’t need any firewood...” May was obivously referring to Charmeleon. Mark sent him out while May sat down. Then both Charmeleon and Mark sat down too.
“Why is it called the Black desert? There’s nothing black about it... just normal, yellow sand...” Mark wondered out loud.
“I don’t know,” said May. “Perhaps it gets black at night or something.”
“They can call it what they want,” said Charmeleon.
They mumbled something in agreement and were silent for a while.
“What levels are your pokémon now?” said May finally.
“They’re somewhere around 29... I think Dratini is level 29, and Charmeleon and Sandslash are level 30 if I’m correct... Jolteon is level 28, Gyarados... um, I guess he’s still around level 23 or 24. Scyther is still level 42.”
“So, Dratini will evolve soon?”
Mark hadn’t thought about that. And Charmeleon wasn’t too far from it either. Maybe he could have a Dragonair, and if he was really lucky, a Charizard, when he battled Mitch. Maybe he wouldn’t.
“Well, I guess we should go to sleep, we’ve probably got a long journey tomorrow since we can’t even see Scorpion city...” Mark yawned and took out his sleeping bag. “Charmeleon, you should sleep out of your ball if it isn’t too cold.”
May took out her sleeping bag too and her toothbrush and toothpaste. After they brushed their teeth they both went to their sleeping bags and Charmeleon lay on the ground between them with his tail burning wildly.
“Good night, Mark,” May muttered.
“Good night, May,” Mark replied.
They fell asleep quickly, unware of the danger that drew nearer every passing moment...
Like a century’s producion of ink, a black flood flowed over the sand. Actually, it wasn’t a liquid. It was a horde of the terrors of the Black desert, Scorplacks. Those black, dangerous scorpion pokémon spent the day deep in the sand, but at night, they went out to hunt. They killed each other if they found nothing else, but if an unwary pokémon – or human, even better – was around there somewhere, they all worked together to kill it. Only their yellow eyes could be seen in the dark. By counting the eyes, one could see there were hundreds of thousands. All ready with the deadly poisonus stingers on their tails in attack position.
The Scorplacks had quickly noticed that there was something happening at a certain place. Something happening meant prey. That was why they flooded, each trying to be the first to their meal, to that place. After each sand wave they went over, a hundred more joined. The desert was covered with the Scorplacks.
Somehow, Mark woke up like he just had to. Like some voice inside his head was saying “wake up, now, you must!”. He opened his eyes, but didn’t believe what he saw. He blinked, and he rubbed his eyes, until he finally accepted the truth; there were millions of evil-looking scorpion pokémon surrounding them in every direction.
“Wow,” he murmured, “now I know why this is called the Black desert...”
He took out his pokédex.
“Scorplack – scorpion pokémon. Found mainly in the deserts of Ouen, this scorpion-like pokémon had deadly venom in the stingers on their tails.”
“Deadly????!!!!! Wait a minute – are you telling me those could actually kill us????”
But the pokédex obivously didn’t answer. Mark was getting a bit panicky. However, May and Charmeleon were waking up too.
“What is that?” May asked as she got out of her sleeping bag.
“It’s a trillion of scorpion pokémon that are going to kill us,” Mark said and took one step backwards in May’s direction.
“Charmeleon!” roared Charmeleon as Mark had just tripped over his tail. But he quickly forgot about that, seeing all the scorpions, still just standing there. They were actually waiting for the right moment to strike. One of the Scorplacks suddenly leapt forward and stung its tail stinger deep into May’s leg. She kicked the Scorplack away, and just hoped they would get to Scorpion city in time.
“Go, Skarmory! Pikachu! Larvitar! Butterfree! Attack the Scorplacks on that side, so we can make our way to the city!”
“Go, Jolteon! Dratini! Sandslash! Scyther! Help Charmeleon and May’s pokémon!”
Jolteon and Pikachu joined in a powerful electric attack. Meanwhile, another Scorplack stung Charmeleon. Scyther dived into the crowd and attempted to chop the Scorplacks in half. Sandslash and Larvitar tried to drown them in sand. Butterfree used her Sleep powder and Psychic attacks. Dratini used Dragon rage again and again. Skarmory defended the other pokémon, being immune to poison. May and Charmeleon were getting slow in reactions and pretty drowsy, and in the end they fainted, first May, then, a bit later, Charmeleon.
“Oh no! Keep attacking!” Mark shouted and recalled Charmeleon. Suddenly...
...Dratini started glowing...
...and Larvitar too...
