A Pokémon Trainer Is You! The Story So Far

This post contains the entire story so far of my ongoing interactive Pokémon adventure fiction, A Pokémon Trainer Is You!, a reimagining of the story of Pokémon: Red and Blue where my readers choose the main character’s path through the world through polls accompanying each episode (latest episodes can be found here). Read this to get up to speed on what’s currently happening, or refresh your memory of past events!

A Pokémon Trainer Is You!

The day has finally come!  Having reached at last the ripe old age of [data not found], you are ready to leave Pallet Town all on your own and quest for glory!  A Pokémon trainer is you!  Your Pokémon legend is about to unfold!  Y’know, unless you get lost in the woods and starve to death.  That can happen.  I knew a guy once who that happened to.  Poor Larry.  Rest in peace, man.

Whatever, whatever.  You’ve gotta be at Professor Oak’s lab, kid!  You don’t want that other jerk to get a head start on you!

Remember, kid: this journey’s gonna be all about choices.  It’s a crazy world and it’s easy to run out of time, so you won’t always have a chance to go back and try everything, and you gotta make your decisions carefully.  Sometimes, especially if you get in a fight, you can try something that won’t be guaranteed to work, and you’ll have to use your head to decide what the best choice is.  But remember: trying new things and being creative probably won’t get you killed!  Larry… Larry was a special case; he was pretty dumb.

Oh, right; I was supposed to read the script.  Uh, something something, dreams and adventures, blah blah, let’s get going!

A Pokémon Trainer Is You! II: For Real This Time, ‘Cause You’re Getting A Pokémon!

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Are you a boy or a girl?
– Yes

What are your special skills?
– Compassion: You are less of a $#!tbag than most kids your age, allowing you to empathise with people and Pokémon, and intuit their desires or concerns.
– Science: You hang around Professor Oak’s lab a lot, and have picked up a lot of debatably useful trivia about everything from astronomy to marine biology.
– Tactics: You watch televised Pokémon battles obsessively.  You know Pokémon type advantages by heart, and know how certain moves can be used in creative ways.

What is your rival’s name?
– I think it’s like a colour or something

Okay, let’s get on with it!

You’re at Professor Oak’s lab, ready for the beginning of the rest of your life!  The floor is tiled in pristine white – or at least, it used to be; they do a lot of experiments here and the cleaners can’t keep up.  You can still pick out most of the stains that are your fault.  Thick textbooks on Pokémon behaviour and anatomy line every wall and are scattered over most of the tables, complex machines with lots of enticing buttons litter the main room, and the lab assistants are that particular kind of dishevelled that says “we barely know how to feed and clothe ourselves, but give us grant money and we’ll work 36 hours a day!”  You nod cheerily to each of them as you pass.  You have a lot of fun memories in this place – culturing bacteria in Petri dishes, mixing chemicals to create violent colours and beautiful explosions, learning to predict the weather from air pressure measurements, helping the Professor’s assistants to draw up charts of Kantonian habitats and biomes.  It’s almost a shame to be leaving, but there’s so much to do out in the world: people and Pokémon to meet, natural phenomena to explore, battles to win!  Professor Oak is standing, magisterial and dignified, but with a kindly smile on his face, just next to a high bench with three glittering round objects.

Oh, yeah, and what’s-his-butt’s here too.  The Professor’s grandson.  Grandson?  Great-nephew?  First-cousin twice removed?  Whatever, he’s here.  He’s in your class at school, and obviously you see him at the lab from time to time, but you’ve never paid much attention to him.  One time you tried to strike up a conversation with him about a really interesting new research paper on the correlation between Clefairy moon rituals and the appearances of several known periodic comets.  You’re fairly certain he didn’t understand a single word you said; he just called you a nerd, farted and then ran off.  To be honest, you get the impression he has a really awkward relationship with the Professor and has transferred a lot of his feelings about that onto science in general.  You felt a little bad when you realised that, and wondered if you should have made more of an effort to reach out to him, but… well, he is also kind of a dick.

“Gramps, I’m fed up with waiting!  Can we just start already!” complains… him.  You know he’s told you his name; you want to say… Cyan?  Or Teal?
“I told you, Blue,” (Blue!  That’s it) “we can’t start until both new trainers are ready.”  Professor Oak looks up and sees you.  “Ah, and here’s my wayward young student now.  Let’s begin.”  The Professor clears his throat as you come up alongside what’s-his-face and give him a curt nod of acknowledgement.  “You both know why you’re here, of course: to take your first steps as Pokémon trainers!” he gestures to the red-and-white spheres on the bench next to him.  “Exploring the wide world, making friends with mysterious Pokémon, having adventures and doing good – ah, it makes me long for the days of my youth!”  He laughs, and for a moment the years seem to fall away from his wrinkled face, as if he’s a green new trainer too, excited to see the world.  “You’re already familiar with the rare Pokémon that I receive from the Pokémon League for my promising new trainers: Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle.  You can have one.  Go on, choose!”
“Hey!  Gramps!  No fair!” complains Blue.  “What about me?”
“Be patient, Blue.  You’ll get your turn.”

At the Professor’s nod, you approach the bench and consider the three Pokéballs in front of you.  In front of each one is a sheet of paper with a black-and-white image of the Pokémon it contains: the Grass-type Bulbasaur, the Fire-type Charmander, or the Water-type Squirtle.  You knew this choice was coming, so you’ve already taken some time to study the moves and abilities of all three, and have a good idea of how those skills will change as they grow.  Any of them has the potential to become a strong and noble partner.  In the back of your mind, though, part of you wonders whether Professor Oak has any other Pokémon – ones that might be more of a challenge for an ambitious up-and-coming new trainer.  You’ve spent enough time here to know that there aren’t really any Pokémon living in the lab long-term, but wild or semi-wild Pokémon often pass through for one reason or another, usually related to the Professor’s research.  You don’t want to seem ungrateful, and if the Professor did find something else for you, there’d be no telling what it might be, but… if you weren’t up for a bit of uncertainty, you wouldn’t even be doing this, right?

As you mull over your options, you glance at Blue.  He’s trying to suppress his impatience, but he’s not good at it.  He keeps fidgeting with the little silver pendant around his neck and shifting his weight from one foot to the other.  It would be a nice gesture to let him go first instead; after all, there’s no reason you should get the first pick, except that the Professor likes you.  Then again, it isn’t only the two of you who will be affected by this choice.  There’s a saying in some regions, “your Pokémon has to choose you too.”  Maybe the Pokémon should have a say?

Come on kid, make up your mind or we’ll be here a whole week!

A Pokémon Trainer Is You! III: A Battle You Has!

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do when Oak offers you a Pokémon?
– Ask Professor Oak to let the Pokémon decide.

You turn to Professor Oak.  All three of these Pokémon are great, you explain, and you feel confident that any of them would make a powerful and versatile partner, but it seems unfair to make this choice without their input.  Maybe it should be up to them, which one goes with you?  Blue rolls his eyes, but the Professor nods sagely and smiles at you.
“I think that would be a very interesting way of making this decision!  Well, everyone, come on out!”  With a single fluid wave of his hand, he somehow activates all three Pokéballs at once, and the three Pokémon inside them emerge in a blaze of blue-white light: Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle.

You squat to look each of them in the eye, and speak to them.  It’s nice to meet them, you say.  You start to explain that you’ve been offered the chance to choose one of them as your partner for your first journey, before Professor Oak cuts you off with a gentle and only slightly patronising “they know that.”  Blue huffs impatiently.  All right.  You tell them about your dreams and ambitions – becoming a great Pokémon trainer and great researcher both.  All three are curious when you begin to talk about challenging Pokémon gyms and entering tournaments, though the Squirtle looks almost bored by your soaring ideals and lyrical fascination with science.  The Charmander listens intently, but dispassionately.  But the Bulbasaur’s eyes light up when you talk about studying nature and harmony, and it smiles broadly at your (frankly saccharine) hopes of making friends with Pokémon of all different kinds.  When you finish speaking, it glances at the other two Pokémon, as if asking permission, then takes a step forward and extends a fresh green vine to shake your hand.

Bulbasaur has joined the party!
Level: Novice
Type: Grass/Poison
Nature: Brave
Gender: Male
Height: 62 cm
Weight: 5.9 kg
Moves: Tackle, Growl, Leech Seed, Vine Whip
Ability: Overgrow
Special Skills: None/Unknown?

Blue is leaning against a desk off to your left, looking bored and tapping his foot rhythmically.  He seems deeply unimpressed by your antics, but you catch him watching out of the corner of his eye and suspect he’s curious in spite of himself.  As you talk to Bulbasaur, one of the other Pokémon, the Squirtle, wanders over to him and gently headbutts him in the shin.  He looks down, slightly startled, and frowns at it.  You and Bulbasaur both fall silent and watch.  Squirtle smiles up at him.  Blue blinks twice, and you sense something shift inside him as his expression softens.
“Oh.”  For a moment he seems incapable of saying anything else.  Hesitantly, he crouches to the floor.  “You… want to come with me?”  Squirtle’s high, nasal voice cheerfully responds in what you assume is the affirmative.  Blue starts talking again, and his voice is softer than you’ve ever heard it (not that that’s saying much – he doesn’t normally have much of an ‘inside voice’).  You can’t make out most of what he’s saying, but you think you hear the words “you were the one I wanted.”

The third Pokémon, Charmander, watching with an air of aloof satisfaction, looks up at Professor Oak and shrugs.  It hasn’t found its trainer today, and it’s quite happy to keep waiting.  The Professor replies by returning the shrug, along with a knowing smile.  Meanwhile, Squirtle is tugging on Blue’s sleeve, directing his attention towards one of the Professor’s assistants, who is sipping a mug of coffee and squinting through bleary eyes at a printout of climatological data.  Squirtle winks at Blue, blows a huge concussive bubble and sets it loose.  Blue watches, fascinated, as the bubble sails gracefully through the air, smacks into the poor man’s back and bursts with a sound like a thunderclap and a rush of wind and water, sending his coffee and research papers everywhere.  Blue and Squirtle both double over, laughing hysterically.

They are, you admit in spite of yourself, perfect for each other.

“And now,” Professor Oak begins, apparently anxious to call the meeting back to order, “I want to give you both something.”  He turns to his desk, piled high with stained research notes and elaborate scientific instruments that are definitely too delicate to be stacked like that.  After a few moments’ rummaging, he excavates a pair of bright red tablet-like devices and proudly presents them to you and Blue.  Obviously you already know about the Professor’s pride and joy, the latest model of the Pokédex.  You also know what the Professor wants you to do with it.  This isn’t the old days, when he’d hand trainers a Pokédex that was literally blank and ask them to use its sophisticated scanning technology to gather data on all Pokémon from scratch, but that tradition of a Pokédex database built by volunteers in the field is still going strong.  It’s always possible to learn more about the behaviour and ecology of even the most familiar Kantonian species, especially now, since international travel is on the rise and there are more exotic Pokémon in some parts of Kanto than there used to be.  Obviously, he’s been careful to remind you at every turn that this is your journey, and you mustn’t sacrifice things that are important to you, like your gym challenge.  You, every time, have reminded him in turn that science is important to you too.  And that, kid, is the kind of dumb bull$#!t that leads to Larry starving to death in the woods.

You have your partner Pokémon, you have your Pokédex, and it’s finally time to get underway!  You thank the Professor, run some quick checks with him to confirm that your Pokédex is in working order, thank him again because that’s apparently the kind of polite nerd kid you are, and are about to leave the lab.
“Wait!”  You turn to see Blue and Squirtle facing you, both wearing confident smirks.  “Let’s check out our Pokémon!  Come on; I-” he catches himself, with a glance at Squirtle, “we’ll take you on!”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake… so pushy, as always,” the Professor mutters to himself, though he makes no effort to intervene.  Every battle is a matter of a trainer’s honour, and as rude as the abrupt challenge was, it would be ruder to come between you and put a stop to your first battle.  You exchange looks with Bulbasaur, each confirming that the other is ready for this, and accept with a grin.

Unfortunately for Blue and Squirtle, you’ve mentally gamed out several different strategies for battles between any two of the three starter Pokémon you knew Professor Oak was going to offer you, and, as luck would have it, you’ve ended up with the Pokémon who has a type advantage over Blue’s.  This should be an easy first victory.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! IV: Get Going, Kid!

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

How do you approach your first battle?
– Play it safe and wear them out with Leech Seed

You’re pretty confident you know all the angles here.  You and whatshisname are both using Pokémon you just met, and won’t be able to try any funny business.  Squirtle is tougher than Bulbasaur thanks to its shell that it can hide inside at will, so if they have any sense they’ll try to outlast your Grass attacks and then counterattack with a shell slam or something.  But there’s an easy way to keep that from working…

At your order, the bulb on your Pokémon’s back pulses and fires a single glowing yellow seed that arcs through the air towards Squirtle.  The turtle Pokémon reacts instantly by dropping to the floor and pulling its head and all its limbs into its shell, quick as you can blink, but that won’t stop a Leech Seed.  It hits Squirtle’s shell, sticks, and immediately sprouts a web of green that grows with supernatural speed, climbing around and into the shell.  The other guy is pretty shaken; you don’t think he’s actually seen this attack before.  He manages to call counterattacks, and Squirtle is able to fire Bubbles that knock your Bulbasaur off its feet, but it’s no good.  Water attacks deal only superficial damage to Grass-types, the Leech Seed is gradually sapping Squirtle’s strength, and all Bulbasaur has to do is use its vines to parry attacks and occasionally lash out whenever Squirtle emerges from its shell for too long.  Eventually, Squirtle sinks to its knees, too weak to go on attacking, and Professor Oak calls an end to the battle.

“What!?  Unbelievable!”  Aqua(?) dashes forward and drops to his knee to check on his Pokémon.  Professor Oak helps him pick the Leech Seed off Squirtle’s shell, and its tendrils rapidly wither and crumble away.  “We’ll get ‘em next time, Squirtle.”  The turtle Pokémon, its strength already beginning to return, gives him an affirmative chirp.  Azure recalls Squirtle to its Pokéball and stands to look you in the eye.  “You had an advantage this time, but we’ll battle to get stronger and catch new Pokémon to beat you.  Smell ya later!”  And just like that, he’s gone.

Gee, you’re welcome; I really enjoyed our battle too.

You consider for a moment that he’s probably embarrassed about losing his first ever Pokémon battle in front of the Professor, a distinguished older relative whose relationship with him already seems kind of strained.  You feel a little bad about it.  You fµ¢£in’ shouldn’t.  As the narrator of your internal monologue, I’m telling you, seriously, fµ¢£ that guy.

You resume your interrupted thanks and goodbyes to the Professor.  He insists on giving you a few Pokéballs to make up for the rudeness of Blue’s (Blue, that’s right) sudden challenge.  Frankly, though, you’ve wasted enough time here.  You leave the lab and swing by your house to retrieve your things – several sets of clothes, a few days’ worth of food, a sleeping bag, and of course the notebook Professor Oak gave you for writing down scientific observations.  After all, this is your Pokémon journey; you could be away for a while!  Maybe forever!  I mean, hopefully in a good way, like you went to another city and found a job, or love, or some Pokémon-related calling; not because you starved to death in the woods.  You say a brief, almost perfunctory goodbye to your family, and you’re off!

You take your first step out of the drab off-white of Pallet Town, Kanto’s absolute dullest city, and into the cheerful knee-high green grass of Route 1.  You’ve been out here loads of times before, of course, just never on your own – sometimes with your parents, or your school teachers, or (when you’ve been particularly daring) just with a couple of friends.  Most often, though, you’ve been out here with the Professor, learning about Pokémon ecology.  Every species has its own little niche, a slice of habitat and a way of life that interacts with and cuts across all the others.  By taking time out of your journey to apply the techniques you’ve learned on this road, you’ll be able to further the Professor’s research with new data on the evolving ecosystems of Kanto.  Of course, you already know this area pretty well, so you have some ideas for where you might go to catch a second Pokémon.  A well-maintained path snakes up the gentle slope in the direction of Viridian City.  If you just stick close to the path, most of the Pokémon you find will probably be Pidgey or Rattata.  That’s just how it is, you guess.  But hey, no Pokémon is useless!  Any of them can grow to be powerful and worthwhile partners with the love and trust of their trainers, and you’d be happy to have any of these little guys for your team.

(Sheesh, are you being serious, kiddo?  Maybe the Larry scenario is more likely than I thought…)

If you move away from the path, you quickly get into open woodland.  Rattata get less common as you leave the places frequented by humans, and different Pokémon appear instead, including a couple of Grass-types.  Strategically, a second Grass Pokémon would come with disadvantages, but you also know that some trainers have been able to develop their Pokémon’s abilities in unusual ways by pursuing type specialisation.  Since you have Bulbasaur with you, you could use its vines to shake Pokémon out of the trees, provoking them to challenge you.  The Professor has shown you several different kinds of Bug Pokémon that live in the trees around here.  Finally, you think you could also find your way to one of the remote meadows near Route 1.  You’ve only been out that far a couple of times, but you know that this is where you’ll find the greatest diversity of Pokémon, possibly even including a couple that you haven’t seen before – each meadow is effectively its own microhabitat, some of them are inhabited by Pokémon that aren’t native to Kanto, and even Professor Oak doesn’t know exactly what species live in each one.

Otherwise, you could just cut the time-wasting and head out to the next town, Viridian City!  That’s where you’re going anyway after you finish up here – honestly, there’s not a lot of choice for a trainer leaving Pallet Town, and you should be able to start training for your first gym challenge.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! V: Making a New Friend, You Guess

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Do you want to give Bulbasaur a nickname?
– Let Jim the Editor name it

As you walk through the soft, peaceful woodlands of route 1, you glance down at your Bulbasaur, plodding contentedly along at your side.  You suppose you ought to give it – no, him, you’re pretty sure your Bulbasaur is male – a nickname; just calling him “Bulbasaur” seems so impersonal.  You think about it for a while, mulling over the awesome responsibility of naming another sentient being.  Nothing comes to mind, until suddenly you hear a voice, distant and ethereal, as if carried to you on a divine wind…


You think about it for a moment, turning the name over in your mind.  You seem to be seriously considering naming your Pokémon after an onion.  I’m… weirded out, but not going to judge.  You say the name out loud, testing how it feels to say it, and it seems like your Bulbasaur is totally on board with this development.  Scallion the Bulbasaur it is!

What do you do?
– Try to reach one of the meadows

After hours of winding through the woods, up and down hillsides, you recognise a tree stump with a marker flag from one of Professor Oak’s surveys, and realise that you’re near a meadow you’ve been to once before.  There’s a distinctive type of bright pink iris that the Professor says is a strain from Hoenn, and as the woods start to get less dense, you begin to see the flowers popping up on the ground wherever they can snatch light through the canopy.  Soon, you leave the trees and the meadow opens out in front of you – a wide clearing of nearly waist-high grass, dotted with bright flowers and bathed in clear sunlight.  You can’t see any Pokémon, obviously – the grass hides them pretty well, and out here they’re not used to humans.  If you were here conducting an ecological study, you’d set up a hide using plant materials from the area and get ready to stay perfectly quiet for a few hours, so wild Pokémon would feel comfortable acting normally and you could observe their behaviour.

You’re not here conducting an ecological study, so you can just clomp around in the grass making noise and collecting plant samples; whatever.  If there are any Pokémon here that are upwards-of-lukewarm towards humans, their curiosity will outweigh their caution.  Sure enough, before long you hear a rustling in the grass behind you, and turn around to find Scallion already sizing up…

Your Pokédex identifies it as a Minun, an Electric Pokémon native to Hoenn that is known for forming close partnerships with other Pokémon, both in the wild and in the company of humans.  You crouch slightly to get closer to its level and offer a greeting.  The Minun cocks its head slightly and gives what you think is a hint of a smirk before settling into a combat stance and making a squeaking sound that you think is supposed to be a fearsome war-cry.  Well, you suppose they can’t all be easy.  At your command, Scallion stretches out his vines and gets ready to fight.

The Minun darts around Scallion to attack his flank with a quick jab, then bounces back to fire a pulse of electricity that swirls out from its blue cheek pouches.  Scallion is having none of this $#!t and punches a coiled vine straight out at its torso, knocking it back.  Seeing a clear opening, you order Scallion to launch a Leech Seed that latches firmly onto the Minun’s shoulder.  It keeps hopping around, striking at Scallion with its tiny balled fists and fierce yellow sparks, but its movements begin to slow and your Bulbasaur keeps fending off its attacks with deft vine slaps.  Finally, it sinks to the ground on one knee, and you throw a Pokéball that zaps Minun into… well, wherever it is Pokémon go, while they’re in there.  Honestly you get the impression from some of the textbooks you’ve read that no-one really knows.  The ball rocks once, then settles.

Minun has joined the party!
Level: Novice
Type: Electric
Nature: Mild
Gender: Female
Height: 39 cm
Weight: 4.1 kg
Moves: Growl, Thunder Wave, Quick Attack, Helping Hand
Ability: Minus
Special Skills: None/Unknown?

Mission accomplished!  Your second Pokémon – and it’s a rare one, too!  You bring Minun out of its (her? Her) Pokéball briefly for introductions, pleasantries and… well, frankly, making sure everyone is on the same page about the whole “capturing” thing. As far as you’re concerned, that’s only polite.  You decide to move on pretty quickly, though; it’s already late afternoon, and it would be best to get to Viridian City before dusk.  You’ve never actually camped out here before, and you’re a long way from the path.  You know Route 1, but you’re not crazy.

And after another couple of hours’ walk, here it is: Viridian City.  The Eternally Green Paradise.  Hotspot for aspiring Pokémon trainers for more than a hundred years, and home of the best coffee in Kanto.  I assume you’re old enough to drink coffee.  I mean, legally there’s no age restriction and you’re, like… well, you definitely have some sort of an age; I can tell that much.  Your first order of business is to head straight for the Pokémon Centre and get lodging for the night, but in the morning you’ll have your first full day as a Pokémon trainer ahead of you!

A Pokémon Trainer is You! VI: In Search of Caffeine

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Do you want to give Minun a nickname?
– Let the Narrator name it.

Me?  Uh… I mean, yeah, I guess.  Honestly I’m a little surprised you can ask me to do that; are you even consciously aware of me as a voice in your head? Whatever; by the power vested in me by… narratorial omniscience, I guess?  I hereby name this Minun:

Nancy, the Negator

Or, y’know, just Nancy to her friends.  Whatever.  Nancy seems a little bemused, like she thinks “The Negator” might be slightly grandiose for little old her, but she does also think it’s kind of badass, so she’ll give it ago.  Well… by that, I mean she cocked her head and made an inquisitive squeaking noise; I dunno how you got the rest of it, but maybe you really are some sort of “Pokémon whisperer” or some bull$#!t like that.

What will you do in Viridian City?
– Seek out coffee.

There’s a kissaten, an old-style coffee house, just down the road from the Pokémon Centre.  It’s one of those hole-in-the-wall places from the 1950s, run by a man from the 1920s and a Wartortle from the 1750s, where they roast their own beans on a Vulpix’s flame, make hand-dripped coffee so strong it turns your face inside-out, and stock pretty little flower-shaped sweets from local confectioners.  Real craftsmanship, y’know?  You go to places like this to sit for an hour at a time, savour your beverage of choice with a plate of bacon and eggs, and exchange gossip with your friends and neighbours.  Viridian’s a bit more old-fashioned than the big cities in central Kanto, so stuff like this is all over the place if you know where to look.

Turns out these are also pretty good places to hear rumours.

You mention to one of the other patrons that you’re in town to challenge the Viridian Gym, and… well, that gets you a lot of attention, most of it pretty pessimistic.  Apparently, the whole place has been closed down for weeks.  The door guards either don’t know what’s going on or won’t say, and there’s been no official word of when the leader will be back.  Well.  Bummer.  Training for a little while in and around Viridian City and then challenging the leader of the Viridian Gym for your first badge was a pretty integral part of your plan for the beginning of your career as a competitive Pokémon trainer.  The next-closest official gym, as far as you know, is the one in Pewter City, on the other side of Viridian Forest, and getting through there is going to be a whole thing.  Apart from anything else, there are no coffee shops in Viridian Forest.  You take a sip of your void-coloured coffee and start asking more questions… and it just gets weirder.

No one knows who the gym leader actually is.  This is not even the first time he (they’re pretty definite that it’s a man) has vanished without explanation.  When taking challenges, he commands his Pokémon while seated on a balcony above the arena, and keeps his face in shadow.  Naturally, there are all kinds of rumours about who he is and why he hides his face, ranging from the plausible to the outright fantastical.  He is a dispossessed prince from a foreign land who escaped an arranged marriage; he was horribly disfigured by a botched medical procedure; he is on the run from a powerful crime syndicate; he leads a powerful crime syndicate; he is actually a Ditto in human form; he is some kind of masked vigilante superhero; he is half-human and half-Pokémon and was born in a secret genetics lab on Cinnabar Island.  Some claim that the rumours are somehow all true at once; others that all of them are lies, spread by the mysterious gym leader himself, to obscure a crime no more outlandish or esoteric than tax fraud.

How the hell did no one back home ever mention this to you while you were planning your journey?

You find yourself wishing, not for the first time, that you’d hung out more with the bad kids in school – the ones who knew how to scheme and skulk.  They’d be halfway through planning a heist on the Viridian Gym by now, to crack this whole mystery open.  Then again, they’d also be halfway through planning an elaborate bluff to get into the next Pokémon League conference by passing off a bunch of painted bottlecaps as gym badges from other regions.  Hmm.  Maybe it’s for the best after all.

You wonder, idly, whether your Pokémon like coffee.  They’ve probably never tried it before.  Well, Scallion might have; Professor Oak’s lab is usually overflowing with the stuff, but it feels a bit crass to even compare that to the miraculous liquid in the cup in front of you.  You realise that some of the other patrons have their Pokémon out with them – you see a Sandshrew, a Metapod, a couple of Rattata – and decide to bring your partners out for a taste.  Nancy rapidly takes a liking to strong black coffee, and finishes a cup with a speed that seems frankly alarming, but Scallion is less impressed.  In consultation with the owner’s Wartortle, you try several beverages and eventually settle on a bowl of delicately spiced chai latte, which Scallion lifts to his mouth with his vines.  You had planned to do a bunch of training today, but the more you think about it, the more this news about the closure of Viridian Gym seems like a sign, and spending time with your Pokémon like this is a nice way to start your careers together.  There’s still plenty of hours left in the day; you can take your time.

