Professor, I Shrunk the Kids!



*** 1 ***


"Later, Mom!" Hilda shouted as she laced up her boots and leapt off the front porch of her house. "Thanks for breakfast!"

The tranquil nights underneath the stars and the occasional hotel stay could never compare to the comfort of Hilda's own home in the rural seaside town of Nuvema. She always enjoyed returning to visit friends and family, and the food back at home was always guaranteed to be top-notch.

Her mother stood in the doorway to see her off. "Anytime, dear! Take care! Try to stay out of trouble."

Despite earning the title of Pokémon League Champion and solidifying her status as one of the top Trainers in the region, Hilda's mother nevertheless always expressed concern for her safety.

"Always do!" Hilda called over her shoulder as she sped off.

Hilda ran through the streets of the rustic town, periodically returning friendly shouts from passers-by as she made her way toward the edge of town. Today was a new day filled with possibility, adventure, and, with any luck, new Pokémon to capture and index. The sun had just started to emerge from beyond the eastern treeline as it cast orange and gold rays onto the undersides of the clouds, lighting them up like billowing flames against the pale blue sky, and the quaint town had begun to stir as people went about their morning routines. Energetic children were on their way to school, grizzled dock workers and fishermen were headed to the wharf, and store owners were stocking their storefronts as they prepared for business.

Hilda slowed to a walk as she made her way toward the outskirts of town, drinking in the scenery as she passed through quiet fields dotted by trees, hay bales, and farmhouses. In the distance atop a large hill, she spied a high-tech building fitted with solar panels, wind turbines, radio communication towers, and satellites. Adjacent to the building were a greenhouse and a large pasture where various Pokémon resided. This was her destination: Professor Juniper's lab. It had been some time since she last had Professor Juniper review her Pokédex, and she was sure that the Professor would be thrilled by all of the new additions and research data.

A cool and refreshing breeze rushed forth from behind the automatic door as Hilda stepped inside the building. The sunlit atrium was mostly empty save for one or two aides briskly passing between different wings of the building and a man sitting behind a circular counter in the center of the room whom Hilda did not recognize.

"Hello there," the man said, greeting Hilda with a smile.

Hilda tensed up slightly as she approached the handsome man. "H-hi. How are you?"

"Fine, thank you. You're Hilda, right? I've heard quite a bit about your accomplishments. League Champion, huh? Good stuff, good stuff."

"Huh? Oh, y-yeah, that's me!" Hilda's face flushed, and she began blinking nervously.

"Nice. Professor Juniper's always singing praises about you. It's pretty cool to finally see you in the flesh."

"Yeah, I guess it is pretty cool." Hilda laughed loudly and awkwardly as she shifted her eyes about the room, futilely attempting to mask her infatuation and act calm.

A painful moment of silence passed.

"So... can I help you?" the receptionist finally asked, breaking the silence.

"Oh, yeah! I'm, uh, I'm here to see the Professor."

The receptionist chuckled knowingly. "Sure thing. I'll send someone out to escort you into the lab. Just have a seat and they'll be right out."

"Yeah, sure thing... thanks."

Hilda flashed a goofy smile before taking a seat near one of the large windows. She flipped open her Pokédex and began browsing through some of the more interesting National Pokédex entries, though this was mostly cover to steal a few furtive glances at the receptionist. Her nose was buried in her Pokédex when a familiar voice echoed throughout the lobby.

"Hi, Hilda!"

Hilda looked up from her Pokédex to see her friend Bianca standing before her. "Oh, hey Bee! How's it going?"

"Busy as always," Bianca sighed, her hands firmly planted in her white lab coat's pockets. "But there's always something to do here, so it's never boring! Still, I kinda miss going on adventures with you and stuff. Sometimes I wish I was back out there, going to new places and meeting new people and Pokémon, but I like it here, so it"

"Yeah, speaking of new Pokémon," Hilda interrupted before Bianca had a chance to continue, "that's why I'm here to see the Professor. I wanna show her my Pokédex, and I also figured I'd drop in while I was in town and say hey."

"Oh, cool! Have you finished the National Pokédex already?"

"Not yet, but I'm gettin' there."

Bianca began bouncing energetically. "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go! I wanna see what totally awesome new Pokémon you caught!"

Bianca dashed down the hallway leading to the main lab with Hilda in tow. As they approached the lab, Professor Juniper was already waiting for them at the door.

"Well, hello there, Hilda," Juniper said cheerfully, "Always a pleasure to see you in person."

"Hiya, Professor," Hilda said. "I was in town and wanted to show you my Pokédex progress so far. I'm really far along!"

"Hey, Professor," Bianca giggled, "I guess you didn't have to call her after all!"

Juniper smiled. "Yes, this is a rather pleasant coincidence, isn't it?"

Hilda was confused. "Huh? Call me? Something up, Professor?"

"As a matter of fact, something is up," Juniper teased. "I was going to call you and speak with you about it via phone, but now that you're here, I'll just brief you while we get your Pokédex scanned."

The beeping and humming of high-tech electronics filled the air as they entered the main lab. Aides were tending to various computers and devices as they performed precarious experiments and analyzed complicated sets of data. Hilda was always awed by the sheer amount of specialized machinery in the lab, each serving some important role in the Professor's research.

"Shall we begin?" Juniper motioned toward a slot on the side of a large machine that looked like a solid wall of lights and keys.

Hilda stepped toward the machine and inserted her Pokédex into the slot. She felt something lock in place within the electronic monolith, and the Pokédex was gently pulled into the machine's bowels. On a nearby monitor, a progress bar appeared, indicating the time remaining on the analysis.

"Splendid," Professor Juniper said. "Now, while that processes, I have a favor I'd like to ask of you, Hilda."

"Sure thing, Professor. Shoot."

"Last night, Fennel contacted me and was in a frenzy." Juniper paused and let out a short chuckle. "Well, I suppose that's par for the course for her, but she seemed even more excited than usual. Evidently, she has it on good faith that a very rare Pokémon has recently appeared in the Dreamyard, near the ruins of the old Pokémon Energy Laboratory."

Hilda was interested. "That so? How did she find out about this rare Pokémon? And what is it?"

"As I recall it, she overheard a few Trainers in a local café talking about how they saw it while training near the old facility, then she interviewed them and managed to get them to dream about it. She said she was able to save the dream so that she could play it back and try to figure out where the Pokémon was."

"And lemme guess, you want me to go catch it?"

Juniper laughed. "Ah, I'm sure you saw that coming a mile away, Hilda. I'll have you know that she specifically asked for you. I'm sure that you, the Champion who tamed a legendary Dragon, should have no problem with this challenge."

Hilda's eyes narrowed. "A challenge, you say?"

"But Professor," Bianca chimed in, "what kind of Pokémon is it? Maybe Hilda's already captured one!"

Juniper smiled in a way suggesting that she was hiding something. "I highly doubt that she's seen anything like this Pokémon. If what Fennel says is true, it's quite a rare find, indeed."

The machine beeped satisfactorily, indicating that the Pokédex analysis was complete, and Hilda's Pokédex emerged from the slot.

"Well, how about we put that to the test?" Hilda said as she reclaimed the device, issuing a challenge of her own.

"Oh, I will certainly review your Pokédex." Juniper chortled as a smirk slid across her face. "But... I can assure you that you have not encountered a Pokémon such as this one."

Bianca was shaking. "Ohh, Professor! I can't take the suspense! What is it?!"

"Yeah, Professor," Hilda said, "I can't exactly catch it if I don't know what I'm looking for."

Juniper chuckled at their eagerness. "It's...." She stepped away from the two girls and paused for a moment, then turned around and grinned. "...a surprise!"

"Aw, come on!" Hilda shouted. "You can't just leave me in the dark like that!"

"Y-yeah, Professor," Bianca said, "that's so not fair! Now I really wanna know, too!"

Juniper began laughing somewhat sadistically, clearly enjoying the girls' discomfort. "I will say this much: it is a Pokémon both new and familiar. Anyway, the two of you will find out soon enough. Fennel will tell you all about it when you reach Striaton City."

Bianca tilted her head to one side. "W-what do you mean, 'two of us'?"

Juniper sat at a holographic terminal and began reviewing the data from the Pokédex analysis. "I would like you to accompany Hilda. It would be a wonderful opportunity for you to do some field research."

Bianca's eyes widened. "R-really?! You mean it, Professor?!"

"I mean it."

Bianca drew in a huge breath before shouting loudly and leaping into the air. "Oh thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm so happy! I've been cooped up in this lab forever and I've been waiting for a field expedition for sooo long, and I get to travel with Hilda!" She emitted an incredibly high-pitched squeal, and Hilda thought that Bianca was about to burst like a balloon under the intense pressure of her own excitement.

"My, my," Juniper pouted, "I didn't realize that my research was boring you this much, Bianca."

Flustered by the Professor's response, Bianca immediately began backpedaling. "N-no, Professor, it's not that! I love it here, I promise! It's just, like, I really love being in the field and I haven't for a long time now and"

Juniper began laughing. "Relax, Bianca, it was just a joke."

"Oh, y-yeah, I knew that...." Bianca hunched over and cast her eyes toward the floor, attempting to conceal her embarrassment.

"Well, Hilda," Juniper said, changing the subject, "your Pokédex looks absolutely fabulous! This is great data. It'll certainly be a boon to our research."

"Thanks, Professor," Hilda responded. She turned to Bianca. "So I guess we'd best be going now, eh?"

"You bet!" Bianca gleefully shouted.

As the two girls headed for the exit, Juniper called out after them. "Best of luck, you two! See you soon!"

Hilda and Bianca made their way toward the building's exit. As they passed through the lobby, the receptionist called out to them.

"Leaving early today, Bianca?"

"Kinda. The Professor sent us out on a special mission!"

"Oh, is that so? Sounds exciting. Well, you two take care, then!"

The girls stepped outside, and Bianca turned to Hilda. "Hey, I gotta head back home and change out of my work clothes, then I'll meet you back at your place, 'kay?"

"Sounds good. I can fly us there." Hilda reached for a Poké Ball at her waist. "Come on out, Storm!"

A flash of light erupted from the Ball, and a Braviary materialized in front of them. He let out a shrill screech and spread his wings as though he were stretching in an effort to relieve himself of cramps.

Hilda jumped onto the Pokémon's back. "Hop on, Bee. He'll get us there in no time."

Bianca clambered onto the majestic Pokémon and wrapped her arms around Hilda's waist.

"Good?" asked Hilda.

"I-I think so, yeah."

"Good. Okay, Storm, let's ride!"

Storm shrieked as he flapped his wings and lifted off the ground, carrying the two Trainers into the sky. Soon, they found themselves soaring briskly over hills, trees, and rivers. In the distance, the vast blue expanse of the sea appeared to stretch out as far as they could see, and the choppy waters shimmered as they tossed the rising sun's rays about carelessly. Before long, they were flying over the roads of the town, and residents periodically stopped to watch the impressive-looking bird as he soared overhead, as Braviaries were a fairly unusual sight in Nuvema Town. Bianca would have liked to enjoy the view, but she was far more concerned with burying her head into Hilda's back and praying for the ride to end.

"Alright, Storm, that's our destination," Hilda declared as she pointed out Bianca's house. "Take 'er down!"

Storm squawked in affirmation as he quickly descended upon the building, landing squarely in the center of the walkway leading up to its entrance. Hilda jumped off gracefully while Bianca clumsily disembarked the Pokémon.

"Thanks, Storm. Come on back!" Hilda recalled him into the Poké Ball. "Alrighty, I'll wait here for you," she said to Bianca.

"Y-yeah... sure...." Bianca was winded, and she laboriously forced each word out. "Just, like... give me a second to... catch my breath...."

Hilda laughed. "Don't do a lot of flying, huh?"

"No... not so much.... I prefer to walk."

"Well, you'll be flying like a champ by the time I'm through with ya!" Hilda gave a cheesy thumbs-up.

Bianca slumped forward and sighed upon hearing Hilda's statement. "Okay, well, I'll be out in a few minutes. You can come in if you want."

"Nah, it's cool, I'll stick around out here. It's way too nice outside."

"Well, if you say so. Back in a few!" Bianca disappeared into the house.

Hilda casually strolled away from the house and lazily stared off at the sea, her eyes following a skiff with a Swanna-inspired sail leaving the shore. In the distance, she could see moored ships in the wharf being loaded and unloaded by dock workers as they moved goods between the ships' decks and the warehouses. Farther out, fishing vessels were sailing into the sea, each of their crews hoping for a big haul. She adjusted her hat in order to shield her eyes from the sun, which now burned hotly in the sky.

"A super-rare Pokémon... huh. Wonder what it could be."

Hilda flopped down on the grass, lying on her back as she gazed into the bright blue sky. Tiny wisps and puffs of cloud were scattered about the sky, evoking images of Cottonees being carried aloft by warm sea breezes, and the faint sound of surf crashing against rocky shores in the distance created a pleasant and soothing white noise. As Hilda's mind filled with daydreams of new adventures, she closed her eyes and dozed off to the lullaby of the sea.



*** 2 ***


"Hey... Hilda... wake up...."

The faint voice gathered strength as Hilda began to wake up.

"Yoo-hoo! Heyyy, wakey wakey!"

Bianca's words roused Hilda from her nap. As Hilda's vision adjusted to the light, Bianca's shape became clear. She had since changed out of her work uniform and into her familiar green beret, white dress and orange vest.

"Hey, sleepy head," Bianca chirped.

"Ugh, jeez," Hilda mumbled groggily, "sorry 'bout that. How long was I out?"

"Probably not too long."

"Oh, good." Hilda yawned as she rose to her feet, feeling re-energized after her short nap. "I probably would've slept the whole day away if you hadn't woke me up."

"Whaaat?! And miss out on this absolutely gorgeous day? La-zyyy!" Bianca sang the last word in a childishly mocking tone.

Hilda grimaced at Bianca. "C'mon, can you blame me? It's so warm and comfy out here! Perfect nappin' weather!"

"Well, anyway," Bianca said, "I don't know about you, but I'm ready to go see Fennel and see what this super-rare Pokémon is!"

"I hear that! Let's get goin', then. Storm, come on out, buddy!"

A flash of light poured from a Ball on Hilda's belt, and Storm was once again standing before them.

"We're headed for Striaton City," Hilda said as she hopped onto the Pokémon. "Give us a lift to the Pokémon Center there and we'll take care of the rest. Oh, and try to make it a smooth ride, could ya? Bianca here's not exactly a fan of flying."

Storm lowered his body in order to give Bianca an easier time up. Bianca removed her beret and stuffed it into her vest before cautiously boarding the Pokémon. Once the two girls were situated, he gently lifted off the ground and took to the sky.

"W-whoa!" Bianca shouted as she tightly gripped Hilda's waist.

"Don't worry," Hilda reassured her, "it'll be better once he gets outta town."

Storm reached peak height shortly after exiting the Nuvema city limit and sustained a comfortable glide, flapping occasionally in order to maintain altitude. Below them, the gentle meadows and quiet streams of Route 1 drifted by, and clusters of flowers dotted the landscape like splashes of color on a green canvas.

"See?" Hilda shouted back to Bianca over the howling wind. "Not so bad now, huh?"

But Bianca did not respond, as she had her head buried in the back of Hilda's black vest.

"Hey, c'mon! You're missin' out on the view! Check it, we're coming up on Accumula Town!"

Bianca paused for a moment before apprehensively pulling her head away from Hilda. As she peered over and saw Accumula Town passing underneath them, her fear was immediately replaced with a childlike giddiness.

"Wooow," she gasped as she watched the buildings and streets pass by. "This is totally amazing! We're sooo high up! Look at how small everything looks! I can barely see the people down there!" She peered carefully over the bird's side. "Oh my gosh, look at how tiny they all are!" She began giggling gleefully.

"Hah! Told ya I'd get you to like flying!"

"Whoa, whoa, don't get carried away, Hilda! I-I only said I liked the view!"

"Uh-huh," Hilda said dismissively.

After flying over the rolling hills of Route 2 for some time, the skyline of Striaton City finally emerged over the horizon. From a bird's-eye view, the unique architecture of Striaton appeared more impressive than that of the smaller Accumula Town. Though not as large as the major metropolitan cities of Castelia or Nimbasa, Striaton was nevertheless a formidable city, due in no small part to its status as the culinary center of the Unova region. Prominent landmarks such as Striaton Restaurant and Gym, the Pokémon academy, and the park served to create an interesting vista, and the bustle of city life compared to smaller towns made it feel more alive.

"That's the Pokémon Center," Bianca said as her eyes fell upon the familiar red-roofed building.

"So it is," Hilda mused. "Okay, Storm, let's try a gentle landing this time. Hang on, Bee!"

Storm glided in circles over the city as he carefully dropped altitude. Once close enough to the ground, he hovered over the Pokémon Center and slowly descended. The roar of city life entered earshot as they drew closer to the ground.

"There, not so bad, huh?" Hilda asked as they landed.

"No... no it wasn't," Bianca declared triumphantly. "I still wouldn't do it on my own yet, but I would definitely fly with you again!"

"That's the spirit! Yeah, I'll definitely take you flying again real soon."

"Like today?"

Hilda thought about it for a moment. "Yeah, sure, later today."

The girls hopped off Storm's back, and Bianca began petting him. "Thanks, Storm! That was lots of fun."

The Pokémon began to nuzzle Bianca with his beak.

"Aww, look, Hilda! I think he's telling me, 'You're welcome'."

"Alright, you lovebirds," Hilda said with a half-mocking and half-disgusted tone. "Get a room!"

She recalled Storm back into his Ball and began to scan the surrounding streets. People walked up and down the sidewalk, lost in their own private worlds as they passed by unflinchingly, and Hilda could catch brief snippets of conversations: people discussing which of many restaurants to eat lunch at, enthusiastic debates between friends about which shop they should go to next, eager young Trainers exchanging battling strategies for taking on the Gym, and the odd business person holding an important phone call with some high-powered executive located entire cities away.

"Now let's see, if I remember correctly, Fennel's place is...." Hilda confidently pointed down a street. "That-a-way!"

Bianca pulled her beret snugly over her head. "Lead the way!"

The girls started down the street toward their destination. Navigating the building-lined streets, they took in the sights and sounds of the city. Each city in Unova had a distinct flavor and personality, and Striaton was no exception. Trees were planted at regular intervals along the sidewalk, and there was never a lack of greenery anywhere they went. The two passed several interesting shops, posh cafés, and upscale restaurants for which the city was known for. Cars whizzed back and forth on the street, occasionally blaring their horns at each other as they hastily passed by. As the two Trainers neared the residential district, they spied a flock of Pidoves perched among the scaffolding on the underside of an overpass, cooing and curiously watching them from the shade. Before long, they found themselves standing in front of an apartment building with a large satellite dish mounted on its roof.

"Welp, this is the place," Hilda said, noting that it was the only building crowned with such specialized equipment.

Like most buildings in Striaton, the apartment was multiple floors high and crammed in between other buildings. A few feral Purrloins were rifling through the trash in the alleyway, only to be scared off by a grumpy Trubbish. Ivy was draped over the roof and hanging off the front of the building; whether this was due to neglect or decoration, the girls were not sure.

Bianca ran up the stoop and opened the door. "Come on, we'd better not keep Fennel waiting! I'm dying to know what this Pokémon is!"

Hilda followed Bianca inside and up the stairs toward Fennel's apartment, which resided on the top floor. By the time Hilda caught up with Bianca, she had already knocked on the door.

"Yoo-hoo, hey, Fennel! It's Bianca and Hilda! We're here to talk about the rare Pokémon!"

From within the apartment, they could hear the heavy footsteps of someone running toward the door, the floorboards creaking and vibrating with each step. The door swung open and Fennel greeted the girls with her signature hyper-enthusiasm.

"Hiii!" Fennel sang with an excessively wide smile. "The Professor told me you two were on your way, but I didn't expect you to get here so quickly. I'm so psyched! Come in, come in! Stay a while!"

She dashed back into the apartment, and the two girls followed her in, tossing their bags near the front door as they entered. The apartment was a modest onenot too cheap, but not too luxurious, either. The living room looked like an entire laboratory had been squashed down and stuffed inside. The room was packed with bizarre electronics and strange inventions. Colorful wires, cables, and flashing lights painted the technicolor lab, and an electric symphony of various machine parts and computer systems whirring, humming, and beeping filled the air. Small boxes were strewn across the wooden floor, containing various tools as well as system components such as circuit boards, chips, capacitors, resistors, transistors, LEDs, wires, and countless other things. The walls were lined with wipeboards, network equipment, and schematics nestled in between shelves that overflowed with scholarly books, journals, and papers.

"Well, then," Fennel began, "let's not waste any time! So, as you know, I'm researching Trainers, dreams, and dream energy using Munna's Dream Mist. Thank you guys sooo much for your help with that, by the way! It was just the thing I needed to jump-start my research after the incident at the old lab. Things have been going super swell since then...."

She paused for a second. "Oh gosh, I'm rambling again! Sorry!"

Fennel moved toward a bed surrounded by electrodes and complicated machinery. "Anyhoo, check this out! So yesterday, I'm at my favorite café and I overhear some Trainer say that he saw a super rare Pokémon while he was training in the Dreamyard. So I have him come over to the lab to see if we can't get him to dream about it. He managed to dream about it, but only for a few quick seconds. Fortunately, I was able to capture his dream using my Dream Catcher module, so I can play back the contents of his dream at will. So guess what we saw in the dream! Go on, guess!"

"Uhh, a rare Pokémon?" Hilda asked, already feeling exhausted by Fennel's overwhelming energy.

On a workbench lay a device shaped like a ring with an intricate web of wiring on the inside. Fennel reached for it and pressed a button on its side. A puff of pink mist filled the center of the ring, and the wires appeared to trap the mist in place. Like magic, images began to form in the mist, and a scene featuring a glittering green Munna lazily floating about played like a movie.

"Whoa, no way!" Bianca shouted.

"That's amazing," Hilda remarked. "I definitely wasn't expecting that. So you're sure it's real, then?"

Fennel flicked her eyes away from the girls. "Well... no. But this evidence is pretty strong. I'm positive that it's out there!" Her eyes lit up, and a euphoric smile graced her face as she flopped down face-up on the bed. "Imagine, if a regular Munna's Dream Mist is this potent, what properties could this rare green Munna's mist hold? Ohh, how exciting!"

"Whoa, hold the phone, here," Hilda said, interrupting Fennel's fantasizing. "So you mean to tell me... you want me to look for a Pokémon... that may not actually exist?"

"Hildaaa," Fennel whined as she jumped off the bed, "I'm, like, 99-point-nine-repeating percent certain that this shiny green Munna is out there!" She grabbed Hilda's shoulders and began begging her with Lillipup eyes. "Won't you please look for it? Pleeease?"

"Well, I suppose I can do that," Hilda acquiesced. "Don't have too much else to do at the momehrk!"

Fennel immediately began hugging Hilda, comically unaware that she was squeezing the life out of the poor Trainer. "Yay! Oh, thank you sooo much, Hilda!"

"No... problem...."

"Hey, Fennel," Bianca said, "what's this totally weird-looking doohickey here?"

She pointed to a large cylindrical contraption of exposed wire and metal. It had a display panel on the side and was mounted on top of a large metallic box. A rainbow of cables connected the machine and the box, and several thick power cords ran from the box into the wall. The machine was aimed toward the center of the room.

Fennel blinked vacantly for a second before releasing Hilda, who dropped to the floor and gasped for air. "Oh, that! That's my most recent project."

A listless voice chimed in from the other end of the room. "You mean 'our' most recent project?" It belonged to Fennel's younger sister Amanita, who was sitting at a desk on the far side of the room, hacking away at a computer terminal.

