CHAPTER ONE: The mighty iron-plated Steelix let out an earth shattering roar as it charged towards the nimble Hitmonchan. The boxer bounded to the serpent's side and quickly ran along the segmented snake's body. Steelix spun its segments quickly, throwing Hitmonchan off his back. Hitmonchan landed skillfully on his feet, then bounced towards Steelix, his red gloves aflame. Steelix held still, and at the last moment, opened his cavernous maw and breathed out turquoise smoke...Dragon Breath. Hitmonchan leapt up in surprise. Steelix then swung the top part of his long body back and thrust downwards, attempting a Slam. He succeeded in slamming Hitmonchan, but the clever fighter used Counter just in the nick of time, sending his towering opponent plummeting into the hard, rocky ground. The force of the megaton weight took its toll on Hitmonchan's light frame, and he staggered a bit. Surprisingly, the great Steelix rose up again from the dust cloud his Slam caused. His crimson eyes glared at Hitmonchan with intensity. "Ok, boys, that's enough training for now!" Bruno called out. His two Pokemon, seeming to be rivals, congratulated each other, Hitmonchan playfully patting Steelix on his side, and Steelix returning the favor with a toothy grin. Bruno suddenly grabbed Hitmonchan around the waist and gave him a noogie behind his crest. Hitmonchan slithered out of his trainer's grasp and tackled Bruno to the ground. He didn't like to admit it, but Hitmonchan was his favorite. He was Bruno's first Pokemon, found nearly dead and lost in the woods as a Tyrogue, and fourteen year old Bruno nursed him back to health. It was caring for and training Hitmonchan that fueled Bruno's passion for Fighting Pokemon. Over the years, another Tyrogue and a Machop joined his team, now a Hitmonlee and a Machamp respectively. The massive Steelix, once an equally intimidating Onix, was rescued by Bruno with the help of talented young Ash Ketchum and his friends three years prior. The most recent addition to the team (besides Onix's evolved form) was a young Hitmontop, not even a year old. Bruno thought it would be good to train him next. As Bruno reached for Hitmontop's Pokeball on his belt, he felt a cold, uneasy chill sting at his spine. Bruno quivered... was there someone nearby? Bruno spun around. He saw a flash of grey and black fur disappear behind a boulder. Bruno took a step forward then stopped. 'I've never seen a Pokemon with that pelt before,' he thought. 'The only Pokemon I've seen in this area are Sandslash, Geodude, and the occasional Diglett.' Bruno could hear quick claws scrape on the rocks as the animal ran away. He quickly hopped on Steelix's head and ordered him to lift his head up. Steelix obeyed and raised his head. Bruno squinted at the mass of boulders and rock mounds. He caught site of a dark shape bounding amongst the jagged rock before disappearing behind a bend. 'So the creature is shaggy and four-legged. Too bad it was too fast for me to make out the shape. Still, I can't think of any Pokemon that even looks remotely like that.' Bruno sighed. "Ok, Steelix, lower me down. Steelix? Hello?" Bruno waved his hand in front of Steelix's left eye. The snake didn't even blink. His beady eyes were fixated on the spot that Pokemon ran away from. He was completely frozen, paralyzed with fear. Bruno shrugged and slid down Steelix's bumpy body. He turned to Hitmonchan and was shocked... the boxer was still as a statue, his staring eyes dry from lack of blinking, his ribcage trembling with each breath he took in. Like Steelix, he too was gazing at the spot where the mysterious Pokemon was spotted. Bruno had never seen this kind of behavior in his Pokemon, and he'd known his Hitmonchan for over fifteen years. Something told Bruno that training time was over and that he should go home. The vision of that mysterious Pokemon gnawed at Bruno's mind the whole way back... what the hell was it? *** Will was meditating in the training gym, a pair of Pokeballs flowing around his head. His Xatu and Jynx were seated on either side of him, their eyes also closed in meditation. Despite being a psychic, Will didn't notice a dark shape approach him from behind. Suddenly, a weight slammed down on his shoulders, and Will jumped up screaming, nearly scaring the shit out of his Pokemon. He spun around and bared his teeth. "You!" "Yes