You order another cup of coffee.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! VII: A Rival is You!

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do next?
– Leave Viridian City to the west.

Well, as long as you’re in the Viridian City area, you might as well look around and do some training.  After your morning coffee, you and your Pokémon take the west road out of Viridian City and start exploring.  The houses gradually thin out, the land begins to slope gently upward, and you follow a river valley into rockier, drier territory, where wild Pokémon scrap over sparse vegetation and small pools of water.

These are the foothills of the Tohjo Mountains that divide Kanto from Johto.  The mountains are treacherous and full of extremely powerful wild Pokémon.  Turning north from here will eventually take you to the Indigo Plateau, the remote headquarters of the Pokémon League, while continuing west will lead to the ancient, awe-inspiring Mount Silver, the holiest place in all Johto.  Realistically, though… you’d never make it.  There are no regularly maintained trails through the mountains, almost no rest stops, and only a handful of Rangers who patrol the area.  You could get lost, or run afoul of Pokémon too strong for you to defeat, or even just… slip.  They might not find your body for weeks.  Seriously, kid.  You’re smarter than this, right?  Come back when you’ve got some serious Pokémon firepower behind you.

Of course, none of that means you can’t hang out in the foothills for a while.

There’s a few things you could do out here, without wandering too far into uncharted territory.  You can try for a new Pokémon, of course – the rougher terrain and more arid climate probably lend themselves to different species than the ones around Pallet Town (though of course you can find a Rattata anywhere).  Alternatively, a quick survey of the local ecology would give you some useful data to send back to Professor Oak.  Or you could spend some time training and bonding with one or both of the Pokémon you already have.  Before you can make up your mind, though…

“Hey!” you hear a familiar voice call out, as you pick your way through a gorge full of dry, spiky plants.  You look up ahead and see… um… the other guy; look, you know his name by now, right?  It looks like he’s on the way back to Viridian City.  He must have decided to forgo a relaxing morning coffee and start training out here early.  Turquoise(?) clambers down the side of the gorge over some rocks to meet you by the pitiful stream running along the bottom.  His Squirtle is at his side, and gives a cheery salute to Scallion, who has been walking with you.  You and your Pokémon both return the greeting.

“You’re off to the Pokémon League?” he asks.
You’re not, of course, but you suppose he must have been, so you ask if that’s where he was going.
“Yeah, I thought I’d check out the competition.  Pffft,” he says, throwing up his hands in resignation.  “Forget about it.  The guard at the gatehouse won’t let you through if you don’t have any gym badges.”
Well, that makes sense; it wouldn’t do to have inexperienced trainers wandering into the mountains unprepared.  You didn’t realise there was an actual gatehouse, but it’s a good idea, and you say as much to Navy.
“Yeah, I guess, but why d’they even have the Pokémon League somewhere like that?  It’s in the middle of nowhere!  If the Elite Four are so tough, why do they make it so hard to challenge them?”
You can’t argue with that.  You think there’s some kind of historical reason why the Pokémon League is at the Indigo Plateau, but you don’t know the details, and anyway it can’t still be important today.  Frankly, Periwinkle almost certainly doesn’t know either, so you decide to change the subject.  You’re two trainers meeting in the wilderness, so there is a fairly obvious direction to take the conversation, but you could also ask how his Pokémon are doing, or how well the start of his journey has gone, or (since he mentioned badges) whether he knows anything about the mysterious closure of the Viridian Gym.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! VIII: Seriously, kid, you should know his name by now

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you say to Whatshisname?
– Ask about the health of his Pokémon.

You’re honestly not sure how trainer etiquette is supposed to go in these situations, but it seems to you like the polite thing here is to ask the other guy about how his Pokémon is doing.

“Uh…”  He blinks, fumbling for a second.  “Squirtle’s doing great.  Uh, aren’t you, buddy?”  He glances down at Squirtle, who is poking around some brush with Scallion.  Squirtle looks back up at him and replies with an affirmative-sounding squeaky grunt.  “You know a bunch of nerd stuff, right?  Think you’d be able to tell if a Pokémon was sick or hurt?”  You do, of course, know a spectacular amount of dumb nerd $#!t, but most of it isn’t directly related to Pokémon health.  You can certainly observe a Pokémon’s behaviour and take note of even fairly subtle changes, and it does occur to you that Squirtle seems to have a little more spring in its step, so you tell Prussian(?) as much.  They’ve only been together a day and a half, but some Pokémon seem to become more lively just from being in the company of humans; it’s a phenomenon that Professor Oak has always been fascinated by.

“Yeah, that sounds like gramps, all right,” Prussian replies to your musing.  “Sometimes I can’t tell whether he’s talking science or new-age mumbo-jumbo.”  You force yourself not to roll your eyes.  “But anyway… yeah, I mean, we battled a couple of wild Pokémon.  Squirtle’s Bubble attack kicks ass, and wild Pokémon have a really hard time dealing with Withdraw if you time it right.  We’re gonna be Champion material in no time; just you wait.”

Indigo’s eyes linger on his first Pokémon for a while, and he purses his lips like he wants to say something but isn’t sure what.  “I didn’t realise it’d be like this, y’know?”  You look at him quizzically.  Scallion triumphantly fishes a big, tart-looking blue berry out of the depths of a spiny bush with his vines, splitting it with Squirtle.  The two Pokémon get two or three bites each, which they savour with obvious pleasure.  Indigo finally elaborates.  “Me and Squirtle, we click.  I mean, I knew I was gonna be a great trainer, because… duh.  But I guess I thought it’d be more about taking charge, coming up with unbeatable strategies.  Maybe that stuff just comes later.  But I didn’t think it’d be this…” he pauses, fishing for a word.  “I dunno.  Chill.”

You nod, but say nothing.  He falls silent, and the two of you watch your Pokémon playing for a minute longer.  You suspect that he and Squirtle have both been quite deeply affected by your little stunt yesterday, asking Professor Oak to let the Pokémon choose their trainers.  What this ultimately means for them, or indeed for you, you can’t yet say.

You break the silence by asking Denim whether he’s caught a second Pokémon yet.  He grins.
“Sure have – wanna see?”  His Pokéball is already in his hand.  Only one way for one self-respecting trainer to show off a new Pokémon to another.  You return the grin and unclip Nancy’s Pokéball from your belt.  Scallion and Squirtle sense that playtime is over and promptly spring to their respective trainers’ sides.  By unspoken agreement, you throw your Pokéballs at the same time.  Denim’s bursts open in a blaze of light, revealing a plump-breasted, healthy-looking Pidgey that immediately takes to the air.  Nancy appears in turn, doing a cheerful little twirl and letting off a burst of blue sparks from her cheeks.  You notice Denim wince a little at that.  You don’t know if he’s ever seen a Minun before, but he can tell she’s an Electric-type.  Looks like you’ve got the advantage over him again, by sheer dumb luck – although you don’t think Nancy knows a strong Electric attack yet, and Pidgey will be able to dodge her close-range strikes by staying in the air.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! IX: Pidgey Minus Minun Equals…?

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

How do you handle the battle between Thingummy’s Pidgey and your Minun, Nancy the Negator?
– Bring Pidgey down with Thunder Wave and fight it on the ground.

You scan the valley floor where Nancy is facing off against Sapphire’s Pidgey, flapping its wings energetically to stay in the air.  Nancy can’t directly blast Pidgey with a Thundershock or something – as far as you know, she just doesn’t know the techniques – and she isn’t going to be able to fight an airborne opponent effectively with basic physical attacks.  There are a lot of stray boulders, and Nancy can gain some altitude by scaling the wall of the gorge, but this will still be tricky.  So… don’t fight it in the air.  There’s more than one way to skin a Meowth, after all.

“Pidgey, use Tackle!  Go!” Sapphire calls, seizing the initiative.  His bird Pokémon darts forward and down, narrowly missing Nancy as she jukes left.  You order Nancy to spin and hit Pidgey with a Quick Attack before it swoops back upward, scoring a glancing blow as it gains height.  Well, this isn’t going to work.  You wait for Sapphire to command another attack, and then tell Nancy to throw out a Thunder Wave as Pidgey gets close.  A crackling ring of electrical sparks bursts from her cheek pouches, striking Pidgey full in the chest and leaving a haze of flickering lights around its body.  Pidgey loses control of its dive, but barrels right into Nancy anyway, sending them both tumbling over each other and sprawling on the rocky ground.  Both Pokémon take a moment to pick themselves back up, and you call out to Nancy to make sure she’s still good to keep fighting – you get an affirmative, defiant squeak in response.  Pidgey tries flapping its wings, but can’t get the speed and regularity that it needs for flight while plagued by the lingering sparks from Nancy’s Thunder Wave, and starts hopping back and forth like a boxer instead.

Nancy and Pidgey start to circle one another on the uneven floor of the gorge, with you and Periwinkle watching for openings and calling attacks as you spot them.  This is Nancy’s kind of fight now – she’s faster on the ground and should win if this keeps up.  Glancing up at Periwinkle, you can see that he’s realised the same thing.  As Pidgey stumbles over a rock, you call for another Quick Attack.  Nancy darts forward, but Periwinkle calls a command to Pidgey and it flaps its wings – not enough to fly, but just enough to spring backward and dodge the attack.  Then, with Nancy off-balance and up close, he shouts another order.
“Sand Attack!”  Pidgey kicks at the ground and beats its wings, raising up clouds of choking, blinding dust from the valley floor.  Nancy takes a full blast in the face and staggers backward, pawing at her eyes.  You order her to dodge as Pidgey goes on the offensive again, but the bird Pokémon is emboldened by its success and Nancy can’t read its movements well enough to dodge properly.  With time and patience, you know, great trainers can communicate with their Pokémon so effortlessly that the human can effectively be the Pokémon’s eyes in situations like this, making evasion almost as quick as thought.  It takes most people years to get there, kid; don’t beat yourself up over it.  Nancy recovers and gets in another Quick Attack on Pidgey, but the damage is done; blinking and squinting from the grit in her eyes, she eventually falls to the ground as Pidgey continues to jab at her.

I really mean it, though; don’t beat yourself up. Training counts, smart tactical decisions count, type advantages count, but luck counts too, and sometimes your opponent’s just gonna pull something out of their butt. And hey, it could literally always be worse – you get unlucky against a powerful wild Pokémon in an isolated forest or a dark cave, and you’re gonna have to deal with more than just a smug rival.

“Yeah!” yells Ultramarine, seeming almost surprised at his victory.  “Are we great, or what?”  He and Squirtle hurry forward to pick up Pidgey and see to its injuries; you and Scallion likewise tend to Nancy.  You congratulate him on the win – you think that could easily have gone either way, and his Pidgey is already responding well to his commands.  Nancy looks up at Pidgey, who is now perched groggily on his shoulder, and echoes your sentiment with a cheery squeak.  Pidgey puffs up its chest and makes a satisfied cooing noise.  You and Ultramarine both take another moment to look over your Pokémon and check for any serious injuries, and you splash some water on Nancy’s face to get the dust out of her eyes.
“I heard the Pokémon league is crawling with tough trainers,” Ultramarine muses.  “It’ll take a lot more tough battles like that if I want to figure out how to get past them.  We should both quit dawdling and get a move on – I need a strong rival if I’m gonna win it all!”  You smile and remind him that it might not be him that wins it all.  He laughs at that, but you feel like it’s a good-natured laugh.  Maybe there’s some potential for a friendship here after all?

“Smell ya later!” he calls out, as he and his Pokémon turn and head back in the direction of Viridian City.  Then again… maybe not.  Scallion barks a farewell to Squirtle, waving with one of his vines, and Squirtle returns the gesture.  Well, at least those two get along.

You take a break to let Nancy have a breather and recover her strength.  Low-level Pokémon can’t do serious damage to each other yet, so she’ll be back in action soon.  You take the opportunity to think about how to spend the rest of your day.  Several obvious choices present themselves.

By training with one or both of your Pokémon, you’ll make them stronger by practising their techniques and basic combat skills against wild opponents, but also learn more about them and their unique potential, which might lead to interesting ways of developing their abilities in the future.  The value of that seems pretty obvious.  You could also stomp around the area for a while and make it clear that you’re interested in challenging and recruiting wild Pokémon.  It shouldn’t take too long to find a Pokémon you can battle and catch; again, that’s pretty clearly worthwhile.  On the other hand, if you spend some time on a basic ecological survey, you’ll learn more about the environment and the Pokémon that live here, including potentially rarer and non-native species.  You’ll advance your knowledge of Pokémon ecology, and your data will help Professor Oak’s research, but you’re less likely to meet a wild Pokémon that wants to battle you if you act like you aren’t looking for a challenge.

You could keep travelling west.  Based on what the other guy told you, you’ll hit a wall soon – literally – when you reach the Pokémon League gatehouse, but it might be interesting to talk to the staff there and learn a bit more about qualifying for League events.  And… well, from there you could keep going further and look for roads less travelled into the mountains, but… look, kid, we talked about this.  Finally, you could just return to Viridian City early and poke around.  You aren’t all that hopeful of finding out more about the mysterious closed gym, but it’s worth a try, and you could pick up other rumours or interesting information in the process.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! X: A Huge Nerd is You!

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do on route 22?
– Train with Nancy, the Negator.
– Perform an ecological survey.

Once Nancy is recovered from her battle, you decide to do an hour or so of basic training – exercises, attack drills, dodging Scallion’s Vine Whip attacks, that sort of thing.  Everything you’ve seen from Nancy so far suggests that she’s a very gentle and mild-mannered Pokémon, but she takes battle and training very seriously, and celebrates her successes with gusto.  You suppose that shouldn’t be surprising, for a Pokémon who approached and challenged a human trainer.  It’ll take time for her to reach her full potential, obviously, but you can see some improvement even in the short time you have to spend.  Once Nancy starts to tire of training, you take another look at the relatively meagre information your Pokédex has on Minun.  The key words and phrases all seem to be about teamwork.  In their native Hoenn, Minun often live closely with a sister species, Plusle, each amplifying the other’s electrical powers, but they can apparently team up with just about any Pokémon, given time to establish a bond.  The Pokédex is considerably less clear about how a trainer might go about doing this, or exactly what advantages might accrue from it.  One thing is clear, though – Minun love to cheer for their friends in battles.  You try this out, getting Scallion to perform a couple of quick, very basic training exercises, and find that he is inexplicably faster and more accurate with Nancy’s active encouragement.  Hmm.

Nancy, the Negator
Special Skill: Cheer
If Nancy is on the sidelines while another Pokémon is battling, she will cheer for it, giving it a modest bonus.

Satisfied that you and Nancy have made progress, you turn to your higher calling: studying the wild Pokémon of Kanto.  “Route 22” is generously named – there’s only a dirt road that leads to the Pokémon League, and you left that hours ago.  It follows a snaking path through the lowest and most gently sloping parts of the foothills of the Tohjo Mountains, alongside a modest river.  The river is fed by tributary streams that follow their own winding paths through the hills and valleys, ultimately leading back to mountain springs.  The uneven terrain creates a few “bowls” in the hills where the river water collects in ponds, where Water Pokémon live and thirsty Pokémon of all kinds gather to drink.  Most of the trees are short, hardy conifers like juniper and dwarf cypress that can survive without much water.

It doesn’t take you long to spot Spearow flying high overhead, occasionally diving for prey.  You expect they mainly target Bug or fish Pokémon that can’t easily defend against their aerial attacks, but then again, you’ve heard they can be vicious and are capable of hunting larger prey in packs.  Rattata can live pretty much anywhere, so it’s no surprise when you see them darting between dens in the rocks and under bushes.  You assume they eat berries – you’ve seen a few Chesto trees – but wouldn’t be above scavenging anything left by the Spearow.  Nidoran move through the foothills in herds of a dozen or so, sticking to the valleys where there’s plenty of water and foraging in the shrubs.  They aren’t as quick or stealthy as Rattata, but they look out for each other.  They form circles and present their poisonous spines whenever you get close, so you give them a wide berth.  You don’t actually see any Mankey, but you can definitely hear them, and at one point you get pelted by small stones coming from a nearby spinney, forcing you to turn back and choose another path.  They’re territorial Pokémon, and you suspect they must be guarding productive berry trees.  You can also see small herds of what you think are Doduo and Ponyta on the flat grassland in the distance, back in the direction of Viridian City.  They’re runners and grazers, so you expect they don’t come up into the foothills very much; the terrain wouldn’t suit them, nor do you think Ponyta would do well on the tough vegetation up here.  You wonder what the Doduo eat – they share territory with the Ponyta, so they must favour different plants.  Perhaps they dig for non-Pokémon insects.

Bug Pokémon stick to the safety of the trees, chewing on pine needles and sucking sap.  The really emblematic Kantonian species that everyone knows, Caterpie and Weedle, prefer dense deciduous forests, and you don’t see any of them here.  Instead, the most visible are Ledyba, which like the Nidoran rely on their numbers to keep them safe from predators.  They’re nominally a Johtoan species, but you know they’re common throughout western Kanto, and you’ve occasionally seen them around Pallet Town.  The same is true of Spinarak, which string their webs from tree branches to trap other Bug Pokémon.  You are particularly interested to take note of one that has managed to snare a Spearow.  Type advantage isn’t always everything, you guess, and when life gives you a lucky break, you might as well take it.  Practically every tree has at least one Wurmple, a Hoennese Pokémon similar to Caterpie, slowly eating its way to evolution.  You notice that, unlike Caterpie, their spines allow them to dig into tree bark and get at the sap inside; that must be what allows them to survive in drier climates with less appetising foliage.

As for the water… Magikarp get everywhere – in principle they’re saltwater Pokémon, but despite being notoriously pathetic in battle, they’re extremely resilient to a range of environmental challenges.  They’re famous for being able to flop and bounce their way upriver, even against a steep slope or over cliffs and waterfalls, so it’s not surprising to find a few.  You’re honestly not sure what Magikarp eat – pond scum, you assume.  Goldeen seem to be confined to the largest ponds and streams, where there are large enough water plants to support them, but you spot Poliwag in almost every body of water.  They can probably move overland at night, even on their stubby legs.  Towards the end of the day, you spot a single Slowpoke, basking on a convenient flat rock jutting out into one of the larger streams, with its sweet-tasting tail dangling into the water like a fisherman’s lure.  Frankly, you don’t understand Slowpoke, and no research you’ve ever read has given you a decent explanation of how they actually survive in the wild.  “More observation is needed,” you write testily in your notebook.

As the day goes on and you become more familiar with the common species of the area, you start to spot signs of others that are less typical, and as far as you know not endemic to Kanto at all.  Wherever there is flowing water, you notice trees that have been felled by something gnawing through their trunks.  The tooth marks are too large to be from Rattata, and anyway you’ve never seen Rattata attack trees like that.  You frown at this and underline some of your notes.  Dry land like this is vulnerable to erosion, and well-established trees are crucial to staving it off.  You also come across the bones of fish Pokémon that have been picked clean and snapped to extract their marrow.  You assume at first that Spearow are responsible for the kills, with Rattata coming in afterward as scavengers and using their powerful teeth to snap the bones, but the marks on the bones don’t seem right somehow – sharper, finer teeth did this, maybe from some kind of aquatic predator.  Throughout the day, you occasionally hear high-pitched wails from further up towards the mountains.  Whatever Pokémon is making the sound, you don’t think it’s large or dangerous, but the noise is jarring and seems to upset a Nidoran herd you’ve been shadowing.  If this is an ongoing phenomenon, it could cause serious stress in many of the Pokémon in the area.

You scribble down everything you’ve seen and heard in your notebook, already mentally composing a full report to send back to Professor Oak.  You have some concerns about introduced species disrupting the local ecosystem.  In particular, you think that the local Goldeen population might be vulnerable; they can clearly only move through some of the larger water channels, which could be blocked by those falling trees, and an exotic predator could be the nail in the coffin.  You explain all of this to Scallion as you walk.  Your Bulbasaur nods thoughtfully, and you remember how his face lit up back in Professor Oak’s lab when you talked about studying ecology.  You’re painting a greyer, but more realistic, picture now, but that doesn’t seem to have dulled his interest.

As the sun gets low in the sky, you suddenly realise that your backpack has gotten heavier in the last few hours.  Frowning, you halt and decide to inspect it.  You undo the zipper, move aside some of your clothes, and are startled when your hand touches squishy, pinkish-red flesh covered in pimply nodules.  You pull out a winter scarf and reveal, curled up beneath it, a sleeping Wurmple.  The Wurmple, disturbed at being exposed, wakes up and uncurls slightly, blinks twice at you, makes a soft murmuring noise, then curls up and goes back to sleep.

You briefly consider returning the Wurmple to a nearby tree, but it looks so peaceful sleeping in your backpack, and as previously discussed, you’re frankly a bit of a softie, especially with Pokémon.  Most caterpillar Pokémon in the wild don’t make it to adulthood; they’re at the bottom of almost every food chain, and the species survive because their adults each produce huge numbers of offspring.  It’s sound strategy from an evolutionary perspective, but it does also mean this Wurmple in all likelihood doesn’t have much to look forward to if you throw it back.  The scientist in you says you should be as non-interventionist as possible, but the Pokémon trainer decides to chalk this one up to fate.

Wurmple has joined the party!
Level: Novice
Type: Bug
Nature: Mild
Gender: Female
Height: 29 cm
Weight: 3.4 kg
Moves: Tackle, String Shot, Poison Sting
Ability: Run Away
Special Skills: None/Unknown?

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XI: Dam It!

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do next?
– Camp out here so you can investigate the invasive species.

You have other concerns besides continuing your journey.  The evidence you’ve collected suggests that there are non-native species in this habitat, and while that isn’t necessarily a problem per se, you want to rule out any possibility that they might be harming the local ecosystem.  Viridian Forest and Pewter City aren’t going anywhere, and there’s always some chance that the mysterious Viridian gym leader will return in a day or two.  You find a sheltered spot by a small pond and set up to spend the night here.

Do you want to give Wurmple a nickname?
– Let Pokémaniac Chris name it.

As you settle down, you realise you’re going to have to move the Wurmple nesting in your backpack in order to unpack anything.  You pick her up, eliciting only mild protest, and set her down on a smooth stone, still warm from the light of the setting sun.  She burbles appreciatively and watches as you and Scallion lay out your sleeping bag, organise your rations, and hang an awning from a convenient tree in case of rain.  The thought occurs that you should formally “catch” this Wurmple, so you present an empty Pokéball, which she obligingly boops with her snout.  You immediately let her out again, along with Nancy, and give some thought to a name.  Almost immediately, something comes to you, echoing out of the ground.


You try saying it out loud.  Aura it is.

Wurmple are like Caterpie.  You don’t really train a Wurmple the way you train other Pokémon; you sort of just feed it and wait.  You’re pretty sure that almost all Pokémon are responsive to affection in one way or another, though, so you make a point of eating together with all three of your new Pokémon and trying to start conversation.  After eating, you rapidly draft a one-page summary of the day’s findings on your Pokédex’s $#!tty generic word processing app while everything is fresh in your mind.  With that done, and the moon now high in the sky, you drift off to sleep, with Scallion, Nancy and Aura all curled up against your sleeping bag.

The next morning, you eat a rushed breakfast of dry, generic-brand protein bars with a strange bitter aftertaste, pack up your things, recall Nancy and Aura to their balls and start poking around.  You get a vague sense of direction based on which valleys had more fallen trees yesterday, so you start following the trail of damaged vegetation.  Your instincts see you straight, and only an hour into the day you find yourself looking down at what must be one of the biggest tributary streams of the river below – reduced to a trickle.  A thicket – no, a wall, a dam – of twigs, bark, branches and even segments of tree trunks, glued together with mud, has been built across the stream, and a large, deep pond is forming behind it.  Soon you begin to spot the ones responsible: a group of small, rotund, quadrupedal Pokémon with slick auburn fur and huge square teeth, carrying bits of wood back and forth around the dam.  You aren’t close enough for the Pokédex to ID them automatically, but you manage to find the relevant entry anyway by typing in a few likely-sounding search terms – Bidoof.  Apparently it’s a semi-aquatic Normal Pokémon, native to the Sinnoh region, far to the north.  Your Pokédex doesn’t know much about them, which isn’t surprising, but it’s clear about one thing: they’re a dam-building species.  What’s more, if those huge teeth are anything like a Rattata’s, they must grow constantly unless they’re worn down by regular use.  The Bidoof are probably compelled by instinct to chew away at tree trunks.

While you screw up your face at the Pokédex’s bare-bones data, Scallion is watching the scene below.  Suddenly he taps your shoulder with a vine and points, not at the dam but at the pond.  You follow his line of sight and see that there are many Pokémon in the pond as well, not all of them Bidoof.  You watch for a while.  There are clearly a lot of Magikarp, you spot several Poliwag, and there’s a Slowpoke camped out at one end of the dam, tail dangling in the water.  Then, all of a sudden… a flash of orange.  You frown and turn back to the Pokédex.  Following a hunch, you ask it about aquatic predators from Sinnoh with orange colouration, and it returns an answer: Buizel, a Pokémon that looks like a brightly coloured, amphibious Furret.  You can’t be certain that was what you saw, but it’s consistent with your suspicions from yesterday.  Two Pokémon that favour similar habitats, both introduced from Sinnoh.  Hmm.

It occurs to you that you’re seeing a new microhabitat, one that doesn’t exist elsewhere in this area.  The deeper water should be good for Poliwag and Magikarp, since it will give them more protection from Spearow.  It’s possible more Poliwag will evolve, given the space.  You assume the Slowpoke will also appreciate the richer fishing territory, although you’ve never actually seen a Slowpoke catch a fish and aren’t quite sure what they eat.  Land Pokémon will gather to drink from the water, and you might even see larger species start to move in.  On the other hand, there are no Goldeen that you can see.  It’s like you already thought: Goldeen are extremely powerful swimmers that can rush upstream against a current, or even up a waterfall, but they can’t jump over dams, at least not like Magikarp can.  Dams like this will restrict their movements and cut groups off from each other.  The local vegetation, and the Bug Pokémon that depend on it, could also suffer from this unfamiliar exploitation.