"Of course! Sorry, Amanita, I totally didn't forget you, promise!" Fennel turned to Bianca and Hilda. "This is a side project that we're working on. I designed the technology, and Amanita helped me write the software for it. I call itdrumroll, pleasethe Matter Reduction Ray!"

Bianca cocked her head. "The wha?"

"The Matter Reduction Ray!" Fennel repeated proudly, placing her hands on her hips and puffing out her chest.

"Okay...." Hilda said, scratching her head. "...but what does it do?"

"Aha! Excellent question, my dear!" Fennel pushed her glasses up. "Inspired by Poké Ball tech, what it does is scan in any object or multiple objects and analyze their molecular profile. Then, the operator sets a desired ratio and activates the ray, which then recombines the target's molecular structure while storing the excess"

"It shrinks things," said Amanita flatly, concisely summarizing Fennel's long-winded explanation in exactly three words.

"Heyyy," Fennel huffed, furrowing her brow, "I was getting to that!" She immediately perked up and continued rhapsodizing about her invention. "Right now, it's more proof-of-concept than anything, but the potential real world applications are nothing short of tantalizing!" She dashed over toward Bianca and Hilda and began eagerly pushing them toward the machine. "Here, I'll show you how it works!"

Fennel ushered the two Trainers over to the panel on the side of the machine and proceeded to demonstrate the machine interface.

"Amanita designed the interface, so it's super-easy to use!"

Fennel tapped on the display to wake it up. The screen lit up and displayed a large "100%" in the center, a bar with a small circle at its top, and a pair of up and down arrows.

"Basically, I just set this value to the desired size percentage I want."

She pressed the down arrow a few times and the number dropped by a small amount with each press.

"I can hold it to go faster...."

She then held the down arrow. The number dropped slowly at first, but gradually began to decrease by greater amounts.

"And I can also use this slider here for large adjustments!"

She demonstrated the scroll bar, placing her finger on the bead and sliding it to the top, then to the bottom.

"There's even an auto function!" Fennel tapped the screen, pointing to a small circle simply labeled "Auto" in the top corner of the screen. "Useful for multiple back-to-back reductions, as it requires a lot more power to recombine multiple objects at once. We still have to optimize power draw for batch operations, but it's a work-in-progress. Either way, I think it's a nice feature to have.... Are you even listening to me?!"

"Totally!" Bianca shouted enthusiastically.

Hilda's attention, however, had long since wandered away. "...huh? O-oh yeah, totally," she said, feigning interest in the exhaustive tutorial for a ridiculous machine that she would never use.

Fennel then pointed out a large red physical button situated next to the touch display. "And this is how you actually fire the thing! It has a small charge time depending on what exactly is being reduced. The ray is currently operational, but it needs additional development and testing. There are a few things I'm still working on that are driving me absolutely cuh-ray-zee!" She began to tug on her extra long hair while gritting her teeth angrily.

"Not that she needs any help with that," Hilda whispered, earning a quiet snicker from Bianca.

Fennel overheard Hilda's quip and became slightly defensive. "Okay, sure, I may have accidentally vaporized one or two things during the initial test runs, but that's okay! The road to success is bound to have a few bumps, and I'm positive I'm about to make a breakthrough!"

Hilda blinked. "'Vaporized'?

"The possible applications are limitless!" Fennel shouted as she pumped her fist in the air, an intense blaze of passion fueling her already exaggerated fervor. "This invention has the potential to be the most important one since the Poké Ball! We're making science fiction into science fact!"

"Wait, what do you mean, 'vapori'"

"Wow, cool!" Bianca squealed, clearly infected by Fennel's pathological jubilance.

"Yeah, about that, Big Sis," Amanita interjected, rising out of her seat and walking over toward the others, "maybe you should take a breather for a while. You've been beating your head over this thing for the past two weeks now. Why don't you, like, go unwind at a café or something? It's not like you can't afford to, you know. The ray's not going anywhere."

"Hang on," Hilda said, "am I the only one that heard her say—"

"Hmm...." Fennel mulled over Amanita's suggestion. "I suppose you have a valid point. I'll take a few minutes to get out and clear my head."

Hilda sighed resignedly as she decided to drop the subject.

Amanita shrugged. "Eh, it's something. Actually, I think I'll take a break, too. I think I'm gonna go to the Dreamyard with Hilda and Bianca to help them look for that green Munna."

Fennel pursed her lips for a few seconds, appearing to debate something within herself. "Okie dokie! Just be careful, okay, Lil' Sis?"

"Yes, Fennel," Amanita said sardonically. "Of course I will."

Fennel turned to Hilda. "Make sure she's okay. Think you can have her back by sundown?"

"Of course!" Hilda affirmed. "She'll be safe with us."

"Great!" Fennel said. "Okay, I'm off. Back in a bit!"

"Well, if you're heading out now, then we'll probably be gone before you get back. So I guess we'll see ya later."

Fennel nodded as she headed for the door. "Yep, see ya! Thanks again sooo much for your help, you two. It really means a lot to me!"

"Sure, no"

Before Hilda could finish her sentence, Fennel had shut the door behind her and was already gone.


"Gosh," Bianca said, "she sure is full of energy."

"Yeah, for better or worse," Amanita said dryly. "Still, all that energy is what drives Big Sis to be the best at what she does."

"Jeez, does she ever slow down?" Hilda added. "How do you even live with someone who's always on like that?"

"It's really not as bad as you think," Amanita said in defense of her older sister.

"I don't know about you," Bianca said meekly, "but when she said she was gonna show us how that matter reducer thing works, for a second I thought she was going to actually use it on us!"

Amanita giggled. "Hey, now! My big sis may act like a mad scientist sometimes, but that doesn't mean she actually is one! Besides, we don't have any plans to use living test subjects."

"Right," Hilda shouted purposefully as she punched her palm. "Enough about that crap, on to business! So where exactly are we supposed to find this Munna, anyway? 'The Dreamyard' isn't exactly the most helpful clue, ya know?"

Amanita walked over to the workbench and activated the Dream Catcher. She played back the images of the dream, skipping ahead to the part containing the green Munna.

"It looks like...." Amanita took a closer look, studying each individual frame in an effort to pinpoint the Pokémon's location. "...the old comms tower. So that's where we'll start our search."

Bianca was growing impatient. "Great, so let's get going, already! I really wanna see this green Munna!"

The girls started to head for the door, but Hilda stopped and eyed the ray gun skeptically.

"So, I gotta ask... why are you guys working on a shrink ray, of all things? Kind of... random, don't ya think? I didn't expect you guys to be working on some cheesy sci-fi movie invention. Doesn't exactly seem like your cup of tea, ya know?"

"Well, it's a long story," Amanita began. "Truthfully, we didn't originally have the intention of building a machine that shrinks things. Rather, we wanted to create a way to fully convert any object into energy and store it, much like a Poké Ball does with Pokémon. We managed to develop some solid formulas and algorithms for such a process, and everything seemed to work in theory. However, once we applied our work to real-world objects, we realized that there were... problems with our approach. In short, we couldn't successfully restore anything into its physical form. We were able to work around this issue by storing only a portion of an object's total energy. Hence, our Matter Storage Ray became a Matter Reduction Ray."

"That's real cool and all, but that still doesn't answer my question."

Amanita blinked incredulously. "You really don't see the application? Well, the short answer is that we need it for relocation purposes. Ever since you guys helped Big Sis with her breakthrough in dream research, she's been real busy analyzing Trainer data and dreams. All of this uses up a great deal of electricity and generates a lot of noise, so the landlord isn't too happy with us. On top of that, this place is just too cramped for our purposes. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's a nice place and all, but... well, just look around. We need an actual lab. Our living room just isn't going to suffice anymore."

The three girls were now congregating in the center of the room. Unbeknown to them, however, the Matter Reduction Ray had automatically analyzed their profiles and had begun building up the necessary energy to perform the reduction. The girls were too engrossed in their conversation to notice the blinking lights or status text on the display, and they were unable to hear the humming and churning of the machine over all of the other ambient noise.

[Automatic systems engaged. Acquiring target(s)... complete. Performing molecular analysis... complete. Computing energy requirements for target operation... complete. Charging energy reservoir to adequate level... Energy level at 0%... 1%... 2%...]

"There's a much larger place in Castelia City that we're looking at moving into," Amanita continued. "Until now, we've had to stay here because Big Sis lost her job at the Pokémon Energy Lab after the incident, and this was all I could afford on my income from maintaining the Pokémon Storage System. But now with all of the new grant money Big Sis has received for her research, we can finally afford to move out of here! The new place is way nicer than this one, and we even found a space in an office building that we can rent out and use as our lab, so we'll have an actual living room!

[...32%... 33%... 34%...]

"So once our lease expires, we'll move into the new place in Castelia. The obvious problem is, how do we move all of this equipment from Striaton to Castelia? One answer is to dismantle all of the machinery and rebuild it, but that's far less than ideal. We need a general solution that we can quickly and easily apply to any object, let alone gigantic machines like the ones we have here. And that's where the Matter Reduction Ray comes in! We can use it to shrink down all of our heavy machinery, including the Dream Machine, and make it really easy to get everything over there.

[...65%... 66%... 67%...]

"Of course, the only problem with this is, how do we reduce the ray itself? This is one of many problems we're trying to tackle right now. Our options are to put in a self-reducing function or to miniaturize the tech into a portable form. Both solutions have their problems and difficulties. But that's all kind of a ways out, cause we still gotta performe some optimizations on it. Big Sis says there are some kinks that need to be worked out, but it's basically done."

[98%... 99%... Energy reservoir charged to adequate level. Preparing to execute in 3... 2... 1... Discharging...]

Before the girls even had a chance to react, the ray gun fired a beam of light, enveloping them in an iridescent aura. A blinding flash burst forth from their bodies, like that given off by the exploding filament of a dying light bulb, flooding the room for a split second before dissipating. In an instant, the three girls all vanished, and the room was completely empty. The machine emitted a short tone, and a green LED along its side flashed on. The display updated with the results of the operation.

[Reduction operation... successful. Creating energy profile(s) for target(s)... complete. Establishing recombined target(s) as energy anchor points for future restorative operations... complete. Storing residual energy of target(s)... complete. Generating log file... complete. Operation results available for review. WARNING!! Critical temperature threshold exceeded! Cooldown protocol engaged. Operation lockout timer set for: 01h, 30m, 00s. Reduction and restoration operations may not be executed during this period.]


*** 3 ***


"Hilda... Hilda... come on, get up...."

Hilda moaned and winced as she slowly regained consciousness.

"Hilda! Wake up! Quick!" Bianca's voice faded in. She had woken Hilda up once again, but this time her tone was one of distress.

"Ugh," Hilda groaned as she sat up, "was I out again? Jeez, how embarrassing. I don't even remember going to sle"

"Who cares about that?! We've got a really big problem!"

Hilda rubbed her eyes and looked around. She figured that she must have fainted for some strange reason. The faint smell of burning rubber filled her nostrils, and the room's noises now sounded incredibly low and distorted.

"What is it?" Hilda mumbled. "Is everything alright?"

Hilda continued taking in her surroundings, expecting to see an apartment fire. They were still in the apartment, and there was no fire, but something was not right.

Amanita's voice rang out from afar. "Hey! Hilda! Bianca!"

Hilda watched as the young girl ran up to them. She felt like her entire sense of scale had been thrown off as she watched Amanita's movements in relation to the rest of the room. The young scientist appeared to run out from underneath the bed, growing in size as she approached.

"Thank goodness we're all here," said Amanita, her voice filled with both panic and relief. "You guys okay? You're not hurt, are you? Either of you feel weird or sick or anything?"

Hilda grasped her head. "Other than feeling like I got hit by a truck, I guess I'm okay. Everything does look kinda weird, though. I feel like I'm trippin' on Foongus spores or something. So what's got you guys so worked up, anyway?"

"Uhh, have you taken a good look around, yet?"

Hilda stood upright and looked around. As she surveyed the scene, she sensed that something was definitely wrong. She was standing, yet she still felt incredibly low to the ground, and everything appeared flattened somehow, almost as though her depth perception had suddenly failed.

"What the...?" Hilda was completely bewildered by what she was seeing. "Everything looks so... high up...."

Bianca was completely hysterical. "That's because that matter... disruption... whatever did this to us!"

"It's not that everything is high up," Amanita stolidly explained, "but, rather, we're very low to the ground. That is to say, we've been shrunk."

Hilda shook her head and looked around. This was clearly the apartment, but everything was now magnified and distant, and she appeared to be at eye level with the floor. She noticed one of the small boxes of components on the floor and was shocked to find that she was unable to see its top. She took a few steps away from her friends, and when she turned around, she was shocked to find that their bodies had appeared to recede into the distance while the rest of the room remained fixed. Slowly, she walked back toward them and watched as they drew closer while the background remained constant. She looked at the bed, which now appeared hundreds of times bigger than it actually was. Panic began to set in as Hilda darted her eyes across the room.

"Wh... wha... what is this?! No way! There's no way!"

"I'm afraid so, Hilda. Take a look."

Amanita pointed up toward something. Hilda followed her finger, and her stomach dropped as she saw the Matter Reduction Ray, now seeming more like a skyscraper-sized cannon. Clouds of vapor were cascading from holes in the sides of the main body like mist rolling down a mountainside, and a plume of black smoke billowed from the end of the barrel.

"The green light is supposed to indicate a successful run," Amanita explained, pointing out a glowing green LED. "Judging by the fact that it's lit in conjunction with our current predicament, it looks like it worked."

Hilda fell completely silent and motionless, and all of the color drained out of her skin. She stared up at the gigantic apparatus, her mouth agape and her body trembling with shock.

"Is... is this some kind of joke?!" she yelled.

"If it is, I can't think of a good punchline," Amanita quipped.

"How... how did this even happen?!" Hilda stomped toward Amanita. "Why did this happen?!"

"I don't know." Amanita began pacing. "It wasn't supposed to fire...!"

"What, so it just has a mind of its own, then?"

"No, it...." Amanita let out a loud groan. "This doesn't make any sense! Why did this happen?"

"How do we get back to normal?" Bianca asked anxiously.

"Yeah, what do we do now?" Hilda asked impatiently.

"I don't know, I don't know! Just... just, shut up and let me think for a second!"

The three girls sat in a tense silence while Amanita pondered the situation. Bianca seemed to overcome her fear fairly quickly, as she was now wandering about, taking in her surroundings with an astonished smile. Hilda, however, was not as comfortable with the situation.

"Ugh, this is ridiculous," Hilda said as she pounded the ground. "I didn't come here to be a test subject for some stupid science project!"

"Hey," Amanita snapped, "it's not just 'some stupid science project', okay?"

"It decided to shrink us on its own," Hilda sneered. "For no real reason at all. Just for funsies. Seems pretty stupid to me."

"Look, I already told you, that wasn't supposed to happen!"

"Well it did!" Hilda shouted. "It did, and now we're stuck like this!"

"We are not stuck like this, Hilda!" Amanita responded emphatically.

"Oh, really?" Hilda asked bitterly. "You got a plan for fixing us, then? C'mon! You're supposed to be the brainiac, here! How do we get back to normal?"

"Hilda, stop it!" Bianca said, scolding Hilda. "It was an accident, okay? She... she didn't mean for this to happen, you know! S-stop being such a meanie!"

As Hilda processed Bianca's reproach, she glanced back and forth between Amanita and Bianca, both of whom were now skewering her with angry stares. After a brief pause, she closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh.

"You're right, Bee. I am bein' a bit of a jerk." Hilda turned to Amanita. "Look, I-I'm sorry. I'm just a little shaken up by all this, I guess."

"It's fine," Amanita said coolly. "If it were me in your shoes, I'd probably be pretty upset, too." She stood up and began walking toward Hilda. "The most important thing is to stay calm and focused on getting back to normal."

Hilda cast her eyes toward the ground. "Yeah, you're right."

"Hey." Amanita walked up to Hilda and extended her hand. "We're going to be fine."

"Yeah," Bianca added, "it'll be like an adventure!"

Hilda stood and nodded. "Yeah... I suppose so."

The three girls began looking around in an effort to acquire their bearings and adjust to their new perspective. Various items that lay scattered about the floor stood like large buildings on the horizon, and the desks and machinery towered over them like wide skyscrapers standing thousands of feet tall. Vast expanses of smooth wooden ground separated them from the nearest structure, and the ceiling appeared to be miles above their heads. Strange and unsettlingly low noises filled the air, creating an odd and eerie atmosphere.

"Ya know," Bianca said, "at first I was kinda scared, but now I think this is actually super awesome! It's like we're in a completely different world, but we're not."

"'Awesome' ain't exactly the word I'd use," Hilda said, "but it's interesting, to say the least. I definitely wasn't planning on spending the whole day in this boring apartment."

"Hey, look at that thing!" Bianca pointed to a circuit board near the foot of the bed that was populated with various circuit components, making it look like a miniature city. "Why don't we go check it out?"

"Might I suggest we figure out a plan for getting big again, first?" Amanita asked, her voice tinged with a hint of urgency.

"She's right," Hilda said. "We can explore once we have a plan figured out."

Bianca hunched over dejectedly. "Well, sor-ry."

The girls all sat in silence, brainstorming ways to operate the ray gun once more and return to their original size.

"What if," Bianca started to suggest, "maybe if we wait long enough, the ray's effects will wear off."

Amanita shook her head. "Negative. It doesn't quite work that way. I'd explain exactly why, but just trust me. We need to reactivate the machine if we want to return to normal."

Bianca frowned. "Aw, I tried..."

"It was a solid idea, Bianca. It's just that that's not possible because of how the reduction process works. Our energy profiles are all stored in the machine. Think of it like a gigantic Poké Ball, except it left a small portion of our bodies outside as anchor points. We have to find a way to activate it if we want to get our energy and mass back."

"Well," Hilda said with a hint of sarcasm and bitter irony, "I guess it's a good thing your invention doesn't work right."

Amanita dismissed Hilda's backhanded comment, and the three continued brainstorming. A few suggestions were tossed out but quickly shot down. Suddenly, Hilda snapped her fingers to signify that she had been struck by an epiphany.

"Of course! Duh, how could I have been so stupid?"

"Whaddya mean?" asked Bianca.

"Fennel! She's gotta come back, right?"

Amanita lit up. "That's right! Big Sis can help us!"

"Exactly! She said she was gonna be back in a few minutes, right? Well, when she comes back, we can just get her to unshrink us!"

"Well, we'll have to get her attention first."

"Well, yeah, true, but that shouldn't be too hard, right? When she comes in, we'll wave her down, she'll see us here on the floor, and then she'll help us out."

Bianca gasped. "Oh my gosh, you guys! Fennel's gonna be a giant compared to us... so cool! She's gonna look totally humongous! I wonder how small we're gonna look to her? I bet..." She gasped again. "Do you think she's gonna pick us up? That would be too amazing! Oh, I can't wait!"

Amanita seemed much more hesitant than Bianca. "I don't know, Hilda, that seems sort of risky to me."

"Well, do you have any other ideas?" Hilda retorted before the young prodigy could fully voice her concerns. "I dunno about you, but that seems like our best bet to me right now. Your sister's the only one big enough to operate the ray, so I'm not seein' much of another choice."

"I suppose you're right, but there's still a chance that"

The girls all paused and fell silent. Over the low roar of room's noises, they heard a faint thud in the distance.

"Shhh... did you hear that?" Hilda whispered.

They heard another thud, then another several seconds later.

"What is that?" Bianca asked.

"I don't know, but I swear it's getting louder."

The muffled booms gradually grew louder and more intense, briefly became more sporadic, then stopped altogether. The girls were now incredibly tense and fully alert, scanning the room like a pack of Watchogs. Their heads all simultaneously snapped toward the front door as a low rattling sound emanated from its direction.

"Do you think that's..." Bianca stopped short of completing her question, but Hilda and Amanita both knew what she was going to askthey were all thinking the same thing.

Far off in the distance, the immense door rotated on its hinges, emitting a low metallic groan similar to the creaking of a large ship's hull. The girls all held their breaths as they watched the door slowly open and saw the familiar hand that grasped the knob. Though they each knew what was about to happen next, they could not have possibly been prepared for the sight they were about to witness.


*** 4 ***


Fennel opened the door the apartment building, feeling rejuvenated after a brief lunch at a nearby Sawsbucks café. She held a Fortissimonot extra-largecup of coffee in her hand, of which she had already drank half, and was ready to get back to work. She was intently focused on solving the current set of problems that had been vexing her, and the ludicrous 40-ounce drink gave her the mental boost she needed. As she walked up the stairs, she was visualizing complex problems and mentally solving high-level equations that would make even the most accomplished and enthusiastic mathematicians and physicists scream in agony. She opened the door to her apartment and stepped inside, eager to get to work.

"Hm," Fennel said as she scanned the empty room, "looks like they left already."


The girls could feel the incredibly low and distorted sound of Fennel's voice booming loudly in the air. They watched breathlessly as she stepped into the room and shut the door. Her normally quick movements now appeared slow and deliberate, and her normally quiet footfalls now appeared loud and sonorous.

"Oh... my... gosh...." Amanita could barely utter the words. "B-Big Sis?!"

"I-I-I'll say," Bianca lamely joked in a vain attempt to mask her fear.

Hilda, however, was completely ensnared by the icy grip of terror. It was one thing to see inanimate objects blown up to enormous sizes, but seeing a mountain-sized person lumbering in the distance conjured a fear within her so primal and powerful that she all but shut down entirely.

Fennel took a step forward, her huge body appearing to move in slow motion. The floorboards groaned under her shifting weight, and her foot created a faint tremor as it landed on the floor. She was headed in the girls' direction. Amanita recalled Hilda's plan and immediately began waving and shouting at her giant sister.

"Hey! Big Sis! Down here! Help us!"

Bianca saw this and swallowed her fear as she joined in. "Hey Fennel! We're down here! We got hit by the ray thing! Look down!"

Fennel took another step toward them. As she drew closer, her already magnified form seemed to grow rapidly and rise skyward. Her foot made a loud thud as it landed, sending a stronger tremor toward the tiny girls, and the low, anguished moans of the floor were now much louder. Fennel was looking straight ahead, visibly unaware of the girls' presence, and Amanita stopped shouting as she realized what was about to happen.

"No... no... Run!" Amanita cried out.

"W-what?!" Bianca was confused.

Fennel took a third step toward the group, which felt louder and more forceful than the last, and she had still failed to notice them.

"She's gonna step on us if we don't move!"

The girls immediately broke into a run, attempting to get out of the massive scientist's path. Unfortunately, Fennel's relatively slow movements were far outweighed by her vastly increased size, and as a result, she was moving toward them at an incredible speed.

As she was running, Bianca noticed that Hilda was not with them. She stopped to look back and saw that Hilda had not actually budged.

"Hilda!" Bianca yelled. "Run! Hurry!"

But Hilda could not move a muscle. Immobilized by fear, she craned her neck as Fennel took another step, looming over her like a skyscraper. Fennel's gigantic foot waged an all-out assault on the petrified Trainer's senses as it crashed down onto the floor. Hilda fell backward as her knees buckled from the ensuing quake.

"Hilda!" Bianca screamed. "Hilda, no!"

"Bianca, look out!" Amanita called out.

Bianca looked back at Amanita, who was now running toward her at full speed. She quickly realized why Amanita had doubled back as she saw a colossal pink object hurtling toward her at an incomprehensible speed. Seized by fear, she watched as Fennel's colossal foot slammed down in front of her, knocking her off her own feet. Bianca gazed in awe at the enormous pink shoe that now flooded her field of view, and she traced upward along the length of Fennel's leg as it towered above her and disappeared into the giant woman's lab coat, which completely obscured the rest of her upper body. As Bianca looked back at the titanic structure before her, she suddenly realized that Hilda was in grave danger.

