Boom! The crowd began to cheer. Before the smoke of the starter pistol had cleared, the two pokemon had already hit the pool. It was over in just under 20 seconds, prompting further cheering from the edge of the pool. Laura and Mike were cheering because Laura's eevee had just won its last race of the season. Jake was cheering because it was over. Luke took a nervous step back from the pool as the eevee hopped out near Laura's feet and shook all the water from its fur.

"Coward," Jake teased. Laura picked up on this and smacked Jake lightly on the nose and with a quick snap of her fingers, a shimmering barrier of light popped into existence in front of Luke. He heaved a sigh of relief.

It wasn't long before the camera crew from the local newspaper came and took several pictures of Laura with her eevee. It wouldn't be the first time a morph was featured in the paper that week, but Luke and Mike were unsettled by it. This was due, in large part, to the fact that they both knew that Laura was in fact, not a morph. She appeared to be, however. She was average height for a young woman, appeared to be about 20 or perhaps 21. She wore her hair long, and it was a very light blonde, appearing almost white in many photographs. The most eye-catching feature about the young girl was the long, slender white tail with a twin set of dark blue blades on its tip. Laura, however, only appeared to be a lugia morph. In reality, she was actually a lugia, masquerading as a morph among humans. This was a very aggressively guarded secret.

Luke, the other inhuman member of the small group, was a true morph. While he appeared completely human from the waist up, he was a four-legged flareon from the waist down giving him the appearance of a fiery red centaur. Granted, his feral half was significantly larger than any flareon ever seen before. He had adapted to his condition quite well, aside from a constant paranoia around water. He had learned the hard way that this did in fact sting his skin unless the water was very, very hot. (A fact that tended to cause a great deal of drama surrounding appropriate use of the shower.)

Tauric morphs were rare, and in fact, despite being one himself, he'd only met one other. His friends assured him that this would change once more morphs were willing to venture outside. Luke hoped this was true. He himself had only first begun to attend public events three weeks prior to the swim meet, after spending almost two months locked inside his house or wandering around his back yard.

"Are you sure that was a good idea? Letting yourself be photographed?" Mike asked once the small group was safe in the relative privacy of his pickup truck. Luke was forced to ride in the back for very obvious reasons, but was part of the conversation via the truck's back window.

"You worry too much dude," Jake said.

"It would be stranger if I won and refused to be photographed," Laura commented. "Besides, Luke's in the background; he draws a lot more attention than I do."

"Yeah," Luke said with a nervous chuckle. "I think the last thing people expected to see at the swim meet was a flareon taur."

"Speaking of taurs," Jake said. "Asked that umbreontauress out yet?"

Luke blushed.

"Don't be rude," Laura said, smacking him lightly on the head again.

"Ow! Hey! Control your pokemon Mike," Jake said, promptly getting smacked again.

Laura, of course, was a free pokemon, but Jake had developed an annoying yet endearing tendency to refer to her as Mike's pokemon since she'd met him first, when she'd protected him during the same event that had cost Luke his humanity.

Luke had learned of Laura's true identity when Mike had to explain why it was that he was the only person at the Karana City tournament grounds that wasn't sporting fur and fangs now. Jake, well, despite his general laziness, he was quite clever. He'd put two and two together after a mere three weeks. Mostly, anyhow, he theorized that Laura was either a pokemon or some sort of fugitive. He had come to these conclusions based on the incredibly weak story Mike had offered up to explain his continued humanity, and the groups complete unwillingness to go anywhere that would require the four of them to present identification.

This revelation had caused the very undesired effect (for Jake anyway) of keeping the four of them cooped up at Luke's house for an entire week while they rethought Mike's story. During that time the lack of entertainment had driven Jake to creating a false identity for Laura. The story was that she was a distant relative of Mike and had come to visit from another country when the Karana City event occurred. It had not been hard to find a country that was unwilling to accept her back based on her new status as a morph. With the appropriate forged paperwork in hand, and some lugia-inspired confidence, Laura had been declared a resident of Ihnto. Mike had drug his feet from the very start, but Laura was enamored with the idea and fortunately it had gone off without a hitch.

"You should really think about becoming a trainer Luke," Mike said, eager to change the subject.

"Why?" Luke asked.

"I think you've got a knack for it," Mike said.

"He's right you know," Laura chimed in. "You did a lot for Mike's pokemon at the Sabrok Tournament. They'd improved a lot since Karana."

"I dunno…"

"It'll be good for you, you need to get out of the house more," Jake said.

"What are you talking about? I get out all the time!" Luke said defensively.

"Not what I mean," Jake said. "You need to move on. Right now everything you do is like… a coping mechanism. Which is good don't get me wrong. But you need to move on with your life and get past this. Start setting some long term goals."

"That's very good advice Jacob," Laura said.

"Geh, don't you start with that formal stuff with me," he said. "People use nicknames for a reason."

Luke rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine, a trainer's as good a job as any," he said. "I've certainly got the look for it anyway. I read online that a lot of teams are starting to recruit morphs just for the image."

"What image is that exactly?" Mike asked.

"I have no idea," Luke said, chuckling.

"It's settled then, tomorrow we'll go buy you a starter," Jake said.

"Actually I can handle that," Laura said, smirking. "Any preferences?"