You scribble all of this into your notes, along with an incredibly $#!tty sketch of the dam and pond, then start chewing your pencil thoughtfully.  You know full well you don’t have any authority to call for action on this, but Professor Oak trained you and will trust your firsthand assessment of the situation.  His recommendation will carry weight with the Pokémon League, maybe even with the regional government.  Whatever you tell him could end up influencing official policy, or at least someone’s research agenda.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XII: Be Vewy Vewy Quiet

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

How will you frame the situation in your report to Professor Oak?
– Suggest encouraging the Bidoof population and increasing their influence on the area, while searching for ways to mitigate any harm they cause to native species.

The situation here is complicated, and you worry that removing the Bidoof by force could be just as disruptive as doing nothing at all – not just to the Bidoof themselves, but to everything else living in the area.  It would take half a dozen trainers to round up just the ones here (you assume there are other dams), and breaking the dam could easily be destructive.  Besides, the Bidoof aren’t just crowding out or oppressing native species; they’re also creating something new.  Many of the local species actually stand to benefit from their transformation of the landscape, and the end result could be a more diverse ecosystem than Route 22 started with – if the competing needs of the different species are managed correctly.  It’ll be like threading a needle, no mistake, but your instinctive compassion makes you unwilling to dismiss the possibility that all the Pokémon of the area can live in something resembling harmony.  You resolve to write the conclusion of your report in a way that emphasises the potential benefits of the Bidoof presence, but without downplaying the risks to species like Goldeen that could be harmed by their effects on the landscape.

I hope you know what you’re doing, kid.

What do you do next?
– Keep going towards the mountains to find the source of the strange noises you heard yesterday.

You resume your westward course towards the Tohjo Mountains.  You still hear the same distant wailing noises coming from the mountains – not constant, not regular, and not (as far as you can tell) coming any closer.  It’s just something (you assume a Pokémon) making a very loud noise once or twice an hour for no apparent reason.  Heading further west will bring you into the territory of stronger wild Pokémon, which will probably be in an agitated state already due to these piercing noises, but even with your mediocre wilderness skills you get lucky and avoid any conflict.  Late in the afternoon, you start to feel like you’ve pinpointed the source of the sound – a cave mouth, low on a mountainside another valley or two over.

As you get close, you bring Scallion and Nancy out of their Pokéballs and make sure they’re ready for a fight, then creep towards the mouth of the cave.  You decide to hide behind a nearby rock for a while and observe.  Your Pokémon seem agitated, and after a minute you realise that you can hear a gentle rumbling noise, like a crowd of people all trying to have private conversations at the same time.  Once you notice it, you realise it’s always been there, maybe even since before you got anywhere near the cave mouth.  You’re not sure how a sound that seems so quiet – barely noticeable – can carry so far.  While you puzzle over that, you hear a screech from above as a small group of hunting Spearow spot some prey, somewhere off to your left and back down the hill.  You barely have time to register the sound before it is completely drowned out by a shockwave of ear-splitting screaming from the cave mouth.  The Spearow nearly fall out of the sky and scatter in all directions.  Nancy clamps her hands over her ears and winces, while Scallion just grimaces.  And then it’s just as suddenly over, and the low murmuring returns.  Still no sign of whatever Pokémon is making the noise.  Well, at least you confirmed you’ve found the right place.

You resolve to enter the cave and find out what this is.  You and your Pokémon creep towards the entrance and squint into the dark.  You aren’t sure what you were expecting – a Pokémon would have to be huge to make such a loud noise that could travel so far.  When you get into the cave mouth and your eyes adjust to the dark, though, you see a huddled group of perhaps two dozen squat, round-bodied, pinkish Pokémon, no higher than your knee.  At first you think they’re Jigglypuff, but their ears are much too big and floppy-looking.  You glance questioningly at Scallion and Nancy.  Both seem to relax when they see how small and… well, frankly squishy-looking these Pokémon are.  They must be responsible for those screams, but they seem so harmless.  You shrug and step out into the open, palms up in what you hope will be seen as a non-threatening gesture.

You are physically bowled over by a wall of sound that leaves your ears ringing and your head spinning.

When you pick yourself up and shake off the effects of the blast, Scallion and Nancy are slumped on the cave floor in a daze, but the other Pokémon are not attacking – they’re huddling even closer together, flinching away from you with their floppy ears clenched tightly to the sides of their heads.  You do your best to make some calming noises and gestures as you reach for your Pokédex.  It identifies these Pokémon as Whismur – a Hoennese species known for the deafening cries they make when they feel threatened.  Slowly, you slip your Pokédex back into your pocket and sit down on the cave floor, still in full view of the Whismur.  If you want to walk out of here with your eardrums intact, you need them to realise you aren’t going to hurt them.

The Whismur continue to watch you warily, but don’t shriek at you again.  You glance at your Pokémon to confirm that they are also recovering, then take some time to think.  These Whismur are in an unfamiliar and hostile environment, and probably short of food.  Practically every unexpected sound or movement is a possible threat – like the screech of those Spearow outside – and they’re reacting exactly the way stressed and frightened Pokémon do.  That explains the sounds you’ve been hearing since yesterday.  This situation clearly isn’t good for either the Whismur or for any other Pokémon in the area, but it’s not like you can just catch them all – even if they’d let you, you don’t have nearly enough Pokéballs. You come up with several possible courses of action, each more terrible than the last.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XIII: Reporting In

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do about the Whismur?
– Return to Viridian City and contact Professor Oak to arrange a real rescue operation.

First smart decision you’ve made all week.

You realise that you can’t deal with this problem yourself.  You think about trying to somehow convince the Whismur to follow you back to Viridian City and lead them through the wilderness, but there are too many ways that could go wrong, even with your… Pokémon whisperer mojo or whatever you think you have.  Same goes for trying to settle them peacefully within their new environment; you could be here for weeks.  You could look for a Ranger, but there’s no guarantee you’d find one; you could head for the Pokémon League checkpoint, but honestly you aren’t even sure what you’d do with some puffed-up League bureaucrat.  There’s really nothing for it but to turn around, get back to Viridian City by tomorrow night and contact the Professor; he’ll be able to pull strings with the Pokémon League and maybe some environmental organisations to make this a priority issue.

You decide not to camp out near the cave where the Whismur are hiding, to preserve your eardrums and sanity, but instead head as far as you can back eastwards before stopping for the night.  You squeeze in some quick attack drills with all three of your Pokémon before retiring, which is your first opportunity to see your new Wurmple, Aura, in action.  I dunno what you were expecting; she’s a Wurmple, so the best strategy she’s got is to wave her pointy end at the bad guys and pray for a crit.  Got a pretty mean aim on her String Shot though.  You figure you’ll just keep letting her stuff her face; she’s sure to evolve soon that way.

You make good time the next day, avoiding any unnecessary entanglements with wild Pokémon.  You walk all day, and are back in Viridian City as the sun goes down.  At the Pokémon Centre, you call Professor Oak on one of the public videophones.  It’s late in the evening, but he’s still at the lab – of course he is.  The guy’s a late-stage academic running a private research facility; the whole concept of “work-life balance” is a bit alien to him.  You explain what you’ve been doing the last couple of days and give him the two-minute version of your report on Route 22, promising the full write-up within another day or two.  The Professor seems impressed at the information you’ve managed to compile.  He assures you that he’ll have someone on the ground to monitor the Bidoof situation regularly over the next six months or so, and will submit advisory briefs to the Viridian City Council, the Kanto Pokémon League and the Tohjo Ranger Lodge, drawing on your data.  You share a lot of Professor Oak’s values, so it doesn’t take a lot of work to convince him of your view that the foreign Pokémon species should be given a chance to create and share their own habitat – provided there’s regular oversight and research into protections for the native species.  He’s less sanguine about the Whismur.  His lab assistants are… well, they’re not Ranger material, frankly, so he’ll have to call in favours from outside, and it could take as long as a week to arrange the operation.  By then it’s possible that the situation will have deteriorated.  Still, he is quick to tell you that you did the right thing by handing this on to him.  Before hanging up, he says that he’s proud of you, and your stupid little face practically splits open from grinning so much.

Just on the off chance, you ask around the Pokémon Centre about the Viridian gym leader and learn that – to the chagrin of the other trainers staying here – he still isn’t back.  Some of them are experienced, high-level trainers looking for their eighth badges, and are talking about crossing the mountains to Johto to pick up their final qualifying badges in Blackthorn City if the mysterious leader doesn’t show in the next few days.  Unfortunately, you get the impression they aren’t interested in the company of a noob like you on a difficult and prolonged trek.  At this point, it’s probably Pewter City or bust – which means tomorrow you go north.  You get your Pokémon fed, claim a bunk in one of the Pokémon Centre’s dorms, and start studying a map of Viridian Forest before you drift off to sleep.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XIV: On the Road Away From Viridian City

You think that was the name of a hit song.  Something like that, anyway.

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What will you do as you head north?
– Train with your Pokémon.

You decide to set a relaxed pace and train with your three Pokémon as you move.  You have Scallion punch berries off tree branches and toss rocks around with his Vine Whips, get Nancy to do progressively faster and harder Quick Attacks, and tell Aura to try to restrain you with her String Shot.  That last one… turns out to work better than you anticipated, and you spend the next fifteen minutes trying to pull gluey threads of silk off your limbs and face with hands that are, themselves, covered in gluey threads of silk.  You get some of it in your hair.  It is awful.  Kid, this kind of $#!t is why Larry was such a lost cause (rest in peace, man).  Once you get all the webby gunk off you, Aura immediately – unprompted – starts spewing more silk everywhere.  You open your mouth to tell her to stop, but realise that she’s no longer aiming at you; in fact, most of the silk is winding around her own body.  You watch, fascinated, as she spends a full minute wrapping herself in tight swathes of silk.  There is a sudden flash of light, and your Wurmple is gone, replaced by a silky-skinned white Pokémon the size and approximate shape of a football, with sleepy-looking red eyes beneath shaggy lashes.  She blinks once and makes a satisfying low-pitched humming noise.

Aura has evolved into Silcoon!
Level: Novice
Type: Bug
Nature: Mild
Gender: Female
Height: 57 cm
Weight: 9.5 kg
Moves: Tackle, String Shot, Poison Sting, Harden
Ability: Shed Skin
Special Skills: None/Unknown?

She’s, uh… she’s not going to move on her own for a while, is she?

Resigning yourself to at least a few days in the company of a much lazier and less interactive Pokémon, you pick up Aura, cradling her cocoon gently in your arms, and move on.

The results of your training with your other two Pokémon are not quite so spectacular, but they are certainly rewarding.  Nancy masters the trick of timing electrical discharges to synch with her physical attacks, giving her a much heftier offensive punch; Scallion, on the other hand, has had some kind of insight into the plant products his bulb can produce, and can now scatter toxic pollen on command.

Level: Aspirant
Moves: Tackle, Leech Seed, Vine Whip, Poison Powder

Nancy, the Negator
Level: Aspirant
Moves: Thunder Wave, Quick Attack, Helping Hand, Spark

You’re still somewhat preoccupied with the events of the past few days on route 22, and it quickly becomes clear to you that your Pokémon are as well – particularly Scallion, who chose you as a partner because of your commitment to studying nature and promoting harmony.  The way you see it, it’s impossible for any environmental policy, however enlightened, to help every species, because some Pokémon are natural enemies – but you still need to find and serve a greater balance, where they all at least have a fair shake.  At the same time, as a trainer you have to value individuals and look to them as potential partners, which means taking them away from the Growlithe-eat-Growlithe life of the wild, maybe for only a little while, maybe forever – just like you’ve taken Aura away from a life at the bottom of the food chain.  Sometimes, though, you’re faced with a problem that a novice trainer and three Pokémon just can’t solve, like that business with the Whismur.  Was there an easy, straightforward way to integrate them into the ecosystem as a viable community that wouldn’t have produced the noisy disruptions you observed over the last few days?  I mean… like, clearly the answer is no, but you keep being nagged by the possibility that someone like Professor Oak would have found a quick solution, even if it was only a temporary one.  Scallion, of course, is a captive-bred Pokémon League starter, and is only vaguely familiar with how wild Pokémon live, so the two of you are learning together here.  You feel like your instincts here are similar to his: you have a duty to study, understand, be dispassionate, and uphold balance, but you also have a duty to be kind and help Pokémon in need.  Maybe resolving that tension will start to feel easier as your powers grow.

Y’know, or maybe you’ll give away all your food to a bunch of adorable baby Pichu or something and then starve to death in Viridian Forest.  I could go either way at this point.

Speaking of which, by the end of the day you’re pretty much at the edge of Viridian Forest.  There’s an official rest stop where the road ends.  It’s no Pokémon Centre; there is no coffee in sight (should’ve stopped for a cup on the way out of town…) and there are no guest beds, so you’ll be laying out your sleeping bag on a wooden floor, but at least it’s four walls and a roof.  You can even grab some extra tins of food for the road.  Traversing Viridian Forest isn’t an obviously stupid thing for a new trainer to do – not like trying to cross the Tohjo Mountains, anyway – but for trainers from Pallet Town and Viridian City it’s often the first real test of their ability, and for anyone but a seasoned Ranger it’s invariably a multi-day affair.  Better rest up!

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XV: A Bug Catcher Is You!

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What will you do tomorrow?
– Join up with some other trainers to explore.

You’re not the only trainer about to attempt a Viridian Forest expedition; a group of trainers from Viridian City, all friends, are also spending the night at the rest stop.  You decide to sidle over and introduce yourself while they’re all chatting before lights-out.  After all, Viridian Forest has kind of a dark reputation, and although you’ve already proven to yourself and your Pokémon that you can manage a couple of days in the wilderness on your own, it’d still be dumb to pass up company when it’s on offer.

There are four of them – Abner, Ellis, Stacey, Dane – all bug catchers, and you think they’re all about your age (I’m just gonna have to take your word for it, since you never told me how old you are).  They’re not planning to travel all the way to Pewter City like you; they just want to hang out in the forest for a couple of days, have some battles, explore as much as they can and look for some wild Pokémon.  They’ve done this before, and you get the impression they try to come out here every couple of weeks; they’re all in school so it’s the only serious training they get to do.  They’re a touch standoffish at first – y’know, you are crashing their party a little bit – but they warm up to you pretty quickly when you introduce them to Aura.  They’ve seen Wurmple before, but they’re extremely rare in Viridian Forest – Caterpie and Weedle are the bread and butter of young Viridian hobbyist trainers like this – so this is the first time they’ve ever been able to look at a Silcoon up close, and they take a while to admire Aura’s soft, silky body.  Aura seems to take little notice of them, which is apparently pretty normal, based on their experience with Metapod and Kakuna, but you notice a subtle glimmer in her eyes and a low purring sound, which you think means she likes the attention.

The next morning, you stuff some tins of spiced berries from the rest house’s larder into your bag, then head into the forest with the other kids.  Everything you can see is deep, dark green; ancient trees, carpets of moss, dense thickets, all under a vast canopy that turns the sunlight a soft emerald.  It’s practically impossible to see anything more than a hundred metres away, and the dirt paths seem minuscule and disconcertingly precarious, surrounded by encroaching plants.  The bug catchers lead you about two hours northward, aiming for a small clearing they’ve used as a campsite on previous trips.  You don’t see many Pokémon on the way – just the occasional rustling bush or a Pidgey flying overhead – which disappoints them a little, but they talk and laugh the whole time anyway.  Scallion, walking alongside you, takes a liking to them and laughs along with most of their jokes.  The bug catchers have a loose protocol for their expeditions in Viridian Forest – they often split into pairs to look around, but no one ever goes off alone, and they always meet back up for lunch in the afternoon.  When you all reach the campsite and start unpacking your gear, you discover that all four of your companions want to do different things, so they’re all looking for someone else in the group who’s willing to partner up.

Abner, the short one with the goofy grin, seems to be the informal leader.  He has both a Metapod and a Kakuna, and is eager for them to evolve.  He knows that in principle it’s only a matter of time with cocoon Pokémon, but he has some ideas he wants to try out for accelerating the process.  The thought occurs to you that whatever he has in mind could help with Aura as well.

Calm, soft-spoken Ellis is apparently the most serious trainer of the four, and the only one with a fully-evolved Beedrill, as well as a Metapod that he hopes to evolve soon.  He’s planning to practise attacks and manoeuvres, but you bet he’d be up for a couple of rounds against your Pokémon, which would be a great opportunity to practise battling against another trainer.

Quick-witted, talkative Stacey, whom you have learned is Dane’s twin, has become intrigued by rumours of rarer Bug Pokémon in Viridian Forest.  She has a Caterpie that she seems to want to keep as her partner, but thinks the forest has more to offer if they could just figure out the right places to look.  You think your expertise from studying ecology with Professor Oak might be helpful to her search.

Dane is tall, slender and athletic and seems at home in the woods, but you gather he’s actually the least experienced as a trainer.  He has a recently-caught Weedle that probably isn’t ready for formal battle yet, but he’s planning to do physical training with it while exploring.  He offers to put you through your paces and show you some techniques for navigating dense forest.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XVI: Ladybirds and Gentlemen

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Who would you like to go with?
– Help Stacey find a Bug Pokémon that’s rare in Kanto.

Once everything is settled, Ellis has elected to follow Dane and look for battles with wild Pokémon while doing general exploration, and you have volunteered to search out some unusual Bug Pokémon with Stacey. Rather than join either pair, Abner decides to stay at the group’s base camp so he can try his experimental evolution ideas on his own.  Sticking to the ground, you can see tell-tale signs that the vegetation has been invigorated by the presence of wild Grass Pokémon, and occasionally you spot intriguing blackened marks near the base of tree trunks that look to you like electrical burns.  If you want to find different Bug-types, though, you suspect you’ll need to get off the ground and into the treetops.  You’re not much of a climber, and Stacey is only a little better, but using Scallion’s Vine Whips and Aura’s String Shot, you’re able to create makeshift ropes and nets that help you up into the highest trees without breaking your fragile child necks.  Of course, you make an awful racket in the process, and you can tell there are Pokémon fleeing just out of your sight, but once you get used to what you’re doing, you can move from one treetop to the next with surprising ease, thanks to the interlaced branches of Viridian Forest’s dense canopy.  You suggest focusing on trees with sweet berries and listening carefully for the low-pitched hum of Bug Pokémon wings; Stacey catches on pretty quickly and leads the way.  After half an hour picking your way through the upper levels of the forest, you stumble into a tree filled with red, black-spotted beetle Pokémon, which you vaguely recognise as Ledyba.

Most of the Ledyba fly away when you disturb them, but one stands its ground, and Stacey’s Caterpie hops off her shoulder to battle it.  Caterpie aren’t naturally tree Pokémon, Ledyba’s ability to fly makes it difficult to hit, and even keeping track of the battle or giving commands is awkward while all of you are perched on high branches, but Stacey has trained her Caterpie well.  After a few false starts, it nails Ledyba with a good String Shot and tethers it to a branch, leaving it vulnerable to a Tackle.  After a brief exchange of Tackles, Stacey throws a Pokéball, which sucks in the Ledyba and falls from the branches to the forest floor. “Whoops,” she says with a shrug, then has Caterpie secure some silk to a branch and swings down to the ground.  By the time you pick your way back down to the base of the tree, displaying considerably less grace and confidence, she has already confirmed the capture and let her new Ledyba out to take a look at it.  She and Ellis both carry first aid kits (come to think of it, maybe you should do that) and she’s ready with a bandage to patch the Pokémon up if need be, but she quickly establishes that it’s only suffered bruises.  She recalls it so it can rest up, and you set off back the way you came.

On the way back to camp, you get to talking about the dynamics of their friend group.  Stacey kind of dragged her twin brother Dane into their little expeditions mostly because she wanted them to spend more time together, but has also been pleasantly surprised by how well he’s taken to Pokémon training.  Weedle brings out a warm, nurturing side to him that she hasn’t seen before (which makes sense; y’know, she doesn’t say this out loud but they’re siblings so you can pretty much assume they mostly address one another as “butthead”).  She seems weirdly chatty about her brother, and you intuit that she’s avoiding conversation about the other two.  With a little prodding, you convince her to tell you why: apparently Stacey kind of fancies Abner, their cheery, creative and personable “leader,” but has avoided saying anything because she suspects that Ellis is also into him and she doesn’t want to create drama.  The three of them have been friends for a long time, and she also admires Ellis for his kindness and intelligence, but he’s always been hard to read and reticent to talk about his feelings.

When you return to base camp in the afternoon, the other bug catchers are so excited to get a look at Stacey’s new Pokémon you could swear they have fireworks stuffed up their butts.  Or I could swear that, anyway; you probably don’t have that kind of imagination.  Which… y’know, now that I put it that way, is honestly for the best.  The others have had a productive few hours, but apparently nothing this exciting.  Whatever idea Abner had to accelerate his Pokémon’s evolution, it hasn’t borne fruit (“not yet,” he insists), and Ellis apparently convinced Dane to let Weedle run through some of the same training exercises as Ellis’ Beedrill (minus the flying parts).  The training has gotten Ellis much more animated than you’ve seen him so far, and he suggests finishing out the afternoon with a casual tournament, promising to battle with his Metapod so the others have a decent shot at victory.  Stacey wants to make sure Ledyba is rested first, but is eager to try out her new Pokémon; Dane seems to feel like he and Weedle are on a roll; and Abner is up for anything exciting.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XVII: Battle of the Bugs

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you say to Stacey about her love triangle situation?
– Commiserate but don’t interfere; it’s none of your gosh-damn business.

You only just met these people yesterday.  It may not be the most interesting way to approach this situation, but you decide it’s best to stay out of it.  You listen sympathetically to Stacey as she tells you about her crush on Abner and possible rivalry with Ellis, nodding along and making thoughtful “hmmm” noises at the right moments, and doing your best not to sway her towards any particular course of action.  Before too long, the two of you are close to base camp, and Stacey changes the subject before you get into earshot of the others.

Would you like to battle in the bug catchers’ tournament?
– Battle with Aura, the Silcoon.

Once you’ve all had a snack and the other bug catchers have finished oohing and ahhing at Stacey’s new Ledyba, you all draw straws to decide matchups for a little impromptu tournament.  Your first opponent is Abner, while Stacey will battle Ellis; Dane gets a bye for the first round and will face either Stacey or Ellis later.  You decide you might as well use your Silcoon, Aura, to battle; not only is it fitting, given that they’re all using Bug-types as well, but you’re hoping that the vigour of battle might nudge her a little closer to evolution.  All four of your opponents look excited by your choice; already fascinated by your fairly exotic Bug Pokémon, they’re eager to see her in action.  You and Abner take your positions, facing each other across the centre of the clearing, and send out your Pokémon: Silcoon and Metapod.

Abner opens by having his Metapod use Harden, tensing its muscles and stiffening its shell.  You too tell Aura to Harden, not wanting him to gain the upper hand.  Not to be outdone, Abner commands his Metapod to use Harden again.  Gritting your teeth, you focus all your energy on your bond with your Pokémon and call for another Harden.  The situation is tense.  You and Abner lock eyes across the battlefield, and your Silcoon stares, intense and determined, at his Metapod.  You pour all of your focus into your bond with your Pokémon as you wait for his next command.

The suspense is killing me.

Suddenly, Abner grins at you.
“Had ya for a minute there, didn’t I?  Metapod, Tackle!”  His Metapod flexes its tail and springs off the ground, rushing towards Aura at a truly startling speed for a Pokémon with no limbs.  Before you can react, the green cocoon slams into her and she flies backward, flipping over twice before coming to a stop, upside down.  To her credit, Aura seems unfazed, and bounces herself back upright (how are they doing this?  Seriously, you’re the science kid; what is happening here?).  As Metapod bounces back around for another Tackle, you have Aura fire a Poison Sting barrage that stops it in its tracks.  Match-ups like this are… well, not common in the televised tournaments you’ve always loved to watch (with good reason, frankly) and you honestly have no idea which Pokémon is favoured, so you decide to get creative.  You have Aura rapidly alternate between String Shot and Poison Sting volleys, which doesn’t seem to do all that much harm to Metapod, but seriously blunts its assault, keeping Abner from landing any heavy damage on your Silcoon.  Finally, you seize a perfect opening when Metapod leaps into the air again and Aura manages to hit it full in the face with a particularly vicious Poison Sting salvo.  Knocked to the ground, Metapod tries to sway itself back upright, fails, and surrenders to blissful unconsciousness.  With that, you are declared the winner.

You do your best to soothe Aura’s bruises and tidy up some ragged patches of silk on her normally pristine round body while you watch Stacey try out her new Ledyba against Ellis’ Metapod.  Like Abner’s, this Metapod has an impressive range of movement and a pretty solid-looking Tackle attack, though Ellis seems to favour String Shot much more, using it precisely and effectively to neutralise Ledyba’s huge mobility advantage.  Stacey gets some nice hits in thanks to the disorienting effects of Ledyba’s ear-splitting Supersonic attack, which she deploys surprisingly well considering they’ve never battled together before, but ultimately Ellis’ Metapod seems to be too disciplined to fall for it.  Also, you’re not sure whether Metapod actually have ears.  You make a mental note to consult a reference text the next time you have access to a library.  Abner cheers for Metapod when Ledyba falls, and Stacey briefly looks crestfallen, but quickly recovers her poise and congratulates Ellis on a good match.  She goes to sit by Abner, giving her brother a high five on the way as he stands for his own battle.  This match isn’t really a close one: Dane’s Weedle is clearly young and not nearly as well-trained as Metapod, and despite a couple of embarrassing goofs on Metapod’s part, missing what should have been easy String Shots, Weedle looks like it’s had enough after just a couple of glancing Tackles, and Dane throws in the towel.