They went larger, Dratini went longer and Larvitar got more pupa-like, they stopped glowing, revealing a Dragonair and a Pupitar.
“Wow! Attack the Scorplacks, quickly, we have to get on...”
But they way wasn’t clearing, there were always more and more of the Scorplacks.
Suddenly, Mark got an idea.
“Skarmory! You have to carry us to Scorpion city! We have no time to lose!” Mark recalled all his pokémon except Dragonair, took May’s balls and recalled all her pokémon except Skarmory, and put May on Skarmory’s back. Then he went on his back too, roared at Dragonair to keep the Scorplacks away while they were going into the air, when they were up, he recalled Dragonair and they flew as fast as they could to Scorpion city.
As soon as they reached the edge of the city, Mark asked Skarmory to land. It actually hadn’t been as far as he thought. He took May and put her down on the ground, then recalled Skarmory. He looked around to see if someone was there, but it was the middle of night, how could anyone be there?
“Help! Can somebody help me!”
But no one answered. He shouted again, but nothing happened. Mark looked at May, she was getting pale and cold.
Suddenly, someone stood beside him. Just suddenly he was there, he hadn’t heard him come in any way at all. It was a young man with silvery white hair down to his shoulders or so, he was wearing a black cape and a red belt with a circular gold thing with a scorpion engraved on it at the front. He looked at May, bent down and touched her forehead. “Scorplack venom,” he muttered and turned to Mark.
“I am Mitch, the leader of the Scorpion city gym, and an expert on poisons and antidotes. Can you tell me how much time has passed since she was stung?” Mitch’s voice was soft and clear even though he spoke very fast, and it was quiet and had that ‘flowing’ feeling to it.
“About twenty minutes or so,” Mark said. “Why?”
Mitch ignored the question. “How long passed from that until she fainted?”
“Not long, one or two minutes at most...”
Mitch looked at Mark. He had gray eyes which shone in a very special way.
“Then you better pray for her life,” he said, picked May up and ran swiftly into the darkness.
It took Mark some time to actually realize what Mitch just said. Then he ran after him, and saw he was going to the gym.
“How is she?” Mark asked after Mitch had put May on a sofa in a small side room and given her some kind of an antidote.
“Steady,” Mitch said, but he was just looking up but not at Mark’s face. “Let’s hope so, at least. I gave her an antidote, we just have to see what happens.”
“Is she – is she going to die?”
“Perhaps she will. Perhaps she will not. Only time will tell. We just have to wait and see.”
“What are the odds?”
“Not good. My guess is 70 that she will die, 20 that she will live, but never wake up, and 10 that she will be okay.” Mitch was still looking up while he talked.
“Ten? That’s not very... good, is it?”
“Good?” Mitch finally looked at Mark now. “How could it be good?”
“Well, you can always hope... but is there no hope?”
“Have you ever thrown a die and got six?” Mitch asked seemingly out of nowhere.
“What do you mean? I mean, yes, of course, but does that have anything to do with Scorplack venom?”
“Then imagine this is a die with ten faces, and she will live if we get ten.” Mitch yet again ignored Mark’s question.
“That doesn’t help very much...” Mark said.
“Yes, it does. I have much experience of bringing bad news to people,” said Mitch, looking up again.
They were silent for a while, but then Mark asked: “Is she suffering?”
“No,” Mitch answered. “First after people are stung, they feel pain with every beat of the heart, because the poison is spreading. But when they black out, it is just like heavy, sweet and dreamless sleep.”
“What about dying of that poison? Does that hurt?”
“I have never tried, and those who have are all dead,” said Mitch with a weak smile. “But I have watched. Many unlucky victims of Scorplacks have died right there on that very sofa. Scorplack venom works oddly, you see... it slows down all organs it flows through, and when it has slowed everything down enough, everything just... stops. The breathing stops, the heart stops, everything stops. And then... well, it’s hard to consider someone alive after that.”
“What do you mean ‘have never tried’ if you can describe everything else? You’re not going to tell me you have been stung by a Scorplack, are you?”
“Yes, I have,” said Mitch. “I was a kid, just started training pokémon. I wandered off into the desert to train and when it was late, I found a Scorplack. I had no idea it was dangerous, it stung me and I caught it without wondering if the poison was going to kill me. Just after I caught it, I fainted of the poison. In the middle of the Black desert. No one ever found me. But I somehow survived. It was a miracle, and it is still a mystery. But when I woke up, a month or so later, everyone thought I was dead. I had no idea how much time had passed, I went here and people thought I was lying when I told them who I was and what happened to me because my clothes were all torn and I was so skinny. I was angry, and I started studying poisons and antidotes because of my so-called ‘death’. I made up a name to use. And I have never told this story to anyone before, but there may be a reason why I just did.”