Meanwhile, Hilda could only watch as Fennel slowly took her next step, mesmerized by the sheer enormity of the glossy pink shoe which now threatened to end her life as it rose from the ground and began speeding directly toward her. She could no longer process what was happening and simply waited for everything to end.

"No!" Bianca shrieked. "Hildaaa!"

Miraculously, before Fennel made impact with the shrunken Trainer, her toe turned upward, and Hilda was now completely enshrouded in shadow as Fennel's ship-sized foot swung over her head. The thin, flat sole of the giant scientist's shoe soared so dangerously low to the ground that Hilda could have reached up and touched it. As Fennel cleared Hilda and finally stepped onto the floor, her foot whipped up a whirlwind in its wake that tossed Hilda backward like a tumbleweed in a sandstorm.

Bianca and Amanita scrambled to pick themselves up off the ground. They watched with terror and reverence as Fennel's heel slowly rose from the floor, and they braced for impact as the titaness lifted her foot off the ground and stepped down ahead of them. Awestruck, they watched as Fennel casually strolled away from them, blissfully unaware of the fact that she had nearly crushed them to death without a thought.

"No way...." Amanita said.

"That was incredible!" Bianca exclaimed.

Amanita gasped. "Oh my goodness... Hilda! We have to see if she's okay!"

The two girls sprinted toward Hilda's limp and crumpled body, fearing the worst as they drew closer and saw no signs of movement.

"Hilda!" Bianca cried out as she knelt down beside the dazed Trainer.

Hilda was still alive, but she was pallid and clammy, and her face appeared frozen in a state of terror. She was shivering and hyperventilating, and she did not even respond to Bianca or Amanita as they leaned over her.

"Hilda, are you okay?" Amanita asked worriedly. "Can you speak? Are you hurt?"

"Hilda!" Bianca shouted as tears welled up in her eyes. "Please say something, Hilda!"

Hilda slowly pushed herself off the floor. She appeared to move her lips as though she were about to speak, but she instead leaned over and vomited all over the floor.

"Yep, just a stress response," Amanita said behind a sigh of relief. "She's going to be alright."

Hilda slowly sat up and looked around, hacking and coughing as the corrosive juices burned her mouth and esophagus. After several seconds, she finally managed to utter a few words.

"I... I'm... alive...?"

Upon hearing those words, Bianca could no longer contain her emotions. She wrapped her arms around Hilda and began sobbing.

"Hilda, oh my gosh, I was so scared, I totally thought you were gonna get squished and that I was gonna lose my best friend and... and...!"

Bianca hugged Hilda as tightly as she could. She buried her face in Hilda's shoulder and began crying hysterically. Hilda mentally replayed the horrifying sight of Fennel stepping over her, and she dropped her arms to her side and began trembling. Bianca could feel Hilda's breath grow heavy and strained.

"H-Hilda?" Bianca warily asked. "Are you... are you okay?"

Hilda did not respond to her question, but was only able to mumble some unintelligible word salad.

Amanita slowly approached the stunned girl. "Hilda, I know this must be really frightening, but we have to stay cal—"

The terrifying scream that came from Hilda's mouth sounded like a war cry, and both Amanita and Bianca jumped back from the hair-raising sound of her voice. Her skin flushed a bright crimson, and with an unnatural swiftness, she immediately tackled Amanita, pinning her to the ground.

"Are you kiddin' me, Amanita?!" Hilda bellowed in a delirious rage, globs of saliva splashing out of her mouth as she spoke. "After all that, you want me to stay calm?! In case you didn't notice, I almost got flattened like a pancake!"

Amanita was completely blindsided by Hilda's fury. "H... Hilda! What are you... doing?"

"You said that thing didn't work on people!"

"I... I never said that!" Amanita gasped as she resisted the weight of the enraged Trainer. "I said that... that we never... tested it on living subjects!"

"Why did it fire at us?!"

"I don't know! It... it must have... malfunctioned!"

"Oh, is that one of those 'kinks' that had to be fixed?!"

"No, I... I don't know!"

"You don't know?! What do you mean, you don't know?!"

"It wasn't pro... programmed to fire at us!"

"Well it did! How are we supposed to get back to normal?! Huh?!"

"Hilda, stop it!" Bianca yelled as she ran toward the scuffle. "She's just a kid! You're hurting her!"

"Hilda, I'm sorry," Amanita wheezed, "I don't know... why this happe—"

"You're sorry?!" Hilda was livid. "You shrink us and all you say is you're sorry?! Seriously?! I could've died just then!"

Bianca was horrified and confused as she watched her good friend act in such an uncharacteristically deranged manner, but she knew that she had to intervene before Amanita was seriously injured.

"Hilda, get off of her!"

Bianca clumsily charged into the enraged Trainer and knocked her off balance, giving Amanita the opportunity she needed to free herself from Hilda's grasp.

"What's gotten into you?!" Bianca said as she stood over Hilda. "She's just a little kid! You could've really hurt her, you know!"

Hilda fell mute as her friend reprimanded her, and a tornado of thoughts raged through her mind.

"She didn't do this to us, Hilda! It's not her fault! Say you're sorry, Hilda! C'mon, you owe her an apology!"

"It's... it's okay, Bianca," said Amanita weakly, taking a few seconds to regain her composure. "She's upset... understandably so."

Bianca ran over to help Amanita steady herself. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

"Really," Amanita said. "I'm fine. Thank you."

Hilda stared intently at the floor, seething with anger, confusion and fear.

"Look," Amanita said as she cautiously walked over toward Hilda, "I get that you're upset, and you deserve to be. But losing your cool isn't going to help us get back to normal."

"And how exactly are we supposed to do that?" Hilda hissed. "We just gonna work that machine ourselves?! Yeah, that's cool, let's just go up there and make ourselves big again, no problem! Or let's get your sister to help—oh wait! She can't even see us! In fact, she almost stepped on us and killed us!"

"But she didn't, Hilda! We're still alive, and that's what's important, here."

Hilda's face flushed, and powerful sobs punctuated her speech. "Alive? So what? L-look around us! Everything's so... so...!"

She hesitated as she spoke. Unable to hold back her fear any longer, she violently slammed her fist into the floor and unleashed a torrent of emotion.

"How are we gonna get back to normal?" Hilda said through her sobs. "What if we're stuck like this? How are we gonna survive?"

"I don't know," Amanita admitted. "I don't know... but what I do know is that we're a clever bunch. Heck, you're Pokémon League Champion! That has to count for something, right? No Champion I know gives up so easily!"

Hilda stared at the floor. An occasional sob escaped her mouth, but she was unable to speak.

"Yeah, Hilda," Bianca said, "if anyone can get out of a jam like this, it's you! You're, like, one of the strongest and bravest and coolest and most awesomest people I know!"

Hilda had become as still as a statue.

"Look at me," Bianca continued, attempting to put on a brave facade, "I... I may not be the strongest person in the world, but I-I'm not afraid!"

A long and agonizing moment of silence passed.

"Sure you are," Hilda said coldly.

"W-what? A-am not! Swear!"

Hilda lifted her head and looked Bianca in the eye. "You always stutter when you're afraid."

Bianca reeled at her observation and uttered a nervous chuckle. Hilda let out a small giggle, and Bianca joined in soon after. Before long, their chuckling had swelled into uproarious laughter.

"Thanks, you two," Hilda said once the laughter subsided. "I'm really sorry, Amanita. I know that it's not your fault that this happened. You're right—we'll find a way out of this."

"It's okay," Amanita said. "I'm not mad at you."

The young scientist walked over and hugged Hilda. Bianca saw this and was overjoyed.

"Yay! That's the Hilda I know!" she shouted as she joined them in their hug.

"You guys...." Hilda could not find any words, and she instead returned the group hug.

"We're going to be fine," Amanita declared.


*** 5 ***


The three girls wandered about the electric wonderland, taking in the grotesque sights and sounds of the giant machines and computers looming around them. Massive, angular mountains of steel and silicon lay all around them, soaring to dizzying heights as they blinked and churned ceaselessly. Shelves, bookcases, and desks crawled up the imposing walls as they reached into the stucco sky. Boxes, circuits, and other small contraptions lay on the horizon like the long abandoned ruins of a technologically advanced civilization. Wires and cables ran along the ground like expansive pipeline networks carrying electrons back and forth. The smooth wooden planks upon which they walked stretched into the distance and created small grooves between their tightly joined edges. And at the far end of the room sat the colossal woman who would be their savior if she noticed themor possibly their unwitting executioner if she did not.

The circuit city that lay in the distance between them and Fennel was their current destination, partly due to Bianca's insistence, but mostly because it would serve as a convenient checkpoint on their way to the distracted inventor.

"Not gonna lie," Hilda said through her teeth as she cleared a groove in the floorboards, "this was not how I was planning on spending the day today."

"Oh, come on, grumpy!" Bianca giggled, "It's not every day that you get to be super tiny!"

"Yeah, well, not like I had a say in the matter. How can you even be so calm about all this, anyway?"

"Well, um... I guess it's just really neat to see the world from such a totally different perspective. Like, you know how when we were flying and we looked down and everything was super small? That was such a cool feeling, so this is like the exact opposite of that, but the feeling's the same, ya know?"

On some level, Hilda understood Bianca's explanation, but it did little to bolster her own enthusiasm. Perhaps if she had more agency in the processand if she had not almost been unknowingly pulverized by the ditzy scientist whose invention did this to her in the first placeher feelings would be different. What she did know was that if she ever got back to normal, Fennel would be getting an earful from her.

"I just don't get it," Amanita said under her breath as she continued mumbling something to herself, appearing deep in thought.

Hilda overheard Amanita's mumbling. "Eh? What's up, Amanita?"

"It's just... I don't get how the ray could have possibly malfunctioned like that. That code was perfect! I checked and double-checked and triple-checked and quadruple-checked it... I programmed in all those safety protocols... how? How could this have happened?! Ugh!"

"Hey, don't beat yourself up over it. Mistakes happen. Some are... a little worse than others, sure... but like you said, we'll get out of this somehow, right?"

Amanita lowered her head and did not say a word.

The girls continued their trek toward the circuit board in a tense silence, which was occasionally broken by an excited gasp or giggle from Bianca.

"I just," Amanita finally spoke, "I can't help but feel like this is my fault, somehow."

Hilda stopped in her tracks. "Oh, come on! Seriously? Look, I said I'm sorry! Nobody here is blaming you for this! It's just a freak accident that happened, and we're gonna fix it! So that's that! Cheer up, alright?!"

But Amanita was not satisfied. Her perfectionistic nature would not allow her to absolve herself of the blame for their predicament.

"Hilda's right," Bianca said. "It's not your fault, it's your sister's!"

Amanita was confused. "W-what?"

"Yeah," Bianca began to explain as she skipped in front of the other two, "she was the one that turned on the 'Auto' feature! It was probably an accident." She began twirling around in place. "Sooo, when she left and we were all standing in front of the ray thingy...." She turned to face the other two and aimed her finger at them like a gun. "Pow!"

Hilda and Amanita stared incredulously at the inappropriately peppy girl, completely silent and slackjawed.

Bianca frowned. "What? Relax! It's not anything you di"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa," Hilda interrupted. "I'm sorry... what?!"

"Yeah, remember when she was showing us how the thing worked, and she accidentally hit the 'Auto' button?"

"She accidentally hit the 'Auto' button?!" Hilda's anger was returning with a vengeance.


"And you didn't say anything?!"

"W-well, no, I... I didn't make the connection until just now....

"You couldn't have been all, 'Oh, hey, Fennel, you just accidentally flipped the switch that makes your insane shrink ray automatically start firing at stuff on its own'?!"

Bianca slumped over nervously and pulled her beret down, averting her eyes from Hilda's crushing stare. "I-I....

"You couldn't have told us, 'Oh hey, don't stand in front of that shrink ray, it might actually fire at us and possibly kill us or turn us inside-out or whatever'?!"

Bianca's eyes began to water. She squeaked out a few syllables, but failed to construct any words.

"You couldn't have even just pressed the button yourself to turn it off?! What, did you want this to happen or something?!"

Bianca had now fallen completely mute.

"Oh, that's just great. Well, maybe if you had said something, we wouldn't be in this jam in the first pla—“

"Shut up, Hilda!" Bianca screeched, catching Hilda off-guard with a fury that neither of them even realized the bubbly girl was capable of exhibiting. "Just shut up, shut up, shut up!" Her voice quavered through a squall of emotion as her intense gaze punctured Hilda's heart. "W-why's it my fault? You were there, too, you know! You saw her press the button, too! Why didn't you say anything, huh?!"

"Bee, I...."

"I literally only just realized what happened a minute ago when I said something! I-it's not like I wanted this to happen! First it's Amanita's fault, then it's Fennel's fault, now it's my fault? How come it's never your fault, huh? Y-you could have said something, too!"

Hilda grew somber. "I... I'm sorry, Bianca. I... I just got... I'm just...."

Bianca dropped her head toward the floor, cracking under her overwhelming emotion as she let out a high-pitched sob, then another.

"Look, I'm sorry," Hilda said remorsefully. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. It's just... it's just so stressful, ya know?"


"You're right, BeeI should have said something, too."

In truth, Hilda had not noticed Fennel pressing the button, or that there was even a button at all, as she had all but completely tuned out the enthusiastic scientist's misdirected sales pitch. But she falsely confessed that she had witnessed Fennel press the button in an effort to placate her friend.

Bianca looked up at Hilda and dried her eyes. "It's okay. I know you didn't mean it. I... I'm sorry I got so mad at you."

"No... I'm sorry, Bianca."

There was a brief silence.

"No... I am," Bianca returned, cracking a smile.

Hilda scoffed. "I bet I'm sorrier than you!"

"N-no way!"

The two girls laughed and hugged away their frustration, knowing ultimately that their friendship would be able to weather any argument that ever came between them. Meanwhile, Amanita had been lost in her head after Bianca's revelation, and her own frustration had also grown.

"Ugh, stupid, stupid, stupid!" she cursed to herself. "Of course, it wasn't a malfunction at all! I should have known better!"

Hilda and Bianca noticed her sulking. "Huh? What's up, Amanita?" Hilda asked.

"I told her we didn't need that feature! I specifically told her that we shouldn't even put it in!"

"Wha?" Bianca was puzzled.

"The autofire feature," Amanita spat. "I told her it was a safety hazard waiting to happen! I told her not to bother with itjust useless feature creep. But, of course she didn't listen. She never listens to me, just because I'm her younger sister. I may still be a kid, but I'm not stupid! I told her that there was no justifiable reasonnone, whatsoeverto have an autofire function. So what does she do? She just totally ignores me and hacks one in, anyway! Well, now look what happened. We're lucky that thing didn't kill us!"

Amanita stood to face her giant older sister, who had her back turned toward the girls and was typing away on the computer.

"See?!" Amanita screamed at the top of her lungs. "I told you so, Big Sis! I told you this would happen, but you didn't listen to me!"

Fennel reached for her coffee cup and took a sip, oblivious to her shrunken younger sister's shouts. She then opened a drawer and pulled out a pad of paper, on which she began scribbling furiously.

Amanita's voice cracked as she dropped to the floor. "You... you should have listened to me...."

"Amanita," Bianca whined, "you can't blame yourself for this. Fennel's the one who made the 'Auto' button and pressed it, not you!"

"She's right," Hilda said, crouching down so that she was eye level with Amanita, "you couldn't have possibly known this was going to happen. Don't hold yourself responsible."

"Oh, so now it's not my fault?" Amanita snapped. "You literally jump all over me, blaming me for all this, and now when it actually is my fault, you're playing good cop? Give me a break, Hilda."

Hilda pursed her lips in silence, desperately scrambling for a retort of any kind.

Amanita sat down and hunched over. "I can't believe I let her get away with that."

A switch within Hilda suddenly flipped, and she folded her arms and leered over the child hacker. "You know what, no!" she bellowed furiously. "Listen to me, you didn't do this to us, and you know it! Did you develop that 'Auto' function? Huh?! Did you push that button?!"

Amanita looked away in silence.

"Answer me, Amanita!"

"Well, n-no, but"

"Then you didn't do this to us! Fennel did, not you!"

"But... I could have caught this. I could have stop her...."

Hilda shook the young girl by her shoulders. "No! Stop that! Listen to yourself. Do you really think that you could have done anything to stop her? You're her sister, not her Trainer!"

"I could have caught the firmware revision and rolled it back to an earlier version of the code...."

Hilda was thrown off by the sudden burst of jargon, but recovered after a few seconds. "You... you know what? Okay, sure. Maybe you could have prevented this. Maybe you could have... reviewed the... firmcode... whatever. Does that matter now? We're tiny, Fennel's not, we're gonna get her to fix us! She owes us that much! Past is past, who cares?! Forget about it!"

Amanita did not respond.

Hilda sat down in front of her. "Amanita. Look at me."

Amanita reluctantly looked up to meet Hilda's eyes.

"We're going to be fine." Hilda smiled, placing her hand on the young girl's shoulder. "And when we get big again, we're gonna give your big sis a piece of our minds."

Amanita looked away briefly, scanning the floor before responding. "You're right, Hilda. I'm sorry. I shouldn't blame myself for this."

"Of course I'm right! Now let's go find a way back to normal, eh?"

Bianca groaned loudly. "Jeez, all this sad stuff is such a drag! Can we just be happy and explore again?"

Hilda lightly nudged Amanita and smiled. Slowly, the young scientist's mouth morphed into a half-smile before she returned Hilda's shove with a giggle. Everyone started to laugh, and the dark cloud over the group appeared to dissipate.

"Thanks, you two," Amanita sighed. "I agree, I've had enough with all the mopey sadness. Hey, why don't we go check out that circuit board, now?"

"That," said Hilda, "is a great idea!"

"Yay!" Bianca shouted gleefully. "Let's go!"

With most of their stress over the situation finally alleviated, the girls continued their journey through the apartment, eager to return to their normal sizes. They had since grown largely desensitized to the weird ambient noises of the room, but they tensed up whenever Fennel occasionally let out a low, frustrated grumble over her work, her distorted growls reminiscent of those of a large Pokémon.

"Man, I tell ya," Hilda shivered, "I never thought that a single person could freak me out as much as your sister has today."

"I can't say I blame you," Amanita said.

"Come on, Slowpokes," Bianca sang, "we're almost there!" She pointed to the circuit board, which now appeared much closer than it had before.

"Sheesh, she's unusually chipper," Amanita said to Hilda.

"Nah," Hilda laughed, "that's not unusual at all."

Suddenly, a chilling and nightmarish roar flooded the air, freezing the girls in place with fear. They all warily looked in Fennel's direction, who now appeared to be greatly frustrated over some unknown problem. A strange, low, and unidentifiable sound followed Fennel's bestial howl, and the girls watched as she slowly tore a sheet of paper from the pad and began to crumple it into a ball, the rustling of the sheet as it folded onto itself sounding like a distant rock slide. Shocked by the giant scientist's display of anger, they watched in horror as Fennel tossed the paper ball over her shoulder.

"Wah, look out!" Bianca yelled. "It's coming right for us!"

Like a boulder hurled by a catapult, the giant paper ball was now sailing through the air and headed in their direction. The girls quickly scrambled away from the ball's path, and they watched as it landed, producing a sound like that of a felled tree toppling over in a forest. The hundred-foot boulder slowly bounced and rolled past the spot where they had been standing, and the girls all experienced a weird dissonance from watching such a gigantic object bounce about so lightly.

"That...." Hilda stammered as she looked upon the paper boulder. "That was a... piece of paper!"


Fennel grasped her head and whimpered as she double-checked some erroneous calculations mentally. She then reached for her drink and gulped down whatever was left, slamming the cup onto the table. Folding her arms in front of her, she rested her head on her forearms and let out a heavy sigh.


The sound of the cup impacting the desk rang out like an explosion, causing the girls to wince in discomfort, and Fennel's sigh sounded like a distant wind whistling and winding through mountain peaks.

"Wooow," Bianca whispered, "that was, like, super crazy!"

"No kiddin'," Hilda said. "The closer we get to her, the more nervous I feel."


Fennel looked at her empty cup and mourned the loss of her coffee. Her brain felt hazy, and she was thoroughly stumped by her current problem, so she decided to grab a snack from the kitchen.


First, the girls felt the vibrations throughout the floor, then they heard the deep booms and creaks, then they all watched as the colossal scientist slowly rose from her seat and turned to face them. As she made her first step, they quickly found themselves in a familiar situation.

"Ahh, not again!" Amanita shrieked.

The girls quickly dashed out of Fennel's way, giving themselves ample distance from the giant inventor's path. They turned to watch as Fennel ponderously moved toward them like a living mountain, quakes and booms radiating from each of her footfalls. She easily cleared a distance that would have taken the girls minutes to cross in a single step. As Fennel approached, she appeared to be looking down at them.

"Quick!" Amanita called out to the others. "Now's our chance! She's looking right at us!"

They all began jumping and waving and shouting up toward Fennel's distant face, but she did not appear to slow down for them. Anxiously, the girls watched as she stepped near them, and they were all bowled over by the quake she produced. As she carried her foot past them, she effortlessly kicked the massive paper boulder across the floor, reminding them of their extreme size difference. Fennel walked over to the wad of paper and picked it up, and as she unfurled the crumpled sheet, she paused for a short while as she perused its contents before disgustedly tossing it onto the floor. While the girls were following the huge sheet of paper as it gently drifted toward the ground, Fennel had since completely left their view, though they could still hear the weird sounds she made while in the kitchen. The huge sheet landed on the floor, and it appeared as large as an entire city block.

"Oh man," Hilda said as she pushed herself off the ground, "I don't think I'll ever get used to that."

"Ditto," Amanita replied with a quaver in her voice.

"Heyyy!" Bianca hollered. She had already picked herself up and begun making her way toward the circuit board. "Come on! What're you waiting for?"

Hilda and Amanita followed Bianca to the edge of the circuit board. The different circuit elements populating the board looked surreal from such a low angle, truly creating the feeling of a miniature city, and the board itself rose to their hips. Bianca attempted to climb onto the board, but she only managed to kick and thrash her legs as her arms struggled to support her upper body. Hilda, however, had no trouble climbing the waist-high wall. Planting her hands firmly on the edge of the board, she effortlessly hoisted her body onto the platform.

"Jeez, Hilda, you're such a showoff," Bianca joked before re-attempting to board the platform, successfully clambering on after much toil.

"Sorry," Hilda laughed. "Okay, Amanita, your turn."

But Amanita did not move. She appeared to be frozen in place, a look of dread plastered on her face.

"Yo, Amanita. Is everything alright?"

But Amanita did not answer. She appeared to be mouthing words to herself, deep in thought.

Bianca called out to her. "Yoo-hoo! Amanita! Anyone home?"

Amanita began shaking her head. Her fearful expression had not faded.

Hilda cocked her head. "Uhh, you feelin' okay?"

"What did the display read?!" Amanita demanded.


"The display! On the ray when Big Sis was showing it off! What ratio was it set to?!"

"Uhm...." Hilda did not know what she was referring to.

"You mean the slider thingy?" Bianca asked.

"Yes, the... slider thingy," Amanita echoed. "What was it set to?"

"Well, if I remember right, Fennel set it pretty low before leavi"

"How low?! There was a number on the screen. What did it read?"

Bianca shrugged. "I don't know. I think it said like two percent or something... the slider was all the way down."

All of the color was sucked out of Amanita's face. "No... oh no, oh no... no, no, no, no!"

"Amanita," Hilda asked hesitantly, "what's wrong? What's the problem?"

"It didn't say two percent, it said point two percent! That's the lowest setting we programmed in!"

"What're you saying?"

"I'm saying that we've been shrunk as far as the ray will allow! A setting of 0.2 percent means a ratio of one to five hundred!"

Hilda's eyes widened as she finally grasped what Amanita was saying. "You... you mean to tell me that we're five hundred times smaller than normal?!"

