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Sinnoh Bound
by Sailor Chronos

It's all about the challenges
It's a brand new game and a brand new world
New rivals as you fight for survival
Nothing can stop you, Diamond and Pearl
It's all about the battle
You gotta play smart, you gotta move faster
Behind every win there's a chance to begin again
You've gotta take it all if you wanna be a master!
It's time for adventure, Diamond and Pearl
We can change the world!

Chapter One: A New Dream

The somewhat off-key strains of the "Happy Birthday to You" song emanated from the main room of a house in Twilight Village, a small community in the foothills north of Pewter City. The residents were celebrating a momentous occasion, the eleventh birthday of Jackson Drake, a young man with a dream.

There was a time when the people feared what they believed to be monsters beyond the well-kept village limits. No longer; three years earlier a 12-year-old girl left in order to prove that the "monsters" weren't as they seemed. She returned a year later with a team of powerful creatures at her side, and supervised the building of a Pokémon Battle Gym to attract new life to the isolated area.

Jack, as he was called, blew out the candles on his cake with some trepidation. He was surrounded by family and friends, including Christy Sable and Craig Flint, the tag-team Gym Leaders. But the one person that he most wanted to be here wasn't. His older sister had left just after the Year's End festival and gone to the Houenn Region with a friend of hers, in order to capture some new types of Pokémon for the Gym. It was now late April and the last time the family had heard from her was a fortnight ago: she had called from Mossdeep City.

"I wish Heather was here," he murmured sadly.

There was a knock at the front door.

His mother rose and went to answer it. Five seconds later there was a holler of "I'm home!" in a familiar voice.

Jack leaped up, almost overturning his chair. "I don't believe it!" he cried, brushing a lock of black hair out of his eyes as he did when he was excited or nervous.

Standing in the doorway was his sister Heather, hardly looking at all like the lanky girl that he had seen out the door four months ago. He remembered that she was now fifteen; she had grown at least another inch taller and filled out more in certain places as girls did, her rich brown hair was longer and tied into a ponytail, and she sported a cap with the markings of the Houenn Pokémon League. "Hi, Jack!"

He bolted across the room and hugged her, his eagerness causing her to stagger a bit. Her green jacket smelled like salt water and dust. "I didn't know you were coming home! Weren't you going to compete in the Houenn League?"

"I was," Heather replied, "but given the situation I just had to come home, especially to see the look on your face when I gave you your birthday present!" She grinned, looking quite pleased.

"Pikapika!" admonished a high-pitched voice from behind her.

"Right," she added hastily as a Pikachu hopped up and settled on her shoulders. "Actually it's from all of us: me, my mentor Professor Linden, and my Pokémon team."

Jack was delighted to see his sister's Pikachu. "Hey, Loki!" he exclaimed and held out his arms. Loki leaped over to him and nuzzled him for a moment. "May I see your new team?" he asked his sister excitedly as Loki returned to the floor.

"Manners, young man," their mother said, but not severely. "She only just got here, and I'm sure she needs to eat."

"Thank you, Mom." Heather sighed with relief. "I started out from Pewter City early this morning and I'm starving." She shucked off her jacket, hung it up in a closet, and prepared to sit at the table amid a cacophony of greetings and questions from everyone assembled. "I left the rest of my Pokémon over at the Gym because I thought there would be a crowd here, and there wouldn't be enough space to have them all in the house."

No sooner had she said this, most of Jack's friends, Craig included, excused themselves and stampeded toward the door. "Go on!" she encouraged them. "Let us have a few minutes of family time!" Soon only their parents and Christy remained, and Heather retrieved a cylindrical-shaped object from behind a chair where she had hidden it after she had arrived. It was covered with a blanket.

"What's that?" Jack asked, peering at it with curiosity when she moved the birthday cake to one side and placed the object on the table in front of him. He looked at Christy who shrugged her shoulders, but the expression on her face made him think that she was hiding something. "Have you seen something like this before, C?"

The blonde-haired young woman smirked. "I'm saying nothing!"

"Then stop the suspense, sis!" he said impatiently, and then his mouth dropped open in awe as a soft pulsating glow suddenly began to emanate from under the covering.