Ellis requests a brief recess for snacks and water before your battle.  While you relax and see to the injuries of your respective Pokémon, he puts a proposition to you.
“I know I said I would only use Metapod for this tournament, but… you’re pretty good, right?  I mean, you said you were on your way to challenge the Pewter City Gym, and I saw the way you just handed Abner’s butt to him.”
“Hey!”  Ellis rolls his eyes and smiles slightly, but otherwise doesn’t acknowledge Abner’s outburst.
“What do you say about taking on my Beedrill?  Ever since it evolved, we haven’t had a lot of opportunities for real challenges around here – not unless we go deeper into the forest, and, well…” he just trails off, and looks a little nervous.  Evidently, even with a fully-evolved Bug Pokémon at your side, Viridian Forest’s reputation is a strong deterrent.  He shakes his head.  “Anyway, how about it?”
Ellis’ Metapod seems pretty wiped out after two consecutive battles, and you sense it’s not just curiosity about your strength that’s made him suggest this, but you are also intrigued to see his Beedrill in action, so you agree.  The only question is how you’ll handle this.  Aura is still pretty tired from fighting Abner’s Metapod, and might struggle to keep up her pace (again, no limbs, how does she even have a “pace”?) against Beedrill.  Scallion, on the other hand, will suffer from type disadvantage against a powerful Bug-type.  Neither of those applies to Nancy, but there’s also a decent argument for keeping her back to cheer for one of the others, in hopes of increasing their power.

Polls on battle strategy use a different format that won’t display after the poll closes. This is what it looked like when it was open.

[If you think one of our Pokémon should attempt an unconventional tactic, explain what you have in mind in the comment section, or by making a submission to the Pokémaniacal question box (if you use the question box, give your name as “APTIY vs. Beedrill”).  You can make use of the environment, a combo of two or more moves or abilities, an unorthodox way of using a move, or anything else you can think of that isn’t outright cheating.  The more creative the suggestions – as long as they’re reasonably possible – the greater the odds of success will be (but, as always, even the best-laid schemes of Minun and men can go awry with a little bad luck).  Suggestions will only be accepted while the above poll is open.]

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XVIII: Scallion of the Apes?

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Which Pokémon will battle Ellis’ Beedrill, and how?
– Use Scallion the Bulbasaur, and try to think of an unconventional strategy.

A Beedrill is a tough opponent, especially for a Grass Pokémon like Scallion, and unlike the other bug catchers, Ellis seems to have experience to balance your knowledge of Pokémon and battle tactics.  You’re going to need to pull some kind of bull$#!t to win this one.  You glance around the clearing – tents, leaf litter, a couple of hillocks, tall trees all around…

You glance down at Scallion, catching his eye, and jerk your head at the tree branches.  He follows your gaze and looks back at you in confusion.  You jerk your head again and make a motion with your hands as if pulling on a rope.  Scallion stares, baffled, then something clicks and his eyes widen.  He looks at you nervously and tilts his head.  You nod vigorously and give him a manic grin.

I gotta tell you, kid, I do not like where this is going.

Ellis takes his position opposite you and calls his Beedrill from its Pokéball.  You shoot an encouraging look at Scallion, and he plods forward, extending his vines and striking a combat stance.  Beedrill flies forward and hovers in front of Ellis, awaiting orders.  Stacey and Dane watch, transfixed, and Abner raises his arm, ready to signal the start of the match.

At Abner’s shout, Ellis instantly calls for Beedrill to use Focus Energy, and it crosses its forelimb stingers and beats its wings faster, its eyes flashing with an inner red light.  You order Scallion to open by tagging Beedrill with a Leech Seed, but it jukes to the right and dodges easily.  Oh well; worth a try.  Beedrill rushes forward, opening with Fury Attack, alternating between strikes with its forelimb and abdomen stingers.  Out of the corner of your eye, you’re dimly aware of Ellis jabbing left and right in time with his rapid commands to Beedrill.  His head’s in this fight.  Time to get yours in there too.

You have Scallion thrust forward with both of his vines, getting around Beedrill’s stingers and jabbing it in the thorax.  The attack doesn’t do much damage, but stuns Beedrill for the precious second of breathing time you need for your next move.  Scallion lashes out with his vines again – not at Beedrill, but at the overhanging branches of one of the trees at the edge of the clearing.  Ellis, surprised, briefly stops giving orders as Scallion grabs onto a sturdy branch and retracts his vines, pulling himself up into the air.
“What the…?”
They recover quickly from their confusion, and Beedrill comes after Scallion with a Twineedle, but just as quickly you order him to shoot out another vine and grab onto another tree branch.  Yelling in panic, Scallion nonetheless answers your every word, swinging from branch to branch on his vines, then looping around, releasing his hold and slamming into Beedrill with an aerial Tackle.  Stacey’s eyes go as wide as dinner plates, and Abner’s jaw drops open.  You shout more commands.  Scallion backflips off Beedrill and shoots out another vine, grabbing onto another tree and staying in the air.  He has absolutely no idea what he’s doing, but you call out every action in clipped syllables, and he follows instantly – left vine, right vine, swing, release, grab the next tree, left vine, release, right vine, swing, grab, fire another Leech Seed in mid air, what the hell, why not?  Your Minun, Nancy, is leaping up and down and chanting in time with your words, every syllable sending sparks flying from her cheeks.  Frankly you have no idea whether she’s helping, but you aren’t about to tell her to stop.  Ellis and Beedrill try another Fury Attack, as Scallion flies around the edges of the clearing with all the grace of a drunken Pelipper carrying a beakful of ball bearings.  Given even a few moments to observe his erratic movements, you suspect they’ll adapt quickly, so time is of the essence.  You have Scallion Tackle Beedrill again as he yanks himself past it through the air, then make a tight swing and hit it again before it can turn around, slamming it in the back, right at the base of its wings.  That seems to do the trick, and Beedrill’s wings crumple, fluttering erratically as it crashes to the ground.  Scallion, for his part, hits the ground pretty hard as well, but somehow has enough strength left to get to his feet.  After a few moments of perplexed silence, Abner yells out:
“That was SO COOL!”

The instant the battle ends, your knees give out, and you sink to the ground, trembling slightly.  You manage to crawl over to Scallion and give him a quick once-over.  He’s exhausted and can barely stand, but has miraculously suffered only a few bruises and two glancing blows from Beedrill’s stingers.
Ellis walks up to you, his injured Beedrill clinging to his left bicep as he steadies it with his other hand.
“That was…” he shakes his head, bewildered.  “I have no idea what that was.”  He smiles.  “But it might have been the best battle I’ve ever had.”  You return the smile, and consider standing up, but decide that the ground is pretty comfortable for now.  You’ve heard that trainers in intense battles lend some of their own strength to their Pokémon, but you never realised that that was meant quite this… literally.  Pull that kind of $#!t when you’re on your own in the wilderness and there’ll be trouble, mark my words.  Fortunately, you’re not on your own, and Stacey has a first aid kit and is eager to see to your Pokémon’s injuries.

It’s getting late in the afternoon, so the five of you settle in and start preparing an evening meal to share with all your Pokémon (well, except the ones who live in cocoons and don’t eat).  You’re basically putting together a stew of several different canned vegetables, some that you brought from Viridian City and others that you swiped from the rest stop at the entrance to the forest, but Stacey also had the foresight to bring some spices from her parents’ kitchen, and Dane has collected some herbs and wild mushrooms (the others assure you that he knows the plants and fungi of this area very well, and has never poisoned them).  It ends up tasting surprisingly good!  In conversation over dinner, the others decide that because you won their tournament, you should be the first to suggest activities for tomorrow morning.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XIX: The Larry Scenario

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you want to do tomorrow?
– Explore the deep forest.

Part of you wants to focus on getting to Pewter City so you can get that whole gym challenge thing back on track after your frustrating false start in Viridian City.  On the other hand, though… this forest is fascinating to you.  People in Viridian City called it a “natural maze” because of the way the vegetation swallows any artificial path that isn’t constantly maintained, leaving a tangled mess of Pokémon migration paths, treefall clearings and hill crests as the only real landmarks.  No one alive really knows Viridian Forest, and even your new friends who’ve spent time here before are only truly familiar with a small part of the southern reaches.  Still, with your scientific knowledge, their wilderness skills and a bit of luck, you’re confident you can map out a sector of the forest and gain some valuable data about the ecosystem – maybe even find a cool new Pokémon or some kind of, like, lost treasure or whatever.  You all pack up your gear and set off northward, most of your Pokémon out of their balls and playing together as you move.

Things start off well.  You show the group some of the same type of trees where you and Stacey found her new Ledyba yesterday, so they can use that as a starting point if they ever want to try hunting for their own.  You take copious notes on the diverse vegetation of the deep forest, and show a fascinated Ellis how to take charcoal rubbings of leaves that you’ll be able to identify later with access to a reference library.  Stacey spots a Pikachu, and although it won’t let any of the humans get close and darts into the bushes at the first hint of battle, Nancy the Negator is able to persuade it to show itself in the open for a short time, and you witness the two Electric Pokémon communicating in sparks and discharges, a form of language that you’ve read about but never seen in action.  You can practically feel that this forest is teeming with Pokémon, just out of sight, but they’re unused to humans and not inclined to show themselves.  This is pretty in line with your training in field survey work, and Abner confirms that it’s typical of his group’s experience too.  When they’ve come here in the past, they’ve had to spend a lot of time “literally just vibing” (as he puts it) to allow the Pokémon to get used to them – that’s part of the reason they were all so impressed when you helped Stacey find those Ledyba before.  Sometimes Abner likes to sing while they walk through the forest; he’s convinced it puts Pokémon at ease, but Ellis is sceptical.

You’re able to confirm some of what you already knew or suspected about the forest on the basis of tracks, chewed vegetation and occasional sightings.  Bug-types – mainly Caterpie, Weedle and their evolved forms – are overwhelmingly the most common Pokémon here.  Spearow don’t do well in dense forest, and instead Pidgey are the major predators (Abner has been collecting their dropped feathers for some time).  You spot what you’re fairly certain are the leaves of Oddish, asleep beneath the ground during the day, and in a sudden moment of clarity identify some odd vein-like marks in the soil as the tracks of Bellsprout.  Meanwhile, Scallion keeps looking up suddenly and doing double takes, like he’s picking up a sound that’s just outside the range of human hearing; he doesn’t seem worried, exactly, but the look on his face reminds you of yourself when you’re thinking about a problem you can’t quite solve.  You don’t know what to make of it.  You are certain you want to look at this area more systematically… but as soon as you try to plan that out, you realise that you are thoroughly lost.  You’ve all been marking your path by snapping branches and dropping flags, but somehow none of you can find any of them when you try to backtrack, as if the forest is rearranging itself around you, or as if all of you are really $#!tty at navigation.

On Route 22 you must have covered almost as much ground as this, but back there all you had to do was climb the tallest hill you could see and look for the river, and you pretty much had some idea where you were and which direction you were moving in.  In Viridian Forest, you can barely see 100 metres in any direction, you can’t even figure out where the sun is most of the time, and it’s difficult to keep going in a straight line without running into a thicket or having to clamber over the roots of a huge, ancient tree.  Which, like, is cool in its own way, you have to admit; Dane is clearly having fun climbing and jumping and $#!t, and the other bug catchers are at least caught up in the wonder of it enough that being lost doesn’t frighten them.  You have food, drinking water and Pokémon companions; you’ll be fine even if you can’t find your way back to a familiar trail by nightfall.

I mean, that’s what you tell yourselves; personally I refuse to condone this lunatic optimism.

Late in the afternoon, you stumble into a treefall clearing that seems like it might be a good place to camp for the night.  Abner, Dane and Stacey begin to unpack as you and Ellis survey the perimeter with Scallion and Beedrill.  All looks fine, until you clamber over to the other side of the massive fallen oak to take a look at the other side of the clearing.  Propped up against the trunk is a big hiker’s backpack, apparently abandoned, but still full.  You and Ellis exchange puzzled looks, then cautiously approach.  You can tell from the way leaf litter has piled up around it that the backpack has been here, untouched, for a long time – maybe for months. You can see what looks like a name tag stitched into the fabric of the bag, but a patch of mould has grown over everything but a capital letter L.  You reach out to touch the pack, and your hand comes away sticky; you realise it’s coated with a thin film of gluey slime.  You frown and reach around to rummage in your own backpack, trying to think whether you have anything you could use to take a sample.  Ellis remarks that it reminds him of the sticky coating of the raw silk produced by Bug Pokémon.  Meanwhile, his Beedrill seems uninterested in the pack and flits around the air above it, jabbing its stingers around as if pointing at something.  The two of you both realise with a start that Beedrill is pointing – it’s drawing your attention to lines of nearly-invisible silk hanging in the air, strung across gaps between trees, crossing and linking with other threads, forming elaborate designs, and…

…ah, $#!t.

Look, for what it’s worth, kid, I honestly assumed the dumb bastard probably just starved to death.

You hear a startled yelp from Dane, and you and Ellis both leap back over the tree trunk.  The other bug catchers and their Pokémon are assuming a rough defensive formation as they stare down four- five- no, six big red-and-black Bug Pokémon, some crawling on the ground, others hanging by silken threads from tree branches.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XX: What a Tangled Web We Weave

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Surrounded by six huge spider Pokémon, what do you do?
– Negotiate?

Well, I’ve heard worse ideas.  True, most of them were Larry’s, but under the circumstances I guess talking is relatively unlikely to get you all killed.

Abner, Stacey and Dane are standing back-to-back and glaring defiantly at the spider Pokémon surrounding them, with all their own Pokémon at the ready.  Dane’s Weedle and Stacey’s Caterpie are clinging to their trainers’ arms, but are poised to fire String Shots; Abner’s Metapod and Kakuna are both on the ground, already using Harden; and Stacey’s Ledyba is zipping around their heads, glaring at each of the fierce-looking Bug Pokémon in turn.  Ellis and his Beedrill move to join them, but you catch him by the elbow and hiss a warning.  Between the five of you, with all your Pokémon, you have your attackers well and truly outnumbered, but frankly they’re bigger.

You clear your throat to draw attention, then hold up both of your hands, palms open, and calmly take a few steps towards the big spider Pokémon.  You haven’t seen one before, but you’re pretty sure that these are Ariados, the evolved form of Spinarak.  You don’t know much about them, except that they’re predators who mostly prey on other Bug Pokémon and are fairly territorial – you assume you’ve wandered into their hunting grounds, and probably offended them somehow.  You briefly consider having Aura talk to them on your behalf as a fellow Bug-type, but the thought occurs to you that a) under normal circumstances an Ariados would probably eat Aura, and b) you aren’t altogether sure whether Aura can talk.  Instead, you clear your throat again and call out in a loud, clear voice.  You offer a deferent greeting, praising the strength and wisdom of the mighty many-legged Bug Pokémon, hoping to mollify or at least confuse them.  They don’t immediately attack you.  Dane stares at you like you’ve just tried to sell the Ariados a timeshare in Mallorca, and Ellis cocks his head sceptically, but Abner and Stacey both seem encouraged by even the faint possibility of talking your way out of this.  After a few more florid compliments to the Ariados, you beg their forgiveness for intruding on their territory.  You emphasise that you are only humble students of nature (true), who have wandered from the path in your overeagerness to learn (also true) and mean no harm to the domain of your spidery hosts (I mean, you can cause harm without meaning to, but technically you’re three for three here).

The Ariados stare at you like you’ve just tried to sell them a timeshare in Ibiza.

They aren’t actually trying to kill you, though, which you take as encouragement.  You try offering them some of your food in exchange for safe passage.  Remembering that wild Pokémon usually understand body language, intent and emotion, but not literal words, you clarify by reaching into your backpack and pulling out some protein bars, one of which you unwrap and toss to the nearest Ariados.  It ignores the bar, but begins chittering to its comrades and gesturing with its forelegs.
“We can totally take ‘em,” Abner mutters out of the corner of his mouth.
“We clearly can not,” Ellis says through clenched teeth.
“What if I kick the big one in the head and then we make a break for it?” Dane suggests.
“They’re all big,” Ellis hisses back at him.
“Um, boys…” Stacey says out loud.  The Ariados have apparently made a decision.  Two of them abandon their positions and circle around behind your group, moving slowly and openly.  A third, standing directly in front of you, turns around and begins to walk away into the woods.  After a few steps, it swivels around again and looks at you.  You glance down at Scallion, who gives you what would be a shrug if he had clearly defined shoulders.  Both of you start to follow the Ariados.
“This is a bad plan…” you hear Abner saying.
“Do you have a better one?” Stacey asks, and they all fall into step behind you.

The Ariados slowly lead you deeper into the forest, past trees twisted with age, under denser and darker canopy.  As you move, you start seeing more and more webs strung from the trees, as well as a few bundled silken cocoons – maybe the size of Caterpie or Ledbya – dangling from the branches.  Ellis glances nervously around at the webs and recalls his Beedrill to its Pokéball to keep it from accidentally flying into one; the other bug catchers follow suit.  You exchange another look with Scallion, who seems happy to stay out for now.  Finally, you come to an ancient spreading oak tree, wrapped in ghostly sheets of spider silk, with a big knotty hole in the tree trunk.  As you approach the tree, another Ariados climbs out of the hole – a huge one, almost one and a half metres, you think, and deep purple instead of red.  It secures itself to an overhanging branch with a strand of silk, and dangles itself in front of you upside-down, regarding you with suspicious eyes.
“We come in peace?” Stacey offers.
The Ariados that was leading you hisses and chitters at the big purple one, waving its forelegs and clacking its mandibles.  The purple Ariados is silent for a time, then drops to the ground.  It doesn’t make any sound, but starts scratching at the dirt with its forelegs.  You glance around uncertainly at the other Ariados, the bug catchers and Scallion.  Abner catches your eye and points back at the big purple Ariados.
“Look!” he says excitedly.  “It’s drawing!”  You turn back and see that the Pokémon has scratched a pattern of lines into the ground.  All of you lean forward to get a better look.  There are several wavy lines, some cross-hatching, what looks like a crude drawing of a web, something that could be a stick figure of a human… you realise with a start that you’re looking at a map of Viridian Forest, showing areas of lighter and denser vegetation, some hills, the region the Ariados consider to be their territory and possibly even the rest houses at the forest’s north and south edges.  You immediately grab for your Pokédex and take a photo, imagining how excited Professor Oak will be to hear about this.  The purple Ariados interrupts your scientific fascination with a sharp hiss.  It jabs a claw at you, then at the centre of the web symbol, draws a straight line from the web across the map to the stick figure human, and then jabs its claw hard into the dirt, scratching out the human symbol.


You stutter a request for clarification.  Someone else is here in the forest, and the Ariados want them gone?  That’s their price for safe passage in their territory?  The purple Ariados just stabs at the stick figure again, and then, apparently satisfied that it has made its point, turns its back on you and retreats to its tree, scuttling into its hole and vanishing from sight.  You look around and realise that all the other Ariados have disappeared from view as well.  It seems like you’re free to go.

After releasing a breath you didn’t realise you’d been holding and mopping some sweat off your forehead, you talk to the bug catchers about what’s just happened.  Clearly you need to hurry back to the campsite you just left before you lose the last of the day’s light, but what can you do in the morning?  Dane is all for leaving the Ariados’ territory immediately and just trying to get out of Viridian Forest as fast as possible.  Abner and Ellis, on the other hand, have had their curiosity piqued and don’t want to leave without investigating the “mission” you’ve just been given.  Stacey seems like she could go either way.  They all agree that, no matter what, you should stay together – and frankly, after what you just saw, you’d have to be a stark staring lunatic to argue.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXI: Spider’s Fang

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

After receiving a mysterious “mission” from some potentially hostile Pokémon, what do you want to do?
– Honour the agreement and investigate

…you really don’t know what’s good for you, do you, kiddo?

You’ve always been a curious kid, and there’s no way you can just let this go.  A bunch of wild Pokémon, apparently asking you to… eliminate(???) another human in their territory?  Who?  And why?  You don’t see how it can hurt to check it out; you can decide what to do about it once you know what “it” is.  Besides, as you point out to persuade Dane, the Ariados could be watching to see if you’ll do as you’ve been told, and they can probably move faster than you through the dense forest.  Before you leave, you take several more photos of the dirt-scratch map from a couple of different angles, just to make sure you’ll be able to find your way (and hey, if you have more images to show Professor Oak later, that’s just gravy).  You notice that, quite close to the spiderweb symbol marking the Ariados’ nest, the map has another scratchy little glyph resembling a human caught in a web, which you realise is probably the campsite you just left, where most of your stuff is.  If you hurry, you can get back before dark.

Fortunately, you make it back without incident.  Once the bug catchers have had a chance to examine the map and Dane has figured out what its markings and patterns mean in terms of terrain and vegetation, it turns out to be a good deal more useful than most human-drawn maps of Viridian Forest.  It doesn’t show literal trails, but paths of least resistance through the densest areas, which take you pretty quickly back to your campsite.  It looks like a few wild Pokémon have rummaged around in your bags and half-pitched tents, but lost interest when they couldn’t get into your food, which is mostly canned.  Exhausted from the day’s travel and still a little shaken, you all let your Pokémon back out, build a campfire, heat up some tins of soup and try to decompress.  Scallion seems pretty hard to ruffle; his confidence and even the fact of his presence are comforting.  They don’t give out Bulbasaur as starter Pokémon for nothing, you guess.  Satisfied that he’s fine, you take stock of your human companions.  Abner is absolutely wired – he’s fully aware of the insanity of what just happened to you and struggling to deal, but so fascinated at meeting such an intelligent Bug Pokémon that it was totally worth it to him.  Ellis is quiet.  You think he’s just like that, honestly.  Bit of a hard guy to read.  The others don’t seem worried, so you decide to leave it.  Stacey, on the other hand, is talking constantly, alternately trying to unpack your last encounter and just chattering to you about their school life in Viridian City.  The conversation feels slightly artificial, and you eventually realise that she’s trying to make her brother feel better as much as herself.  Dane’s been running on adrenaline this whole time, trying to keep his friends safe now and ask questions later.  He’s not an experienced Pokémon trainer and seems frustrated, even angry at himself, that his more developed wilderness skills weren’t more useful.  Wordlessly, you place Aura in his lap, where she starts making contented humming noises.  That seems to help, and eventually, you all drift off to sleep.

The next morning, you quickly pack your things, filled with the vigour of being on a “mission,” and set off eastward.  You’re deep in the forest, and pretty far off the established trails.  You’re lucky to have the bug catchers with you, especially Dane, who still has misgivings but cheers up a lot when presented with the challenge of navigating using the scratchy spider-map.  Again, you find that you make surprisingly good time following the route marked for you by the purple Ariados.

Early in the afternoon, you hear some shouts and clanging sounds coming from up ahead of you.  You hold up one hand to signal to your companions, then slow your pace and begin to move carefully from tree to tree, glancing around you.  With the exception of Scallion and Stacey’s Ledyba, all of your Pokémon are in their balls at the moment, which hopefully makes your group a bit less obvious.  You come to the edge of a clearing with a floor of mud and patchy grass.  To the left, you see a big tent made of glossy black fabric, a recently extinguished campfire and a pile of what look like boxes of food.  To the right-

You stifle a gasp.  To the right you see a stack of steel mesh cages, not much bigger than shopping baskets.  Most of them have Pokémon stuffed inside; some even have two.  You can see a lot of Caterpie and Weedle, and you can tell there are other species too, but can’t identify them without getting closer.  Abner starts to rush forward into the clearing, but Stacey catches his arm and holds him back.  You hear voices again, and all of you quickly step back and crouch behind the nearest trees.

Peeking out from your hiding places, you see three men – no, two men and a woman, probably in their late teens or early twenties – dressed all in black, with shorts, t-shirts, high boots and flat caps.  They’ve just entered the clearing from the opposite side, and are chatting easily with one another.
“-telling you, they’re not even really siblings.”
“This again?  Who even cares who any of us really are?  I don’t even know your real name.”
“What?  Yeah you do.”
“Wait, you mean that’s really-?  Ugh, you’re such a dumbass.”
“Hey!  That’s not-”
“Look, from now on your name’s Kevin.  No real names!  Now shut up and help me check the locks.”
One of the men ducks into the tent.  The other two people head for the stack of cages and start to shake each one in turn and rattle the locks.  The woman gives one of the cages a sharp kick, and you feel Abner wince.  ‘Kevin’ half-heartedly kicks one too.  As they get closer, you notice a big scarlet letter R on each of their t-shirts.  You feel like you’ve seen that logo before somewhere, maybe on the news, but you can’t quite place it.

With a wave of your hand, you signal to the others to pull back further into the trees.  Hunkering between the roots of one of Viridian Forest’s massive oaks, you try to take stock of what you’ve seen.
“Poachers?” Abner whispers.
“Looks like…” Ellis replies.  “But what are they after?  They can’t just be here for a bunch of Caterpie and Weedle.”
“We gotta stop ‘em,” Dane says.  “There’s three of them and five of us.”  Scallion grunts in agreement, scrunching up the tips of his vines like fists for emphasis.
“Yeah, but we don’t know what kind of Pokémon they have,” Abner points out.  “What if they have some really strong stolen Pokémon like a Rhydon or something?”
“If they were any good, they wouldn’t have to steal Pokémon to get ahead,” Dane responds.
“Yeah, but there’s no reason we can’t still try to be smart about this…” Stacey says thoughtfully.  “What about a trap?  If we can take them by surprise, we’ll have the advantage.”
“That’s right!” Abner agrees, before being frantically shushed by everyone else.  “That’s right,” he says again, more quietly.  “Or we could try to draw them away somehow, make ‘em chase one or two of us through the forest while the others free all those Pokémon.”
“Whatever we decide, you and I should take point,” Ellis says to you.  “What do you think?”

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXII: Come into Our Parlour

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

How do you deal with the poachers?
– Use your Bug Pokémon to create snares and set up an ambush.

If you get into a fight, which Pokémon will you use?
– Scallion, the Bulbasaur
– Nancy the Negator, the Minun

[AUTHOR TIEBREAK: Nancy can cheer for our other Pokémon from the sidelines, so let’s have Scallion take point.]