"Yes! Look, that circuit board you two are standing on right now is just one-sixteenth of an inch thick! Do you realize just how small one-sixteenth of an inch is?!" Amanita held her thumb and forefinger together with a barely perceptible amount of space separating them. "This! This is how tiny we look to Big Sis!"

"Oh my gosh!" Bianca yelped. "That's super tiny!"

Hilda sat on the edge of the board and began to feel her stomach churn. "So... so Fennel's not just a giant... she's five hundred times bigger than we are..."

"Yeah," Amanita continued, "putting Big Sis at somewhere over half a mile high!"

Hilda reeled at this news, and she leaned over as a jet of vomit shot out of her mouth.

"So," Bianca said, "that means we're gonna have a really tough time getting your sister's attention, huh?"

"That's an understatement," Amanita responded snidely. "I don't even know what we can do at this point. We would have to get really lucky for Big Sis to see us at our size."

"Then that's what we'll do," Hilda said as she unsteadily rose to her feet. "Now that I know how small we actually are, that just makes me wanna get big again that much more. Ya know what? I'm done being afraid. I don't care how little we are. We are going to get her attention, one way or another. And we will get big again. Count on it."

"Hilda..." Amanita felt inspired by Hilda's newfound vigor.

"Yeah, totally!" Bianca cheered. "But while we're here, let's take a look around this circuit dealio. We can wait for Fennel to get back while we explore."

Amanita nodded. "Okay. I'm in. So, can one of you help me up?"

Hilda knelt down and extended her arm toward Amanita, pulling the smaller girl up the wall with ease. Once Amanita was on the board, the three began exploring the small circuit. The circuitry sprawled out before them like some sort of giant electronic playground, and Hilda thought to herself that something like this would make a neat Electric-type Gym. Somewhere off in the distance, the girls began to hear what sounded like a fireworks display. First they heard one burst, then another, then a few more. Before long, they could hear the sound of a hundred fireworks being set off.

"Wonder what that noise is," Bianca said. "Whatever, I'm gonna go check things out!" She sped off in the direction of a giant cylinder.

"Better go follow her, eh?" Hilda chased after her energetic friend, and Amanita followed.

The three girls stood at the base of a large black cylinder that stood a few stories high. Some numbers were etched in the side, and two thick metal rods protruded from opposite sides of the base, their ends fused into the circuitry by silvery blobs of metal.

"What is this thing?" Bianca asked. "It kinda looks like a water tower."

"It's a capacitor," Amanita said. "It stores electric charge and discharges it depending on how the circuitry is set up. Funny you say it looks like a water tower, because that's actually a pretty good analogy for it. It's like a water tower for electricity."

"Waah, does it have any in it now?!"

Amanita laughed. "No, don't worry. The board's not hooked up to a power source, so there's no current running through the circuits right now. You're not going to be shocked if you touch it, if that's what you're worried about." She ran over to the giant wire and leaned against it. "See?"

"Oh, o-okay." Bianca hesitantly approached the thick metal beam.

"Yeah, capacitors are neat cause you can use them for all kinds of things. You can use them to filter out unwanted signal noise, detect input for touchscreens, all sorts of things, really."

"That sounds complicated...."

"Eh, once you get the hang of circuit design, it all comes pretty easily. There are loads of other components on this board, too. I can give you a tour if you want!"

"Sure, that would be fun!"

Hilda, however, had not followed the others. She was instead paying more attention to the bursting sounds, which had since waned and ceased. She could not help but wonder what they could have been and what it meant that they stopped.

"So, what's this whole thing for, anyway?" Bianca asked.

"What do you mean?" Amanita replied.

"Like... this whole circuit thingy we're standing on. What's it do?"

"Honestly? I don't remember. One of us, either me or Big Sis, probably used it to test out some design that we ended up using in one of our inventions. We have lots of these things lying around the lab."

Bianca's eyes widened. "Wow, you guys must be super smart to be able to do all of this."

Hilda could hear a faint stirring coming from the direction of the kitchen, and shortly after, she started to feel slight tremors and hear the low creaking of the apartment floor.

"Heads up, guys," she called out to Bianca and Amanita, "I think she's coming back."

Within a few seconds, Fennel emerged from the kitchen carrying a large popcorn bag, a couple of paper towels, and a glass of water. The girls could smell the salty aroma of popcorn butter in the air, which reminded them that they still had yet to have lunch.

"So that must have been what those noises were," Amanita observed.

"Oh, gosh," Bianca gasped, "imagine how big those kernels must be! Ohh, thinking about it is making me sooo hungry!"

Just as before, the mountain-sized woman lurched toward the girls, whipping up a series of quakes that could easily knock them off their feet. They watched as Fennel casually passed by them, marveling at her magnificent body as it moved with a paradoxical grace toward the desk where she had sat before. She set the popcorn bag and paper towels on the desk next to the computer and went to sit down. However, mid-step, she stopped moving and slowly began to turn around.

"W-what's she doing?" Amanita wondered aloud.

"Maybe she forgot something?" Bianca said.

The giant scientist had turned to face them. The girls all expected her to begin walking past them again. However, they all froze with fear as Fennel's gaze fell directly onto the circuit board upon which they were standing.


*** 6 ***


The sight of Fennel lumbering toward the girls, her piercing eyes locked onto them and her face contorted into a perplexed stare, sent paralyzing chills down their spines. Though their objective was to capture the titanic woman's attention, they each remained perfectly still out of pure survival instinct. Each step Fennel took toward the board summoned the same booming quakes that had rattled the girls before, and within seconds, she was looming over the board like a living skyscraper. The horizon beyond the circuit board was now monopolized by the bright pink shine of her shoes, and her unfathomably gigantic body spiraled high into the sky. As the girls craned their necks, the only thing they saw beyond Fennel's towering legs and the bottom of her lab coat was the upper half of her face, her icy blue eyes staring coldly at them.

"Wha?!" Bianca gasped. "D-did she see us?"

"I... I-I don't know," Amanita said anxiously.

The girls' terror-induced trance was soon shattered as Fennel bent down with an unnerving swiftness, her outstretched hand careening toward the ground at an impossible speed. Her long, slender fingers slid underneath the small board, creating a cataclysmic quake that robbed the girls of their balance as the board started tilting to one side.

"Grab on to something!" Hilda screamed as she toppled over.

Bianca and Amanita were each standing near a wire connecting the capacitor to the board and crashed into it as they toppled over. Hilda, however, had not been so fortunate as to have been near any components, and she quickly began tumbling toward the board's edge. Fortunately, the board appeared to level out almost immediately, and Hilda was spared from falling onto the floor. Unfortunately, she had no time to recover her footing as the board began accelerating upward dramatically, pinning the girls to the floor like some demented amusement park ride. Almost as soon as it had started, the fierce upward movement ground to a halt, and the addled girls attempted to regain their bearings.

"That was the worst," Hilda groaned as she awkwardly rose to her feet.

"Oh my gosh," Bianca cried. "Look!"

The three girls glanced ahead and gasped in unison. The backdrop beyond the circuit board was now filled with the pink fabric of Fennel's shirt. At their new size, they could now see various details which were not normally visible such as the individual stitches in the seam of Fennel's low-cut top, the intricately woven fibers of her stark white lab coat, and the slight bumps and imperfections on her skin. As they looked directly above, their stomachs dropped as Fennel's gargantuan face flooded the sky, blotting out the room's light and plunging them into shadow. Her deep blue eyes were listlessly scanning the board, indicating that she had not spied the shrunken girls.


"Should probably get you off the floor, huh?" Fennel giggled as she addressed the inanimate circuit board.


The girls could feel the sound of the immense woman's voice as she slowly uttered some unintelligible noises, and the faint odor of coffee on her breath enveloped them in a weird, humid embrace. They were too dumbstruck to even think to grab Fennel's attention before the board suddenly began accelerating downward, catching them completely off-guard and causing them to stumble. Above them, Fennel's face retreated into the sky and was soon eclipsed by the underside her bust. Before the girls were able to recompose themselves, they felt the entire circuit board begin to shake, and the magnified scenery of the room started to move.

"She's takin' us for a ride," Hilda called out to the other two girls. "Hang on!"

They braced themselves as the floor beneath them gently rose and fell, small tremors rocking the board with each step Fennel took. Hilda felt overwhelmingly disoriented as her vision darted from the moving background to the sheer cloth wall to the laughably massive thumb which now gripped the board she was currently riding on. She could not believe that this object, which appeared to her as the ridged hull of a large, fleshy boat, was actually a human thumb. In that terrifying instant, Hilda finally realized just how pathetically small she truly was.

After a few steps, the girls' ride came to an end as they felt the platform gently descend before being rocked by the impact of whatever new surface it now lay on.


"Much better," Fennel declared. "Okay, back to action."


The girls all watched the giant inventor step away from the board and take a seat, her head still visible from among the circuitry. She let out a long groan as she stretched her arms skyward before dumping an avalanche of popcorn out of the bag and returning to her work. Shortly after, they began to hear a constant series of weird banging and sawing sounds that sounded like something one would hear from within a construction yard.

"Whoa," Amanita groaned as she crawled back onto her feet, "a-are we done moving now?"

Bianca picked herself up off the ground and readjusted her beret. "I-I think so."

Hilda, who had been especially punished by the turbulent ride, was slower to recover. Bianca saw this and ran over to assist her.

"Are you okay, Hilda?" she asked as she extended a hand to the battered Trainer.

"Yeah, I... I think so," Hilda said hoarsely, wincing as she stood. "A little torn up, but I've been through worse."

"You're not hurt, are you?"

"Nah, just a couple of bruises. I'll be fine. Thanks, though."

After taking a minute to recuperate and regroup, the girls examined the new backdrop of their miniature circuit village. From amid the circuitry, they could see the backside of a gigantic computer monitor standing a short distance from the board's edge. Though she was mostly obscured by the board's circiutry, the rapid-fire tapping of Fennel typing away at her keyboard echoed through the air like cannon fire. She occasionally shoveled a prodigious handful of popcorn into her mouth, and the sound of her chewing was bizarre and disquieting. A buttery aroma permeated the air, flooding the girls' nostrils with an oppressive deliciousness.

"It looks like we're on the desk now," Amanita observed.

"Hah, what'd I tell ya?" Hilda said, pumping her fist. "Told ya we'd get lucky."

Amanita scoffed. "Yeah, but we still have to get her attention."

"Yeah, but that'll be way easier now that we're up here and not down there."

"Not by much. Don't forget that we're a fraction of an inch tall now."

"Hey, we're tiny, not invisible! If we can find a way to grab her attention now that we're up here, then we'll be fine!"

"Hey, you guys!" Bianca called from the edge of the board. "Come check this out!"

"Okay, got any ideas?" Amanita asked Hilda somewhat sardonically. "Big Sis is focused on the computer right now. You would be lucky to get her to pay attention to an explosion, let alone some specks on the desk."

"So what, then? Are we supposed to just give up and not even try? I don't know about you, but I'm not about to stay like this forever!"

"I'm not saying that, Hilda! I'm just saying that it won't be as easy as just getting her to look our way!"

"You guyyys!" Bianca whined. "Come on, you totally gotta see this!"

Hilda was becoming agitated. "Oh, come on! Look, unless your sister's blind as a Zubat, I'm pretty sure she'll be able to see us! But hey, if you just wanna give up so easily, that's fine by me!"

"I'm not giving up!" Amanita shouted, clearly irritated by Hilda's misrepresentation of her words. "My point is that it is highly unlikely that Big Sis will just happen to see us! If that were the case, wouldn't she have seen us on the circuit board?"

Hilda growled, unable to counter Amanita's statement.

Bianca was growing impatient. "Heyyy, stop fighting! C'mon, look! You have to see this!"

"Look," Amanita sighed, clearly exhausted by the unnecessary quarrel, "we agree with each other. I'm not saying we can't get her attention, but it will not be as easy as you think. We need to approach this carefully and rationally. If we just try to rush into her view, she's likely to seriously injure us. I know you don't want a repeat of what happened on the floor."

Hilda paused as she recalled Fennel's titanic foot grazing her head. She sucked some air through her teeth and scowled as she realized that she had been beaten.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Hilda begrudgingly conceded, still slightly incensed by the argument. "So, what do you propose we do, then?"

"Oh my gosh," Bianca screamed, "will you two listen to me?!"

"What?!" Hilda and Amanita shouted in unison.


Bianca pointed at a gigantic pile of popcorn in the distance. Each of the girls gazed in amazement at the mound of food, and as if on cue, their stomachs all began rumbling. However, their hunger-induced trances were suddenly broken as Fennel's enormous arm began to shift. Her giant hand snatched a heaping handful of flakes, and she slowly stuffed them into her mouth without breaking her glance with the computer screen. As her weird chewing echoed through the air, she reached for a paper towel to wipe the butter off her hand and resumed typing.

"Whoa...." Hilda watched in awe as Fennel's arm descended back to its resting position.

"Let's go!" Bianca shouted as she lowered herself into the desk and started running toward the popcorn pile. "Last one there's a rotten egg!"

"W-wait," Hilda said, "Bianca, hang on! It's too dangerous!"

"That girl doesn't have much of a self-preservation instinct, does she?" Amanita asked half-rhetorically.

"I feel like she doesn't get just how much danger we're in yet."

"Well," Amanita said as she jumped off the board, "better follow her!"

"W-w-what?!" Hilda shouted incredulously. "Are you serious?!"

"You're not just gonna let her throw herself in harm's way, are you?" With those words, Amanita dashed after Bianca.

Hilda was conflicted. She was hungry, but she was far more worried about Fennel possibly turning her into paste. However, she knew that would not be able to get Fennel's attention by staying on the board. Not to mention Bianca was putting herself in grave danger by rushing out into the open. Hilda had since understood what Amanita had been saying about exercising caution and had accepted that recklessly rushing into Fennel's view would not be wise, and yet now Amanita was running out into the open, too.

"H-hey!" Hilda yelled as she leapt off the board and began running after the others, wondering how she had suddenly become the rational one. "Stop! W-wait up, you guys!"

"Bianca!" Amanita shouted. "Hang on! Wait! Come back!"

As Hilda chased after her friends, she watched Fennel's arm rise into the sky once more. Fennel reached over Hilda, casting the tiny Trainer in shadow, and lifted the enormous glass of water into the air and toward her mouth. After taking a long sip, Fennel placed the glass back on the desk, which emitted a loud clacking sound as it hit the surface.

Bianca had finally come to a stop at the edge of the paper towel. Shortly after, Amanita and Hilda caught up with her.

Hilda was completely winded. "Bee... are you... are you crazy?! You're gonna... you're gonna get us killed!"

"Oh come on, Hilda," Bianca said with a hint of condescension. "What're you worried about?"

"Oh gee, I dunno," Hilda said sarcastically, "maybe the ginormous person sitting right over there?!"

"Hildaaa, where's your sense of adventure? This is, like, the biggest pile of food ever! This is way too cool to pass up!"

Their attention snapped to Fennel's arm as it slowly lifted off the desk, and they watched as the oversized hand ripped the mountain of popcorn from the ground and dragged it skyward, leaving behind only a few popcorn flakes that had managed to escape Fennel's grasp.

"Wooow," Bianca gasped in amazement at the giant woman's display of power.

"This isn't adventure, Bee!" Hilda huffed. "This is suicide!"

"Hilda's right," Amanita joined in. "I know we're all starving, but this is an unnecessary risk you're taking, here."

"Well, what do we do, then?" Bianca asked impatiently. "I dunno about you guys, but I'm gonna pass out if I don't eat something soon!"

"Look, I'm pretty hungry, too," Hilda said. "But if we rush out there, Fennel could seriously hurt us. We should, like, wait for her to leave before we go out there."

"But if we wait, there might not be anything left for us!"

Before Hilda even had an opportunity to think of a response, Fennel's arm once again loomed over the diminutive girls, reaching for an immense object beyond them. They quickly learned what the object was as Fennel positioned it high above the center of the paper towel and tipped it over, and they watched as a cascade of popcorn poured forth from the gigantic bag, erecting a golden-yellow mountain where the previous one had stood.

"So much for there not being any left for us," Hilda said.

As the popcorn peak steadily grew in size, flakes tumbled down the mountainside at varying speeds, coming to rest near the foot of the mountain, at which point they would become the foundation upon which others lay. However, as the girls watched the edible landform creep toward them, they noticed that one flake had caught a large amount of air and had flown off the mountaintop, and it was now heading straight for them.

"Watch out!" Amanita yelled.

They immediately began running out of the flake's path, hoping that they could outrun the buttery boulder before it struck them. As it hit the floor, the flake bounced and rolled around erratically, confusing and frightening the girls as they attempted to predict where it would go. Fortunately for them, the prodigious popcorn piece came to a full stop before it could bowl any of them over.

"Is everyone okay?" Hilda asked in between breaths.

"Y-yeah," Amanita said, "I'm fine."

"Guys!" Bianca shrieked, pointing in the direction from which the boulder had landed. "Oh my gosh, look!"

The girls turned to face the giant flake. They all gasped in amazement as it now stood before them, several stories high, like a golden piece of ambrosia, and each of their stomachs voiced their desires loudly.

"This...." Bianca pulled in her arms before leaping into the air and screaming loudly. "This is the greatest thing ever!" She immediately began skipping toward the giant piece of popcorn while giggling like a child.

"I don't believe it," Amanita whispered. "This is incredible."

"I'll say," Hilda said. "Talk about a lucky break."

Hilda and Amanita followed Bianca to side of the edible boulder. Bianca had wasted no time climbing onto a small outcrop and tearing a chunk off the side.

"I can't believe this is real," Bianca squealed as she gazed at the buttery hunk of food that now rested in her hands. She opened her mouth as wide as she possibly could and took a huge bite. After a few seconds of very focused chewing, her eyes lit up and she emitted some unintelligible grunts of sheer delight.

"Well," Amanita said to Hilda as she walked over to join Bianca, "shall we?"

Hilda and Amanita both made their way to the base of the popcorn flake. They each climbed onto the same outcrop Bianca was sitting on and broke off a piece of their own.

"Well," Hilda said, "let's dig in!"

With that, they both stuffed their faces with the puffy stones. Perhaps it was due to the novelty of eating oversized food, but they could not help but feel that this was the most delicious thing that any of them had ever eaten.

"O-M-G, you guys," Bianca cried as she began furiously excavating the side of the popcorn flake, "this is totally the best thing that's ever happened to me!"

"This is pretty surreal," Amanita remarked.

"Surreal?" Hilda said through her stuffed cheeks. "This is amazing!"

"I know, right?" Bianca mumbled, her speech obscured by a mouthful of popcorn. "I could stay here forever!"

All three girls were completely enchanted by the gigantic piece of popcorn, blissfully stuffing their faces with chunks of the boulder.


Fennel had finished pouring out a new pile of popcorn and set the bag on the desk. She noticed that a piece had fallen particularly far from the rest of the pile and singled it out.

"And just where do you think you're going?" Fennel said as she reached for the runaway popcorn flake.


As the girls continued gorging themselves, they felt the familiar vibrations of Fennel's low and dissonant voice. Suddenly, a wave of terror overcame them, snapping them out of their food-induced euphoria and reminding them of the imminent danger that they were in.

"No.... Guys, we have to get out of here!" Hilda shouted.

As soon as Hilda uttered those words, they felt the popcorn boulder shake violently. They each dropped everything and began to disembark the flake, but quickly found themselves staring down the tip of a gigantic finger that had pinned them all into place, and panic immediately seized the entire group as they felt themselves lifting off the ground at an alarming speed.

"What's going on?!" Bianca screeched.

"I dunno!" Hilda shouted back.

"It's Big Sis!" Amanita cried.


"I think she's picking us up!"

"Why?! Did she see us?!"

The world quickly spun around them, and they could now see Fennel's colossal visage speeding toward them, her laser-like gaze focused directly on them.

"Oh no," Bianca screamed, "I think she's gonna"

Before Bianca could finish her sentence, Fennel's lips parted and her jaw dropped, exposing her cavernous mouth. The girls all felt their hearts stop as they realized what was about to happen.

"She's gonna eat us!" Hilda screamed. "Fennel, stop! We're here! You're gonna eat us!"

The girls frantically began calling out to the giant woman, but their tiny screams were inaudible to her.

"Please, Fennel!" Bianca yelled. "We're right here! Stop!"

"No, Big Sis!" Amanita bawled. "Don't eat us! Big Sis!"

The girls' desperate cries were in vain, as their quiet, high-pitched voices could not possibly be heard by anyone normal-sized. Fennel's abyssal maw drew ever closer, and they could see bits of pulverized popcorn lodged between her glistening teeth. Her humid breath now suffocated them with an odor so oppressive that they had to muster every ounce of willpower and constitution from within themselves in order to avoid throwing up. The girls were now about to be carelessly and accidentally eaten by the very person who had been their only hope for survival. Gazing into the titanic mouth that was now hurtling toward them, they all screamed in horror as they realized that this would be their final, mortifying sight before becoming nothing more than crumbs of food.


*** 7 ***


Before Fennel popped the tiny morsel into her mouth, a loud ringing sound pierced the air and startled her. She immediately turned her head toward the source of the noise: a videophone mounted on the wall that blinked and beeped at her to indicate an incoming call.

"Hmm," Fennel mused, addressing the small popcorn flake wedged between her thumb and forefinger, "now who could that be, I wonder."


For a brief moment, the panicked girls experienced a small shred of relief as the gaping pit before them drew shut and the colossal scientist turned away from them. Their torture resumed several seconds later, however, as Fennel appeared to begin speaking. The cacophony of the bizarre and low electronic wailing in the distance combined with Fennel's warped and sonorous voice was both frightening and painful. Without any warning, the enormous digit that held them in place released its stifling grip, and they felt their organs bunch together in their throats as they experienced a sharp descent. They quickly grabbed onto the giant popcorn boulder in an effort to stabilize themselves, and they soon realized that they had been dropped back onto the pile. Before they had any time to react, however, they felt the huge jolt of the popcorn flake's impact with the mountain, and they clung for dear life as the world began spinning around them, their bodies being violently rocked and rattled as the gigantic puff clumsily rolled down the side of the pile. Finally, the boulder came to an abrupt halt and flung the disoriented girls, sending them tumbling onto the paper towel.


Fennel rose out of her chair and walked over to the phone. As she reviewed the caller information on the screen, her eyes lit up. She answered the call, and Professor Juniper's head filled the screen, surrounded by a blue sky.

"Aurea, hiii!" Fennel beamed.

"Hello, Fennel," Juniper said. "How are things?"

"Oh, fantastic, just fantastic," Fennel said through her teeth.

Juniper raised an eyebrow, picking up on Fennel's insincerity. "Uh-huh. Fine, huh? What'd you break this time?"

"W-what?! I-I didn't break anything," Fennel said proudly. "I'll have you know that everything is perfectly under control here!"

"Let me guess, that storage ray is still giving you grief, huh?"


"Oh, how did I know that?"

Fennel stuck out her tongue at the screen. "Ya know, I should start charging you rent if you're gonna keep staying in my head like that!"

"Perhaps you should charge library fees instead, since you're basically an open book. Besides, I've known you for how long?"

"Yeah, yeah, what-ever!" Fennel giggled as her cheeks turned bright red. She pulled up a chair in front of the monitor to sit and began playing with her long hair. "Sooo, what's up?"

"Oh, not too much. Just out and about doing research. The usual. Did the girls ever make it over there?"

"Yep! Sure did, and I told them all about the green Munna. They were totally surprised, too!"

Juniper laughed heartily. "Excellent! You know, it required a lot of willpower for me not to spoil the surprise."

"Pssh, yeah, right! It was probably super-easy. I bet you had fun stringing them along, too!"