me," Bruno chuckled as he ruffled the boy's hair. Will was only nineteen, the youngest Elite Four member. Bruno, being a veteran, frequently teased him. He even tricked Will into temporarily trading his Slowbro for Onix so the two could evolve into Slowking and Steelix... only Bruno's Onix evolved, for, unknown to Will, it was Slowpoke that evolved into Slowking with a King's Rock, not Slowbro. Will was still angry about not having known better, but he blamed Bruno for his own ignorance. "Say, Will, have you seen a shaggy ash-colored Pokemon lately?" "No, why?" "Oh, that's right, you never go outside. Heh-heh. Anyway, I was wondering if you could use your psychic powers to read the minds of the wild Pokemon in this area, maybe we can find out what it is." "I've never heard of a Pokemon like that. Wait...this is a trick, isn't it?" Bruno sighed. "Never mind. I'm going to bed, see ya later, OK?" "Whatever." "Oh, Will? You better watch where you step." Bruno laughed to himself as he exited the gym. Will was confused for a second until he looked down and saw a big, moist glob of alabaster guano slumped dangerously close to his feet. Will shot a glance at his Xatu and saw the bird hiding his beak behind his wings in embarrassment as Jynx pointed and laughed at him. Will scratched his head. 'I guess I did scare the shit out of my Pokemon.' *** "Ah, sleep. My favorite time of day." Bruno slumped into his cot, his thick chocolate hair still damp from his shower. The cold sheets felt refreshing against his skin, especially after a long day of training under the blazing sun. Bruno froze when his body rubbed against something soft and warm. There was something else in the bed with him. Bruno glanced at his pillow and smiled when he saw a mass of tangled silver-lavender hair. He ran his fingers through the silky hair and its owner showed her face. "Hey there, big boy," Karen greeted dreamily. "Hello, Hoots." Hoots was Bruno's pet name for Karen because of her Hoothoot-like nocturnal nature. "I missed you today." Karen rolled onto Bruno's chest, caressing his muscular pectorals. "That's why you should do your training at night like I do," she said. "You're not staying all night?" Bruno questioned. Karen shrugged. "No. But don't worry, I have time for a quick romp." Suddenly, a long, eerie howl was heard from the outside. Karen gasped and shot up. "Oh my god!" she shrieked. "Dark types!" Karen shot towards the window and smashed her face into the glass, her nose becoming wide and flat like a Swinub's. Karen was a calm and collected person who always kept her cool, but when it came to Dark Pokemon, she transformed into a small child bouncing with excitement at the sight of a new toy. Bruno sighed as he joined his lover at the window. He put his arm around her waist and said, "Name 'em, hon." "I can make out about five or six adult Houndoom, a dozen Houndour, and even a couple of puppies. They seemed to have made a large kill, and by the pitch of their yelps, I believe it is a Stantler or Rapidash. But...wait...huh?" "What?" "There's something else. Shhh." As if on cue, the cries of the Houndoom and Houndour ceased and one bellowing howl took over. It was much deeper, much more frightening than the wild hounds' calls. It was eerie enough to make Karen shudder. It made Bruno uneasy that even the mistress of the night was scared of this howl. She stepped away from the window. "I guess I should begin my training now," she said. "Hoots, what about our...wait, I know that look. You want to go out and try to catch that Pokemon!" "No I don't!" Karen protested. But Bruno could tell by Karen's growing smile that she really wanted to go add that Pokemon to her team. "It's dangerous, I know it is. I don't want you to get hurt." "I'll be fine. My Pokemon will protect me, and Umbreon and Vileplume won't get injured because the moonlight heals their wounds. Don't worry, I'm a big girl!" And without a second thought, Karen dashed out of the room, unable to contain her excitement. "Be careful," Bruno whispered. The howl sounded again. People said that a Houndoom's howl could scare anything, but this new one was downright terrifying. With his concern for Karen and fear of that Pokemon, Bruno never knew how he managed to get to sleep that night. CHAPTER TWO: Bruno awoke with a jolt. Sharp talons were scraping his face