You think about the problem for a minute.  Yeah, all things considered, Dane has a point; the five of you with all your Pokémon probably could take these clowns with a good battle plan, even if they do turn out to be a bit stronger than you individually.  But why risk it?  You all have Bug Pokémon that can spin silk (except maybe Ellis?  You glance at him questioningly and he confirms that, yes, his Beedrill is still young enough to remember String Shot) – you can use them to create nets and webs, string them up between the trees, then lure the poachers into a trap.  With any luck, you won’t even have to fight.

Stacey sends her new Ledyba up a nearby tree with instructions to watch the poachers, come after you if they seem to be doing something, and fire off a Supersonic cry if it needs backup.  The rest of you retreat further back into the woods so you won’t be overheard while you prepare.  Once you’re confident you can speak normally without attracting attention, you pick an ambush spot – a hollow between three big oak trees, with three obvious approaches that you can trap.  Abner and Dane are both good with knots, and between them they can apparently craft a spring-loaded net trap that will wrap someone in a bag and hoist them into the air like a drunk Weepinbell with one vine caught in a ceiling fan.  Stacey suggests blocking off one entrance to your bolthole with a web like the ones the Ariados use.  And of course there’s always the simple tripwire.  Abner’s Metapod and Kakuna, Stacey’s Caterpie, Dane’s Weedle, Ellis’ Beedrill and your Silcoon, Aura, all start spitting silk.  The threads aren’t as fine, strong or sticky as the Ariados silk you saw yesterday, but they’ll do.  Ellis wonders out loud why the Ariados couldn’t do this themselves.  He has a point; they clearly want these poachers gone (with good reason, by the looks of it) and they’re certainly intelligent, with a leader who could coordinate and plan an operation like this.  Maybe they just don’t want to risk themselves in a fight.  You all busy yourselves preparing the traps, humming and chatting while you work.

Once your traps are ready, Stacey creeps back towards the clearing to retrieve her Ledyba.  Meanwhile you perch all your other Bug Pokémon, except for Beedrill, on convenient branches where they’ll be obscured from view by leaves but still have a decent vantage to fire more entangling silk at anyone who gets caught by your traps.  When Stacey returns with Ledyba, she winks and tells all of you to plug your ears.  You oblige, and she orders a brain-curdling Supersonic from her Pokémon, directed back the way she just came and sustained for over a full minute.  Apparently satisfied that she’s gotten the poachers’ attention, Stacey pets Ledyba on the head, praises it for a job well done, and returns it to its Pokéball for a (now much-needed) rest.  Only seconds later, you hear voices and boots crashing through undergrowth.

“No, it definitely came from over here!  It must have been something huge to make a sound that loud!”
“Then how could it get through all these trees without leaving some kind of trail, Ned?”
“Uh, guys, what if it’s a really dangerous Pokémon and we can’t-”
“Shut up, Kevin!  Just stay to my left and if you run into something you can’t handle, try to scream pitifully before you die!  Ned, you go that way!”
“Got it!”  That voice is starting to get close.  All the bug catchers make eye contact with their Pokémon, carefully positioned around your trapped hollow, and nod in unspoken communion.  You look down at Scallion, still at your side, and he gives you a reassuring grin.  A moment later, through the trees, you see one of the poachers from before – the man whose name must be Ned.  It takes him another few seconds to see you, stomping through the bushes of the forest floor and angrily swatting aside vines and fern leaves.  Those few seconds do not go well for him.  He’s almost on top of you when he looks up, straight between two of the big oaks.  His face goes blank in confusion, then his eyes narrow… then he squawks in surprise as a silken net springs up from the ground beneath him, making him lose his footing and yanking him suddenly into the air.
“Now!” Abner yells, and his Metapod and Kakuna both fire String Shots directly at Ned.  Already startled and dangling upside-down from a branch, he’s powerless to pull the threads off himself and is rapidly cocooned in sticky silk.
“Kelly!” he yells, in between barrages of increasingly vibrant curses.  “Backup, now!”  To your right, there is a loud crash as the other male poacher, Kevin, stumbles over a tripwire strung between two trees and rolls head-over-heels into the midst of your group, then lies flat on his back moaning in pain.  Gracefully somersaulting out of nowhere, the woman (“Kelly,” you suppose) lands next to him and quickly glances about, taking in your faces and Ned’s hopelessly cocooned form.
“Get up, you idiot,” she says, kicking Kevin contemptuously, then locks eyes with you.  “So, a bunch of kids who think they can tangle with Team Rocket?  You’ve bitten off more than you can chew.”  Kevin forlornly staggers to his feet, glances at Kelly, then starts to speak.
“Uh- to- to protect the world from-”
Infect, you moron, it’s infect– argh!  We don’t have time for this,” she snarls at him.  “Get your Pokémon out and smoke these twerps!  Ekans, Drowzee, let’s hustle!” She throws two Pokéballs in the air, and they burst open to release her Pokémon, a hissing purple serpent and a plump golden-skinned humanoid with a stubby trunk.  Kevin scrambles for the single Pokéball at his belt.
“Oh!  Right!  Uh, Zubat!  Go!”  Kevin’s Pokémon, an eyeless flapping thing with leathery purple wings and sharp, sparkling fangs, flits around his head waiting for orders.  Wordlessly, you let Nancy out of her Pokéball as well; to her credit, she takes in the situation instantly and starts up an animated, lively cheer.

“I’ll take the flier,” Ellis says to you.  Without waiting for an answer, he starts to issue rapidfire commands to his Beedrill, who instantly darts behind Kevin’s poor Zubat and strikes it with both stingers.  Before you have a chance to gauge the impact of the attack, you hear Kelly shout attack commands to her Pokémon – both directed at Scallion, who narrowly dodges a volley of poisonous darts from Ekans, only to catch Drowzee’s eye and become mesmerised by its mystical gestures.  With a snap of its fingers, the Drowzee hurls an invisible wave of force that bowls Scallion over, and Ekans rears up, baring its teeth and preparing to strike while you’re helpless.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Stacey snaps, then looks over at Dane.  “Hey, butthead, wonder twin time!”  Dane just nods firmly and, in unison, they order String Shots from Caterpie and Weedle that catch Drowzee square in the face, ruining its concentration and letting Scallion shake himself free.  With a string of staccato monosyllables, in time with Nancy’s cheers, you have Scallion lash out at Ekans with both his vines, left, right, right again, left, then pop a Leech Seed.  Kelly and Ekans react quickly and try to close the distance between the two Pokémon to catch Scallion in a full-body Wrap, but her attention is divided trying to get Drowzee to swat aside Stacey and Dane’s Pokémon.  Scallion’s Leech Seed hits home, Ekans’ movements slow, and a stiff Tackle ends with it being trampled beneath your Bulbasaur’s charge.  Just as Drowzee manages to clear its eyes and begin a new Psychic attack, Scallion is able to finish it with a double Vine Whip jab to the face.  Glancing back to Ellis and Kevin, you see the poacher forlornly holding up his wounded Zubat, dangling by one wing, and trying to gently slap it back to consciousness. Beedrill looks tired and battered, but still able to keep fighting.

Kelly recalls both of her Pokémon and looks around wildly.  She starts to make a move for the tree Ned is dangling from – but stops short when she realises that, while everyone else has been occupied with the battle, Abner and his Metapod have taken the opportunity to secure his cocoon with another half-dozen thick cables of silk, all anchored to different trees.  Kelly turns back to Kevin, who has sunk to his knees and is lamely trying to coax his Zubat to do something.
“…screw this.  You’re on your own, loser; I’m blasting off!”  Dane and Stacey aim String Shots, but before their Pokémon can fire, Kelly has backflipped into the underbrush, spun on her heel and dashed off into the forest, faster than you can follow.  Ellis looks ready to send Beedrill after her, but thinks better of it.

After a moment spent frantically scanning your surroundings, not quite sure whether another threat might be about to appear, all of you breathe sighs of relief – and triumph.  You’ve beaten your enemies and taken two prisoners!  Well… one prisoner, and one Kevin, who seems pretty out-of-it, honestly.  Obviously your first priority now has to be getting back to the poachers’ camp and freeing all those Pokémon, but what else is on your mind?

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXIII: See the Forest for the Trees

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do with your prisoners?
– Restrain Kevin so you can drag them both to the authorities.

You all take a moment to revel in your victory and high-five each other before doing anything else.  You’ve got time; Ned is already pretty securely tied up, and Kevin… well, Kevin’s still moping over his unconscious Zubat.  Poor guy seems like he’s having some kind of breakdown.  Abner has his Pokémon start spinning more silk, and you help him tie up Kevin and attach some extra leads to Ned’s cocoon so you can drag him along the ground behind you.  Meanwhile Stacey and Ellis tend to the injuries the Pokémon have suffered – including Zubat.  You aren’t sure about the ethics of confiscating the loyal Pokémon of criminal trainers, and you don’t want to risk Ned’s Pokémon trying to fight you if you let them out, so you get Kevin to recall his Zubat and decide to let the police in Pewter City sort it out once you get there.  Neither Kevin nor Ned seem to be in any mood to talk (even if Ned’s mouth weren’t muffled by the silk), and refuse to say anything about their operation.  Once you’re sure Kevin’s hands are securely bound, you start moving back in the direction of the clearing where you found them.

It looks like Kelly has rushed through the poachers’ camp and hurriedly snatched up a lot of their food and gear, but the caged Pokémon are all still there.  Pokémon that can’t be confined to Pokéballs are pretty difficult to transport, and it doesn’t look like they had a vehicle with them.  The black uniforms suggest that they’re part of a larger organisation (Kelly mentioned something called “Team Rocket”), so they might have been waiting for a pickup from other members of their group.  You should really wrap up here as soon as possible in case Kelly has called for reinforcements.  Once you get closer to the stacks of cages, you see that, as well as the Caterpie and Weedle you noticed earlier, many of them contain Spinarak.  They all look despondent, weak, possibly underfed.  You and Ellis share a look.
“They had… hostages…” he realises.  You nod in agreement.  This explains why you were enlisted to do the Ariados colony’s dirty work for them – they must have been afraid that the poachers would harm their young if they took action.  Abner abruptly yells something unintelligible and probably obscene.
“Argh!  How could they do this!?  This- the Pokémon- the forest is their home, and they just came in here and-!”  He glares acidly at Kevin as his speech breaks off, balling his fists and kicking at the ground in frustration.  Ellis gently rests a hand on his shoulder.
“We’ll have them out soon.  There must be keys around here somewhere.”  He ducks into the poachers’ tent and starts rifling through what’s left of their equipment.  Several of the Pokémon in the cages start to perk up at the possibility of freedom, but they’re agitated and impatient from their captivity.  Some start rattling their cages and banging their heads against the bars and mesh.  You do your best to speak soothingly to them, with Scallion and Aura at your side.  Abner and Stacey follow suit, while Dane grabs some rope from his backpack and ties Kevin’s bound hands to a sturdy branch overhead, to make sure he doesn’t get any ideas.  Honestly, you probably don’t need to worry; he still seems pretty shell-shocked.  Eventually, you hear a triumphant shout from inside the tent, before Ellis emerges with a ring of keys and a scrap of paper with a list of combination lock sequences.  He passes out keys and hands you the paper, and the five of you get to work freeing all the caged Pokémon, starting with the Spinarak, while your own Pokémon continue working to keep the others calm.

A string of clicks and hisses alerts you to the presence of a Pokémon behind you, and you turn to see a big red Ariados standing at the edge of the clearing.  It greets you with a motion that looks almost like a four-legged curtsey… then fixes its gaze on Ned, still lying in a full cocoon near Kevin’s feet, and begins to creep towards him.
“Mfflmffmlllf!!!” Ned protests.  Kevin looks like he’s about to be sick, but says nothing.
Y’know, you could just hand them over.  Or at least Ned; he’s already gift-wrapped and everything.  Like, they’re clearly bad dudes.  And it would also totally save you having to drag them to Pewter City with you.  Ned’s frickin’ heavy.  Bu-u-ut, you’re too nice for that, or… whatever.  You stand between the Ariados and the cocooned poachers and stammer out something about this being human business from here.  As long as they’re gone, you held up your end of the deal, right?  The Ariados chitters thoughtfully, then repeats the “curtsey” motion, flattens its vestigial legs against its abdomen and slowly walks backwards out of the clearing.  The rest of the Spinarak follow in a crowd as it leaves – all but one, who seems to have taken a liking to Ellis, and bids the rest farewell with a cheery wave.

There are a lot of other Pokémon caged, and even with all five of you working together, it takes a while to free all of them.  Some lash out as you work on the locks, which makes everything that much harder, but Aura’s soothing hum seems to do them some good.  Most of them, though, seem to sense that you’re here to help, and make what you think are gestures of thanks as you release them.  And one… one waits patiently, and doesn’t leave the clearing when its cage opens.  As you continue your work, you notice it talking to Scallion and Nancy out of the corner of your eye, and when you’re finally done, you turn around to find it watching you.  You sense something – the seed of the same emotional connection you have with your own Pokémon – and realise that it intends to join you.Shortcode

After at least an hour of fiddling with locks and warding off aggravated stings, the last Pokémon – an especially irate Pidgey – blusters past you in a blur of feathers and claws, vanishing into the woods.  You slump into a sitting position to catch your breath and your hand flops down to rest on the silky surface of Aura’s body.  She purrs gently – and suddenly feels very, very warm.  You look down, startled, and see that she is glowing with a soft blue-white light.  All the bug catchers stare in awe as your Silcoon’s body splits open, and a tiny grey fairy body crawls gingerly out of her cracked shell, before unfurling a pair of broad, delicate, colourful wings and taking flight.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 500px-267beautifly.png

Aura has evolved into Beautifly!

Level: Aspirant
Type: Bug/Flying
Nature: Mild
Gender: Female
Wingspan: 113 cm
Weight: 27 kg
Moves: Tackle, String Shot, Gust, Absorb
Ability: Swarm
Special Skills: None/Unknown?

You receive a round of hearty congratulations – even Kevin blurts out an impressed-sounding “cool!” before being silenced by a surly grunt from Ned – and Nancy starts up a celebratory cheer.  Aura tries out her new wings, doing loops, spins and twirls in time to your Minun’s chant.  You don’t bask in her newfound glory for long, though.  You’re busy young Pokémon trainers; you’ve got places to be!

“If I’m reading the Ariados map right, we can be in Pewter City before dark if we hurry,” Dane says.  “We, uh… definitely aren’t getting back home by tomorrow, so we should all call our parents from the Pokémon Centre.”  Stacey and Ellis suddenly go white, apparently remembering how much simpler this trip was supposed to be, but Abner just laughs and makes a dumb joke about all of them being nerds who need to get out more anyway.  Soon you’re on your way, talking and swapping stories, dragging Ned bouncing along the forest floor behind you, and occasionally barking at Kevin, his hands still on a leash, to keep up.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXIV: Out of the Woods

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What kind of Pokémon wanted to join you?
– Creepy
– Intelligent

The odd thing is, you didn’t see it at first.  You mostly remember releasing Bug Pokémon from the cages – Caterpie, Weedle, Ledyba, Spinarak.  There were some Pidgey, even a couple of Pikachu, who immediately fled into the underbrush.  Not really anything you’re surprised to see; hell, aside from the Pikachu you aren’t even sure what Pokémon there are here that are even worth poaching.  What is the business model of a Pokémon poacher, anyway?  You make a mental note to ask your prisoners that.  The point is, everything you consciously remember seeing is… well, not that you’d ever put it like this, but trash.

But when you glance over your shoulder at Scallion and Nancy, the Pokémon talking to them isn’t any of those.  It’s… a four-legged, furry charcoal-grey Pokémon with a pointed face and keen, intelligent, almost sinister eyes.  Did it just come out of the forest?  No, you’re sure it walked over to them from the stream of Pokémon you were releasing from the cages.  You saw it out of the corner of your eye.

Didn’t you?

When you approach, the Pokémon breaks off its conversation with Scallion and looks up at you, grinning mischievously.  It makes a cheery yapping sound and jerks its head to gesture at the Pokéballs clipped to your belt.  You make eye contact with Scallion, who looks slightly puzzled at the new Pokémon’s manner, but gives you an affirmative nod without hesitation.  Well… the more the merrier, right, kid?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 570zorua-1.png

Zorua has joined the party!
Level: Novice
Type: Dark
Nature: Relaxed
Gender: Female
Height: 68 cm
Weight: 12.6 kg
Moves: Scratch, Leer, Pursuit, Torment
Ability: Illusion
Special Skills: None/Unknown?

What do you do on the way to Pewter City?
– Try to get some information out of Kevin.

The walk to the northern edge of Viridian Forest is slow going, even with your advanced new understanding of the terrain – mainly because you have to take turns dragging Ned, who bounces along the ground in his silken cocoon like a child’s plush Growlithe on a leash, occasionally making furious grunting sounds.  You briefly un-muzzle him at one point to see if he has anything interesting to say, but he mostly just yells and swears at you, so you pretty quickly ask Abner and Metapod to wrap his mouth up in String Shot silk again.  Kevin is still trudging along, silent and despondent, his hands bound but otherwise unrestrained.  May as well see if you can learn anything from him.  You fall into step with Kevin, defusing a puzzled glance from Ellis with a quick smile and nod, and offer Kevin a protein bar from your backpack.  He is taken aback, but accepts it and starts eating.

You ask him about the group he’s part of – what Kelly called “Team Rocket” – what their aims are and what he did for them.  He claims not to know very much at all.  You’d already guessed that Kevin was the junior member of this trio, and it quickly becomes evident that Kelly, who escaped, was very much the brains of the operation.  According to Kevin, she was the one in direct day-to-day contact with their superiors.  Since he doesn’t seem to have anything on the group’s wider activities, you turn to his own work with them.  Apparently Kevin used to work at a grimy fast food joint in Saffron City and was approached by some charming, well-spoken people in Team Rocket uniforms with a better offer.
“First they said I could work from home making a million Yen a month, stuffing envelopes and making phone calls,” he tells you.  “Me and a bunch of other guys had to contact people about some accounting stuff, like inheritance from dead relatives they didn’t know about, and get them to pay our head office a processing fee to sort it out.  Some of them got really angry and didn’t want to pay for some reason…”
This guy’s a freakin’ moron.  That’s not something you’ve just realised; you’re too damn nice to call anyone a moron.  That little deduction is a freebie from me.  You’re welcome.
“Then they said I wasn’t meeting enough of my targets to make the money they promised, but if I worked for them long enough they’d give me a Pokémon, and that’s how I got Zubat.  And they said if I did some other jobs for them they’d give me another better one.”
You motion for him to keep talking – other jobs like what?
“Uh… you know, I just did some… stuff…”  He suddenly becomes intensely interested in a perfectly ordinary larch off to your left.  You try a withering glare, which makes him screw up his face and stare at the ground, but doesn’t prompt any further confession.  Seems like this might be a job for someone with more natural charm.  You try a different tack and ask him how his Pokémon, Zubat, feels about all this.
“Um…” He kinda stares into the distance for a bit, or what would be the distance if any of you could see more than ten metres in any direction through the trees.  “Uh, I- I dunno?  How does anyone know what Pokémon are thinking?  Does that, um… matter?”  You just sigh involuntarily, pat him on the back and tell him to think about that on his own for a while.

Late in the day, you finally see the trees start to thin and stumble onto a real path.  You follow it to a rest house at the edge of the forest, just like the one you stopped at after leaving Viridian City.  You’ve officially gotten through Viridian Forest – your first big hurdle as a trainer!  If you were gonna die on this journey, odds are it would’ve happened here!  Not that you should get careless or anything.  You may have some fancy Pokémon and a bit of experience now, but if today should have taught you anything, it’s that there’s dangers undocumented and unsuspected in the Kanto region.  When you reach the rest house, you immediately call for police from nearby Pewter City to come and formally arrest Ned and Kevin.  The second order of business is for your bug catcher friends to contact their parents back in Viridian City and explain that they might be away a little longer than planned.  Although the twins’ parents take some persuading, it’s eventually agreed that they’ll all be able to stay in Pewter City for another two or three days to watch your gym battle before catching a train home.  None of them have ever actually seen a gym leader fight, since the mysterious Viridian leader’s attendance record is so notoriously spotty, and they’re all eager to take in the spectacle.  By the time all that’s taken care of, it’s late at night and all five of you – and your Pokémon – are ready to collapse in your sleeping bags.

Tomorrow you’ll be headed into Pewter City.  Obviously you’re itching to get your first gym challenge underway after that frustrating false start in Viridian City, but there’s other things you could do as well.  When you arrived at the rest stop, Ellis spotted a flier for a big new fossil exhibition at the Pewter Museum of Science, which would be pretty cool to check out.  Or, of course, you could just chill with your Pokémon – no one would blame you for taking a break after everything you’ve just been through, and you suddenly have a new Pokémon to get to know.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXV: Afternoon at the Museum

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Do you want to give Zorua a nickname?
– Let Jim the Editor name it.
– Let the Narrator name it.

[AUTHOR TIEBREAK: The dice say we give this one to the Narrator.]

Y’know kid, you shouldn’t make a habit of this; nicknames are personal and your Pokémon should have names you came up with for yourself.  But yeah, all right; if you’re not feeling too creative I guess I can give you something.  You don’t technically know this yet ‘cause it’s not in your Pokédex, but what you’ve got there is a Zorua, a rare Pokémon that can impersonate other Pokémon using illusion magic – keeping its true identity secret from all but the keenest observers.  With that in mind, and by the power vested in me, I hereby name this Pokémon:

Jane Doe

Jane seems pretty pleased with herself just for having a nickname at all.  You gotta have an identity in order to conceal it, I guess.

What do you do in Pewter City?
– Visit the museum – battles can wait when there’s science to do!

Now that you’re so close to Pewter City, you feel like your gym challenge can wait.  You’ve never been here before, but you know the Pewter Museum of Science by reputation and would love to visit – not just for yourself, but for your Bulbasaur, Scallion, who’s expressed a lot of interest in your weird ecological nerdery.  Before anything else, though, you have to visit the Pokémon Centre.  All of you need to get your Pokémon checked out in case you’ve missed any sickness or injury, you need to make sure you can grab a dorm for a couple of days (or at least some floor space), and you should keep your ears pricked up for information about the gym leader.  Maybe more importantly than anything else, though, you need to check in with Professor Oak.

(and, like, maybe your parents, but honestly who gives a $#!t; no one wants me to narrate half an hour of “oh, we love you so much, remember to wash your underwear” or whatever)

When you call the Professor, he cheerfully informs you that while you were travelling through Viridian Forest he was able to get a Ranger from the Tohjo Lodge who owed him a favour to check out the cave with the lost Whismur on Route 22 (y’know, that place you went, like, nine months ago or whenever).  Once they were aware of the problem, it was a fairly simple matter to track the wailing sounds to the source, just like you did.  A relocation will take time, and many of the Whismur are sick or injured, so it’s not clear that all of them will survive, but the Professor believes that your actions have prevented the worst possible outcomes.  He’s also been doing some digging to try and find the origins of the exotic Pokémon species you observed in the area.  Apparently a Sinnohan construction company has been working on a major hydroelectric dam near Pallet Town for the past several years.  Bidoof and Buizel are both Pokémon used by the construction crews, because their abilities are useful for aquatic engineering.  By law, exotic Pokémon working in Kanto should be accompanied by their trainers, but it’s possible that the company mixed in some untrained or “semi-wild” Pokémon to cut costs, in which case they could have escaped and established a breeding population.  In theory this is serious scandal material, but both of you doubt you’ll ever be able to find hard proof of negligence.  You, in turn, share everything that’s happened to you in Viridian Forest.  The Professor is startled but intrigued by your description of the intelligent Ariados, deeply troubled by the mention of “Team Rocket,” and impressed by the decisive action you and your new friends took against them.  He promises to look into this group further, and signs off. 

Okay – chores done, time to enjoy the city.

The twins decide to peace out and go for a relaxing afternoon indulging one of their shared hobbies – people-watching at the nearest train station – and promise to meet you all back at the Pokémon Centre later.  That leaves you, Abner, Ellis and of course Scallion to check out the museum.  Pewter City is known as the “Stone Grey City” for the beautiful blue-grey limestone used in all its old buildings, which is quarried locally in the mountains just northeast of the city.  There’s actually heritage building ordinances in most of the city that prohibit new construction in other materials to preserve the distinctive historic style.  Luckily, the fact that the stone is locally sourced keeps construction costs from getting out of hand, and Pewter City’s people have been building in limestone for centuries.  They know how to create really solid earthquake-proof and well-insulated houses that look like adorable little storybook cottages – as well as big, dignified public buildings with a sense of understated grandeur to them, of which the 130-year-old museum building is maybe the best example.  You learn all of this from Ellis, who is apparently super into architecture.  Abner teases him for being such a nerd that he can just rattle off all these facts at will, but you sense he’s actually kind of impressed (besides, you’re probably about to spend the next several hours lecturing to them about prehistoric Pokémon; you’d better hope they’re game for it).

The Pewter Museum of Science has something for everyone – or, every flavour of science nerd, at least.  The geology wing has colossal geodes full of glittering, multicoloured crystals, meteorite fragments from nearby Mount Moon that glow with a strange, silvery inner light, mysterious “evolution stones” that somehow awaken the dormant powers of certain Pokémon, and immaculately polished blocks of Pewter limestone where you can see the traces of prehistoric seashells that prove this part of Kanto was once underwater.  You point out this last feature to Scallion, explaining as well as you can the theories of tectonic plates and continental drift that explain how seas and mountains form and disappear over millions of years.  Your Bulbasaur stares, entranced, at the faint fossil imprints – and then at the limestone of the walls around you, the same ancient material.  Across the central hall, in the technology wing, there are lovingly crafted scale models of humanity’s first spaceships and satellites, as well as a primitive computer built in the 1950s that fills an entire room.  They even have one of the old series PX-A1 Pokédexes, a clunky thing that would barely fit in your backpack, designed for self-sufficient data-gathering in an age before the internet.  These rub shoulders with 8,000-year-old stone axes and knives, covered with tooth and claw marks that show they must have been made with the help of Rock Pokémon.  You pause here as well, wondering how humans could possibly have survived and thrived in a world without Pokémon – how cruel and insane nature would seem without these miraculous companions.  You reach down and rest a hand on your Bulbasaur’s shoulder.  The time you’ve known each other seems so insignificant, but it’s part of a tradition older than history itself.  Ellis smiles and reaches a hand up to pat his new Spinarak, which is riding on his shoulder; Abner, carrying his Metapod in his arms, squeezes it a little tighter.