"Oh dear, you got me on that one," Juniper admitted with a smirk.

Fennel grinned as wide as her facial muscles would allow. "Now who's the open book?"


"I win!" Fennel giggled. "Anyway, they left for the Dreamyard maybe a half hour ago. Amanita went with them, too, so it's just me here."


Amanita groaned as she slowly regained her senses. The high ceiling and massive computer screen were enshrouded in a blurry haze, and the ringing in her ears was only just beginning to subside. As she replayed the harrowing series of events that she had just experienced, she felt a wave of relief wash over her. By some miracle, they managed to avoid being eaten and had been spared a gruesome and unspeakable death. However, her relief was short-lived, for she quickly realized that the ensuing fall might not have been so kind to the others. She could now hear the low roar of her sister speaking far off in the distance, but her vision had failed to come into proper focus, and she quickly realized that her glasses must have been knocked off her head during the fall. She hastily scrambled to her feet and frantically began searching the soft, white ground for anything remotely resembling a pair of glasses. Fortunately, she did not have to look very far, as they had landed close to her position. She reached for the small blur on the ground, fearing that her lenses or the frame might have been broken from the impact, but was relieved to find everything intact. As soon as she donned her glasses, she immediately began checking on the others.

"Owww," Bianca moaned as she began to recover from the fall, "wh... where am I?"

Amanita rushed to Bianca's side. "Oh my gosh, Bianca! Are you alright? Are you hurt?"

"W-what happened?" Bianca asked as she began to prop herself up.

"We survived," Amanita replied, her voice quavering with a small amount of residual fear. "We didn't get eaten. We're alive."

Bianca sat up and vacantly stared ahead, her mouth agape and trembling. Suddenly, her eyes widened and she drew in a short breath. Her shoulders bounced as she let out a small sob, followed by another, then another.

"We're alive," she squeaked.


Bianca began wildly darting her head around. "Oh no... where's Hilda?! Is she okay?!"

"I-I don't know. I haven't checked on her, yet."

Bianca sprang up and scanned the area for Hilda, worried that her friend might have been seriously injured. She and Amanita spotted Hilda a short distance from where they had landed. Hilda had been tossed a bit farther from the popcorn boulder, and she did not appear to show any signs of movement.

"H-Hilda!" Bianca screeched as she sprinted over toward Hilda's motionless body, once again fearing the worst for her dear friend.

Hilda was sprawled out on the ground, lying face-up and eyes closed. Bianca nudged the unconscious Trainer's body in an effort to wake her.

"Hilda, are you okay?! Wake up, Hilda! C-c'mon, now's not the time for jokes! Get up!"

But Hilda did not move.

Tears began forming in Bianca's eyes. "We... we're alive, Hilda! We made it, e-e-everything's okay! Come on, Hilda, wake up, please!"

Bianca started to lift Hilda's torso off the ground, but Amanita quickly stopped her.

"Wait!" Amanita said. "Don't move her! She could be seriously hurt. What if she has a concussion or a broken bone or something?"

Bianca jerked her arms back, but she still wanted to help Hilda any way she could.

"Well, like, w-what're we supposed to do?" she stammered. "We... we can't just leave her like this!"

Amanita moved closer. "Is she breathing? Does she have a pulse?"

"Uh, r-right."

Bianca dried her eyes and placed her fingers on Hilda's neck, and she smiled as she detected a steady heartbeat. She felt as though a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders knowing that Hilda was alive.

"Hilda, please," Bianca pleaded in between sobs, "you have to get up." She pressed her forehead against Hilda's. "Please, get up...."

"Come on, Hilda!" Amanita shouted. "Hang in there! I know you can do this! We believe in you!"

Hilda's eyelids began twitching, and she began to let out faint squeaks. Bianca's heart leapt, and her eyes grew red and misty.

"H-Hilda! Can... can you hear me?!"

Hilda's eyelids snapped wide open, and she let out a blood-curdling scream that caused Bianca and Amanita to jump back. Hilda's eyes began darting around wildly, and she fell into a panic. She pushed her body up on her forearms and began shuffling backward along the ground while yelling hysterically, as though she was still trying to avoid being eaten by Fennel. Bianca and Amanita were alarmed by Hilda's erratic behavior and immediately attempted to restrain the confused Trainer.

"Hilda, stop!" Amanita yelled as she strained to avoid being shoved aside by Hilda. "It's okay, there's no danger anymore!"

Hilda's thrashing and screaming slowly came to a halt. She began warily looking around the scenery, then to Bianca and Amanita. Her eyes were opened as wide as her lids would allow, and her mouth dangled open as she panted heavily.

"Wh... what...?"

Bianca flung her arms around Hilda. "We didn't get eaten. We... we're alive."

Bianca could not contain herself any longer, and she began violently bawling into Hilda's shoulder. Hilda, however, was completely paralyzed with fear, and she was unable to speak or express any emotion. A shell-shocked expression was frozen onto her face.

"I-it's okay to cry, Hilda," Bianca said, sensing her friend's turbulent emotions. "Y-you don't always have to act so tough, you know. It's okay to be scared."

Hilda was touched by her friend's display of affection, and with those words, the floodgates opened. She unleashed a torrent of emotion and began to cry loudly as all of her fear was finally allowed to breach the surface.

"I can't take it, Bee!" Hilda wailed, gripping her friend as tightly as humanly possible. "It's too much! I tried to act brave, but this is just too much! I'm the Champion, I'm supposed to be strong! I'm not supposed to let fear get the best of me! But we... we were almost stepped on... eaten alive... by a person! Oh my god, everything's so huge and scary... I... I don't wanna die like this!"

"Hilda, you're not weak for being afraid. Everybody gets afraid sometimes, even Champions."


Bianca and Hilda silently stared into each other's eyes for several seconds. Finally, the two girls burst into tears and cried until their eyes ran dry. For Hilda, there was a profound catharsis in owning her fear, and as she wept, her fear seemed to wash away and drain out of her tear ducts.

"Hilda," Bianca whispered, "You'll always be the strongest person I know."

Amanita looked on, inspired by the powerful display of friendship. She waited for their crying to subside before walking over to them and placing her hands on their shoulders.

"We're going to be fine," she smiled. "Now let's grab some food and then figure out how to get Big Sis' attention."

"Sounds like a plan," Hilda said between sniffles.

"Alright!" Bianca cheered. "Finally!"

The girls proceeded to happily gorge themselves on the giant popcorn boulder until their stomachs nearly burst. Periodically, they could hear the low rumbling of Fennel's voice in the distance, which startled them whenever it started up.

"Omigosh, that's too weird," Bianca remarked. "She sounds like a Wailord!"

"No kiddin'," Hilda affirmed. "I can't make out a word she's saying."

"That raises an interesting question," Amanita pondered, "how will we communicate with Big Sis once we finally get her attention?"

"I think we should focus on actually getting her attention first."

Bianca swallowed a huge chunk of popcorn. "But, like, how are we gonna do that? Everything we try seems to not work for some reason."

Amanita furrowed her brow pensively. "Hmm, we're going to have to think outside the box...."

Outside the box... the box... Box System... Storage System... Pokémon Storage System... Pokémon...!

Amanita let out a loud yelp, startling the other two girls.

"Wah, what is it?" Bianca asked.

"Th-that's it! You guys have your Pokémon on you, right?!"

Hilda and Bianca blinked at Amanita for a second before making the same realization.

"Ohhh!" Bianca said. "Duh! Our Pokémon, Hilda! We have our Pokémon to help us out!"

"Y-yeah, I knew that," Hilda muttered.

"Okay," Amanita continued, "do either of you have any Pokémon that could help Big Sis notice us?"

"Hey," Bianca said, "what about Storm? We could, like, fly in front of Fennel's face and get her attention that way! Besides, you owe me another flying lesson!"

"Oh, yeah," Hilda replied. "Good call, Bee."

Hilda reached for the Poké Ball at her waist and held it out. Before she summoned Storm, however, she hesitated.

"H-hang on. Uhh, is this gonna work?"

"What do you mean?" Amanita asked.

"I mean, like... okay, so we all got shrunk by your kooky invention, right? But, what about our Pokémon? Would they be affected differently or anything like that?"

Amanita scratched her head. "Well, to be perfectly honest, I don't actually know. Since they're already stored energy, I don't know if they would have been altered during the recombination process. We only tested household objects. I suppose we'll just have to try it and see."

Hilda nervously glanced down at the Ball in her hand. Her Pokémon were now their best chance for survival, but what would happen once she releases them? What if something went horribly wrong? She would have to worry about all that after summoning her Pokémon what other choice did she have?

"Okay, Storm," she shouted, "let's go!"

Hilda tensed up as she tossed the Ball onto the ground, and a flash of light burst forth from it. She breathed a long sigh of relief as the light took on the familiar outline of a Braviary, and Storm manifested in front of her with a loud screech. He had been shrunken down along with the girls and did not appear to be affected in any other way.

Hilda ran over to the majestic bird and hugged it. "I'm so glad you're okay, Storm!"

"I suppose that answers that question," Amanita said. "So, what's the plan, Boss?"

"Well, I figure when your sister gets back, we fly up in front of the computer screen. That way, she'll definitely see us, and then we can finally get back to normal."

"Awesome!" Bianca exclaimed as she shoveled another large popcorn nugget into her mouth. "So I guess we wait until she gets back, huh?"

Hilda apprehensively looked over to the titaness in the distance.

"Yeah... I guess so."


"Well," Professor Juniper said, drawing out the word in a suggestive manner, "I'm actually on my way to Pinwheel Forest to do some research on a rare Pokémon that was spotted there."

"Oh!" Fennel shouted joyously. "So you're gonna be passing through Striaton City, then?"

"I suppose I would have to pass through your neck of the woods, yes."

Fennel clasped her hands together and drew in a short breath. "Heyyy, I know! Have you had lunch yet?"

"Hmm, now that you mention it, I could probably use some fuel before starting my research."

"Well, I know this great little restaurant that just opened up. It's called The Bayleef. They have the best sandwiches, and their coffee is to die for! We should go! My treat?"

Juniper smiled. "That sounds like a fantastic idea! I just so happen to be in the area, too." She lowered her wrist to show off her current location, and Fennel saw the busy streets of Striaton's commercial district.

"O-oh! That's super! Hey, how about you meet me there in like 20 minutes? I'm still trying to solve this problem I'm having with the Matter Reduction Ray."

Juniper cocked her head slightly. "Huh? I thought you called it a storage ray before...?"

Fennel paused for a second. "Ohhh, right, right, right! I'll tell you about that when we meet up."

"Alright. How about I meet you at the restaurant then? You said it was called 'The Bayleef'?"

"Yep yep, that's it!"

"Okay, I'll meet you there, then. See you in a bit."

"Okie dokie, byeee!"

Fennel giggled as she hung up and began walking back toward her desk, humming and twirling as she moved across the room.


The girls watched the giant inventor slowly dance her way toward them, and they began plotting their next move.

"Alright, you guys," Hilda announced, "now's our chance. All aboard!"

Hilda hopped onto Storm's back and had him lower his body to allow the others on. Amanita was the first to approach the large bird Pokémon. She climbed aboard, storing her glasses in her pocket, and situated herself closely to Hilda's backside so that she would be safely sandwiched between Hilda and Bianca. Bianca tucked her beret into her vest and happily jumped on Storm's back, sidling up to Amanita and wrapping her arms around the young hacker.

"I've never flown on a Pokémon before," Amanita said with a hint of nervousness in her voice.

"Don't worry," Bianca reassured her. "It's a little scary at first, but it's tons of fun!"

Hilda waited for Fennel to move closer to the desk before making her move. Within a minute, Fennel had arrived at her seat and was now looming over the tiny girls. She had woken the computer and was now once again typing away.

"Alright, Storm," she shouted, "let's do this! Hang on, you guys!"

Hilda lightly kicked Storm's sides, causing him to screech loudly and take flight. Bianca and Amanita were laughing and hollering as they ascended toward Fennel's face.

"Wow," Bianca gasped, "this is too trippy! We're moving so fast, but it looks like we're barely moving at all!"

Amanita reached for her glasses and briefly slipped them on in order to get a better view of the world around her. "Oh wow," she exclaimed. "You're right. I can feel us moving, but everything is so big that it looks like we're standing still. What a weird feeling!"

Bianca shouted ahead over Amanita's shoulder. "So what's the plan, Hilda?"

"Well," Hilda started, "not much of a plan, really. We're just gonna fly in front of the screen so that Fennel sees us. We'll play the rest by ear."

The girls felt their stomachs drop into their legs as Hilda commanded Storm to rapidly ascend toward the unaware scientist's face. Beyond Fennel's body, the immense room sprawled across the horizon, the unmoving far wall now seeming miles away from them. They watched as Fennel steadily sank toward the ground, her head slowly descending to meet them in the sky, and as they climbed higher, they could feel a mild breeze pour forth from her nostrils. Once Storm had reached an adequate altitude, Hilda positioned him such that they fell directly within Fennel's line of sight; there was no possible way that she could miss the girls now.

"Alright," Hilda proclaimed, "we're here! Just start yelling and waving and she'll eventually see us!"

On her command, the three girls and the Pokémon all began waving and making noises, doing anything in their power to capture the giant woman's attention.


Fennel continued typing away at the terminal, ensnared in an obsessive trance. Although she was excited to see Professor Juniper, she still desperately wanted to make some form of progress on her current set of problems, and she figured she could afford to wait a few minutes before leaving. As she unblinkingly stared at the screen, she noticed a small smudge near the bottom. However, she quickly found her eyes following it upward along the screen, and after a short second, the smudge stopped in the center of the screen. Focusing her gaze upon the tiny smudge, she realized that it was not a smudge at all, and that whatever it was, it was not even on the screen. At first, she thought it was a small dust particle that had floated into her vision, but was shocked to find that it had stopped moving and now appeared to hover at a constant altitude before her.


The three girls held their collective breath as the two gigantic blue orbs locked on to them.

"I think she saw us!" Amanita cheered.

Fennel's eyebrows slowly rose, virtually in response to Amanita's comment. The girls all began cheering and shouting happily at the giant face in front of them, thankful that their nightmare would soon draw to a close. They watched as Fennel pushed back in her chair and began to raise her cupped hand, presumably to create a safe landing zone for them.

"I can't believe it!" Hilda said. "It's finally over! We're saved!"

Hilda began to command Storm to descend into Fennel's palm. However, the giant hand veered away from them, and it was soon ominously hovering over their heads. The girls stared up into Fennel's cupped hand, completely at her mercy and wondering what she was planning.

"W-what's she doing?" Bianca asked nervously.

"I dunno," Hilda replied, feeling uneasy at the sight of Fennel's enormous hand leering over them.

Suddenly, the hand rapidly began to grow in size, and in that instant, they understood what was going on.

Fennel was not going to rescue them. She was going to swat them out of the sky.


*** 8 ***


"Nooo, look out!" Amanita screeched.

Unfortunately, they realized too late what the giant scientist was doing, and they soon felt the calamitous impact of her building-sized hand smashing into them. As Fennel's hand moved across the sky, they were held in place against her giant palm by the sheer force of its motion. Soon, the unpleasant pressing sensation quickly gave way to a dizzying freefall as the three girls and the Pokémon were all sent plummeting toward the wooden floor far below them.


"What was that?" Fennel wondered aloud after having instinctively swatted the tiny insect that had been hovering in front of her. Whatever it was, it looked like nothing she had ever seen before. She scanned the floor in an effort to locate the strange object, but was unable to find it.

"Hmm, too weird," she mused as she slid her chair back under her desk and continued working.


A loud rumbling and clacking sound jolted Bianca out of unconsciousness. She looked over to the source of the sound and discovered that it was coming from the wheels of Fennel's chair as they moved across the hardwood floor. Shivering with fear and awe, she watched as Fennel swung her leg high into the sky and rested it on top of the other, which now rose upward like a massive ivory tower into a dark, wooden sky. Soon after, she once again heard the loud clacking and banging of keys from somewhere in the sky. By all metrics, their plan had failed; not only had Fennel not noticed them, but she swatted them out of the air, and now they were on the floor once more. As Bianca stood, she realized that she had fortuitously been spared any major, or even minor, injuries.

"Hey, Bee. Welcome back."

Bianca turned around and saw Hilda and Amanita standing a few steps from Bianca's position. They were huddled around Storm, who was lying on the ground and appeared to be in pain. Bianca dusted her dress off, pulled out her beret and placed it firmly on her head before running over to meet the others.

"Oh my gosh, you guys, are you alright?"

"Yeah," Hilda responded, "Amanita and me are fine. Unfortunately, Storm here looks like he's seen better days."

Storm was lying on his side, and one of his wings was bent at an unnatural angle. His breathing was labored, and he let out a suppressed and anguished screech.

"Oh no, Storm!" Bianca shrieked as she ran over toward the injured Pokémon and knelt beside him. "Shhh, you're okay... you'll be fine. I can fix you up."

Her Trainer instincts took over, and she reached for her satchel to retrieve a Full Restore. However, she quickly realized the fundamental flaw in her plan.

"Eep, my bag! Oh no, Hilda! We left our bags at the door!"

"Yeah..." Hilda said despondently. "So there ain't much we can do." She patted Storm on the head and looked him in the eye. "Thanks, pal. You did a great job out there. Get some rest, 'kay?"

Storm let out a small cry, and Hilda recalled the ailing Pokémon into his Ball.

"Welp," Hilda said through a short sigh, "guess we're grounded again."

Bianca was puzzled. "I don't get it... how did we survive the fall?"

"Well," Amanita said, "while we were all falling to the ground, Storm managed to catch us and safely land on the floor. Unfortunately, the collision with Big Sis really banged him up, and flying to save us just took its toll on him. As for why we didn't get hurt... well, your guess is as good as mine."


"Yeah, so it seems that, like Hilda said, we're stuck on the ground once again. As of right now, we don't have a plan for getting rescued."

"Unless...." Hilda gulped. The apprehension in her voice was palpable.

"Unless what?" Bianca asked.

Hilda said nothing, but instead pointed behind the other two. They turned to trace Hilda's finger and saw that she was pointing directly at Fennel's monstrous foot.

"I don't get it, what are you saying?" Amanita asked.

"Look, we still need to get your sister's attention, right? Well, with Storm outta commission, we ain't gettin' back up there unless we get real lucky again. We're gonna have to take a different approach, here. And the only way I see us getting her attention right now...." She pressed her lips together and gulped. " to attack her."

"Whaaaat?!" Bianca screamed.

"Huh. That's actually a pretty good idea," Amanita said coolly.


"Yeah. Think about it. At our current size, powerful attacks from even the strongest Pokémon would probably be nothing more than pinches or itches to a normal-sized person. You guys have some pretty strong Pokémon, so if you two focus your Pokémon's attacks on Big Sis, then just maybe she'll look down here and see us." She turned toward her sister. "However, it's far too risky. If something goes wrong, then...."

"Yeah," Hilda said, "I'm really not lookin' forward to it, but this is probably our only shot right now."

Bianca reluctantly looked at the Poké Balls at her waist, then back at the massive woman in the distance.

"Right," she nodded apprehensively. "I-I'm sure they'll be okay."

"Thanks, Bee." Hilda smiled and placed her hand on Bianca's shoulder. "We can do this. Just tell yourself that we can do this."

The three girls nervously approached Fennel, wary of every minute movement that she made. The idle bouncing and dangling of her shoe on her toes high above them was particularly unsettling; not only did the giant shoe look like it could fall at any given moment, but it reminded them that Fennel could move her leg at any time, set her foot on top of them and be none the wiser.

"We can do this," Hilda said to herself under her breath, as her anxiety of being near a giant person was flaring up once more.

As they stared up the side of the stadium-sized shoe and towering white pillar before them, their heart rates skyrocketed at the thought of an idle shift wiping them out instantly. The desperation of their situation, however, forced them to press onward. Once they reached a suitable distance from Fennel's foot, Hilda and Bianca began to psych themselves up for their daunting task.

"Are you guys sure about this?" Amanita asked worriedly.

"Not really," Hilda admitted, "but what other choice do we have?"

Bianca stared at the Ball in her hand. "Okay, so like, we agree that if anything bad happens, we recall our Pokémon and then run really fast, right?"

"Yep. Two each so that we can recall them quickly." Hilda reached for two Poké Balls and tossed them out in front of her. "Volt! Spike!"

The two Balls exploded in a flash, and an Eelektross and a Ferrothorn appeared in their places.

Bianca stepped forward and tossed her Poké Balls at the ground. "Chandelure! Simisage!"

Two more flashes, and the two Pokémon appeared alongside Hilda's. The four Pokémon all stood at attention, awaiting their masters' orders.

Hilda stepped forward. "Alright, you two, get up on Fennel's foot and do what you can to get her attention! Stay in my sight so that I can bail you out if things get hairy!"

Bianca followed. "Y-you too, Chandelure and Simisage! Go where they go and attack the same spot!"

The four Pokémon all cried in affirmation and swiftly made their way over to the pink wall. Volt gracefully slid along the ground, suspended in midair by electromagnetic forces, and effortlessly began ascending the side of Fennel's shoe. Spike plunged his arms into the pink shined leather and followed Volt along the wall with a speed that betrayed his awkward form. Simisage hopped on one of Chandelure's arms, and the two began their ascent as Chandelure started floating upward after Hilda's Pokémon. They all stopped on the outer rim of Fennel's shoe near the arch of her foot and immediately went to work.

Volt channeled energy from deep within herself and unleashed a beam of electricity on the unaware inventor's skin. Spike leapt from the glossy ledge and burrowed his arms deep into the massive wall of flesh and began smashing his body into it like a wrecking ball. Bianca's Pokémon soon caught up, and they quickly mounted their attack on the titaness. Chandelure conjured a ball of shadow energy and enveloped it in purple flame. Simisage focused his own energy into a large green orb. The two Pokémon simultaneously fired their energy balls at the same spot that Volt was firing her Charge Beam. Spike jumped out of the way as the two orbs met and intersected Volt's beam, and a massive explosion followed the impact, leaving a large reddened patch of skin in its wake.

"Holy cow!" Bianca exclaimed.

"Did we... did we do it?" Hilda said.

The clacking overhead stopped.

"Well, that's a good sign," Amanita said.

The girls felt a small rumble as the chair began to move slightly. The Pokémon were caught off-guard as Fennel began to lift her foot out of her shoe, and everyone watched as a huge hand descended from the heavens.

"Quick!" Amanita shouted. "Call them back! Call them back!"

Bianca let out a shrill shriek as she aimed her Poké Balls at her Pokémon. "Chandelure! Simisage! Return!"

Hilda swiftly followed suit. "R-right! Volt, Spike, return!"

Four beams shot out from four Poké Balls and enveloped the four Pokémon in a red light, converting them into energy and storing them inside the Balls before they could be damaged by the building-sized fingers that were rapidly encroaching upon them. The girls watched, dumbfounded, as Fennel began leaning down toward the floor, thick strands of her bluish, knee-length hair piling up on the floor. Her face was obscured by her arm as she scratched at the blast site, producing a sound similar to trees being uprooted one by one. Before the girls had a chance to capture Fennel's attention, her hand returned to the sky beyond the desk, and her titanic foot reinserted itself into its pink sheath.

The clacking resumed.

"D-d-did you see that?!" Bianca cried. "That mega-huge blast was just an itch to her!"

"No... no way," Hilda said despondently. "This is getting ridiculous. How did she not see us?"

"Cheer up, Hilda," Amanita said. "That was a great idea."

Hilda remained silent and stared up toward Fennel's face , a glimmer of anger in her eye.

"So what now," Bianca asked.

"Get your Pokémon out again," Hilda said curtly.


"We're trying this again."


Hilda snapped her head toward Bianca. Her eyes were filled with determination. "If we keep at it, she's gotta realize something's up. She'll actually look down, and then she'll see us!"