and a dark body was hovering over him. Bruno shot up in terror, his head bashing into the wall. He heard a high pitched screech and felt rough feathers flutter against his skin. He opened his eyes and laughed. "Murkrow, what are you doing here?" "Pretty bird!" The Murkrow replied. The dark bird belonged to Karen, and although Murkrow could learn to speak human language very well, Karen could only teach her to say "pretty bird" so far. Murkrow fluttered around the room, her shiny black plumage contrasting with the soft rays of the sun. Bruno's smile faded when he realized something. "Murkrow, did something happen to Hoots?" Murkrow only cackled and continued her flying. Bruno leapt out of bed. "Show me where she is! Oh my god, if anything happened to her..." Murkrow shouted "pretty bird" again before flapping out of the room. Bruno grabbed his belt and chased the bird. A while later, they reached Karen's quarters. Bruno was out of breath, more from his worry than from running. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the lady sitting calmly at the table eating eggs. Her Umbreon was curled up on an empty chair sleeping. Murkrow glided to Karen, perched on her shoulder, and pulled on her hair with her beak. "Good morning Bruno... what happened to you?" "I thought something bad happened to you! Your Murkrow came into my room flapping and carrying on and... say, did ever catch that Pokemon we heard last night?" "See for yourself," Karen smiled. Bruno could hear a smacking noise coming from under the table. He looked under and saw a large, hairy canine Pokemon with gray and black fur eating a plate of scrambled eggs. Its eyes were bright yellow and red, and its pointed ears were big and floppy. The beast slowly lifted its head up and a growl rumbled in its throat when it saw Bruno. He backed away from it... it was that same Pokemon he saw the other day! "Hoots, what the hell is that thing?" "Isn't she beautiful? She's a Mightyena. When I was a child back at the farm, there were Mightyena everywhere. I admired them for their mysterious and tough nature. Sadly, they attacked Miltank and Mareep herds, so they were over hunted. I thought Mightyena were wiped out of Johto and Kanto, but apparently they're not!" The dog prowled from under the table and Karen knelt down and hugged her. Bits of egg clung to Mightyena's moist lips and whiskers, her thick mane was dotted with specks of dander, and her paws were caked with dried mud leaving paw prints on the floor. Being freshly caught, the beast still retained the looks of a wild animal. "Aren't you afraid of catching something?" Bruno asked. "It looks filthy." "Quarantine it," a third voice said. Bruno and Karen spun around and saw Lance, the leader of the Elite Four, standing in the entryway of the kitchen. He had a youthful appearance despite being the second eldest member. His long cape flowed around his frame. "Karen, you are supposed to refer to me before any new Pokemon is added to your team. We need to isolate Mightyena and make sure it is free of disease." "She," Karen growled. "Mightyena is female." "Whatever," said Lance. "Give me Mightyena's Pokeball so I can send her to the Pokemon Center. You'll get her back tomorrow at the earliest if she's healthy." Karen pouted as she took out the Ultra Ball she used to capture Mightyena. Bruno could swear he saw the dog shoot an evil glare at him before disappearing into her ball. What did Mightyena have against him? *** "Ok, Hitmontop, focus on Defense! And Machamp, don't hold back, use all of your power!" Bruno was working with his youngest Pokemon and his strongest one. Steelix was napping under the shade of an overhanging rock while Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee were resting against his hide. Hitmontop was dodging Machamp's grapples and punches with ease, spinning like a driedel. Machamp leapt up and stomped on the ground using his Earthquake attack. The fissure sent Hitmontop spinning through the air, making him look like a flying saucer. Machamp snatched Hitmontop in midair and slammed the little fighter into the ground. Hitmontop covered his face as Machamp raised his three fists, his fourth holding Hitmontop down. Something strange happened just then. Both Pokemon turned their heads and were staring out at Bruno's direction. Their pupils were shrunken and their bodies were locked in their current poses. Bruno realized the two were looking at the direction behind him. He spun around, wildly looking at all the surrounding rock formations and boulders. Bruno then stopped. 