The big fossil exhibit is in the grand hall in the middle of the building.  There are fossils of every prehistoric Pokémon you can name, and plenty of others that you can’t, all assembled into lifelike poses, and accompanied by brightly painted models that show experts’ best guess at what they looked at while they were alive.  All of you are captivated for quite a while by the huge, nearly-complete Aerodactyl skeleton hanging from the ceiling, its mouth gaping open as if in its legendary frightful screech.  You see fossils from other regions too, on loan from other museums especially for this exhibition – Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova… there are a couple of newly-discovered ones from faraway Galar too, although to be honest you aren’t quite sold on the accuracy of the assembled skeletons.  As you near the back of the hall, you realise you’re just in time to catch the tail end of a public debate between two visiting scientists, who are standing behind a pair of stately limestone lecterns discussing fossil “resurrection” technology for the benefit of a curious crowd.  This is some cutting-edge stuff they’re talking about – the possibility that humans will soon be able to use fossils and traces of genetic material to create living, breathing Pokémon from species that went extinct tens of millions of years ago.  This is cool, but ludicrously dangerous, argues one scientist (Professor Grant Hazelwood of Celadon University, according to the placard on his lectern): resurrected species could escape into the wild and overrun fragile ecosystems, and they could be unable to relate to humans the way modern Pokémon can.  There’s also a moral issue; how can it be right to bring a living creature into a world where its species is extinct and the ecosystem it evolved in no longer exists?  The other scientist (Professor June Hammond-Spruce of the Cinnabar Institute of Genetics) admits that there are moral and practical hazards, but points out that all available evidence suggests prehistoric Pokémon were just as intelligent as modern species.  They would almost certainly be able to adapt to the modern world if treated with the same kindness and respect we afford to all other Pokémon, and it’s not like they’d be released into the wild – they could be given to trainers for observation.  More to the point, we could learn things about these extinct species that are simply impossible to know from fossils, and we’d be giving another chance to Pokémon that were wiped out by the cruel randomness of nature.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXVI: Björk

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Which of the debaters at the museum do you agree with?
– Hammond-Spruce: There’s so much science can learn from ancient Pokémon, and it isn’t fair to write them off as savage monsters that are too dangerous to bring back.

There’s obviously a lot of reason to be cautious about the technology they’re discussing – in fact, didn’t you see a disaster movie with this exact premise once? – but you think the bottom line on this one is pretty clear.  The technology to return extinct species to the world is within humanity’s grasp; how can you not reach out and take it?  Yeah, you’re pretty committed; research to resurrect extinct Pokémon is a good thing, full stop.  I don’t know why that matters, of course; it’s not like you’re ever going to be in a position to make major world-changing decisions directly related to this topic.  Why the hell would you be?

As the debate wraps up and the two speakers begin to take questions from the audience members milling about in the spacious hall, you start talking to Ellis, who seems a bit more cautious about the ecological dangers of genetic reconstitution of fossil Pokémon.  The conversation is just starting to get interesting when, without warning, Abner starts tugging at your sleeve and pointing across the room.
“Look, look!” He’s pointing at a young man, maybe late teens, with spiky brown hair and a green vest, who is leaning against a column with his arms folded, still listening thoughtfully to the debaters.  You give Abner a quizzical look.  Who the heck is that guy?  “I recognise him; I’ve seen him on TV!  That’s Pewter City’s gym leader!  I think his name is… Brick?  Brack?  No, Björk!”
“I don’t… know what his name is, but that is definitely not his name,” Ellis says.  Abner, undeterred, grabs you by the wrist and starts dragging you through the crowd, ignoring your stuttering protests.  A few people give you dirty looks as you bump past them, but you manage to move with enough grace to avoid causing a scene and soon find yourself face-to-face with the Pewter City gym leader.

He looks you up and down, frowning very slightly as his gaze flicks between you, Scallion and the four Pokéballs on your belt.  “Let me guess… second badge?”
You correct him – this will be your first; you’re only in your second week as a trainer.  You introduce yourself, and the gym leader responds in kind, identifying himself as Brock.
“First badge, huh?  Well, it sounds like you had some week.”  His gaze turns to Scallion, standing dutifully at your side.  “And who’s this?”
You introduce your partner, who reaches up with a vine to shake his hand.
“I guess you probably know already that Grass Pokémon are strong against my Rock-types?”
You didn’t know he was a Rock-type specialist, but it makes sense to have a Rock gym here, and damn right you know your type matchups.
“Well, don’t count your Torchic before they’re hatched!  Us gym leaders are serious; every battle is supposed to push the challenger to the limit!  Although… you already seem like you’re light years ahead of most new trainers I meet.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” says Ellis, who’s been on the receiving end of Scallion’s prowess and your creativity.  Brock searches his face, looking thoughtful for a while, then suddenly breaks into a grin.
“This should be fun.”  He looks around the room as the Q-and-A session wraps up and the crowds begin to disperse.  “So you must be interested in fossils and Pokémon biology, right?  What did you think of the debate?”
Of course, you offer your honest opinion: Hazelwood made some good points and all, and any new technology has to be treated with caution, but Hammond-Spruce is right; we can afford to move fast on this.  You thought she was a better speaker too, good at getting across the revolutionary potential of her work.  Hazelwood came off as a bit of a stick-in-the-mud.  Brock laughs.
“Yeah, I can see how you’d feel that way.  Grant thinks resurrecting fossil Pokémon will take all the ‘romance’ out of palaeontology.  He’s not wrong, but I don’t think many people see it the way he does.”
“So you know them?  Cool!” Abner says.
“That’s right.  They’re both from Pewter City originally and they come back to visit a lot.  They grew up hunting fossils at Mt. Moon, graduated from the Pewter College of Sciences.  I think June was doing her Master’s thesis there when Grant started undergrad, then both of them did doctorates at Cel U.  They butt heads a lot, especially since June’s at CIG now and has a vested interest in what the public thinks of this fossil reanimation research.  They’re good sports about it though; it’s always a fun time when they’re both home.  Well, normally it is.”  Brock falls silent, and suddenly seems deep in thought.  “Showing up now, just when…” he muses out loud.  You give him a quizzical look, and his attention snaps back.  “Listen, come by the gym for your battle tomorrow.  I’m there all day and I only have one other challenger booked, so I’ll be wide open.  2v2, standard Indigo rules, no wildcards.  But after that, we should talk.  There’s something you might be able to help me out with.”

Brock excuses himself, and you spend the rest of the afternoon playing with cool gadgets in the museum’s technology wing before returning to the Pokémon Centre for the night. 

You have a little time to talk with your Pokémon, review their growth and plan your strategy.  Knowing that you’re facing a Rock-type specialist makes some of your choices pretty clear.  Most Rock-types are very resilient to Electric attacks, so Nancy should probably stay on the sidelines, and it’s clear that Scallion will be your ace in the hole, but you’re not sure how your other Pokémon will fit in.  As a Bug/Flying dual-type, Aura will be very vulnerable to Rock attacks, but has a Grass attack of her own that will make her kind of a high-risk/high-reward choice.  Jane Doe is new and untested, and frankly you don’t understand what her powers do yet, but she’s clearly a tricky customer, and Rock-types are… to put it generously, not known for their intellect.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXVII: School of Brock

Which Pokémon do you plan to open with against Brock?
– Jane Doe, the Zorua

Which Pokémon would you like to talk with?
– Jane

You’re a reasonably down-to-earth kid.  You’re not going to go charging into your first gym battle with a Pokémon on your team that, frankly, you barely know.  You’re going to figure out what Jane’s deal is.  As far as Jane herself is concerned, her deal is primarily rolling over and receiving belly rubs, and to be clear, you are 100% down for this.  She is a good girl and her fur is almost outrageously soft and silky.  You still want to know what her powers do, though.  Jane’s species isn’t even in your Pokédex, but the Pokémon Centre has a book room with a decent collection of field guides and textbooks.  With a little help from Jane herself, who yaps encouragingly whenever you find pictures of Pokémon from forested central Unova, you quickly find a profile in a recent trainer’s almanac.  Like I said, Jane Doe is a Zorua.  She’s a Dark-type and a fiercely intelligent ambush predator.  She should be able to learn a range of speed-based techniques, as well as attacks that strike at an opponent’s senses or mental state, and she has certain unique abilities that make your eyes pop out like an old cartoon character’s when you read the book’s description.  This definitely warrants a little practice before you go to bed.

Once you’ve sorted out what her species’ deal is, you try to focus in on what Jane’s deal is.  It seems clear that she wasn’t born in Kanto, but when you try to prod her with more specific questions about how she got here, she just rolls over and asks for more belly rubs.  When you mention the poachers who’d captured her in Viridian Forest, though, “Team Rocket,” she suddenly bares her teeth and growls – not at you, but apparently at the whole memory of her imprisonment.  The vibe you get is not so much trauma or even fear, but almost indignation.  You’re reluctant to press her further, but you do suggest, tentatively, that although you didn’t exactly sign up for hunting poachers, you wouldn’t let them pass unchallenged if you encountered them again.  Jane’s reaction to that is simply to look you in the eye and grin mischievously.

Jane Doe
Special Skill: Vendetta
Jane is motivated by a desire for revenge on Team Rocket, and receives a major bonus in battles against them.

The next morning, you and the bug catchers enjoy a leisurely breakfast with your Pokémon at a chain café near the Pokémon Centre (during which you learn that Aura – who doesn’t eat solid food anymore – is an espresso fiend) then head for the Pewter City Pokémon Gym.  A receptionist at the front desk waves you through to the arena without much fanfare, and you get your first look at the battlefield.  Brock’s arena is a huge slab of grey Pewter City limestone, covered in randomly scattered boulders and pock-marked with cracks and craters from powerful Pokémon attacks.  A bored-looking referee in an orange uniform sits in a folding chair off to one side.   Brock himself is standing at the challenger’s end of the field, talking to someone who has their back to you.  As you approach, he spots you and shouts a greeting.

“Perfect timing!  We’re just finishing up here.  My Pokémon just need to take a breather and some Potions; we’ll be ready for the next challenge in about ten minutes.”  The person talking to Brock – the previous challenger – turns around, and…
“Oh, hey!  So you finally got here, huh?” asks… um…
y’know, the guy, the other guy
fµ¢£, what was his name again
it was, like, a colour or something
Magenta.  No, Lilac!
Look, you remember this idiot’s name if you care about him so much.
Exactly; that’s what I thought.

Lilac’s Squirtle greets Scallion with a cheerful squawk, toddling over to you to play with your Bulbasaur, who is standing dutifully at your side.  Scallion just stares back in confusion, looks back and forth between you and Squirtle a few times, then pointedly backs away.  Squirtle appears puzzled and hurt, and looks up to catch your eye.  You wink, grin and hold a finger to your lips.  Squirtle doesn’t really get it, but it can tell that there’s something you want it to play along with, so it nods and returns placidly to Mauve’s side.  You introduce Mauve to Abner, Ellis, Stacey and Dane, and exchange some pleasantries while Brock is busy with something at the other end of the field – the usual Pokémon trainer small talk topics; how was his trip through Viridian Forest (pretty dull in comparison to yours), are his Pokémon doing well (yes), was it a good battle (very; Squirtle’s type advantage was only just enough to overcome Brock’s skill with Rock Pokémon).  You ask Magenta whether he’d like to stay and watch your match, and after a moment’s hesitation, he agrees and heads up into the stands with the bug catchers and Squirtle.  Abner holds his Metapod up over his head to give it a better view of the field.  You call Nancy out of her Pokéball and tell her to get ready to start cheering – you suspect you’ll need it – then crouch down to talk to Scallion and go back over the strategy you discussed the night before.  Another couple of minutes later, Brock is ready to go.

“New challenger, first badge, two Pokémon a side, all standard rules,” he calls to the referee, who quickly scribbles something on a clipboard.  Brock looks right at you, directly down the field.  “All right!  This may be your first gym challenge, but I’m not going easy on you.  Rock Pokémon stand for defence, determination and willpower, and you’ll need all three with a Boulder Badge at stake.  Now, show me you can battle with honour – Geodude, go!” He hurls a Pokéball right into the middle of the arena, where it bursts open to release a floating round-bodied Rock Pokémon with two burly arms.  Scallion steps into the ring, grinning broadly.  Brock huffs his approval.  “Be careful of this one, Geodude,” he warns.  “Let’s start with Tackle!”  Geodude flies towards Scallion, its arm moving into position for a shoulder barge.  At a word from you, your Bulbasaur springs sideways, dodging with apparently supernatural ease as Geodude hurtles past, springs forward again to strike it in the back of its head with a stubby claw, then gracefully backflips to land with poise on the arena floor.

Brock furrows his brow in surprise, but keeps throwing out orders.  “Stay on the inside of its Vine Whip range, Geodude!  Tackle again!”  Geodude does as he says, hovering around Scallion, trying to stay too close for Vine Whip to be effective and alternating between jabs and full-body slams.  It scores a few glancing hits, but keeps underestimating the speed of Scallion’s dodges.  Scallion, for his part, strikes Geodude almost every time it attacks, but can’t seem to get through its rocky skin.  It’s a bit of a stalemate situation, but you think you have it under control, as long as-
“Now!  Rock Tomb!”
well, $#!t
You and Brock have both been consumed by the steps of the dance, your Pokémon dodging and striking in circles around each other – but you suddenly realise that Brock has also been paying attention to its wider direction.  Scallion has his back to a couple of boulders, and although there is still room for him to juke away to the side-
Geodude clenches its fist, draws it back and punches hard into the air.  With a horrible screeching crash, another huge boulder bursts up out of the arena floor, cutting off Scallion’s escape.  Your eyes flicker around him, hunting for more escape routes, but before you can call the dodge, Geodude summons another huge rock up through the floor, blocking your paths as fast as you can identify them.  Finally, with one last shout in unison from Geodude and Brock, a boulder crashes up from beneath Scallion’s feet and sends him flying.

When he hits the ground, his body flickers, ripples, then dissolves with a flash of purple light, leaving Jane Doe lying unconscious on the arena floor.  Brock and his Pokémon both blink in confusion, then you see comprehension cross his face.
“You really are full of surprises!  I thought it was impossible for a Bulbasaur to move like that.”  You run out onto the field to make sure Jane is okay.  She’s bruised, battered, and clearly done fighting for today, but doesn’t look too seriously hurt.  Brock calls out to you and tosses you a Potion spray.  “You seriously might have had us there – that would have been embarrassing!  Do I get to fight the real thing now?”  You give him a cheerful, albeit distracted, affirmative answer as you apply the Potion to Jane’s wounds, then recall her to her Pokéball. Scallion is obviously the logical choice to fight Brock’s Rock-types from here.  You can tell Geodude is winded from chasing your Zorua around, and shouldn’t last too much longer against a foe with a type advantage, but you have to assume Brock’s second Pokémon will be something with more bite to it.

[If you think Scallion should attempt an unconventional tactic, explain what you have in mind in the comment section, or by making a submission to the Pokémaniacal question box https://pokemaniacal.com/qanda/ (if you use the question box, enter your name as “APTIY vs. Brock”).  You can make use of the environment, a combo of two or more moves or abilities, an unorthodox way of using a move, or anything else you can think of that isn’t outright cheating.  The more creative the suggestions – as long as they’re reasonably possible – the greater the odds of success will be.]

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXVIII: Bouldered!

What should Scallion do?
– Just make it a straightforward fight – Scallion should be favoured.
– Brock’s tough; you should try to come up with something more creative.

[AUTHOR TIEBREAK: Well, it would really be a shame to waste all the interesting suggestions for option B that I got in the comments and my Q&A inbox…]

The next stage of the fight goes just as you predicted.  Geodude is already tiring, and after a few rounds of dodging, circling and jabbing, you spot it lowering its guard and call out.  With an almighty THWACK, Scallion springs a coiled Vine Whip forward and nails Geodude right between the eyes.  Geodude lurches back, lists in its formerly smooth hover, spins around drunkenly and crashes to the arena floor.
“Super effective, babyyy!” hollers Abner from the stands, tossing his Metapod up into the air and catching it in celebration.  The bug catchers all cheer, and out of the corner of your eye you even notice Lilac(?) slowly clapping, an enigmatic smirk dancing across his face.
Brock joins the applause as he strides out onto the field to help his Pokémon pick itself up. “Now that’s a Bulbasaur,” he exclaims approvingly, before crouching to take his Geodude’s hand.  “Good job as always, Geodude.”  He gives his Pokémon a quick once-over before recalling it to its Pokéball and returning to his end of the arena.  Scallion joins you back at your end of the field as well.  “Well, I guess that means it’s time to get serious.”  Brock suddenly has another Pokéball in his hand, and throws it high, higher, up towards the ceiling.  “Onix, go!”

When the Pokéball’s blazing light fades, you’re staring at the biggest Pokémon you’ve ever seen: a body of huge grey boulders, strung together in curving serpentine shape, its front section rearing up at least four metres off the ground.  Its head is bigger than your torso, with jaws like the edges of a craggy canyon and a single blunt horn jutting up from its sloping brow.  There’s no way you can fight something like that with sheer strength – and that’s the point, you realise.  Gym leaders are supposed to test trainers, force them to think strategically, to be adaptive.  So, what can you actually do here?  Scallion can drop Leech Seeds to slow and drain a powerful opponent, and after a little practice in Viridian Forest you’re confident he can pull off Poisonpowder, which is another good way to wreck a physically stronger enemy.  You also think back to your battle with Ellis and his Beedrill in the forest, to the vine-swinging trick you pulled to let Scallion defeat a flying opponent.  Onix is a huge, unwieldy Pokémon, and you’ve already managed to throw Brock off guard by showing him a “Bulbasaur” moving in ways a Bulbasaur shouldn’t.  But this isn’t like the forest.  You think the ceiling is too high for Scallion’s vines to reach all the way up to the rafters, and glancing around the arena, you don’t think there’s really anything else he can grab onto and swing from.  The only substantial vertical feature of the entire battlefield is-

…kid, what do you think you’re looking at?

…no.  Do not.  Seriously do not.

I cannot stress enough how much you should not– you’re doing it, aren’t you, you dumbass little piece of $#!t.

You kneel down to get on Scallion’s level and whisper your instructions in his ear.  You are, he quickly realises, completely unhinged, but his trust in you is for some reason strong enough to go along with it.  Nancy gives him what you assume is a quick pep talk, blue sparks flying from her cheeks as she cheerfully hops back and forth on the balls of her feet.  Scallion steps, more than a little timidly, back onto the battlefield, and at a signal from the referee, Brock calls his first command.
“Onix, Screech!”  Onix opens its mouth wide, and the sound that comes out is a hideous grinding wail like scratching the peak of a mountain against a colossal blackboard.  Scallion screws up his face and tries to plug his ears with his vines, leaving him unprotected when Brock shouts another command.  “Tackle!”  Onix rears up and dives towards your tiny Bulbasaur, crashing into him like a freight train.  Scallion goes flying, spinning head over heels through the air, so hard and fast you can almost feel it.  In fact, you could swear you can feel it; your bones feel like you’ve just run headlong into a brick wall.  But Scallion’s still there; he’s in the air but you know he’s conscious and frankly kinda pissed off, and this might be the best moment you get – you yell out to him, telling him to do as you planned.  Somehow, he rights himself in mid-air and his vines lash out.  They streak towards Onix’s head, and it looks for a second like they’re going to miss, but you aren’t going for a direct hit, like you did against Geodude.  When you watch a lot of televised Pokémon battles, you know there’s one move that bamboozles the opponent every time:

Aim for the horn.

Scallion’s elastic vines wrap around Onix’s horn three or four times, and he swings down and around, past Onix’s face and back up, pulling himself in to land with an audible thunk on the top of the colossal Pokémon’s head, holding onto the horn for dear life.

For the record, I hate even the possibility that you might get away with this.

You give Scallion a second to get his bearings, then fire off more orders: Poisonpowder first, then Leech Seed.  Scallion screws up his eyes in concentration, and a second later the bulb on his back glows and starts pumping out clouds of glittering violet dust.  Brock frantically calls out a command to Onix, but you can’t quite hear it over the sound of the huge stone Pokémon thrashing around, trying to dislodge Scallion.  Beside you, Nancy hasn’t missed a beat and is chanting at fever pitch.  Onix’s tail beats up and down, crashing against the ground, as Scallion fires a seed that plants itself securely on the lower third of Onix’s body and explosively begins to grow.  With a furious roar, Onix tosses its head wildly and then slams its face against the arena floor.  One of Scallion’s vines comes loose, whips around Onix’s horn and snaps back to his bulb; at the same moment, Brock shouts something and Onix’s whole body begins to glow with a faint bronze-coloured light.  You call out, and Scallion begins lashing at Onix’s back with his free vine, still clinging desperately to the bigger Pokémon’s horn and screaming constantly.  Another angry tail slam, but you think Onix is getting weaker.  You tell Scallion to keep up the pressure.

“Now, Onix!  Double the damage!”

uh oh

The halo around Onix fades away to nothing, and then there is a sound like thunder and a sudden burst of coppery light that fills the entire gym.  Scallion is flung high into the air and lands a few seconds later with a thud at your feet.  Onix sways, its eyes unfocusing, woozy from the poison and the Leech Seed sapping its energy.  You look down at Scallion.  You think he’s still conscious; you can’t step onto the field yet without calling a time-out or a forfeit.  Slowly, tortuously, he gets to his feet, dusts himself off with his vines, grits his teeth and stares at Onix… who abruptly stiffens for a second, then goes completely limp and crashes to the floor like a sudden rockslide.

The stands erupt in cheers, the five trainers watching somehow filling the whole arena with their shouts.  Even Magenta seems pretty psyched.  Brock is already on the battlefield, checking up on Onix, picking away Leech Seed tendrils with a pocketknife.  You crouch down to see how Scallion is doing.  He’s… pretty zonked, but grinning broadly.  You think the Potion spray Brock gave you for Jane earlier still has a little juice in it, so you grab it and do a quick triage of Scallion’s bruises and scrapes.  He’ll definitely need a visit to the Pokémon Centre to get back to 100% and check for more serious injuries like broken bones, but as far as you can tell, he’s not in any immediate danger.  You feel like you’ve been holding up the roof of a collapsing building, but it’s not so bad this time – maybe just because you knew it was coming?  Doesn’t anyone warn new trainers about that $#!t?  But whatever – you’re here, with your Bulbasaur, and the two of you just won the first really big important victory of your career!  You feel like you have a little heavenly light burning inside you, and you can feel the same light inside your partner.


in fact, you can see it


Scallion’s skin is glowing warm and blue-white under your skin – in a few moments, he’ll evolve, just like Aura did a few days ago.  There’s just a little hesitation in him, like he figures this is probably something he should want, but he needs some reassurance.  He’ll be different, after this – more powerful physically and spiritually, more in tune with nature, but also heavier, slower and less adaptable.  That vine-swinging bull$#!t won’t fly, that’s for sure.  In short, his growth will be more fixed from here on out.  The further he walks his path, the more others will close themselves off – same as they have for you, right from the start.

But you can always press B on it, y’know.  Oh, sorry; that’s just old trainer slang.  You can suppress the evolution.  It takes the united willpower of both trainer and Pokémon, and it isn’t permanent, but it’s totally doable, even with both of you in a weakened state.  If you want to, obviously.  Power or flexibility – those are both legitimate things for a trainer to value, but either way, you’re giving something up.  No pressure or anything.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXIX: Leader’s Duty

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What should Scallion do?
– Evolve

The light is swelling.  You’re not afraid of it.  Why would you be?  You’ve studied with Professor Oak, so you know how evolution works – or at least, as much as anyone does – but you also know there’s a spiritual aspect to it.  Evolution is the path to fulfilling a Pokémon’s potential, to realising their full powers and finding their place in the world.  You’d never make Scallion evolve if he didn’t want to – but reassuring him that nothing bad will happen if he chooses this?  That’s kind of your job.  You tell him, in a few soft words, that it’s okay to let go; you’ll still be here on the other side.  And he changes.

Another cheer goes up from the stands – and from your side, where Nancy is already hopping forward to congratulate Scallion.  Scallion twists his head around, inspecting the leaves that have sprung out from his bulb and the softly pulsing pink flower bud that now rests on his back.  Apparently satisfied, he reaches out with his vines and picks Nancy up, tossing her in the air and catching her as she giggles with delight.  Brock joins you on your side of the field as you watch your Pokémon celebrate.
“Looks like I took you for granite!” he exclaims.  You stare at him wordlessly.  “That opening gambit with your Zorua was bold, but using Vine Whip to have your Pokémon lash itself to Onix’s horn… that was boulder!”  You decide, correctly, not to dignify that with a response. “…yeah, you’re right, those were awful, that’s on me.  But that’s not important.  Here.”  He holds out his hand, palm up.  “As proof of your victory, I confer upon you this: the official Pokémon League Boulder Badge!”

You take the badge from his hand, reverently, and hold it up to the light to study it.  It’s metal, with a shiny enamel coating.  Handmade, you think.  Gym badges are certifications of a trainer’s skill and achievement, but they’re also keepsakes from the leaders who confer them.  This badge contains your memories of your battle with Brock, and Brock’s memories of his battle with you, as well as all his knowledge of Rock Pokémon and their abilities.

Metaphorically, of course.  It’s not like it’s fµ¢£in’ magic or anything; imagine if you believed in ridiculous stuff like that instead of the cold, hard facts of Pokémon science.