Amanita stepped forward. "Hilda, I know you put a lot of faith in that idea, but don't you think we should step back and"

"I know this'll work, we just gotta keep trying. Trust me."


Fennel had failed to make any headway on her current set of problems and was growing increasingly frustrated. She groaned as she glanced at the clock, feeling incredibly disappointed with herself that she had been unable to make any progress. Still, she knew that Juniper would be waiting for her at her favorite restaurant, and she was practically unable to feel any unhappiness around her longtime friend. Deciding to place her work on hold for the time being, Fennel put the computer to sleep and got up to leave.


"It's too risky," Amanita protested. "You saw what happened when Big Sis went to scratch herself! You would put your Pokémon in harm's way again?"

"I don't see another way!" Hilda said exasperatedly. "I know it's risky, but what other choice do we have? This is our best chanceour only chance to be rescued and get back to nor"

"Look out!" Bianca screeched, pointing upward.

Amanita and Hilda followed Bianca's finger upward and were struck with terror. Fennel had begun to uncross her legs, and the girls were now in mortal danger yet again as her foot began to descend directly upon them. They could see small particles of dirt and dust dropping from Fennel's sole toward the ground as the giant appendage steadily drew closer, growing larger and larger in size as it approached.

"Run!" Hilda bellowed, her voice drenched in panic and fear.

The three girls began to run, but they were unsure of where to go, for in the opposite direction lay Fennel's grounded foot, which posed just as much of a threat to their lives. Shouting among themselves and deliberating on which direction to move, they panicked as the shadow of the colossal woman wrapped them in darkness. Seized by an overwhelming sense of defeat, the girls all huddled together and awaited their execution.

A few seconds later, they experienced a loud boom and a strong quake, and they were all whisked off their feet by a strong blast of displaced air. Fennel had barely missed them, and they had once again been serendipitously spared a terrible end. The floor groaned and wailed under the giant scientist's weight as she slid her chair backward and stood. The girls could feel Fennel's explosive footsteps wane in volume and intensity as she walked away from the desk. Far off in the distance, they heard the familiar sound of metal scraping and groaning as it rubbed against itselfthe sound of a gigantic door opening and closing. The muffled booms receded until they were no longer audible, and all was now eerily quiet, save for the haunting hum of the room's machinery. The girls were all shivering and looking around, still in shock after their near-death experience.

"We...." Hilda stared to speak, but stopped as she fell to her knees. Her lips slowly turned upward, and a breathy chuckle escaped them. "We... we...." A few shock-laced laughs involuntarily ejected themselves from her mouth. "We survived."

She soon erupted into an uproarious and hysterical laughter. Tears streamed down her face, and she smiled so wide that her jaw nearly popped off its hinges.

"We're alive!" Hilda triumphantly screamed toward the heavens. "We're alive, you guys!" she said to the others in between laughs.

Hilda jumped to her feet and snatched Bianca's arms, dancing and cheering with her. Bianca, roused out of shock by Hilda's euphoric hysteria, also began laughing and cheering along with her friend. The two girls began singing and dancing with each other, grateful that they had been spared yet again by whatever cosmic armor had been protecting them.

"We have to go," Amanita said tersely.

Hilda and Bianca stopped in their tracks.

"Huh?" Bianca asked.

"It's not safe here. We have to go."

"Go?" Hilda said, completely confused. "W-whaddya mean? Go where?"

"Anywhere but here. We need to find a place that's safe. A place where we can't be stepped on or eaten or... whatever! We need to go somewhere out of the way."

"But," Bianca began to ask, "but what about the plan? How will we get res"

"Every plan has failed!" Amanita snapped. "Each plan we've come up with has had some fatal flaw that we either underestimated or didn't even see in the first place, and each time we almost got killed in the process! Now, I don't know about you guys, but I just don't see the point in continuing to stay out here in the open where Big Sis can just trample us without a thought! Let's just find a safe place and wait."

"But Amanita," Hilda protested, "how will your sister find us if we don't try to show ourselves?"

"Don't you get it?! We've nearly died because Big Sis doesn't know we're here! She's not looking for us because she doesn't even know we're missing yet! If we wait long enough, she'll realize that we're missing, or she'll notice that the machine shrank us, and then she'll start looking!"


"Uh-uh! No buts! I'm taking charge now, and this is the plan!"

Hilda stomped forward. "Hey, wait a minute! I'm not about to sit back and wait for something to happen! We gotta get out there and"

Amanita let out a loud roar. "Will you just shut up and listen to me?!"

Hilda fell silent, and she and Bianca stared at the enraged hacker with wide eyes and open mouths.

"I'm not just some dumb kid, you know!" Amanita said angrily. "I'm kind of smart, and I'm good at thinking about things and solving problems! It's kind of what I do! I know I'm younger than you guys, but please, stop treating me like a little kid! You have to trust me on this one!"

She lowered her head, and her voice began to quaver. "It's partially my fault that this happened... so I should be the one to make it right. Just let me help fix this. I know this will work. You have to trust me. Please."

Hilda was at a loss for words. "Amanita, I...."

A tense moment of silence passed. Everyone had run out of words; nobody knew what to say anymore. It seemed like an eternity had passed before someone finally broke the silence.

"...where to, Boss?" Hilda spoke.

Amanita looked up at Hilda, expecting a sarcastic smirk. She was instead greeted by a sincere smile.

"Lead on," Hilda said with a wink.

The girls trudged across the wooden wasteland, Amanita at the head of the pack. As they walked out in the open floor, they entered an area that was lit by sunlight coming in from the window. Walking in the golden rays of light pouring forth from the outside, they remembered why they had persevered and made it so far. The possibility of returning to the outside world instilled within them a sense of hope and purpose.

"Man," Hilda said to Bianca, "when we get out of this joint, you sooo owe me a date with that receptionist dude."

"Huh?" Bianca stared at Hilda quizzically.

"You know, that guy who was at the reception desk when I showed up at the lab this morning."

"Ohhh! Yeah, he's way older than you. He's also married."

"Bianca," Hilda said flatly, "do I look like I care right now?"

"Ooh, you're so bad!" Bianca giggled. "Well, I suppose I'll see what I can do."

"Almost there, you guys," Amanita called back to them.

Their destination was the underside of the bed. The huge bed would provide excellent cover for them, and they would be guaranteed to be out of the way of foot traffic.

"So how long do you think we'll have to wait, anyway?" Bianca inquired.

"End of the day at the latest," Amanita replied. "If I know my sister, and I'm pretty sure I do, she's working on the ray right now. Probably something related to the energy conversion and recombination formulas. Chances are that she'll notice the green light on the reduction ray. When she goes to check the log file, she'll see that we got shrunk and start looking for us. And remember she wanted me back here before dusk? Well, when we don't show up by then, she'll know we're...."

Amanita realized her error as soon as she said her plan aloud. Should Fennel fail to notice the green light before sundown, she would likely forget all about her research and instead organize a search party focused on finding the girls at the Dreamyard, forcing them to wait even longer. At that point, even if she noticed the light, the authorities would be involved, and that would draw needless and unwanted attention onto the ray gun.

"Something wrong?" Hilda asked.

"N-no," Amanita stammered. "Everything's fine. We just have to wait it out."

"What about food?" Bianca asked. "We're gonna need to eat something depending on how long we have to wait."

Another oversight. Amanita was getting nervous.

"I-I don't know," she confessed. "We'll have to figure that out wh"

Amanita was interrupted by a faint and low sound in the distance.

"Shhh, did you guys hear that?" she asked, appreciating the excuse to change the subject.

The girls stopped in their tracks and focused as hard as they could on the strange noise. It sounded like a low wailing occasionally punctuated by thumps. Could Fennel have been returning already?

"That sounds a lot like Fennel," Bianca remarked.

"Already?!" Amanita whispered. "We're gonna have to really move if it is her."

The wails and thumps grew louder and louder. Soon, the girls once again were greeted by the creaking of a ship's hull. In the distance beyond the underside of the bed, they saw the door swing open.

"It is her!" Amanita hollered. "We have to move! C'mon, go, go!"

The girls broke into a mad dash for the bed, eager to get to safety before Fennel had another chance to stomp them flat. Beyond the bed, they saw Fennel's foot step into the apartment. They did not expect, however, to see a second pair of feet step inside after her. As they closed in in the bed post, Hilda and Bianca immediately recognized the white and red sneakers, and they instantly knew who this second person was.

"It... it's the Professor!" Hilda yelled. "What's she doing here?!"

"She said she was going to... Pinwheel Forest today!" Bianca said in between breaths. "I guess she... decided to stop by!"

After about a minute of constant running, the girls finally made it to the bed. Now that there were two people here, there was twice as much danger, but would there be twice as much hope for rescue?


*** 9 ***


"I can't for the life of me figure out why I'm unable to fully convert a given target!" Fennel groaned loudly in frustration. "I've reverse-engineered the Poké Ball up and down a wall, so why do I still need to reduce the subject for use as an anchor point?!"

"Take it easy, Fennel," Professor Juniper said reassuringly. "I'm sure the answer will come to you at some point. Maybe it's some simple mistake in the numbers or something."

"Probably." Fennel began to tug at her hair. "Ohhh, watch it be something absolutely stupid that I overlooked. It's always some dumb mistake!"

Juniper slung her arm around Fennel. "Relax, we'll figure it out. Maybe a second set of eyes is just what the doctor ordered."

Fennel leaned her head on Juniper's shoulder. "Oh, you're the best!"

Juniper laughed. "And to think you were just beating up on me for surprising you by showing up here."

"Oh, stuff it! You know I get cranky without my coffee! Besides, I reeeally wanted to take you to The Bayleef."

Juniper noticed the huge coffee cup on Fennel's desk. "Unless you need a coffee IV drip, I think you'll be fine. Look, we'll spend some time with your formulas, then we can head out. My research today isn't time-sensitive, anyway. I can afford to spend some time here." She smelled the air, then noticed the bag of popcorn sitting at the computer. "Oh, do you mind if I have some popcorn?"

"Nope! Go right ahead! I've got plenty more where that came from!"


The girls carefully peered out from underneath the bed as they moved to get a better view of the prodigious Professor, who now stood taller than the tallest skyscraper in Castelia City.

Hilda shuddered as Juniper stepped toward them. "Oh man, she's absolutely gigantic."

Just like with Fennel, each step that Juniper took toward them boomed loudly and sent tremors through the wooden floor, but her footfalls were much louder and heavier than Fennel's. When she stepped in front of the girls, they all fell to the ground from the ensuing quake.


"You got the extra butter bags!" Juniper cheered as she smashed a handful of popcorn into her mouth. She then excitedly mumbled something completely unintelligible.

"Of course I did," Fennel squealed. "They're the best. I'll go put on another bag for us. Oh! Lemme go get you some water while I'm at it! Could you be a dear and wake my computer up?"

"Sure, no problem."

Fennel left for the kitchen, and Juniper powered on the computer. Reaching for another handful of popcorn, she watched as the screen lit up, and various high-level math equations flooded the screen. She looked toward the bed behind her.

"Speaking of sleep mode...."

Juniper sat on the edge of the bed and began bouncing her body up and down. Despite being a research machine, it was the most comfortable bed she had ever felt, and she always loved coming over and flopping onto the cloudlike mattress. She dropped her upper body back onto the bed and cradled her head in her hands, closing her eyes as she began to doze off.


The horrific sound of enormous bed springs and box springs creaking and groaning echoed all around, and the girls felt as though they were in the bowels of some huge seafaring ship during a storm. They ran away from the edge of the bed frame into the shadows in an effort to maintain a safe distance from the giant Professor. From underneath the bed, the girls could only see up to Juniper's ankles, and they winced as one of her enormous feet began to slowly bounce up and down, conjuring mini-tremors each time its heel struck the ground. Her other foot dangled halfway off the ground, resting on the toe of her sneaker. The girls marveled at the size of her shoe, noting the intricate detail of her sole and treads that they were now able to discern at their new size.

"Th-this is totally insane!" Bianca said in between the booms of Juniper's rhythmic stomping. "Now there are two giants here! This is so awesomely cool!"

"Well, I'm glad at least one of us is enjoying herself," Hilda hissed bitterly. She turned toward Amanita. "Okay, fearless leader, what now?"

"I'm thinking, I'm thinking," Amanita snipped.

"The Professor is right there. We could try attacking her from a distance like we did wit"

"We are not trying that plan again!" Amanita bellowed. "I'm not about to let you get your Pokémon killed. We just need to wait it out. We can't directly attack the Professor...."

The epiphany hit Amanita like a speeding truck.

"That's it!" she shouted as she ran over to hug Hilda. "Hilda, you're a genius!"

Hilda was perfectly lost. "I-I am?"

"Please tell me you two have Psychic-type Pokémon on you!"

Hilda plucked a Poké Ball off her belt. "Well, yeah, I have one. A Reuniclus."

"And you, Bianca?"

"Uh-huh," Bianca responded. "I have a Musharna!"

"Yes! And they're really powerful, right?"

"Well, yeah, of course," Hilda said somewhat smugly.

"W-well, I'm not as strong as Hilda," Bianca said meekly, "but my Pokémon are pretty strong, I guess."

"Oh, come on, Bee! You're plenty strong! You always give me a run for my money, even if I do manage to beat you every time!"

"Th-thanks. I think...."

"Okay," Amanita said, a faint hint of apprehension forming in her voice. "This may sound crazy, but... I want you to take your Psychic Pokémon and have them... have them tug on Professor Juniper's foot."

"You what?!" Hilda said incredulously.

"Just hear me out! Psychic Pokémon don't have to be that close to their target, right? And if your Pokémon are strong enough, then they should be able to combine their powers t"

"But that's nuts!" Bianca gasped. "You pretty much want our Pokémon to move an entire football stadium! I-I-I'm not sure they can do that."

"Well, this is the best compromise I can come up with. If it doesn't work, we can still wait. And if it does work, then, well, we get rescued early. Come on, you two, let's at least try!"

Bianca and Hilda looked at each other, unsure of what to make of the young hacker's farfetched plan. Neither of them were sure of what to say.

"I mean, if you'd rather keep waiting here, that's fine too! I don't know if this'll work, either. But I want to at least try. And I need your help to see if it will. Please, you guys? If it's too much for your Pokémon, you can stop them. I just want to see if we can even do this."

The two Trainers hesitated for a moment.

"Bubble!" Hilda shouted. "Come on out!"

A burst of light shot forth from Hilda's belt, and a Reuniclus appeared, babbling and laughing joyfully. Bianca decided to follow Hilda's lead and release her Musharna. She tossed a Ball onto the floor, and a Musharna materialized above it. Bianca's Musharna brayed lowly and released a cloud of pink mist.

"Thanks, you guys," Amanita said. "Okay, let's focus on the one closest to us. Just try to tug it backward."

"Right ," Hilda said in acknowledgement. "Okay, Bubble, think you can move that thing over there?" She pointed at Juniper's colossal sneaker.

Bubble frowned and scratched her head, questioning her master's bizarre command.

"I know it's kinda crazy, but I know you can do it, Bub! You'll have Musharna here to help you out."

Musharna seemed to be far more self-confident when Bianca asked her to move Juniper's foot, wasting no time in placing the enormous sneaker into a psychic hold. She was straining and squealing with all her will to force some movement out of the building-sized shoe.

"C'mon, Bub!" Hilda said in an effort to encourage her Pokémon. "I believe in you. Musharna needs your help! We need your help! You can do this!"

Bubble saw Musharna exerting herself trying to move the massive object. She saw Bianca and Amanita looking at her with tacit imploration. She saw her master practically begging her to perform this impossible task. She realized that they were all counting on her to move this thing for whatever reason. And she would not let them down. Bubble squealed in affirmation and began assisting Musharna in pulling Juniper's leg.

"Alright!" Hilda said, praising the gelatinous Pokémon. "That's the spirit! You got this!"

The two Pokemon focused intensely on Juniper's shoe, and it was soon enveloped in an iridescent aura. They continued straining and screaming, trying as hard as they could to budge the huge object.

"They're in pain!" Bianca cried. "Maybe we should stop them!"

"Just a little more," Amanita reassured her.

The two Pokémon each emitted a sharp and agonized cry, and Juniper's giant shoe began to slowly slide backward.

"I-it's working!" Hilda cheered. "It's working! Keep at it!"

The two Pokémon tugged backward on Juniper's foot until they nearly passed out. By the time they finished, they had managed to move the Professor's foot toward themselves far enough that it lifted off the ground and made a loud thump as it swung forward and hit the floor. Gasping and panting, the two Pokémon released their psychic holds on the shoe and dropped to the floor, and Hilda and Bianca ran over to their exhausted Pokémon.

"Musha, are you hurt?" Bianca concernedly asked.

Musharna let out a weakened whine as tiny plumes of mist streamed from her pores. She was clearly on the verge of total collapse, weakened by the mental strain of moving the massive object.

"You did a great job. Come back into the Poké Ball. You deserve a rest."

Bianca aimed the Ball at Musharna and fired at the enfeebled Pokémon, recalling her into the container.

"Thank you, friend," Bianca cooed as she stared at the Ball in her hand before reattaching it to her waist.

Meanwhile, Hilda had begun tending to Bubble, who now lay on the ground due to overexertion, her membrane having thinned and her breathing having become slow and heavy.

"Hey, Bub," Hilda said softly as she held Bubble's hand. "That was awesome. I knew you could do it."

Bubble squeaked and smiled wanly, feeling satisfied at having performed such a monumental task.

"Come on back, Bub." Hilda chuckled as she reached for Bubble's Poké Ball and recalled the ailing Pokémon. "When this is all over, I'm gonna take you to the best restaurant in all of Unova."

"W-wow, you guys!" Amanita cheered. "That was amazing! I can't believe you guys did that! I knew you were strong, but wow-wee!"

Before they were able to continue their celebration, a horrible creaking and groaning rang out from all directions, and Juniper's feet planted themselves firmly on the ground, sending small shockwaves throughout the floor.

"Wh... what's happening?!" Hilda cried.


"W-what the...?!"

Professor Juniper's eyes snapped open, and she went on full alert. Had something just pulled her foot underneath the bed? She swiftly sprang up and stared intently at the base of the bed. She definitely felt something tug on her ankle, but she had no clue what it could have been. For a short moment, she felt the childlike fear of something lurking underneath her bed, waiting in darkness to drag her under. Reason quickly kicked in, however, and she reassured herself that there was nothing to be afraid of. At worst, it was probably some Pokémon that somehow managed to get inside Fennel's apartment. Taking a deep breath, Juniper lowered her body onto the floor and looked under the bed to identify the culprit.


The girls' pulses began racing as they watched the enormous pair of white and red shoes recede into the distance, only to turn and face them. Before they could regain their footing, they saw two colossal columns of white flesh crash down in front of Juniper's feet, flanked by the light cyan backdrop of her lab coat.

"I think Amanita's plan worked!" Bianca replied loudly over the cacophonous sounds of Juniper's ponderous movements.

As if to confirm Bianca's hunch, two of the biggest hands any of the girls had ever seen dropped down next to the bed frame. As Juniper lowered her body, the girls could see the bust of her white tank top enter their view, and almost a second later, Juniper's face flooded their vision like an extreme close-up of a movie star on the largest film screen they had ever seen.

"Whoa..." the three girls whispered to themselves in unison, paralyzed by the magnificent and awe-inspiring sight of Professor Juniper's goddess-like visage.

Juniper's gigantic green eyes began drifting back and forth, appearing to look around and beyond the diminutive girls. The sheer size of her face was overwhelming, and the girls were completely entranced as they stared up at the giant woman. Her magnified features were at once familiar and grotesque, and small details which were barely visible at normal size now revealed themselves: pores dotting the surface of her skin, ridges on her lips, tiny hairs which could not normally be seen, imperceptible facial movements, and even small imperfections in the craftsmanship of her earrings.

"Heyyy!" Bianca cried out, breaking the silence. "Professor! It's us! Look! Down here! Save us!"

Bianca's shouts roused Hilda and Amanita from their awe-stricken stupor, and they quickly joined Bianca in her attempt to get Professor Juniper's attention.

"Yo, Professor!" Hilda screamed. "Help us out! We're down here! Look down! Please, help us!"

"Professor Juniper!" Amanita yelled. "We need your help! Please notice us! Hey, help!"

The three continued shouting up to the huge face before them as loudly as humanly possible, yet the titaness' eyes continued to listlessly drift about, all the while never directly focusing on them.


Juniper quickly scanned the underside of the bed for anything that could have tugged on her foot, but found nothing. Of course, the answer was directly in front of her face, but she looked straight over the miniscule girls' heads, failing to notice their tiny bodies moving around or their squeaks for help. Wondering whether she was going insane, she let out a long sigh and stood back up.

"Hmm, I know something pulled on my foot just then," she said to herself as she sat back on the bed.


The massive hurricane-force blast that erupted from Professor Juniper's mouth was powerful enough to sweep the three girls off their feet and carry them far into the darkness of the bed's underbelly. Like a group of tumbleweeds, the tiny girls tumbled and rolled across the ground. Rocked and addled by the Professor's squall, they now struggled to reorient themselves, and Juniper was perfectly unaware of what she had done.


Fennel walked back into the room with a fresh bag of popcorn in one hand and a glass of water in another.

"Here you go!" Fennel said as she placed the bag and glass on the desk. She sat at her terminal and immediately began typing in commands to her machine. Esoteric words, code, and formulas began displaying on the monitor. "Go ahead and pull up a chair. I'm raring to figure this thing out!"

"You've got ghosts, Fennel," Juniper said half-jokingly as she reached for Amanita's chair and took a seat next to Fennel.

Fennel giggled. "Oh, stop it, Aurea. You're being silly! If there were any ghosts in here, I'm pretty sure I'd have seen at least one by now."

"Seriously! Something under your bed pulled my leg while you were in the kitchen just now."

Fennel failed to break her gaze with the monitor. "Pssh, aren't you a little too old to believe in monsters under the bed?"

Juniper said nothing. She took a sip of water and replayed the incident in her head, wondering if what she believed had happened truly occurred. Sighing, she sat the glass down and began spinning in Amanita's chair.

"So," Fennel started, "couple things. First and foremost, I really wanna figure out how to store something without having to rely on a molecularly recombined anchor. I also wanna bring down the thing's power usage. Restoration operations are fine and basically free, but actually shrinking something uses up so much energy. The thing overheats after practically every reduction operation, and that lockout time is brutal."

Juniper glanced across the room at the reduction ray. "Well, you could start by removing some of those lights," she joked. "That green LED is probably an energy vampire!"

Fennel shot a bemused look at Juniper. "Huh? Did you say, 'green LED'?"

"Uh, y-yeah." Juniper pointed at the ray gun.

Fennel looked toward the ray gun and saw that, indeed, the green status LED was lit.

"Something wrong?" Juniper asked.

"Yeah...." Fennel rose from her chair and began walking toward the ray gun. "That's a status light. It indicates a successful run...."

"Uh, Fennel? Is everything okay?" Juniper got up to follow the perplexed inventor toward the ray.

"Did Amanita showcase the ray after I left?" Fennel wondered aloud, completely ignoring Juniper's question. "Why wouldn't she have reviewed the log?"

Fennel woke the machine's display and began reviewing the log file. As she read through it, a look of horror slowly crawled onto her face, and she turned as white as the coat on her back.

"Fennel," Juniper said as she stepped forward, her voice filled with deep concern, "what's going on? What's the probl"

"Stooop!" Fennel howled, shoving her open palm toward Juniper.

Juniper immediately froze upon hearing Fennel's roar. "W-what?! What is it?! What's the matter?!"

Fennel continued combing through the log file, and she appeared to grow more and more panicked as she kept reading.

"N-no..." she whispered. "No, no, no... this isn't happening...!"