'What am I doing?" Bruno then heard snickering. He turned to his fighters and saw Hitmontop nudging Machamp in the ribs, both of them laughing at their trainer. Even Hitmonchan, Hitmonlee, and Steelix joined in. Bruno fumed. "Guys, that is NOT funny!" he scolded. Of course, Bruno deserved that ... he fell for that trick two times already today. Suddenly, Hitmonchan stopped laughing. He tilted his head as if doing a double take, then froze. All of the other Pokemon froze too. "Ah jeez, do you guys really think I'm foolish enough to fall for that again, especially so soon after..." Bruno found himself face down on the ground and felt paws scraping his back. He looked up. A Mightyena was standing on his back snarling. Like a bolt of brown and purple lightning, Hitmonchan pounced on the attacker and sent it flying . Steelix grabbed his trainer with his mouth while the two other Hitmon rushed at the canine. As Bruno dangled in the air , the Hitmons surrounded the Mightyena. Bruno was shocked... it was Karen's Mightyena! The fur on Mightyena's back bristled and she growled at her challengers. The Hitmon were shaking with fear . Mightyena charged at Hitmonlee, fangs bared. Hitmonlee dodged and kicked her in the side. She yelped in pain as she hit the ground but soon rose again. The Hitmon trio circled her but didn't attack. It was like they were trying to intimidate her. This confused Bruno... Mightyena was a Dark-type Pokemon meaning she was weak to Fighting techniques... why don't the fighters just gang up on her and attack at once? A growl of annoyance was heard, and Machamp charged past the Hitmon right into Mightyena. He turned to the three as if to say, "If you sissies won't take this mutt down, then I will!" Machamp held the dog down with the lower arms and raised his upper arms. Before he could pummel her, Mightyena snapped at one of his wrists. He flinched back before the fangs came into contact, releasing his captive in the process. Mightyena bounded to her feet, shook herself off, and glared at Bruno before taking off. Steelix set his trainer down as the other Pokemon gathered around him. He collapsed to his knees "That was... that was really really ODD," Bruno said. He turned to Machamp. "Why did you flinch from Mightyena' bite? You get Crunched by Karen's Houndoom all the time, it doesn't bother you. Dark's weak to Fighting, remember?" Machamp just shrugged his two sets of shoulders and hung his head in shame. "Ah buddy, it's no biggie, it's cool! Put 'er there!" Bruno tried to high-five Machamp, but he just stood there with no response. All of Bruno's Pokemon had serious expressions and glanced at one another worriedly. It was like they knew something that he didn't. *** "That can't be Karen's Mightyena. She was sent to quarantine in Indigo Village which is miles away, what would she be doing out here?" "I dunno Will. But I swear it was her, I could tell." Koga, the ninja Poison Pokemon trainer, snickered. "Fu fu fu... I like the sound of this Pokemon's stealthy nature. I wish I was the one who captured her." "Yeah right," said Bruno. "If you did, you would never hear the end of it from Hoots...ugh, I mean Karen." "Hoots?" Will and Koga questioned in unison. Will giggled. "What, is that like a Hooters reference or something?" "No!" Bruno shouted. "It's, um. OK, that's what I call Karen. You know, like a Hoothoot." Will squealed. "Bruno and Karen layin' in the bed, H-U-M-..." "STOP IT!" Bruno shouted. "At least I have a girlfriend, Willy!" "Don't get so defensive," said Koga. "You've been high-strung all day." "Well you'd be high-strung too if you had a mutt stalking you," said Bruno. "I wish Karen didn't sleep during the day, I really want to talk to her." "I know you want to do more than that," Will smirked. "I'm psychic, I can read minds." "Psycho is more like it," Bruno said. "I'm going to my quarters, you guys are too immature for me." Koga scoffed as Will continued his childish giggles, dirty images dancing in his mind. *** The door to Bruno's room cracked slightly. A stick poked through probing the air. Bruno slammed the door open the rest of the way, shouting, "AH HA! Thought you could sneak up on me, eh devil-dog?!" He looked around the room. 