Heather's eyes widened. "Perfect timing," she said softly. "This, little brother, is your present. It's a very personal moment, which is why I told everyone else to vamoose. Please meet your first Pokémon-to-be!" She reached under the blanket and twisted something, and there was a click. Grasping the blanket and the top of the object with both hands, she whisked them away.

The glow grew brighter and captivated everyone's attention: its source was an orange mottled egg the size of a shot-put that rested on a hollowed-out base. "This... this isn't..." Jack stammered. "This can't be a Pokémon egg? I mean, you told me about them, but..."

"Nobody really knows how Pokémon breed," Heather explained. "If a male and female Pokémon like each other and spend a fair amount of time together, an egg might be produced after a while." She smiled wryly. "Loki took a liking to one of the Pokémon that I caught in Houenn, and this is the result."

Their mother shook her head in wonderment. "What a marvellous gift! You be sure to take care of it, Jack," she instructed seriously.

"Wow, thank you sis!" he whispered in awe. "It's amazing!"

Before he could think of what to say next, the egg flared brightly and began to crack! In a moment the glow faded, and amidst the broken pieces of creamy shell that fell onto the table, stood a small orange bird with an oversized head and claws. "Torchic!" it piped.

Jack was struck silent. A few moments earlier he had made a wish on his birthday candles. Now his sister was home, the family was together, and he had witnessed the hatching of his own Pokémon! This was the best birthday ever!

He spent the remainder of the day getting to know his Torchic, which he named Kojin, while Heather went to show off her new bird Pokémon to the others.

The next day after school he came upon Heather talking to Christy and Craig in front of the Gym. "-so are you sure you can handle this? You've done an excellent job while I was away in Houenn. All the Pokémon are healthy and happy, and you've kept up with the routine maintenance and clerical work. Oh, hi, Jack!" she added when she noticed him. "Are you challenging the Gym Leaders?" She grinned.

He laughed. "Heck, no! I've trained a lot with them, but they can battle circles around me! What were you talking about just now?"

Craig waggled a finger at him. "That's for us to know and you to find out," he said jokingly.

"It's a mystery," Christy said in low, melodic tones.

Heather pointed, indicating that the other two should get back to the Gym, then steered Jack toward their house by the shoulders. "Come with me, bro." As they walked, she explained. "I have been talking to Mom and Papa, as well as a few other people. Next week is the beginning of May, which is also the start of the standard Pokémon training circuit. How would you like to go on the road?"

Jack stopped in his tracks. "You mean... a real Pokémon journey? With you?" He shook his head, hardly daring to believe what he just heard. "I've been dreaming about that ever since you left! Every time you wrote letters and told us about the adventures you had and the Pokémon you saw... of course I'd love to go!" Then he hesitated. "What about school? About Mom and Papa?"

"Ha, you're not getting out of school that easily," she joked with a grin, and Jack stuck his tongue out at her. "I thought about that. We can bring a palm computer and connect to an educational server at any Pokémon Center, so you'll keep up on your lessons. Then before the Winter Festival we'll come home so you can take the exam." Her expression sobered somewhat. "Mom is happy that you'll be learning more about the world. Papa is... Papa." Both of them knew that their father had never approved of Heather's chosen path, but he tolerated the situation out of love for his family. "I've sworn to keep you out of trouble."

Doubly shocked, Jack planted himself in front of his sister and grabbed her arm. "You mean it? We're actually going?" He felt like he could jump out of his skin with excitement!

Heather laughed. "Cross my heart! We leave a week from tomorrow. The only question now is: where?"

"Um..." He tried to remember his geography. "We're in Kanto; that's the League you went to first. Johto is to the west, past Mount Silver. That's where Mouse is from, right?"

"Yes. She told me to say hello, by the way. After she competes in the Houenn League Tournament, she wants to continue her journey in Sinnoh. That's an island region to the northeast."

"Then let's go to Sinnoh," he decided. At his sister's surprised expression, he continued, "It would be great if the three of us could travel together. You've already competed in Kanto and you've been to Houenn, and somehow I don't think that Mouse would want to go back to Johto right now, even with us."

"No, you're right," Heather agreed. "But you'll be seeing some of Kanto anyway, because it will take at least two weeks to get from here to Vermillion City on foot with overnight stops. There we can get on a ferry to Sinnoh."

He whooped and danced around for a minute, subsiding when his sister elbowed him and told him playfully to grow up.