The other guy – y’know, Violet or whatever – claps you on the back.
“I loosened it for ya,” he says with a smirk.  “Seriously though, congrats.”  Squirtle looks up at you and squawks cheerfully before toddling over to talk to Scallion, who excitedly extends a Vine Whip high five to him (him? Yeah you get kind of a “male” vibe from Squirtle; it takes you longer to pick up on that stuff from someone else’s Pokémon, but it’s there).  “Those were some pretty sweet moves.  Y’know, not as sweet as Squirtle and I pulled,” he pauses to wink at Squirtle, who smoothly turns to wink back and returns to his conversation with Scallion without any break, “but pretty sweet.  You’ll get to see some of that next time we battle.”

The bug catchers have come down from the stands as well.  Abner is too busy oohing and aahing at Scallion the Ivysaur to talk to you, but Stacey and Dane enthusiastically start recapping highlights of your battle, and Ellis gives you a placid smile and nod (which seems to be more or less the equivalent for him).  All four of them are supposed to be catching a train back to Viridian City later today – they’ve been away from home much longer than they were supposed to be already – but they have a few hours.  Stacey suggests you all go out for lunch to celebrate, and invites Violet as well.  First, though, you still have some business with Brock – you remind him about the “help” he said he needed.  Brock frowns, his face turning serious.

“You remember Professor Hazelwood and Professor Hammond-Spruce, right?  They spoke at the museum yesterday?”  You nod your agreement.  “Well, they’ve got a team of their grad students out at Mount Moon right now, fossil-hunting in the upper Devonian strata.  Things were going well until about five days ago.  The team leaders started calling in reports of thefts from the dig sites and people hearing strange noises behind their backs.  Yesterday they missed their scheduled check-in, and we’re starting to get worried.  As the gym leader and a personal friend of the Professors, I have a responsibility to do… something.”  He shrugs helplessly.  “But I can’t leave Pewter City right now; I can’t leave my brothers and sisters at home without our parents, the Indigo League wants me doing extra hours here until the Viridian Gym is back to a normal schedule, and the police have asked for my help investigating those poachers you rounded up in Viridian Forest. So, as you can imagine, I’m kind of stuck between a-” You quickly and firmly interrupt him, holding up one index finger and shaking your head to forestall the cliché.  It really seems like Brock is on some rocky ground here.  Maybe you shouldn’t be so tuff on him; schist happens, you know?

HAHAH; you can shut him up, but what are you gonna do about me, huh!?

Crestfallen, Brock continues: “I can head out for Mount Moon in a few days, but…” He trails off, his brow furrowed.  You get the impression he’d be leaving now if he could get out of those other commitments.  “I just need someone to touch base with the team and look into any problems they’ve been having.  And… well, a promising new trainer with an interest in science just falls into my lap.  I promise I’ll join you as soon as I can.”

You agree, obviously; I mean, I don’t even have to ask you about that, right?  Like, you’re being offered a quest; if there is even a snowball’s chance in hell of you refusing, then you are seriously not the dumb idealistic hero nerd I thought you were.

After assuring Brock that he has your support, you and your friends head out to celebrate your victory (and Violet’s as well, come to think of it).  Within half an hour, you’re sitting around a table laden with at least fifteen different flavours of dumplings, passing plates back and forth, waving chopsticks in all directions, laughing and trying to see whose Pokémon can catch a dumpling in its mouth from the furthest away.  You exchange e-mail addresses with the bug catchers and promise to stay in touch, and take the opportunity to talk out your next move.  You should probably head out tomorrow morning; you can’t dawdle, but Scallion and Jane Doe should have the night to properly recover from their battle.  Amethyst thinks the road out to Mount Moon should be doable in a day if you leave early, “even if you slack off like always,” and points out that there’s a basic Pokémon Centre in the foothills – not as cushy as the ones in the cities, but much better equipped than an ordinary rest house.  From there, it should take another day to follow the map Brock gave you to the dig site.  On the way, you should think about fitting in training routines, maybe try to catch a Pokémon, do your ecology nerd thing, the other usual stuff.  As you talk it over, you realise Amethyst has to be heading in the same direction, which makes sense; assuming he doesn’t want to wait around in Viridian City for the gym to reopen, the only sensible thing to do is strike out for Cerulean City, past Mount Moon to the east.  You could always suggest travelling together, even see if he’s willing to help with your Grand Quest – y’know, if you think you can stand his company for more than ten minutes.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXX: Remedial Sciences

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What would you like to do as you head out towards Mount Moon? [Choose up to two]

  • Catch a Pokémon
  • Study the environment and ecosystem

Ask the other guy to join you?

  • Sure, why not?

The other g- I mean… Indigo or… whatever his name is- look, are you gonna learn his name at some point? ‘cause if you’re not gonna, I’m not gonna, and at some point it might start to seem rude if you’re hanging out together.

Whatever.  The other guy was pretty quick to agree to come along with you – at least as far as Mount Moon.
“May as well; I’m going to Cerulean City anyway, and I guess you need all the help you can get.  Just don’t expect me to wait around if you want to stay at this dig site for a week!”
He sincerely doesn’t care whether he has a travelling companion or not, but you can tell he’s a little flattered that you asked him.  His Squirtle’s certainly happy to keep hanging out with Scallion; those two go way back.

You set off from the Pewter City Pokémon Centre at dawn, leave the city on foot and take the eastern trail that leads towards Mount Moon, the highest peak of the Celestial Mountains of north Kanto.  As you walk, you ask Indigo for his take on the Mount Moon situation – or at least, his take on what Brock told you.  He frowns.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about it.  Stuff goes missing in my grandpa’s lab all the time.  Doesn’t mean it’s stolen, it just means scientists are disorganised; they lose a lot of stuff.”  You remind him of the strange noises that the dig reported.  “Pffft.  Wild Pokémon.  They’re just being paranoid.”  He’s… not wrong about any of that, you have to admit, but you trust Brock’s judgement.  Besides, you want to check out this dig site.  Fossils are cool.  Anyway, you don’t need to worry about that for a while yet; you want to focus on making observations and taking notes as you move.

You’re on the leeward side of the mountains here – rain falls to the north and east of Mount Moon, around Cerulean City, leaving a dry rain shadow to the south and west that extends as far as Pewter City, where living things rely on isolated springs, streams and ponds for water.  The vegetation is mostly hardy tussock grass, thorny shrubs like barberry and a few Chesto, Pomeg and Cornn berry trees, with scatterings of the same conifers you saw back on route 22.  You assume a lot of the same wild Pokémon will live here too.  You quickly take note of the species this area has in common with the Tohjo foothills: Rattata, Spearow, Nidoran, Wurmple, Mankey, all behaving in mostly the same ways you’ve observed before.
“Bo-ring,” Indigo comments.  “Can we keep moving?  I want to get to that Pokémon Centre before dark.”
You roll your eyes.  This stuff is important – it’s what his grandfather does, has done for over 40 years.  The behaviours of these Pokémon and the relationships between them are all part of a fine, delicate balance between fundamental forces of nature that-
“Blah, blah, blah, I know, Gramps talks about this stuff all the time.  What do we do with it?  Who cares?”

I mean, he’s got a point.  But you’re just getting started.

Not all the berry trees have been claimed by troops of Mankey, as they were on route 22.  You can tell, because you don’t get pelted by thrown rocks when you pass them.  Instead, you hear a beautiful, melodious song that every kid in Kanto is taught to recognise and fear like the very fires of hell: Jigglypuff.  Those little pink puffballs are as adorable as they are deadly – not because they’ll attack you or anything, but because if they think you’re a threat, they’ll put you to sleep with their magical song.  In the middle of the wilderness.  For hours on end.  Sensibly, you pass these trees by.  You’re curious, but you’re not stupid, and you can guess well enough that the Jigglypuff claim berry trees as a source of food and use their song to ward off any potential predators.

When you spot some rustling in the long tussock grass, you have Scallion lash out with his Vine Whips and flush out an Ekans, which promptly flees up a hillside and into a pile of rocks.  Ekans mainly eat bird Pokémon eggs, but can actually fall prey to adult Spearow themselves if they’re outnumbered – discretion is the better part of valour for these Pokémon.  Seeing Ekans here, you wonder if there might be less aggressive bird Pokémon they could bully… and indeed, you can see Pidgey in the air as well as Spearow.  You never saw Pidgey on route 22, which is interesting – they normally flourish in more verdant areas, with more berries and other high-energy plant foods.  Rough terrain like this tends to be Spearow territory.  There must be some other niche here, some prey that they’re better at exploiting than the Spearow…
“Maybe it’s because they use wind attacks?”
Got him.  He’s interested, in spite of himself.
“If you’re looking for something Pidgey are better at than Spearow… well, Spearow don’t use wind moves like Gust.  Their wings aren’t big enough, ‘cause they’re optimised for manoeuvrability.  That’s basic.”
You wrinkle your nose at the “basic” comment, but he’s right; that makes sense.  You climb to the top of a ridge so you can sit and watch the surrounding area while you eat lunch with your Pokémon.  That’s when you remember that Indigo has a Pidgey.  You give it (…hiiiim?  It’s hard to tell with bird Pokémon… yeah, him) some dried Pecha berries as a treat, then send him out scouting with some instructions: talk to the Pidgey in this area, find out what they eat, bring some back if you can.  After a little coaching from Nancy the Negator, Pidgey coos in agreement, then flies off towards the next ridge.  While you sit and eat, you keep looking for clues to the presence of interesting Pokémon.  Several rocks up on the ridge bear deep scratches, and you can see an abandoned burrow – you’d guess it belonged to a Sandshrew that used to sharpen its claws on the rocks.  Once you know what you’re looking for, you can spot them from a distance; you just look for weird round stones that move.  Then, far off… you notice a patch of blackened, burned grass.  Weird.
“Hey, Pidgey’s back,” Indigo says.  His Pidgey lands in front of you, triumphantly depositing……a pinecone?


Scallion cautiously pokes the pinecone with a vine… and it blinks.  Actually, you know this – this is a Pineco, a Bug Pokémon with a tough pinecone-like shell that anchors itself to tree branches.  That… weirdly makes sense.  Wild Spearow might not spot Pineco in trees or be able to penetrate their defences, but a group of Pidgey could hit a tree with a big Gust and blow a whole lot of Pineco to the ground, where they’d be vulnerable.  You don’t think that’s the whole puzzle, but it’s a niche where Pidgey would outcompete Spearow.
“Well, it’s mine now,” Indigo says, rapping an empty Pokéball against the Pineco’s shell and sucking it in with a flash of light.  You stare at him blankly.  “What?  My Pokémon beat it, right?”  He scratches Pidgey under the chin and feeds it another berry.

After lunch, you pick up the pace – you want to reach that burnt area and figure out what the deal is.
“I guess this is kinda fun,” Indigo concedes.  “Figuring out why Pokémon live where they do and how they survive.  I mean, it’s still super nerdy, but… y’know.  And I got a new Pokémon out of it!”  His Squirtle, cheerfully jogging along beside him, squawks agreement.  Well, progress is progress.

When you reach the next valley, you find the swathe of burnt tussock and do the best you can to extract some information from the damage.  It was a pretty intense blaze that took out almost a whole field of tussock… and then suddenly stopped.  There’s a cluster of trees that are completely untouched by the fire, and the blackened grass ends in an abrupt straight line.  Some of the burnt plants are partly covered with heaps of dirt, like someone smothered the fire.  You pick your way around to the trees-
and are greeted by several angry Pidgey who rush out of the trees, tweeting angrily, and immediately knock you onto your butt with a powerful Gust.  Indigo and Squirtle burst out laughing, and Scallion helps you to your feet with his vines.  You back off slowly, as the Pidgey fly back to their roosts.  They must have nests in those trees.

Hang on.

In a sudden stroke of inspiration, you check the wind by licking a finger.  Nor’easterly, coming down off the mountain.  Right, that should be the prevailing wind in this part of Kanto.  But that should have driven the fire towards the trees… unless something changed the wind.  That must be it; the Pidgey pushed the fire back the way it came with Gust and put it out with Sand Attack.  They can occupy territory that Spearow can’t because they can protect their nests from wildfire.  Indigo frowns.
“But what starts the fire?”  You point out that this is a dry area with lots of potential kindling.  Fires can’t be a rare occurrence here.  But… they’d be unpredictable, and why would Pidgey only learn this technique in this area?

Suddenly, Scallion calls you over to the opposite edge of the burnt grass.  He’s found a spot where the sides converge to a point – and there are footprints in the dry soil, outlined in soot and ash.  This wasn’t a random fire; some kind of Fire-type predator started this blaze to flush out prey from the grass.  You high-five (or… high-vine) Scallion.  You’re gonna have to confirm this theory with further observations, but even if this was a one-off, it’s so cool – a flock of Pidgey working together to control a wildfire!
“Yeah… yeah, Gramps would love that, all right.”  He’s not saying he loves it.  But you’re pretty sure he does.

You need to hurry to get to where you need to be by day’s end, but you’ve identified a whole bunch of Pokémon that live in this area – and if you want to quickly track down and catch one, you could have your pick of just about any of them.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXI: Firestarter

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Try to remember the other guy’s name?

  • You already know his name; the Narrator’s being a jerk

Excuse you, I am a fµ¢£ing delight.  But whatever, if it’s that important to you I guess I’ll put in an effort.  What’d you say his name was?  “Blue”?  God that’s so fµ¢£ing dumb.  Blue is, like, at best a passable name for a small predatory dinosaur.  Kids got no damn business being named Blue.  Who gave him that, his dumb parents?  Probably named him that so he’d be, like, “calm” and “sensible” or some bull$#!t?  Ugh, no wonder he’s such a basket case.  We gotta see about changing it.

Yeah, yeah, whatever, I heard you, get off my ass already.

Which Pokémon do you try to catch?

  • Try to find the source of the fires [you might not catch anything]

Aren’t you supposed to be, like… doing… something?  Eh, whatever, not like it’s any of my business.  Scallion and your other Pokémon have a pretty vague and subjective concept of time, and Blue has no sense of responsibility or commitment.  Besides, you’ve made surprisingly good time this far, so if you want to spend a couple of hours clambering up and down dry dirt hillsides looking for an unknown Fire Pokémon, no one’s going to stop you.

You have a set of footprints, outlined in the ash of the burnt grass.  Unfortunately they’re not great quality; they’re smudged and incomplete.  You’re not sure you can make anything of this.
“Hmm…” Blue is stooped over, squinting at the footprints.  “Your Ivysaur can use Poisonpowder, right?”  Scallion nods and gives an affirmative grunt; you confirm that he can.  “Dust the ground around those prints,” Blue suggests, unclipping his Pidgey’s Pokéball from his belt.  “I wanna try something.”  You look at Scallion, shrug and point at the footprints, then stand back.  Blue lets his Pidgey out, then covers his face with the sleeve of his jacket.  Scallion fires a little purple pellet out of his bulb, which arcs towards the footprints and explodes in a spray of glittering dust.  “Pidgey – use Gust, but keep it light and the angle low.”  Pidgey coos and flaps his wings, blowing the Poisonpowder away… but leaving traces of it, glimmering violet in the afternoon sun, in the depressions of the footprints.  You look at Blue, surprised but impressed.  “What?” he says, almost defensively.  “If you want to catch Pokémon you can’t just sit and wait for them to come to you; you need to track them.”  The footprints still aren’t ideal, but you can see now that they were made by a triangular three-toed foot with long claws.  The Pokémon hasn’t actually left a trail you can follow, but you can keep looking for the same footprints as you keep moving towards Mount Moon.

It’s about another hour before you spot more prints like that first set, at the base of a little landslide of crumbling dirt where something recently scrabbled up the slope.  You can hear Pokémon cries from just over the crest of the hill, so you quiet Blue (who has been rambling about high-performance racecars for some reason) with a quick “shhh!”, then motion to him and Scallion to follow you up the hillside.  Up the rough, dry dirt, through the thorns and the sharp-edged tussock grass, over the top, and you see a bowl-shaped area between this ridge and the next.  And right there, just ten or fifteen metres away…

A Charmander – like the one Professor Oak offered you when you started your journey!  You knew they lived wild in Kanto, but there’s not much information about which areas they’re native to, mostly because they can be pretty hard to find and are often solitary.  It looks like it’s parked at the entrance to a Sandshrew den, smoke billowing from its tail as it tries to flush the occupant out.  You crouch down and take out your notebook, making a very quick pencil doodle of the Pokémon.  This is a cool little hunting technique – definitely worth including in your report to Profess-
“Hey!  Wanna try pick on someone your own level?”
You look up sharply and realise that Blue has already closed half the distance and is challenging the Charmander to a battle.  You roll your eyes – but, hey, at least you’ve already gotten a good look at it, and you have strong circumstantial evidence that a Charmander was responsible for the burnt area you found earlier, so you’ll have plenty to put in your next report.

What?  Oh, don’t look at me like that; it’s not like you had “dibs” or anything.

The Charmander faces Blue, squares up its stance and growls, acknowledging the challenge.  In an instant, his Squirtle appears at his side, still glowing from his Pokéball.  You and Scallion sit back and watch with an appraising eye as Squirtle bombards the Charmander with Water Gun, then pops back into his shell and zips around to the right, dodging a scatter of Ember shots before firing again from the side.  Blue’s commands are crisp and confident, and Squirtle’s responses are immediate; they’re actually pretty good at this.  Another Water Gun volley, and the Charmander staggers.  Quick as a whip, Blue has a Pokéball in his hand and is throwing it.  You find yourself holding your breath as the Pokéball rocks on the ground.  After several tense seconds, it clicks and the capture is confirmed.  You and Scallion, good sports that you are, go to congratulate Blue as he picks up the Pokéball, and you suggest that he let his new Pokémon out so you can all get to know each other.  He looks like he’s about to, but then stops, looks at the sky, and points out that the sun is setting.  You should be close to the Mount Moon Pokémon Centre now, so you agree to get moving and make introductions later.

Fortunately, you are, in fact, very close to the Pokémon Centre.  Mount Moon looms above in the background, stark and powerful against the night sky.  The excavation you’re supposed to be helping out is on the north slope, but according to your map you’ll have to traverse multiple cave systems to reach it.  As the Murkrow flies, it’s less than a third of the distance you’ve covered today, but the going will be much slower and you’ll be lucky to make it in a single day of climbing.  You resolve to get a good night’s sleep, head into the Pokémon Centre and check in, ready to settle down and polish some of today’s notes.  The lounge is pretty empty; there are a few hikers, but it seems like this isn’t a super popular route for Pokémon trainers.
“Hey.  Hey kid.  You wanna buy a Pokémon?”  You look, then right, then double take left to find a cheery little man with a white headband and a wispy moustache hovering just behind your shoulder.

Wait, did he say “buy a Pokémon”?  Can… can you do that, is that even a thing?  I mean, you can trade Pokémon, so… I guess you can… trade them for money?  Right?

“This here’s a Magikarp.” He gestures to a cinnabar-red fish Pokémon with long white whiskers, floating placidly in a wheeled water tank he is… somehow lugging around behind him.  “A really amazing Pokémon for a young trainer like you-” You quickly begin to tune him out.

“…money-making machine…”
You’ve been around the block a few times.  Well, no, that’s not true at all, but your general knowledge of Pokémon is in such a completely different league from this dumbass’s bull$#!t sales pitch that it’s not even funny.
“…five thousand Magikarp eggs…”
You know full well a Magikarp is next to useless.  You know equally well that a Magikarp will – eventually, with a lot of very patient training – evolve into Gyarados, one of the most powerful and dangerous Pokémon under the sun.
“…one word: caviar…”
But… you squint at the Magikarp in the tank.  Not for the first time, you wish you’d used some of your afternoons at Professor Oak’s lab to learn a bit more about Pokémon medicine.
“…twenty-five million Magikarp eggs…”
Its scales are kinda dull and its expression is a bit vacant, but you can’t see any evidence that it’s actually unhealthy or that it’s been treated poorly.  Sometimes Magikarp are just like that, you think?  You strongly doubt it’s anywhere close to evolution, though.
“…yours for only 500 Yen!”
Huh.  That brings you back down to earth.  500 Yen isn’t a lot, even for a kid.  Sure, it’s more than a Pokéball would cost to just go and catch a Magikarp yourself, but you can totally afford it.  If, uh… if you even want a Magikarp, which is something else I’d frankly like to have a word with you about.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXII: Fishy Business

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do?
– Question the Magikarp seller

You’re a little tempted to just pay the asking price and take the damn fish.  A Pokémon is a Pokémon, no matter how proverbially useless.  Besides, you kinda feel for the stupid thing.  Even if you decide later that you can’t be bothered training it until it evolves, you can probably find a better life for it than… whatever this carnival snake-oil setup is.

On the other hand, you’re curious now.  You still don’t see any direct evidence that this Magikarp has been mistreated and you doubt Blue (who is currently on the other side of the Pokémon Centre lounge, practising his trash talk against an annoyed-looking hiker) would have anything to add on that score.  But the idea of selling Pokémon has piqued your curiosity.  Is that even a thing?  Is it actually legal?  You voice these questions to the Magikarp salesman.

“Legal?  Legal?”  He laughs and puts one arm around your shoulder.  You gently but firmly shove it away.  “Kid, kid, kid, think about it – we trade Pokémon, don’t we?  No one thinks trading Pokémon should be illegal.  And selling Pokémon is just trading them for money!  Look at it this way, look at- think of it like this: if you were trading a really weak Pokémon for a really strong Pokémon, maybe you’d throw in some other stuff to sweeten the deal for the other trainer, right?  Like, I dunno, a bicycle or a fishing rod or something, or some money.”  He grins at you.  “So think of it as, like, I’m trading you a really strong Pokémon, and in exchange you’re trading me a Pokémon so weak it doesn’t even exist.”  He holds his hands at his temples with all his fingers together, then splays his hands out, miming his head exploding.  “Powwww!”

You realise that, significantly, he has yet to actually confirm that what he’s doing is legal – which means it probably isn’t.  You aren’t exactly sure what about his operation is illegal, of course, but just look at the guy; he’s hanging out in the most backwater Pokémon Centre in all of Kanto, miles of rough country away from the nearest police station, using vague promises of ludicrous future wealth to hawk Magikarp to teenagers.  If there aren’t any laws he’s breaking, someone should write one.

You ask him to tell you more about this Pokémon, just to keep him talking – for instance, how good is it at battling?
“Battle?  Battle?  I mean – kid, let me tell you, I could spin you all kinds of stories about battling with a Magikarp, but that would be selling it short.”  Well, he’s… not wrong.  “This one- you know, this one’s still inexperienced, so all it can use is Splash, but what else do you even need?  Hours of fun with that move; it can Splash all day and not get tired, and just wait ‘til you see the heights it can jump when it gets going.”  You can’t help but admire his craft, honestly.
But how many Magikarp does he have?  That’s what you’re wondering, with absolute and unquestionable sincerity.
“That’s the beauty of it, kid; like I was saying, one Magikarp can lay up to five thousand Magikarp eggs in its lifetime, so if you’ve got even one, you can hatch thousands more and sell ‘em on!  Just think of it!”
One.  He has one Magikarp, exactly.  Or, one with him, at least.  Look, I got a hunch about this one, okay kid?
So how did he get into the Magikarp business, anyway?  You’re just so curious, you tell him.  You have to know.  It’s burning you up inside that you don’t know his story!
Okay, maybe you don’t put it quite like that, but listen kid, you’re just not a good liar.  Fortunately, he smells a sale and isn’t paying attention.
“Well, it is a long and illustrious story, but the short answer is that I was contacted by a very exclusive group of Magikarp breeders because of my – well, I’ve had a long and high-flying career in sales, and for my experience and my unique ability to appraise the potential of a young trainer to fully appreciate Magikarp’s special qualities, to pick out those bright prodigies who are truly deserving of such a magnificent Pokémon…”

You start to tune him out again.  You’re genuinely curious about the mention of an “exclusive group of Magikarp breeders,” but you think he might get suspicious if you probe too deeply on that topic.  Unless he’s just making that up too.  You notice that Blue has gotten bored of winding up random Pokémon Centre guests and has sidled back over to you.  The Magikarp seller pauses when he sees Blue, but you gesture for him to keep talking.  He obliges, now repeating some of his previous pitch for Blue’s benefit.  You lean over to whisper in Blue’s ear: this guy is a sleazebag; you don’t want to leave the Magikarp with him.  But you’re in the middle of nowhere, so calling the cops isn’t really a viable plan.
“So what, you gonna buy it?” he whispers back.  You hesitate.  The Magikarp seller, to his credit, remains undeterred by the fact that you’re obviously only half-listening to him.  He keeps talking, actually increasing his volume so that other guests in the Pokémon Centre lounge can overhear.  Blue shoots you a mischievous look and a grin.  “If you want me to distract him for you, I think I have a pretty cool idea for you to, uh…”  he winks and subtly jerks his head in the direction of the Magikarp tank.  Wait, does he mean steal it?  That’s… uh…

look, kid, I know you’re a stickler for this stuff but the Magikarp guy is definitely a sleazebag and definitely wouldn’t go to the cops ‘cause he 100% has his own $#!t to hide

You can still let it go and just buy the Magikarp, obviously.  But it seems like if you want to “liberate” the Magikarp for your own team, Blue’s in your corner.  You can go with whatever he’s thinking, or maybe you think you already have a better idea.  Bear in mind that you need to keep the Magikarp seller in the dark about exactly how his fish went missing.  Unless you just, like… deck him and stuff his unconscious body in a broom cupboard or something, but you didn’t get that from me, okay?