'Good, no sign of that monster.' Bruno then noticed a lump under his covers. He smiled. Karen was waiting for him. She looked so beautiful too under the light of the moon. Bruno thought it was funny the way she tried to be sneaky by hiding her head under the covers. "Hey Hoots," he said. "Boy, what a day I had today. Let me tell you all about it." Bruno reached under the covers and stroked Karen's hair. He stopped. The hair felt thick and bristly. It didn't take long for him to realize this wasn't his lover waiting in bed . A rumbling growl confirmed his realization. So did a pair of glowing eyes. And a row of razor-sharp teeth. 'It can't be...' was Bruno's last thought before the Mightyena mauled him... "Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn." Bruno's body stung as he washed his wounds off in the bath tub. He watched the pink mixture of blood and water swirl down the drain. The Mightyena's sharp fangs left massive gashes on his limbs and torso, and his face and body were covered with deep claw marks. He shivered. At least that dog was gone now. Bruno gave Mightyena a terrible pounding during the attack and, after leaving him a memento in the form of one more deadly chomp, she finally burst through the window and ran off. He was sure Karen would be mad at him later, but it was either him or the mutt. 'There. That should do.' Bruno turned on the faucet to get out the last of the washed-out blood, put on his blue trousers, then proceeded to the sink for the first aid kit. The kit was actually a big, bulky duffel bag, for one gets injured frequently when he's a master of physical fighting. When he opened the bag however, the overwhelming medical scent made him sick to his stomach. Bruno never cared for that smell, but this was the first time it made him feel truly ill. He sat on the edge of the tub and put his head between his legs, the surefire way to relieving nausea. It didn't work. Minutes passed and the upset in Bruno's stomach worsened. 'Damn I did catch something from that filthy dog?' He heaved and clenched his teeth. He curled his arms across his belly and paused. Fuzz? Bruno didn't want to look down but he did. To his horror, there were patches of gray fur on his abdomen. Smoky fur also sprouted on his upper arms but his lower arms and hands were covered with black hair. Bruno didn't have long to wonder about his growing fur before he felt a hot, burning pain in his spine. He collapsed on the cold tiled floor in agony, arching his back. His fingernails, formed into sharp claws, dug into the floor leaving jagged scrapes. The fiery sensation was strongest at the base of his spine. When the pain ceased, Bruno glanced back. He was greeted by a bushy black tail formed from, logically, his tail bone. 'Aw shit.' Suddenly, Bruno's jaws and legs ached terribly. He squeezed his eyes shut as his face started to protrude and form into a furry muzzle and his canines grew into sharp fangs. His sense of smell suddenly sharpened. The aroma of soap and the odor of ointment stung at his sensitive canine nose. His femurs began to deform and bend slightly, his feet elongated and the bones of his clawed toes curved, turning into paws complete with hard pads on the bottom. Bruno opened his now yellow and red eyes. His eyesight was much worse, everything looked monochrome with only a few shades of color present, and the bright light of the bathroom irritated his oculars. But his hearing and sense of was smell heightened. Something piqued his interest. He perked his large, pointed ears and rotated them, searching for the source. A low, singing murmur was heard followed by the oily scent of human flesh. This smell excited Bruno and he suddenly had the urge to hunt. "I'm on a quest for toothpaste I must hurry, no time to waste Brush my teeth, make them clean Then I'm gonna leeeeeave." Will didn't mind that the last line of his little song failed to rhyme perfectly. He decided to continue his fantasy tune with whistling. That reminded him of a real song, "Whistling in the Dark" by "They Might Be Giants." Will smiled as he lowered his voice several octaves. "A woman came up to me and said, 'I'd like to poison your mind, With wrong ideas that appeal to you, though I am not unkind.'" WHAM! The bathroom door crashed to the