Juniper stepped forward. "Fennel. Tell me what's goi—“

"Stop! Just... just don't move!"

Juniper ignored Fennel's command and walked over to the ray gun. "Fennel, tell me what the problem is!"

Fennel dropped her head. "It... it's the girls."

Juniper began to infer what had happened and became increasingly worried. "Fennel. What are you saying?"

"This... this light indicates a successful reduction operation." She pointed at the screen. "According to the log, the subjects were...."

With tears in her eyes, Fennel lifted her head and met Juniper's gaze.

"The girls. I... I shrank the girls."


*** 10 ***


A loud wail in the distance roused Hilda from unconsciousness. Battered and confused, she pushed herself off the blackened ground. The tumble had rattled her head, but once again she had very few minor injuries where she would have expected more serious ones. As she stood, she realized that she could barely see her own hands in front of her face. She was wholly enveloped in darkness, and the only traces of light came from beyond the edges of the bed frame. Looking around, she realized that she had no idea where she was, nor did she see her friends anywhere.

"Gettin' real sick of this," she muttered to herself, still remaining thankful for her apparent invulnerability. "Amanita! Bee! Where are you?!"

Odd shapes and shadows lay on the horizon as Hilda looked around. Clumps of hair and dust sat perched like wild Pokémon awaiting their prey's next move, and scraps of paper and trash littered the landscape, creating a fantastical and disquieting alien vista. The world's sounds had become muffled and suppressed, and the low wailing and booming footsteps of the two titanic scientists added to the creepy and disturbing atmosphere.

"G-guys?!" Her disorientation coupled with the sinister backdrop of the bed's grotesque underbelly had begun to induce feelings of worry and anxiety. "Where are you?! S-say something if you can hear me!"

Against the small slit of light in the distance, Hilda could see a strange shifting silhouette rise from the ground. As her imagination began racing, so, too, did her heart. In this strange and hostile environment, Hilda did not know what horrors awaited her. She nervously placed her hand at her side, ready to send out a Pokémon to fend off the unknown threat.

"H... hello?!" Hilda called out, her voice cracking. "Who's there?! Sh-show yourself!"

As Hilda stared at the moving shade, she noticed that it had taken the appearance of a human shadow and was now running toward her. She snatched a Poké Ball off her waist, but a small burst of logic immediately caused her to hesitate.

"Amanita?! Bianca?! I-is that you?!"

A faint voice echoed throughout the cavern from the direction of the shadow.

"Hilda?! Is that you?!"

Hilda felt a wave of relief as she recognized the shadow's voice, and she began running toward the strange form.


The two girls met, and Amanita lunged into Hilda's arms. They could hardly see each other, their faces barely lit by the faint rays peering underneath the bed, but they each felt safer knowing that they were reunited.

"Thank goodness you're alright," Hilda said, suppressing and hiding any fear that might have been apparent. "You're not hurt, are you?"

"No," Amanita said softly, "I'm okay. Where's Bianca?"

As if on cue, they heard a piercing screech echo from all directions that sounded unmistakably like Bianca. They attempted to pinpoint the source of the sound, but were unable to do so. A second scream filled the air, and they were now worried that Bianca may have been injured. Thinking quickly, Hilda dropped to her stomach and began looking around, using the light from the outside to find Bianca's shadow.

"This way!" she said, pointing toward a distant shadow that she was sure belonged to Bianca.

The two girls ran in the direction that Hilda pointed out, and they soon came upon Bianca. She was frantically looking around, clearly distressed by the current situation.

"Bianca!" Hilda shouted as she approached the wailing Trainer. She knelt beside Bianca and grabbed her hands. "Bianca, we're here. Everything's alright. We're gonna be okay. You're not hurt, are you?"

"M-my beret!" Bianca sobbed. "I can't find my beret!"

"Eh? You're not... hurt? Or scared? Or anything?"

"N-n-no, I'm fine. E-except I lost my beret.... The Professor must have blown it off of my head."

"Oh, hey. W-whaddya know." Hilda noticed Bianca's exposed hair and began to feel uneasy about how calm Bianca and Amanita were. She wondered if she was really the only one who was creeped out by the underside of the bed. "Well, we can help you find it."

Hilda once again dropped to her stomach and scanned the floor. Amid the dust and dirt that had collected under the bed, she noticed a fairly solid-looking silhouette near the edge of the bed frame. It was small and ovular, with a slightly irregular shape. The more she stared at it, the surer she was that it was Bianca's beret.

"C'mon," Hilda said, "I think I found it. This way!"

The three girls ran toward the light from the edge of the bed frame. Hilda truly hoped that she had correctly identified Bianca's hat, as she did not wish to spend any more time under the bed than was necessary. As they came upon the small object, the light from the room revealed more of its features, and Bianca squealed with delight as she sped past the others.

"Yay!" Bianca said as she grabbed her hat. "My lucky beret! I'm really glad I didn't lose you!"

Amanita leaned toward Hilda. "Is she really talking to a hat?" she whispered.

"Yup," Hilda replied.

"I didn't realize it was a lucky hat."

"I guess it is now. Oh! Hey, check it out!"

Hilda ran toward the edge of the bed frame and into the light, the other two following her closely. They had managed to make their way to the side of the bed facing the ray gun where Fennel and Professor Juniper now stood. They noticed the panicked expressions on the giant women's faces.

"Wonder what's going on," Hilda said.

"Maybe they finally realized that the machine shrank us," Amanita surmised.


Juniper's deadpan gaze, paradoxically filled with a calm yet seething rage, pierced through Fennel's heart like a metal spike.


Her voice was devoid of any inflection or emotion, a byproduct of the absolute disbelief and extreme anger she was experiencing.

"It was an accident.... Oh no, it's completely my fault, isn't it?" She grasped her head with both hands and groaned loudly.

"W-what do you mean, 'your fault'?"

Tears had begun forming in Fennel's eyes. "I-I accidentally enabled the 'Auto' function when I was showing the ray off to the girls. It must have fired at them after I left!"

Juniper's eye began twitching. "You... what?!"

"Ahhh, I didn't mean to enable it! I was only demonstrating it to th"

"What were you thinking?!" Juniper bellowed, her face turning bright red.

Fennel hunched over like a small child being scolded by her parent. "I... I-I just got really excited about it when they asked"

"But why was the machine even left on in the first place?! Why is it able to fire on its own?! Did you even think about safetyeven oncewhen designing this thing?!"

"It was only meant for non-living objects." Fennel's voice cracked.

"Well, clearly it works on living objects, too!"

Fennel did not respond, but instead cast her head to the floor.

Juniper paused in an attempt to bring her anger level down. "Fennel... how small did the ray make them, exactly?"

Fennel sobbed several times before answering. "It... I accidentally set the machine to the lowest setting...: 0.2 percent. A ratio of one to five hundred..." Her voice began to quaver, and it shot up an octave in pitch. "Ahhh, I made them less than a quarter of an inch tall! How are we ever going to find them?!" A look of abject horror overtook her face, and she brought her hands to her mouth. "Oh no, what if they got hurt?! What if we...?!" Unable to complete the mortifying thought, she buried her head into her palms and broke into a full-blown crying fit.

Juniper took a second to process Fennel's words, and a chill shot down her spine as she finally realized why Fennel had asked her to stop moving. Her gaze shot to the floor surrounding her feet, and she scanned the floor for any evidence of the shrunken girls. Carefully, and with a large lump in her throat, she checked the soles of her shoes for bloodstains or bodies. She breathed a heavy sigh of relief as she found nothing but some old caked dirt. Taking several deep breaths, she eventually managed to calm herself down and began to think clearly.

"Okay, Fennel," Juniper said as she scanned the area surrounding the weeping scientist's feet, "We need to stay calm. Everything's going to be fine. I... I know this is going to be tough, but I need you to check the bottoms of your shoes."

Fennel snapped her head up. "W-what?!"

"We need to know if... if it's not too late."

Fennel looked down at her feet. Had she accidentally stepped on the girls while walking about the apartment? She did walk in front of the ray numerous times, so it was certainly possible. She was not sure that she wanted to know the answer. Reluctantly, she removed her shoes, instinctively standing on her toes in order to minimize the possibility of stepping on the girls. Carefully checking the bottoms of her shoes, she was relieved to find that her soles were mostly clean, and nothing appearing to be human remains was stuck on them.

"Well?" Juniper asked in eager anticipation.

Sobbing, Fennel slowly slipped her shoes back on and looked Juniper in the eye. "They're... they're... clean."

Juniper smiled. "Great, so that means they're still alive."

"I guess. But... what if they just got hurt another way? What if..." She gasped in horror. "Oh no, what if, like, I ate them by accident? They could have been in the popcorn and we could have eaten th"

"Fennel, stop it," Juniper said firmly. "You're being ridiculous now. There's no way that could have happened. Just how do you think something like that could happen, anyway? There's no way they could have possibly made it off the floor and into a pile of popcorn, not at that size. The simplest explanation is that they're still somewhere on the floor, and we just have to remain calm and try to find them."

Fennel wiped her eyes and nose on her sleeve. "You... you're right. I-I have some magnifying lenses on the workbench we can use to look for them."

"Good idea. That should help us find them easier." Juniper moved toward Fennel and gave her a big hug. "Listen, I'm sorry I got upset with you. I know it was an accident. But we have to fix this. We can save them. They're going to be fine. I promise."


Fennel tightly wrapped her arms around Juniper and cried into her shoulder. "Thanks, Aurea. You're the best." Stepping back from the Professor, she smiled. "We're gonna find them. And we're gonna fix this mess."

"Yep," Juniper said with a short smile. "That's all we can do."

Carefully monitoring the floor with each step, Fennel walked up to the ray gun's control panel and disabled the auto-fire function to ensure another accident would not occur, then she slowly moved toward her workbench.

"This is all I have," Fennel said, holding up a head-mounted magnifier and a handheld magnifying glass. "The head-mounted one is fitted to my head's proportions, so I'm using this one. You can have the magnifying glass."

"Thanks," Juniper said as she accepted the magnifying glass from Fennel. "So, which side of the room do you want?"

As Fennel thought about which side she would search, she suddenly recalled the small dust-like object that had floated into her vision while she was at the computer earlier. Mentally reviewing its oddly regular movements, she feared that it may not have been dust at all, but instead the girls trying to get her attention.

"I, uh, I-I'll take the other side," Fennel stammered, trying her best not to further alarm Juniper.

Worried that she had seriously injured the girls by swatting at them, she decided to take the far side of the room toward the desk, bed, and windowsill, leaving Juniper with the side near the entrance, workbench, and ray gun. Donning her head-mounted magnifier, she carefully traversed the floor to the other side of the room.


The girls curiously watched the two giant women on the other side of the room, unsure of what they were saying or doing. However, once they saw Fennel put on her head-mounted magnifier and begin walking toward the computer on her toes, they realized that Fennel and Professor Juniper were, in fact, now searching for them.

"Oh my gosh, you guys!" Bianca cheered. "I think they're looking for us! We're saved! Yahoo!"

"Yes!" Hilda shouted. "Now we can finally be rescued from this nightmare!"

"Hah, what did I tell you guys?" Amanita said smugly. "We just had to wait for them to start searching for us!"

Bianca started to run out from under the bed. "So I guess now we just go up to one of them and get rescued, huh?"

"No way!" Hilda yelled.

"W-wha?" Bianca screeched to a halt.

"In case you haven't forgotten, they're still way too dangerous. You said it yourself: their feet alone are as big as football fields!"

"Hilda's right," Amanita said. "Sure, they may be looking for us now, but that doesn't reduce the danger any. One wrong move from them could still end us. We need to be smart about this."

"Oh, yeah, right," Bianca said meekly. "But... so what do we do, then?"

"I think I already know the answer," Hilda said, anticipating her suggestion being rejected by Amanita, "but you think we should try our attack plan from before?"

Amanita smiled. "Negative, but I guess you already knew that. No, we can't afford to risk being near them before they're aware of our presence. It would be way too easy for them to, like, accidentally turn around and step on us or something. No, we need to capture their attention from a distance."

"That's cool, but... how are we supposed to do that, exactly? Should we, like, send smoke signals or something?" Hilda began laughing to herself, amused by her own joke.

Amanita stepped out from underneath the bed and surveyed the landscape. Her eyes fell upon the wrinkled sheet of paper that Fennel had casually tossed at them a while back.

"Hilda... you've done it again! I wanna kiss that beautiful brain of yours!"

Hilda cocked her head, wondering what crazy and brilliant idea she had managed to accidentally come up with this time.

"You guys have Fire-type Pokémon, right?" Amanita asked.

"I have two!" Bianca chirped.

"I have one," Hilda said, "but Volt can also use Flamethrower. Does that count as two?"

"Sure, whatever," Amanita said curtly. "What about any Water-types?"

"Yeah, I have a Samurott."

"Perfect!" Amanita pointed to the sheet of paper in the distance. "See that sheet of paper? We're gonna make some smoke signals with it!"

"Oh yeah, good idea!" Hilda grinned. "Glad I thought of it!"

"I-I dunno, you guys," Bianca said anxiously. "That sounds dangerous, too."

"Maybe," Amanita replied. "We'll have to go out into the open for this. But it'll be worth it. When big Sis and the Professor see our smoke, they should come over and investigate, and then they'll notice us! We can do this!"

"It's risky...." Hilda said, "...but it's the best shot we have. I'm in."

"Me too!" Bianca sang.


"Girls!?" Professor Juniper called out. "Girls, if you can hear me, please stay put, wherever you are!"

Juniper carefully surveyed the floor before each step she took. She used her naked eyes to get a wide view of the floor, opting to use the magnifying glass on anything that she suspected may have been the girls. She carefully examined every speck of dirt and dust that she came across, but to no avail. Occasionally, she would check her shoes to make sure she had not accidentally stepped on the shrunken girls.

"See anything over there, Fennel?"

Meanwhile, Fennel was checking underneath the computer desk where she had sat when she swatted at the strange object. She carefully crawled along the ground and combed the floor for any trace of the girls.

"N-no, nothing here," she whined. "Girls?! Girls, where are you?!"


The girls could practically feel the giant wails reverberating throughout their bodies as they traversed the massive wooden clearing. Up ahead, they could see the wrinkled sheet of paper that Fennel had thrown onto the floor, Professor Juniper's titanic form lumbering in the distance beyond it.

"Oh man," Hilda gulped nervously, "I reeeally hope one of them doesn't get too close to us before we reach that thing."

"Don't worry, Hilda," Bianca reassured her. "We're almost there. Besides, they're super far away right now!"

"Yeah, but that could all change in a second."

Though they had been walking for the past few minutes, either one of the colossal scientists could clear the same distance with a single step, and Hilda knew firsthand that Juniper or Fennel could be on top of the girls in a matter of seconds, as memories of her first encounter with Fennel still haunted her mind.

"Here we are!" Amanita announced as they stood before the largest sheet of paper any of them had ever seen.

The sheet looked like a massive tarp one would find covering a large sports arena that had been mangled and collapsed. The girls could see rips and creases dotting its faces as it lay on the ground, and had the circumstances been more favorable, they might have liked to explore its interior.

"Okay," Amanita explained, "so if we have a Water-type and a Fire-type, we can create smoke and steam. That should catch their attention."

"I'm on it!" Hilda shouted purposefully. "Slash! Blaze! Let's go!"

Hilda tossed down two Poké Balls, and a Samurott and Simisear burst forth from them.

"Alright , you two," Hilda said authoritatively, "I need you guys to make some smoke for me! Blaze, light up that big sheet over there. Slash, Hydro Pump wherever Blaze lights. Okay, ready?"

"Wait!" Bianca interrupted.

Hilda and Amanita looked toward the bubbly Trainer.

"I-I wanna help, too! I have some Fire-types, so I can help with lighting the paper. W-would that be okay, Hilda? That way, all three of us can help out with the plan, ya know?"

"Oh, yeah, sure!" Hilda said, recalling Blaze back into her Ball. "Sorry 'bout that, Bee. I guess I got a little...." She snickered before finishing her sentence. "...fired up!"

While Hilda was busy laughing at her own joke, Bianca and Amanita simply stared at her, bewildered by her lame pun.

"Wooow," Bianca groaned, her tone carrying an air of embarrassment. "That was, uh...."

"Yeaaah, that was bad," Amanita flatly stated. "Anyway, we don't have time to waste, let's do this thing!"

Bianca perked up. "R-right!" She reached for a Poké Ball on her waist and tossed it at the ground. "Come out, Emboar!"

A burst of light spilled out of the Ball and took the form of an Emboar. He bellowed loudly and punched his fists together, ready to take whatever order Bianca issued.

"Okay, Emboar," Bianca commanded, "light up that sheet of paper! Go easy, though! We just want enough for Samurott to be able to put out so we can make smoke!"

Emboar brayed in affirmation and spat a jet of flame at the large sheet of paper, and Slash the Samurott conjured up a powerful stream of water and sprayed it at the same spot where Emboar launched his flames. However, a flaw in Amanita's plan was soon exposed as the tiny spark that Emboar created instantly ignited the sheet, and a massive dancing pillar of fire reached into the sky.

"W-what happened?!" Bianca screamed.

"Oh no!" Amanita shouted. "Emboar's flame was like a spark that lit a normal-sized fire! How are we gonna put this out?!"

"Like this!" Hilda yelled. "Slash, Hydro Pump that flame out!"

Slash roared and blasted several large jets of water onto the fire, but the fire spread too quickly for him to be able to keep up, and he could not successfully slow the spread of the gigantic flames.

"It's not working!" Hilda hollered frantically as the inferno consumed the sheet of paper. "Awesome plan, Amanita!"

The girls watched in horror as the flames spread and consumed the sheet of paper. The heat from the flames was sweltering and overwhelming. Ashes and cinders began falling from the sheet, and large flaming pieces began dropping from the paper's main body near the girls.

"Run away!" Bianca shrieked as the cinders fell toward them.

Hilda and Bianca recalled their Pokémon, and the three girls turned to run from the sheet of paper.

"Ugh, I was so stupid!" Amanita chided herself. "We're gonna burn the apartment down!"


"See anything over there?" Professor Juniper asked while scouring the workbench for any traces of the girls.

"No, nothing yet," Fennel anxiously responded as she continued searching the area near her desk, determined to find the girls around there.

As she was searching, Juniper detected an odd smell in the air. "Fennel? Do you smell something... burning?"

The smell had yet to hit Fennel. "Not really," she said without breaking her goggled gaze from the floor. "Maybe that's just the popcorn you're smelling."

"No, I don't think so. It definitely smells like"

At that moment, Juniper noticed the burning sheet of paper near the center of the room, and concern and worry was immediately replaced by panic.

"Wah! Fire!" she howled, startling Fennel and causing her to turn around.

"W-what?! Where?!"

Juniper did not care how or why the fire had started, only that it was still small enough for her to snuff out on her own. Without any hesitation, she instinctively raced over to the burning sheet and raised her foot to stamp out the flames.


As the girls began running from the fire, they noticed the shouts that the two gigantic women were producing had grown louder, and they watched as Fennel slowly whirled around. Though her expression was mostly hidden by her goggles, they could tell that she had noticed their distress beacon.

"D-d-did she see us?!" Bianca screamed.

Before anyone could answer her, they all felt a series of increasingly strong tremors and booms. They turned toward the flaming pyre and gazed upward in awe and terror at the incredible sight of Professor Juniper standing overhead, staring directly at them.

"Pro... Professor Juniper?!" Hilda shouted in disbelief at the monumental sight before her.

"Professor!" Bianca yelled as she began waving her arms. "It's us! Help us!"

The others were about to join Bianca in her attempt to get the giant Professor's attention when Juniper slowly raised her foot over them, and their jubilance was immediately replaced by abject horror.

"No!" Amanita cried. "W-what's she doing?! Run! H-hurry!"

The girls all ran as fast as they could, but there was never any hope of them being able to outrun Juniper. Expecting to die, the girls simply continued to run, and they prayed for either a miracle or a quick death. Suddenly, they felt the strongest quake they had felt since being shrunk, and their bodies actually bounced off the floorboards as Juniper stomped on the flaming sheet of paper. Before they could begin to recover, Juniper stomped several times in quick succession, knocking them completely off-balance.


Juniper stamped and twisted her foot over the burning paper, successfully squelching the mysterious fire. As she moved her foot back, she realized that in her haste to extinguish the fire, she had not checked her steps as she moved across the floor. Worried that she might have accidentally trampled the girls, she proceeded to check the bottoms of her shoes.


After being knocked around by Professor Juniper's massive stomps, Hilda sprang to her feet and immediately rushed to help her friends recover.

"Bee! Amanita! C'mon, get up!" Hilda said as she extended her arms to both of her friends and helped them up simultaneously.

"Th-thanks, Hilda," Bianca said as she dusted herself off. Suddenly, she pointed to the sky, and she let out a shrill scream. "Eyaah! Look out!"

Before Hilda or Amanita could follow Bianca's finger, Juniper's colossal sneaker smashed into the ground perilously close to them. The impact from this quake, like the ones before, was so powerful that it tossed the girls off the ground and sent them tumbling across the floor yet again.


After Professor Juniper verified that she had not accidentally stepped on the girls, she quickly resumed her search for them. As she looked down to begin her search, she noticed three small, bright specks moving about on the floor a mere inch from her foot. At first, she thought they were tiny bits of ash, but their movement was far too peculiar to be ash, and their colors were far too brilliant and varied to be ash.

"Oh my word...." she gasped.

Juniper crouched and closely examined the three tiny dots. Though she could recognize the specks with her naked eye, she moved the magnifying glass over them in order to confirm her suspicions. She at once felt relief, confusion, shock, and wonder as she recognized the three specks in the magnifying glass:

Hilda, Bianca, and Amanita.


*** 11 ***


"Is everyone alright?" Hilda asked as she pushed herself up off the ground.

No response.

"Guys? Are you oka"

As Hilda looked toward her friends, she noticed that they had craned their heads toward the sky, eyes widened and mouths agape. She followed their stupefied gazes upward, and her heart skipped a beat at the sight that greeted her.

"Ho... ly...."

High above her, Hilda stared into the largest magnifying glass in the universe, and from behind it stared a frighteningly large green eye, which slowly blinked as its unsettling gaze engulfed her. She felt as though she were watching something from a cheesy sci-fi Pokéstar movie play out before her very eyes. The magnifying glass began moving away, revealing the gigantic and astonished face of Professor Juniper, hanging high overhead like a moon in the sky. Hilda knew that Juniper would never harm her, yet she still felt a deep, primal fear as the titanic woman stared down at her. She watched as Juniper tilted her lunar head upward, and an unintelligible and ear-shattering noise erupted from her mouth.


"Fennel! I... I think you need to see this...!"

Fennel was so overwhelmed by the appearance of the fire and the fact that Juniper had run across the room without checking it that she was too shocked to move or speak.

"Fennel?! Hello?! Anyone home?!"

After several seconds of vacant staring and Juniper's yelling, Fennel finally regained her senses, and her mind was racing with a whirlwind of thoughts.

"Aurea!" she screamed as she lifted the goggles off her face. "W-what are you...?! How did that... but the girls... you"

"Fennel! Listen to me! I need you to see this, right now!"

"But... the girls! What about the girls?"

"Well, come see for yourself."

Fennel gasped. "D-d-did you find them?!"

"See for yourself."

Fennel ran over and saw Juniper staring at the ground with the magnifying glass. She dropped to the floor and scanned the area where Juniper was aiming the glass, and she gasped loudly as her eyes fell upon the tiny multicolored specks on the floor. Donning the goggles, she adjusted the magnification strength and stared at the floor. At this strength, she could now see the minute imperfections in the wood grains on the floor as well as tiny bumps, ridges, and defects on Juniper's shoe. A few faint, nervous utterances left her lips as she saw, in vivid detail, the three girls staring back up at her through the viewfinder from amid the giant, surreal landscape, their movements somehow appearing sped up.