“A miracle saved you?”
“Something saved me. I am alive, at least... if I am not mistaken.” Mitch smiled weakly again.
There was silence. Then Mark asked: “How is Charmeleon?”
“Well,” said Mitch. “He’s recovering right now, he will be in perfect battle condition tomorrow.”
“Why?” Mark said. “Why is Charmeleon going to be okay, but May is dying? It’s not fair... why are humans so vulnerable to that Scorplack venom?”
“Humans.” Mitch muttered. “Humans are so weak. Take any normal pokémon attack, like Ice beam, and use it on a human. It kills. Use it on a Magikarp, and the Magikarp survives. It faints, surely, but does not die. Pokémon are stronger than humans, but humans are clever, that is why humans can tame pokémon. If the pokémon wanted, they could go and take over the world, but they do not because they know better. This is balance where everyone benefits, why destroy it?”
There was a very long silence after this. Then Mitch spoke again.
“Can you stay here while I go to make the research room ready? I got a sample of her blood I have to check out to see if my guess is correct. Just tell me if anything happens. Oh, one final tip. Any movement means she will be okay, and if she seems not to be breathing, she is dead.”
Another one of those weak smiles followed. Then Mitch went out of the room.
“May, hang in there! You can’t die now! What about your pokémon? Speaking of which, I still have your pokéballs here somewhere...”
Mark put May’s pokéballs on a table.
“Now, May, would you just please not die? Do whatever you want, but don’t die please...”
Mark quickly looked around, rubbed his eyes and stared, but it was an incredible fact: Mew had just teleported into the room.
“Mew! Just when I need you! You see I have a problem here... can you just heal her or something, Mitch says she’s most likely going to die...”
“I can’t,” said Mew.
“Why can’t you?” asked Mark angrily.
“You won’t understand,” said Mew.
“So you think I won’t understand??? I will understand, why shouldn’t I understand?” said Mark annoyed.
Mew said a bunch of very scientific things about how Scorplack venom works and why it couldn’t be healed just like that.
“Okay, I don’t understand. Fine. Can you then just resurrect her if she dies?”
“No,” said Mew.
“But you could resurrect Scyther! Why not May?”
“I can’t...you won’t understand that either...”
“Okay. You can’t heal her, and when you’re trying to tell me the reason, you talk in such a scientific nonsense there is no way to understand you. I ask if you could resurrect her, and you say you can’t and say I won’t understand that either. Well, now you tell me both of those reasons until I understand you!”
After a long arguement with Mew, Mark finally understood a bit of this. Somehow, the Scorplack venom would have to be cleaned out of her blood to heal her, and that was not possible using just psychic powers. And about the resurrection, somehow the poison would just kill her again.
The door handle was moving. Mark looked quickly back where Mew had been, but there was nothing there. Mitch walked in.
“Well, do you want to learn a little about Scorplack venom? It is quite interesting, I think you would like it, just come.”
They walked into the research room.
“Scorplack venom, like I told you, slows down the organs,” Mitch said. “The antidote slows down the poison. Then, it is just a matter of time – if the antidote stops the effect of the poison completely before she dies, her kidneys will clean it out of the blood and she will get better. If the poison kills her first, she just dies, and if the poison had slowed her down too much already, she will never wake up. That is why I asked you first about the time – the time it takes for the poison to make the victim faint also gives me roughly how strong the poison of that specific Scorplack was. This one must have been pretty strong... usually, it takes about ten minutes to make a human faint. Now, let us see here...” Mitch took a glass with something Mark assumed to be May’s blood. It was an unusual color, a little purple. Mitch put the glass on a table.
“The blood is heavier than the poison, so the blood will sink down, leaving the poison at the top,” Mitch explained. “We just have to wait a few minutes.”
When the blood was at the bottom, Mitch poured the dark purple poison carefully into another glass. He then poured the poison into some sort of a machine.
“This will check the poison and find how active it is, I have the time when this sample was taken, and then I can caculate the odds better.”
After a few minutes, the machine showed some numbers on a screen. Mitch looked at the numbers, which had no meaning to Mark whatsoever, and then said: “Looks like my guess was correct, it’s about ten...” They went back into the room where May was. Mark and Mitch stared at her without saying anything. After a long silent wait, she turned around and sighed.
Mitch looked at Mark.“Looks like we got ten,” he said, smiling.