ground and shattered into several pieces. Will screamed. Prowling from the heap was a Mightyena. It was more than twice the size of Karen's, was wearing blue pants, had a big tuft of spikey black hair on its head, and human-like arms, torso, and lower jaw. It was Bruno. Will suddenly got a flashback of when he was five years old. He saw a man walking a Houndoom, and young Will toddled up to the dog eager to pet it. He was greeted by a stream of flame shooting from the irate canine's mouth. From that day forward, Will was in constant agony. He had to wear a crude mask to cover his badly burned face and one completely singed eye. Will learned to calm his mind through meditation to ease the pain, thus contributing to his strong ties to Psychic Pokemon. As Will's one exposed eye locked with Bruno's slit crimson ones, the young man felt the Houndoom's hellish fire burning his flesh. Bruno bared his long fangs and charged at Will. He slammed the boy into the ground nearly shattering his spine. Will cringed as chunks of saliva from Bruno's snarling black lips splattered onto his face. The were-Mightyena felt Will's terrified heart pounding against his paws. Bruno suddenly lunged at his throat and swiftly tore it open with powerful jaws. Will only let out a small squeak before the blood from his ripped jugular splashed into Bruno's face. Bruno pulled away and pinned his ears back. The coppery taste excited him again and he commenced tearing at the throat. After ripping that to ribbons, he started mauling his victim's soft belly, his claws tearing through the stomach wall, his teeth yanking out vital organs. Bruno finally ceased his attack, panting. He sure did make a mess. He buried his snout in Will's torn-open body cavity and rubbed his nose in the sweet nectar, lapping up blood and gnawing at some now unidentifiable organ. His muzzle soaked with blood, Bruno lifted his head to the air and let out a low, bellowing howl. *** "Gengar, you know what to do," Karen called. The ghost Pokemon morphed into the shadows cast by the full moon. Houndoom searched frantically for her opponent. She was just about to use Faint Attack to search Gengar out when a deep canine's cry was heard. Houndoom and Gengar stopped what they were doing. The ghost disappeared into her trainer's shadow as Houndoom bristled the smooth fur on her back, snarling. A large dark quadroped shape came galloping across the land, fading and appearing again under the moon's shadows. "Mightyena?" Karen questioned. The creature reached Karen and stopped just a few inches from her. It then stood up on its hind legs, towering over the Dark trainer. As Houndoom backed away, Karen gasped. "Bruno?" Despite his Mightyena characteristics, Karen could recognize Bruno's spikey hair and large, muscular frame. She should know, she sees it every night, even if it was only for an hour. Karen smiled as she scratched behind Bruno's floppy ears. He closed his wolfen eyes and purred. Neither of them noticed Will's mask flutter from Bruno's snout to the ground. "It's too sad Bruno." The Mightyena had a look of confusion on his face. "You caught it. Lance was right. That dog was infected." Bruno appeared upset and he started to back away from Karen, who now had a look of seriousness on her face. "Now you are sick. And I can't help you. So now, it is either you or me." Bruno turned to run and felt his legs remain still in the ground. The Gengar rose up and was surrounded by the rest of Karen's Pokemon. "Vileplume, Sweet Scent now." Karen bent down on her knees and Bruno could barely see her beautiful face. "It'll all be over before you know it..." *** Bruno woke up with a startle. Sunlight was streaming in. He jumped out of bed and frantically began to feel his back. It felt smooth even over his bulge of muscles. Ecstatic, he ran to the bathroom to examine his face. He saw no more facial hair than usual. "I'm...it was a dream." "Of course it was. Didn't you remember how sick you were?" Bruno took Karen's hands in his and brought them close to his well-toned stomach. He pulled her closer and began to kiss her lightly on the cheek. "Now I do." Bruno fibbed under his breath. "I love you so much Hoots. You took great care of me and now I feel so much better." Karen giggled. "I'm glad to hear that. Is there anything special that you want to eat?" "How about some meat?"