"I... I don't believe it...." Fennel spoke slowly and softly as she studied the three girls' tiny forms through the goggles.

Carefully, Fennel removed her goggles and lowered her head onto the floor, her nose mere inches from the minuscule girls, and looked on as the specks shifted around before her eyes.


"They're so loud!" Amanita shouted, her hands covering her ears.

"Don't be scared," Hilda repeated to herself, attempting to quell her fear of being too close to the giant women. "Don't be scared, don't be scared...."

The girls were now flanked by Professor Juniper on one side and Fennel on the other, whose indescribably large face now monopolized their view. They could see Fennel's enormous blue irises constrict and dilate as she attempted to focus her gaze on them, and they could feel the warm air pulsing from her nostrils. Behind them, Juniper was crouched over them like a mountain, and the two women successfully made them feel incredibly small and insignificant.

"This is amazing!" Bianca squealed. "They're sooo huge! They're like... like living mountains!"

"Yo, Doc!" Hilda shouted up at Fennel's colossal face. "A little help, here?!"

But Fennel did not respond to Hilda's cries.

"I think we're probably just too small to be heard," Amanita observed despondently. "We just have to hope they restore us soon."

As they stared up at the gigantic visage before them, the girls noticed that Fennel's eyes had reddened. Tears began streaming from behind her glasses, and a loud noise burst forth from her mouth.


"They... they're alive...!" Fennel sniffled and sobbed through tears of joy. "Oh my gosh, I'm so happy!"

"See?" Juniper said softly. "I told you we'd find them."

Fennel was overcome with emotion, and all she could do was stare at the girls, sobbing and giggling.

"Oh my gosh, Aurea! I don't believe this! They're sooo small! I didn't expect the machine to work successfully on living creatures, let alone humans." She extended her index finger toward the girls, instinctively wanting to touch them. "Are you girls alright? Do you feel okay?"

"Fennel, stop!" Juniper shouted as she slapped Fennel's hand away, narrowly missing the girls in the process. "You might hurt them! We have to handle them carefully!"

"Oh, s-sorry," Fennel pouted. "I guess I'm just so excited that we found them and that the ray worked without hurting them."

Fennel put on her goggles once more and studied the girls. She saw them talking among themselves, and their movements appeared to be greatly sped up.

"Girls!" Fennel said concernedly. "Are you hurt? Is everything okay?"

She noticed the three girls covering their ears at the sound of her voice, and she quickly realized that her voice was likely too much for their tiny ears to handle.

"Oops, sorry," she whispered. "Are you girls okay?"

Fennel watched as Hilda cupped her hands and called up, but no sound appeared to escape her mouth.

"What is it?" Juniper asked at her normal speaking voice. "Are they oka"

Fennel quickly shushed Juniper. "You have to whisper!" she said in a hushed voice. "Our voices are too loud for them."

"Oh, that makes sense," Juniper replied in a low whisper. "So I guess that means they're too quiet for us, huh?"

Fennel removed her goggles. "Yeah, seems that way. Hey! I have an idea! But first, I'm gonna pick them up and move them off the floor, 'kay? It's too dangerous for them down there."

Juniper raised an eyebrow. "And how are you going to do that without hurting them?"

Fennel smiled. "Like this!"


"This is awful," Hilda spat. "How are we supposed to communicate with them, anyway? We can't understand a word they're saying, and they probably can't hear us, either."

"Just stay calm," Amanita reassured her. "We'll find a way. It'll all work out in the end."

"I'm sorry, did you see how big Fennel's finger was?! If it weren't for the Professor, your airhead sister would've squished us!"

"Uhh, you guys?" Bianca asked, her voice tinged with a hint of nervousness.

Bianca managed to capture the others' attention and focus it on the huge object descending from the sky upon them. The girls all recoiled as Fennel's gigantic finger once again approached them. However, this time, her finger was upturned, and she parked it on the ground before them. From their vantage point, Fennel's finger appeared nearly two stories high, and her nail created a small platform on which they could all easily fit. High above, Fennel's smile was filled with warmth and concern.

"I... I guess she wants us to get on," Hilda remarked.

"Seems that way," Amanita agreed.

Bianca, however, had already climbed on. "Guyyys, what're you waiting on?! C'mon, let's go! This is sooo cool!"

Amanita began walking toward Fennel's fingertip. "Well," she said to Hilda, "what are you waiting on?"

Hilda stared at the two for a second before shouting, "You know what?! You're both insane! This is nuts!"

Reluctantly, Hilda dashed after Amanita and approached Fennel's finger. The giant fingernail had the thickness of a stair step, and just like before on the circuit board, she could once again see the individual ridges and imperfections lining the colossal scientist's skin and nail in grotesque detail.

"This is absolutely insane," Hilda said as she clambered onto the nail.

She carefully wedged herself into the small space between Fennel's fingertip and nail, anticipating an uncomfortable ride. Once all three of the girls had embarked the enormous finger, they felt a large jolt and a sudden sharp upward movement which left them reeling.


Fennel carefully lifted the girls off the floor and cradled her finger with her opposite hand. Gently, she stood up and walked over toward her computer desk, Professor Juniper following closely, and she gently lowered her finger near the edge of the desk to allow the girls to disembark her nail.

"Okay, girls," Fennel whispered, "I'm going to lower my ear near you. Tell me if you're okay."

Fennel pulled her hair back in order to expose her ear, and she carefully lowered it near the girls.

"What do you hear?" Juniper asked.

Fennel frowned. "Nothing. Nothing at all."

"Well, why don't we just restore them, then?"

"Because of the lockout timer. The ray still has about twenty minutes left before we can safely use it again. That's one of the things I'm working on; restoration operations don't overheat the ray, but reduction operations do because of the recombination process. I have to find an energy-efficient way of reduction."

Juniper furrowed her brow. "I see."

"Hey, Aurea?"


"Why don't you try listening to them?"

Juniper was confused. "Eh? Why? If you couldn't hear anything, why would I be able to?"

"Oh, I don't expect you to hear anything," Fennel stated as she donned her magnification goggles once more. "I just wanna see something."

"Well, okay."

Juniper did not quite understand Fennel's reasoning, but she knew that Fennel, despite being somewhat absent-minded, generally knew what she was doing, so Juniper did not question her friend and lowered her ear to the desk. Fennel adjusted the magnification strength of her goggles and watched the girls. A satisfied smile slid across her face.

"Just as I expected," Fennel proclaimed quietly as she removed the goggles. "They are trying to talk to us."

"Well, that seems kind of like a 'duh' moment to me," Juniper said. "What was the point of this?"

"You'll see," Fennel giggled as she walked over to some bins on a shelf and began rummaging through some junk.

Juniper turned her focus toward the tiny girls on the desk. She lowered her head such that she was eye level with the girls and squinted so that she could focus on their diminutive forms.

"Well," she said to the girls in a low whisper, "at least we found you all. It must have been you who started that fire, huh? Pretty smart of you if so." She let out a small chuckle. "I guess I should apologize for almost stepping on you when I put out the fire. I hope I didn't scare you too much! I'm just glad you all didn't get hurt. Don't worry, I'm sure we'll have you back to normal soon enough."


Professor Juniper had no idea that her whispers were nothing more than a low white noise to the girls, and that she was effectively talking to herself. Her eyes were aimed directly at them, appearing as two gigantic jade discs that glimmered in the sunlight pouring from the window, and although they could only see the top half of Juniper's face, the girls could almost feel her warm smile's embrace.

"Gosh," Bianca said reverently, "this is too freaky, but at the same time, it's totally amazing."

Hilda pushed out a small puff of air through her teeth. "Least you admit it's freaky," she grumbled.

"What's with you anyway, Hilda? It's just the Professor. Sure, she's like a zillion times bigger than us, but she would never hurt us! I mean, I'm not saying it's not okay to be scared, but there's literally nothing to be scared of anymore. Like, you took down a bunch of evil bad guys, stood up to a legendary Pokémon... I don't get it!"

"That's totally different, though, Bee!"


"I dunno, I... it just is, okay?! I just don't like being so little, is all. I honestly don't see what's so fun about being so helpless. It's humiliating, it's like... it's like we're a science project or something, instead of people!"

Hilda looked at Juniper's face and shuddered. "Why don't they just restore us, already?"

"The machine has a lockout period," Amanita explained. "It's a safety protocol I programmed in to prevent the machine from being damaged from overheating. And it overheats any time a reduction operation takes place. So they probably have to wait until the internal lockout timer reaches zero."

"How long does it take for the timer to reach zero?" Bianca inquired.

"Depends on what's being reduced. We've never used the machine on humans before, so I don't know."

"Or maybe they're keeping us like this on purpose so they can do experiments on us," Hilda said half-jokingly. "How much you wanna bet that's the whole reason the Professor sent us here?"

"Oh, stop it, Hilda," Amanita said in a scolding tone.

Hilda scoffed. "Aw, c'mon, it was a joke!" She sat down and sighed. "So I guess we keep waiting, eh?"

In the distance beyond the desk's edge, the girls saw Fennel returning with what appeared to be two sets of wireless earphones and a strange gun-like device with a satellite dish on the barrel.

"W-what is that thing?" Hilda stammered nervously. "Jeez, I was only kidding about the experiment thing!"

"Oh, brilliant! Good thinking, Big Sis!" Amanita cheered.

"What is it, Amanita?" Bianca asked.

"A high-powered mic. It focuses sound waves onto the receiver in the center of that parabolic dish. I bet you Big Sis is gonna use it to listen to us!"

"Do you really think that's gonna work?"

"I guess we'll see...."


"Tada!" Fennel sang as she held up the microphone and receivers.

"Ohhh, good idea, Fennel!" Professor Juniper said as she took a pair of earphones.

The two scientists put on the earphones and sat beside the girls. Fennel aimed the microphone at them and held down a button to begin recording and transmitting the sound. What Fennel and Juniper heard shocked them.

"Di... did you hear that?" Juniper asked, bewildered.

"Y-yeah," Fennel responded. "Incredible... even at maximum sensitivity, they sound so quiet! And those high-pitched squeaks... I can't believe it! I can't even understand a word they're saying!"

"So what do we do now?"

Fennel furrowed her brow and thought for a moment about how to make the girls' voices audible.

"Got it!" She got up to fetch something else from the bin. She returned with a data cable for the microphone, two sets of wired headphones, and an audio splitter. "I'll hook up the mic to my computer so that we can alter the frequency and amplitude of the sound waves. That should help us understand them."

Fennel connected the microphone to her computer and loaded an audio manipulation program. She hooked the headphones into the splitter and connected the splitter to the computer.

"These will let us hear them without having to use the speakers," Fennel explained as she donned a pair of headphones. "That way, we don't hurt their ears."

"Good call," Juniper said, putting on her pair of headphones.

Fennel aimed the microphone at the girls. "Are you girls okay?"

She held the recording button on the microphone for a few seconds. A waveform display on the monitor, and Fennel began manipulating and altering it. After a few tries, she found the correct transformation parameters and saved them for future recordings. The girls' voices played in the headphones with near-perfect clarity, and the two scientists were once again shocked at what they heard.

"I dunno 'bout you guys, but I can't understand a word that she's saying," they heard Hilda say.

Bianca laughed in response. "She sounds like a whispering Wailord!"

"I do wonder if they can hear us," Amanita wondered aloud.

"Heyyy!" Bianca shouted. "If you can hear us, um, give us a thumbs-up!"

"Oh, good idea, Bee!" Hilda exclaimed.

There was additional banter, but Fennel decided to stop the recording playback after that. She and Juniper looked at each other for a second before smiling down at the shrunken girls, each of them giving a thumbs-up.

"Well, that's one half of the equation," Fennel stated. "So we can understand them now... but it turns out they can't understand us! I dunno how we can talk to them other than recording ourselves and increasing the playback rate. That seems like a clunky solution, but if I"

"Fennel, there's a simpler solution to this," Juniper laughed. "Watch."

She reached for a piece of paper and a pencil, and she scribbled something on the sheet.

"Okay, when I flip this sheet over, I want you to start recording for ten seconds," Juniper told Fennel.

"Oh, duh!" Fennel said, knocking her head. "Of course! You're so smart, Aurea!"

"Hah, says the girl who can do multivariable calculus and theoretical physics equations in her head."

Fennel's face turned bright red. "Oh, s-stop it!"

Juniper held the sheet of paper up, its words facing her. "Okay, ready?"

"Ready!" Fennel said, giggling and blushing.

Juniper flipped the sheet of paper over. On it were written the words, "If you can read this, count to 5". Fennel recorded for ten seconds as asked, and she played back the altered sound wave. Their hearts fluttered as they heard the girls count to five in unison.

"Y-you did it!" Fennel said as she hugged Juniper.

"'We' did it," Juniper returned.

"Yeah... we did it."

Fennel walked over to the workbench and grabbed a wipeboard. She checked the status screen of the ray gun and came back to the desk.

"Here, we can use this to write on," she stated. "Also, the ray has about fifteen minutes left before we can use it again. So let's keep them occupied while we wait. Ooh, I have sooo many questions for them!"

"Okay, well, what do you want to ask them?"


*** 12 ***


"What's taking so long?" Amanita asked aloud during a lull in Fennel's interview. "They said it would be fifteen minutes before they restore us nearly an hour ago!"

"Oh, so I'm not the only one who picked up on that," Hilda said snidely.

"M-maybe they ran into problems with the ray thing?" Bianca suggested.

"I haven't seen 'em check the thing once."

High above, Professor Juniper held up the wipeboard. On it was written, "It's time! Are you ready?"

"Yeah, we've been ready for like an hour now!" Hilda spat.

Juniper set the wipeboard down and lowered her hand near the edge of the desk, motioning for the girls to board it. Warily, the girls hopped onto the soft, fleshy platform. They experienced a familiarly uncomfortable pressing sensation as Juniper raised her hand and stood upright. Before they could regain their composure, Juniper's opposite hand fell over them, and they were enshrouded in near-total darkness.

"Spooky," Bianca said.

"It's almost over," Hilda repeated to herself between deep breaths.

The warmth and darkness of Juniper's grasp was at once comforting and disorienting. The girls struggled to remain upright on the uneven ground with each step the giant Professor took, and they could hear the low wails of Juniper and Fennel speaking outside. Suddenly, they experienced an unexpected downward acceleration that knocked them off their feet, and a bright flash of light flooded the chamber, blinding the muddled girls as Juniper uncupped her hands and exposed them to the outside once more. Greeted by the sight of Juniper's ankle, they realized that they had been lowered onto the floor. Slowly, the girls approached the edge of the huge hand, and before they could lower themselves off the two-story wall of skin and bone, Juniper tilted her hand, causing the girls to tumble onto the wodden floor.

"Hey, watch it, ya jerk!" Hilda yelled, knowing that the Professor would never hear her insult.

"Is everyone alright?" Bianca asked the others.

"I'm fine," Amanita said, brushing herself off as she stood.

"Yeah, I'm good," Hilda responded. "I'm just glad this is almost over."

The colossal Professor slowly stood and smiled down on them before moving away. As they looked around, they saw Fennel standing next to the ray gun control panel in the distance.

"Well, here we go," Amanita sighed. "Ready for this?"

"Yep!" Bianca chirped.

"Oh yeah!" Hilda shouted. "I dunno 'bout you guys, but I could use some food and a nap after this!"

"Guys?" Amanita said with a twinge of sadness in her voice. "I know that we ran into a lot of dangerous situations and got into a lot of fights, but... I don't usually get to go on adventures like this. Th-thanks for making this such a fun adventure."

"Aww," Bianca cooed as she gave Amanita a big hug, "you're welcome, Amanita."

Hilda cracked a light smile. "Hey, we'll go on a real adventure here, soon, 'kay?"

The girls all shared a big group hug, and a blinding flash of light surrounded them.


"Girls? Girls? Are you alright?"

The three girls each raised their heads and looked around. The ceiling, which once seemed miles away, now only sat a few feet above their heads, and the floor was no longer comprised of large wood grains, but entire planks of wood. Once distant objects now appeared small and held a sense of depth, seeming more like household objects than distant mountains and structures lining the horizon. The low and eerie noises were now replaced by the usual beeps and whirrs of the lab.

They were finally back to normal size.

The girls immediately began cheering and celebrating. Hilda snatched Bianca's arms, and the two Trainers began twirling about. Amanita leapt on Hilda's back, and Hilda began parading her around. Bianca took her beret and tossed it into the air while dancing joyously.

"Welcome back," Juniper said, smiling warmly. Her voice was perfectly clear and audible.

And for the first time in what felt like nearly half a day, they finally stood at eye level with Fennel and Juniper.

"It's good to be back!" Hilda proclaimed loudly, running over to hug Juniper.

Bianca decided to go recover her beret, which she had seen fall near the ray gun. Looking around the area, she was not able to locate it, so she began to check around the machine itself. As she leaned on the panel, she thought she felt something move, but before she could see what it was, she spied her beret nestled between the machine and the wall, and she moved to collect it.

"Amanita!" Fennel ran over to her younger sister with tears in her eyes.

"Big Sis!" Amanita ran into her older sister's arms.

"Amanita! Oh my gosh, I was so worried about you girls!" Fennel could no longer contain her emotions and began to cry into her younger sister's shoulder. "I'm so sorry I put you all through that! You were right about that auto-fire featureI should have listened to you! I'm so sorry!"

Upon hearing those words, Amanita felt like she had finally received the validation she so desperately wanted, and she, too, burst into tears. "I-it's okay, Big Sis. It was an accident. I... I forgive you."

"Got it!" Bianca blurted out, spoiling the tender moment as she recovered her beret and walked back over to the group.

"So," Hilda began to ask Juniper, "how is it still light outside? It should at least be getting dark by now."

"Huh?" Juniper was confused.

"Yeah, we were wandering around for hours," Bianca stated.

"Hours? But that's not possible. Fennel said that the lockout timer was set for an hour and a half."

Hilda was bewildered by Juniper's statement. "But I know we were shrunk for way more than that!"

Hilda checked the time on her Xtransceiver, but was surprised to see that only an hour and a half had passed.

"What? But... how?" Hilda could not understand why she felt like she had experienced several hours.

"Fascinating..." Fennel mused. "So time appears to move slower when a sentient being is reduced."

"That would explain why you two moved and spoke so slowly," Amanita said.

"And why it's still day outside," Bianca added.

"Hm, indeed," Fennel said.

"So," Hilda started, "what you're sayin' is that"

Fennel turned away and completed Hilda's sentence. "Whereas a mere hour and a half passed for us, you all experienced far more than that."

"That's wild."

"Yes. So that means...." Fennel turned back to face Hilda. " still have time to search for that green Munna!" she grinned.

Silence flooded the room. In that moment, something within Hilda snapped, and she could no longer contain her anger. She marched toward Fennel and grabbed the enthusiastic inventor by the shirt.

"H-Hilda!" Fennel yelped. "W-what are you doing?!"

"I have been through so much crap today." Hilda spoke softly and deliberately. "And it is all your fault. You accidentally shrink me, you almost step on me, you almost eat me"

"What?! Ahh, I'm so sorry! I didn't mea"

Hilda's frighteningly calm voice suddenly bristled with rage and surged to a loud roar. "and after all of that, you have the nerve to ask me to go on some stupid errand for you?! I oughta knock your block off right now!"

"Hilda, stop!" Juniper said as she attempted to pry Hilda off Fennel. "I know you're upset, but this won't solve anything!"

Amanita and Bianca soon joined the scuffle. Amanita wedged herself between Hilda and Fennel and managed to get Hilda off her sister while Juniper and Bianca quickly restrained the enraged Trainer.

"I-I-I'm sorry, Hilda!" Fennel pleaded. "I-it was just a joke!"

"Well, I ain't laughing," Hilda growled. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't report you to the police for safety violations or attempted mur"


Hilda groaned as she slowly opened her eyes. The last thing she recalled was that she had been fighting with Fennel when a blinding flash of light flooded the room.

"Wh... what was that about?" she asked aloud. "Was... was I dreaming?"

She felt the soft surface beneath her begin to shift and move, and she realized that she had somehow fallen on Professor Juniper.

"Ow," Juniper moaned, "what... happened?"

"Professor, are you alright?" Hilda asked, unsure of what was going on.

A short distance from her, Hilda saw Amanita and Fennel lying on the floor next to each other, and they had begun to stir as well. She now realized that she had not been dreaming, but she now wondered why everyone had apparently fainted.

"Where... are we?" Fennel asked groggily as she regained consciousness.

"The last thing I remember," Hilda began, "is that I was surrounded by a strange glow. Then I saw a huge burst of light and...."

Hilda's eyes widened in horror as she realized what had occurred. The glow, the flash of light, the fainting... and the smell of burning rubber in the air... could it be? A familiar terror gripped her soul as she looked around. Yet again, she was greeted by the sight of a gigantic room, its contents dominating the horizon like distant landforms, and the low roar and distorted frequencies of giant machines whirring and churning. A pit formed in her stomach as her eyes fell upon the giant ray gun, smoke and mist pouring from it.

" way! This isn't happening! This is not happeni"

"Look out!" Amanita screeched, pointing behind Hilda.

The ground rumbled and creaked, and everyone began screaming wildly as an impossibly huge yellow object sped past and slammed into the ground near them, creating a huge quake and deafening boom. As Hilda recovered, she studied the massive object before her. Out of this colossal structure rose a huge orange tower that spiraled into a large white tube in the sky. Inside the tube rose another orange pillar, and the two pillars joined deep inside at the end of the tunnel.

Hilda's heart nearly stopped as she realized what she was looking at.


Before the argument had any more time to escalate, a blinding flash of light had flooded the entire room for a split-second, and in the following instant, everyone had vanished.

Everyone except Bianca.

"W-what was that?" she wondered as she rubbed her eyes and slowly opened them.

Upon opening her eyes, Bianca noticed that everyone but her had vanished. There was no trace of them to be found anywhere.

"Huh? W-where'd everyone go?"

She quickly scanned the room for any sign of the others, but found nothing. As she turned around, her eyes fell upon the ray gun, and she felt a petrifying chill at what she saw.

The status light was green.

"Oh no... that means...!"

Her stomach sank as she nervously bent over to scan the floor beneath her. She gasped with astonishment as she spied four tiny specks moving around by her yellow shoe.


Yellow shoes, orange stockings, white dress.... Hilda felt a wave of nausea overtake her as she finally recognized the impossibly gigantic structure.

"B... Bianca?! But... how...?"

Somehow, Bianca had been unaffected by the blast. Now, as she stared down at Hilda and the others, she towered over them like a human skyscraper.

"I don't believe this," Professor Juniper said, marveling at Bianca's size.

"This is incredible!" Fennel squealed, unable to contain her excitement. "Is this what it feels like to be near someone at this size? What a rush!"

"But... why didn't Bianca shrink along with us?" Amanita asked.

"It's a good thing she didn't," Juniper said. "Maybe she's immune?"

"Oh, I must run some tests on her once we get back to normal!" Fennel emphatically declared.

"Speaking of which," Hilda said worriedly, "how are we ever gonna get back to normal if she doesn't even know how to work anything?"

Everyone fell silent as the gravity of Hilda's observation set in, and a quiet anxiety seized the four of them as they all looked up at the giant Trainer, wondering how they were ever going to return to normal size.


With her mouth agape, Bianca crouched carefully and studied the specks at her feet, and a wave of exhilaration rushed over her as she recognized the four dots on the floor. Her slackjawed expression was replaced by a childlike smile, and she lowered herself to the floor, moving her head so close to the group of shrunken people that her face was mere inches from them.

"Oh my gosh, look at how tiny you all are!" Bianca giggled as she extended her index finger toward her friends.