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXIII: Unconventional Acquisition

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do?
– Follow Blue’s lead

Screw it, may as well ask what he has in mind.  You quietly gesture for Blue to continue.  He waits for the Magikarp seller to reach a crescendo of enthusiasm in describing the virtues of his “product” (his words, not mine, just to be clear).  Then, he presses something into your hand.  You glance down at it.  It’s… a plastic drinking straw?  From… the restaurant you had lunch at in Pewter City yesterday, you guess?  Has this just been in his pocket the whole time?  Why did he even keep this?
“Use that Pokémon you have,” Blue whispers to you under his breath.  “The one you used in the gym battle.”  Jane?  How-?  You look down at the straw again.  Oh.  You interrupt the Magikarp seller to cheerily ask him whether it would be all right for you to take a closer look at the merchandise.
“By all means!”  He waves a hand towards the tank.  “See for yourself how smooth and soft its scales are!” 
Blue clears his throat.  “So, uh, how exactly did you get into the Magikarp business, anyway?”
“Oh, my young friend, you shouldn’t be asking about my story, but about how you can get into the Magikarp business!  Let me explain…”

You approach the Magikarp tank, looking down at Scallion, who has been visibly bored out of his mind during your conversation.  You attempt to communicate your intent to him through a combination of head movements and eyebrow-jerks.  He looks back up at you quizzically and does one of those weird four-legged shrugs that he sometimes does.  As nonchalantly as you can, you let Jane Doe out of her Pokéball, under the pretence of showing her what a Magikarp looks like.  The fish Pokémon is lazily swimming in tight circles in the tank; it’s not really spacious enough to do anything else.  What is even the deal with this wheeled tank setup; if you can’t find a pond or something, wouldn’t a Pokéball be more comfortable?  You frown.  If this Magikarp doesn’t have a Pokéball, does that mean it’s not really his Pokémon?  No, you can’t assume that; there are several legitimate reasons a trainer might not use Pokéballs.  Only one thing to do.

You awkwardly reach in with both hands, gently take hold of the Magikarp and lift its face just out of the water.  It makes eye contact with you and makes a curious glubbing noise.  You jerk your head in the salesman’s direction and quietly attempt to communicate, in the simplest words you can – is he… okay?  Is this whole situation okay?  Most importantly, does the Magikarp want to get out of here?

Blue, who can see you over the salesman’s shoulder, gives you an incredulous look and loudly asks him another question about Magikarp.

You don’t have a lot of experience with fish Pokémon and they’re pretty hard to read.  Magikarp also aren’t particularly intelligent.  But you do have a knack for this, and the Magikarp is glubbing back in answer to your questions.  You’re getting… sort of a general lack of comprehension on the salesman or the whole tank “situation” – again, no strong negative feelings or hints of abuse, but no attachment either – but get out of here?  With you?  That one sparks… something.  You’re not sure Magikarp are capable of enthusiasm, but something close to it?

Eh, good enough.

Magikarp has joined the party!

Level: Magikarp
Type: Water
Nature: Lax
Gender: Female
Length: 77 cm
Weight: 9.2 kg
Moves: Splash
Ability: Swift Swim
Special Skills: None/Unknown?

You silently hand Jane Doe the plastic straw and jerk your thumb at the Magikarp in the tank.  Jane figures out your angle instantly, gives you a manic grin and hops up onto your shoulder.  With some help from Scallion’s vine whips, you lift the Magikarp slowly out of the tank.
“And, uh, what are the other benefits of a career in, uh… this- this field?” you hear Blue saying loudly.  “You know, work-life balance, job satisfaction, community, um…?”
“All those things and MORE, my young friend!”

With the Magikarp hoisted almost completely out of the water and hanging over the tank, you grab two of your Pokéballs.  One, you tap on the Magikarp’s forehead; with the other, you recall Scallion, using the sound of that ball’s activation to cover the first.  There is a splash, and the Magikarp salesman turns around to see… a Magikarp floating peacefully and vacantly in his tank.  You pat the Magikarp on the head, make a banal comment about the beautiful red colour of its scales, then give an exaggerated yawn and suggest to Blue that you head to the dorms for some sleep.

This is, for the record, a spectacular level of skulduggery over a Pokémon being offered to you for as little as 500 Yen.

The Magikarp salesman, disheartened, shadows you for several paces and makes a few more feeble efforts to reel you back in, but quickly realises that the wind has changed and that it would be incredibly creepy to actually follow you and Blue as you’re going to bed.  He wanders down towards the other end of the lounge to pester one of the hikers who has been studiously ignoring your entire conversation, while you unpack your sleeping bag and get ready for bed.

About two hours after lights-out, Jane nonchalantly trots into your dorm, dripping wet and still holding a plastic straw in her mouth, hops onto your bunk, pointedly shakes herself dry right next to you, then curls up at your side, clearly feeling extremely pleased with herself.

The next morning, there is no sign of the Magikarp salesman or his fish tank.  When you ask the friendly pink-haired nurse at the Pokémon Centre reception desk about him, she just seems puzzled and a little concerned.
“I was at the front desk all evening; I didn’t spend any time in the lounge, but I don’t remember anyone checking in with a Magikarp…”  You describe the huge fish tank, slightly incredulous that it might have escaped anyone’s notice; that just makes her look more worried, although she doesn’t say anything else.

Just what was that guy’s deal, anyway?  I mean, I’m not the crazy one here, right?  That whole thing was weird?

Good, I’m glad we cleared that up.

Blue shrugs.  “Sounds like it all worked out, then.  You worry too much.”  You’re not so sure about that, but you shrug and nod along anyway.  “So, do you wanna get going up this mountain?  I’m looking forward to seeing if there are any Pokémon worth catching.”

Mount Moon awaits – the colossal mass of white limestone that has always acted as a firm dividing line between Pewter City in the west and Cerulean City in the east.  Scientists and mystics alike have always been drawn here by the mountain’s pristine fossils, mysterious karstic caves and rumoured connections to celestial phenomena like meteor showers.  You should probably head for the palaeontologists’ dig site pretty directly – or at least, as directly as it’s even possible to go, considering the terrain you’ll be working with.  The fossil-rich limestone of Mount Moon is riddled with complicated cave systems with multiple entrances, only some of which have been properly charted, but these are also the quickest way around the mountain.  The maps Brock gave you indicate that you’ll need to take an old hiking trail a short distance up the south slope from the Pokémon Centre, cross to the east slope through one of the caves, climb a little further up the exterior of the mountain, then take another cave across to the north slope, before finally hiking up to the cave where the scientists are working.  It’ll be tough to get to your final destination before nightfall, and with your mission for Brock on your mind you’re anxious not to dawdle.  You’re kind of itching to study the local Pokémon, but you reason that there should be time for that later; you might be here for a while.  Still, you might as well try and sneak in some training on the way – you’re sure that’s what Blue will be doing.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXIV: At the Mountains of Moonness

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Who do you want to spend time with?
– Magikarp

You really need to hurry to reach your destination and get on with that… mission… thingy… or whatever.  I mean, not that I give a $#!t but it seemed important to you.  The going’s going to be much slower now that you’re climbing the mountain and trekking through caves.  Still, Mount Moon isn’t completely inhospitable.  Yeah, the cave floors are pretty uneven – lots of stalagmites and unexpected potholes – and gravel and dust keep falling on your head in a very unsettling way.  Your Pokédexes have GPS, but with so much rock over your heads they might as well be cardboard compasses.  On the other hand, you and Blue both have torches (plus the glowing tail flame of Blue’s new Charmander) and Brock’s map shows the layout of the caves on your direct route in fairly high detail.  There are even a couple of softly-glowing phosphor lanterns that must have been left by the dig team as waypoints.  You more than once trip over an unruly Geodude, but Scallion and Aura both have Grass attacks that can quickly send them packing; with Blue’s Squirtle on your flank, they’re no trouble at all.  There are also Zubat just… everywhere.  You love all Pokémon, Professor Oak groomed you to be a paragon young trainer and scientist, but if there were ever a Pokémon that could stretch your patience to breaking point, it’d be the one constantly trying to perch on your shoulder and give you a quick anaesthetic bite so it can suck your blood unnoticed while you walk onward through the dark caves.  Fortunately, Nancy the Negator isn’t having any of that bull$#!t.  On top of everything else, you have this uncanny sensation of being watched by something just outside your torchlight.  When you bring it up, the Pokémon just seem to think you’re being paranoid, but Blue bites his lip and mutters something about how it’s not paranoia if “they” really are out to get you.

There’s one thing weighing on your mind more than any of that, though: your new Pokémon.  Your new Pokémon?  The new Pokémon that is with you.  In spite of every instinct you possess screaming that that “salesman” was bad news, and his abrupt disappearance from the Pokémon Centre without any apparent effort to search for his missing Pokémon, and the Magikarp’s… if not enthusiastic consent to join you, at the very least casual indifference about staying, you can’t really shake the feeling that you might have made a serious error of judgement.  You’re not going to be happy about this until you’ve had a proper sit-down talk with this Magikarp, are you, kid?  Fair enough, I suppose.  This isn’t really the place to do it, though.  Magikarp – like most fish Pokémon – are perfectly capable of surviving out of water for a few hours; that’s how they’re able to battle.  It’s still pretty uncomfortable for them, though, especially if they haven’t been trained to move around on land yet.  You’d rather keep the Magikarp in the relative safety and security of her Pokéball until you can find somewhere for her to have a proper swim.

As luck would have it, though, just as you’re thinking this, you see sunlight and soon emerge from the first cave route onto the east slope of Mount Moon.  The area around you is much greener and more pleasant than most of what you’ve seen in the foothills – no big trees or anything, but a lovely sort of alpine meadow vibe, with deep green grass, a few bright flowers and a clear mountain stream.  As soon as you spot a place where the stream becomes a pool, you call for a rest stop and let all of your Pokémon out, encouraging Blue to do the same.

The Magikarp seems pretty grateful for a proper swim, even in a small rock pool like this one.  You get the sense that it might have been a while.  However… this isn’t unfamiliar to her either.  The Magikarp salesman had talked in suspiciously pyramid-scheme-like terms about the lucrative possibilities of buying a Magikarp in order to breed and sell more Magikarp, but you’re almost certain that this Magikarp wasn’t born and raised in a tank.  You try some yes-or-no questions and emotional prods to try and get more information.  At the end of the day, though… look, kid, I dunno what to tell you, but Magikarp are pretty dumb.  This one doesn’t clearly remember where she came from before being in that tank, doesn’t know where she was supposed to be going, or what (if anything) she was supposed to be doing, apparently has memories of other Magikarp, but no strong feelings about them, and barely understands what a trainer is.  On that last point, though, she seems surprisingly adamant that you are it.  You suppose she must have been expecting to be sold – well, not exactly; “buying” and “selling” are difficult concepts for any Pokémon, let alone a Magikarp; but expecting to be passed on to someone who would become her trainer.  In a moment of epiphany, you realise that part of the Magikarp’s attitude is simply her personality; it’s not only that she’s never had much mental stimulation or any opportunity to understand her own situation, she’s also… well, just naturally chill.  That’ll actually serve her pretty well if she eventually becomes a Gyarados, you think.  You pause after that thought.  Would she… like to evolve and become more powerful?  It’ll be rough; you’re not even sure how you train a Pokémon that can’t actually fight, other than just… having her around.  But you’re in, if she’s in.

For that, at least, you’re able to get something resembling a clear answer: yes.

Level: Novice
Moves: Splash

Do you want to give Magikarp a nickname?
– Take a name from the comment section

You suppose you’d better give this Magikarp a nickname if you’re going to be carting her around from now on.  You look out over the stunning vista of Mount Moon’s foothills, sloping gently back down towards the stately limestone buildings of Pewter City in the distance, as you turn your thoughts inward to come up with a good name.  This time, ideas bubble up from inside you, a chorus of chattering voices all throwing in their two cents.  After a little while, one of them rises up louder and clearer than the rest…


What the-?

No, you- you can’t-!  Just… no!  Absolutely fµ¢£ing not!

Look.  Kid.  I don’t know exactly what’s going on inside your demented, hormone-addled little teenage brain, but I refuse to believe that I have the highest standards and soundest judgement of all the voices in your head!  Get the hell outta here with that $#!t!  Come on, one of you has to have something better… “Lootbox69,” Bird Jesus Christ have mercy…


Hmm.  You know, it’s a touch offbeat, but there’s something lyrical about it.  The Magikarp herself, predictably enough, seems neither here nor there about it.

Your other Pokémon are advancing too, slowly but surely.  The incidental training from keeping all those goddamn Zubat off you seems to be helping a lot, but Jane in particular has internalised some kind of lesson from her part in your gym battle and has clearly drawn a lot of pride from her role in recruiting Kite for your team.  All four have new moves to work with, but Scallion and Nancy need a little bit of direction in deciding which powers to focus on.  There’s only so many different things a Pokémon can master, and a trainer’s job is to consider all the angles – not just power, but utility and synergy.  How do you see these moves being useful?

Level: Aspirant
Moves: Tackle, Stun Spore, Gust, Absorb

Jane Doe
Level: Aspirant
Moves: Fury Swipes, Leer, Pursuit, Torment

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXV: Lunacy

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What moves should Scallion focus on?
– Razor Leaf and Sleep Powder

What moves should Nancy keep?
– Thunder Wave and Helping Hand

Now that Scallion’s bigger and can’t lift his own weight on his Vine Whips, they’re not as useful; may as well go into Razor Leaf specialisation instead.  He’ll still have the vines, obviously; they just won’t be as versatile or effective without continual practice.  As for Sleep Powder, it’s not only great in battle, it’s so useful for pacifying wild Pokémon – or potentially even people, if you run into “Team Rocket” again – that you can hardly pass it up.  Nancy, on the other hand, you think should stick to what she’s already good at.  Thunder Wave is just a great disabling technique, and Helping Hand fits her cheerleader schtick too well to get rid of it.  The other moves she could learn instead might be useful, but you don’t think she really has the temperament for trickery to master them.

But that’s quite enough dawdling.  You tell Blue to recall his Pokémon so you can get moving – you need to pass through the next cave system and up onto the north slope so you can find the dig site.  Remember that?  Brock wanted you to… I dunno, fµ¢£in’ babysit some grad students or something?  The afternoon goes pretty much the same way as the morning.  There are slightly fewer Zubat as you head further up the mountain – further to fly to find prey at the mountain’s base, you suppose – and more Geodude, but nothing you haven’t learned how to handle very efficiently.  You make it through the second tunnel without incident and start climbing up towards Mount Moon’s peak as the sun dips low in the sky.  Even up here there are rudimentary trails – places where someone’s cut steps in the rock, or left beds of fine, even gravel to make life easier for climbers – and following those makes the going easy enough.  Late in the afternoon, you idly kick a stone down the side of the mountain as you chat with Blue about your plans for your Pokémon’s development, and as the stone clatters down the slope, you hear someone give a startled yell.
“Wh-who’s there!?” a man’s voice calls out nervously.  You shout back to identify yourself, and a young man and woman appear from behind a boulder, both wearing grubby, practical clothes covered in dust and sweat-soaked bandannas.  Well, they certainly look like palaeontology grad students on a dig.  You introduce yourself and Blue and ask whether they’re okay.  The woman frowns.
“Look, you shouldn’t be here, but… we do need help.  Are you alone up here?”  You confirm that you don’t have anyone else with you, but explain that you’re here to look for them.  You just get puzzled looks in return.
“Wait, Grant and June- that is, the- th-the Professors sent you?  But you’re just kids,
what are you supposed to-?”
“We’re Pokémon trainers, numb-nuts,” Blue says.  “Just let my friend give you a hand and you’ll be fine.”  Oh, that’s nice; you guess you’ve been promoted to “friend” now.  You explain that you aren’t working for the Professors exactly, but that Brock sent you on their behalf.  The woman relaxes slightly, but the man just looks confused.
“Who the hell is Brock?” he demands, but his friend puts a hand on his shoulder to calm him down.
“It’s fine, Mal; he’s the Pewter City Gym Leader.  He was at a couple of Grant’s seminars at the museum; spiky hair, kinda dark skin, he had that… that weird thing with his eyes?  If he sent them, they’re legit.”
“…oh.  Well.  Fine then,” he says sheepishly.
“I’m Ellie Saddler,” the woman says, gesturing to herself, then to her friend.  “This is Malcolm Ainscomb.”
“Mal,” he says with a weak smile.  “Sorry, I’m… a bit on edge.”
“We all are,” Ellie says, apologetically.  “Our camp site’s just around the corner; you should come and rest.”

The camp site is messy, but lively; you see four tents, a fire pit, a couple of folding tables strewn with rocks, hammers and chisels, a few crates.  Six of Hazelwood and Hammond-Spruce’s doctoral students are here, apparently, but one is busy in the conservation tent and the others are a little further up the slope, doing some survey work (they should be back soon, according to Ellie).  Ellie and Mal sit you down, offer you some water and sandwiches, and try to explain what’s been going on in the past week.
“It was just little things at first – a spare rock hammer, a brush, a protein bar from the snack box,” Ellie says.  “We thought it must be wild Pokémon, or even just that we’d misplaced things, or miscounted how many we started with.  But a few days ago, we tried to start up our magnetometer and realised someone had busted it open and yanked out the solenoid.  When we tried to make our scheduled check-in with Pewter City, our radio was broken and half the pieces were missing.”
“Someone’s stealing from us, and they’re doing it specifically to screw with us.”  You raise one eyebrow to ask for clarification.  “None of our fossil finds are missing,” Mal explains.  “They’re the most valuable things in the camp.  I mean, obviously we don’t exactly leave them lying around in the open, but the radio was in the guys’ tent on the night the parts were taken and none of us heard anything.”
“Eoin said something about a weird dream…”
“Yeah but he ate, like, a whole wedge of Numel cheddar that night.”
So they think someone – or something – is taking their stuff, and now the thefts have cut off their communications.  That explains why the Professors and Brock were concerned.  Why haven’t they investigated themselves, or just left to get help at the Pokémon Centre?
“Ellie and Tim are the only ones with Pokémon, and they’re- um-” Mal seems to lose his train of thought and glances at Ellie.
“What Mal means is that Tim and I aren’t that strong.  We trained our Pokémon to help with excavations, not for fighting.  If we head further away from the path we’re… not completely sure we can handle whatever we find.”
“But because none of the rest of us are trainers, we can’t go down the mountain without them.  And if they head down without us, we’ll be…” he gulps nervously.  “Alone up here with whatever’s been stealing from us.”
“So why don’t you all leave?” Blue asks languidly, rolling his eyes.
“Are you kidding?” Mal shoots back.  “We have six weeks in this dig season and we haven’t secured funding for next year yet!  Every day we lose here is a day we might never get back!”
“Of course, if more of our food goes missing, we might not have any choice…” Ellie reflects sadly.
“We could have asked the weirdo for help, I guess,” Mal says, jerking his head the direction of the mountain’s peak.  Ellie chuckles mirthlessly.
“Unless he’s the one taking everything.”  You ask who they’re talking about.  “This guy who hangs around up here at the top of Mount Moon,” Ellie explains.  “Private fossil collector or something, but he’s really into survival too, and some… esoteric stuff.  He’s been alone out here for…”  She waves her hand and blows air out the corner of her mouth.  “His name’s… Miguel, I think?”  Mal shrugs.
“He wanders into the camp and talks to Lexa sometimes.  Our conservator,” Mal nods towards one of the tents.  We always thought he was harmless, but now…”
“He’s weird.  Like, we’re all nerds, but he’s, like… a super nerd.”
“The Übernerd.”

Well, that’s one lead, you suppose.  Seems like this Miguel guy is on decent terms with at least one member of the team, so it’d be odd if he were sabotaging them, especially if he’s a fossil collector and none of their fossils have been taken.  He might know something, though, especially if he’s a keen survivalist.  Or you could take a closer look at the scene of the crime(s) and see if the culprit left any clues.
“Could still be wild Pokémon,” Blue points out.  “And, uh… I’m gonna be checking them out anyway, while you play detective or whatever.  You can come along if you’re already bored with this.”
“Wait, aren’t you here to help us?” Ellie asks incredulously.
“Uh, no.  This dweeb is here to help you; I’m here to train my Pokémon and chew bubblegum.  And I’m all-” he sticks his hand in his pocket and fishes out something wrapped in shiny blue paper.  “Oh, hey; I do have some left.”  He unwraps the gum, pops it in his mouth and starts chewing, a big $#!t-eating grin on his face.  “Smell ya later!”  He saunters off towards the nearest cave mouth. Blue’s an ass, but you grudgingly admit he has a point – even if the wild Pokémon aren’t directly responsible for anything that’s happened at the dig site, any disruptions in their behaviour might point you towards the real culprit.  So that’s a third possibility, you guess.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVI: Conservatively Speaking

You decide that Mal and Ellie’s comments about a “weirdo” who hangs out at the mountain’s peak are the best thing to follow up, so you head over to the tent where they said their fossil conservator, Lexa, is busy working.

You step into the tent.  Inside there are rows of low trestle tables covered in rocks, bones and stacks of wooden crates.  The whole place stinks of some kind of resin.
“I’ve finished cleaning the big femur from square 7B,” says a voice from the back of the tent, and a young woman in a modern-looking motorised wheelchair appears from behind some of the crates.  Her gaze is fixed on a clipboard held in a little gripper arm attached to one of the chair’s armrests, and she’s scribbling something with a ballpoint pen.  “The ribcage is going to take a little longer; it was probably a mistake to separate the-” she stops suddenly as she looks up from her notes and realises that you aren’t Ellie or Mal.  “Oh.  Hello.  What do you want?”
You surmise that this must be Lexa, the conservator, and introduce yourself.  She just wrinkles her nose and writes something else on her clipboard.
“Yes, obviously I am,” she says, not even acknowledging the introduction.  “What do you want?  I have a lot of work to do.”
Taken aback, you stammer out your purpose for being here and ask about the “super nerd.”
“Miguel?  Yes, he comes here sometimes to discuss his latest finds.  Occasionally I help him administer a stabilising treatment.  For someone without a formal science qualification, he has very some interesting ideas about niche diversification among Upper Carboniferous shellfish Pokémon.  I like him because he doesn’t waste my time.”  Lexa pointedly looks back down at her notes and starts writing again.
You cautiously voice the possibility that he might be the thief that has been plaguing the team, and she looks up sharply.
“Unlikely.  Not because I trust him – he almost certainly has a criminal record – but he would have stolen fossils, not tools.  Although… I suppose I can’t completely rule it out.”  When you ask where to find him, Lexa taps her pen a few times against her lips, thinking.  “He moves his camp around because he thinks someone is tracking him, but I think he’s stayed put for the last two weeks.  Keep to the path up towards the peak, as far as the ledge with a big rock that looks like a Rhyhorn.  Turn left, go past the first cave entrance and find the second.  Maybe use that Ivysaur of yours to cut through some of the bushes,” she nods at Scallion, who grunts cheerfully in acknowledgement.  “Oh, and shout the word ‘foraminifera’ before you go inside.”  At your confused look, she clarifies: “Password.  I would say that he’s being paranoid, but considering our own team’s present situation, perhaps a little paranoia is called for.”
You attempt to continue the conversation, asking for any information Lexa might have about local Pokémon or anything else that could be going on at Mount Moon, but she interrupts you.
“I’m a conservator.  I clean, stabilise and preserve fossils.  That is what I do.  You’re a Pokémon trainer, you said?  Go and… train Pokémon.  Find Miguel, explore the area as much as you can before dark, set your Pokémon to guard the camp overnight.  Investigate.  Do Pokémon trainer things at this problem until it stops being a problem.”  Lexa backs her wheelchair up and gently picks up a fossil from one of the work benches.  “I am going to do conservator things at this fossil until it stops being a problem.  I suggest we each stick to our respective lanes.”  She takes a pencil and starts lightly marking lines on the fossil.  After a few seconds, looking up and seeing that you’re still standing there, she flips the pencil around and points at the tent flap.  “Out.”

If nothing else, Lexa’s directions are clear.  The same old hiking trail that got you this far leads all the way to the top of Mount Moon – of course, at this point it’s little more than a dirt track winding through narrow gaps in the thorn bushes, with no markers to speak of, but there’s pretty much exactly one direction that could be described as “the path.”  You’re worried at first that you won’t spot the “big rock that looks like a Rhyhorn,” but honestly the resemblance is uncanny – you even get Scallion to poke it with his vines a few times, to make sure it’s not a real Rhyhorn that’s just sleeping.  You’re still not totally sure; like many Rock Pokémon, older ones can sleep so deep and so long that lichen starts to grow all over them.  When you leave the path to head down an overgrown gully and get Scallion to start carving up the aggressive local foliage with his new Razor Leaf attack, even in the fading sunset light it’s not hard to spot the first cave entrance that Lexa mentioned.  A few Zubat are already starting to flit out of their cave roosts and search for prey, but they give you a wide berth – at least for now.  The trouble comes when you see the second cave mouth and attempt to shout the ‘password’ Lexa gave you.

Was it… foramera?  Fomifera?  Fora… for a mint enema?

Come on, kid, it’s a science word, you’re supposed to be the nerd here!

As you clumsily try to get the pronunciation right, thick brown smoke starts pouring out of the cave mouth.  You start to back away, up towards the path, but the smoke is rising surprisingly fast and it’s not long before you have trouble seeing the uneven ground to keep your footing.  Well, this is certainly a charming welcome.  You’re trying to decide whether to just press through the smog or retreat and come back tomorrow, when you suddenly hear a voice cry out from somewhere up above you –

“Voltorb!  Selfdestruct!”

oh fµ¢£

An instant later, a deafening explosion knocks you off your feet.

Your ears still ringing, you pick yourself up off the now soot-blackened limestone and try to look around.  The smog has risen further and is stinging your eyes and throat, and you see that Scallion is down, so you quickly recall him to his Pokéball.  You can’t see the culprit, but you heard the attack command and you know how Selfdestruct works, so at least you can be confident that the enemy Voltorb is going to be feeling that one in the morning.  You need to fight back – fast.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVII: Lunacy Intensifies

Which Pokémon do you turn to?
– Aura, the Beautifly

You need to do something about this smog before it chokes you – and hey, you’re a smart kid, you know exactly how to deal with that.  You have a Flying Pokémon; time to use her.  Aura appears from her Pokéball in a flash of light, and without even a word from you, she begins to flap her wings, using Gust to blow the clouds of choking, toxic smoke back into the cave it spewed out of.

Two things now happen at once.  First, with the smog gone, your vision is now clear and you can see a squelching, purple goo-like Pokémon that you recognise as a Grimer, clearly trying to sneak up behind you using the heavy brown clouds as cover and just as clearly alarmed that it has now been exposed.  Second, you hear a startled yelp from the ledge up above you, where the first enemy commands came from.

“No, no, no, my equipment!  That gas is corrosive, you fool!”
You have just a moment to feel rather offended by that remark.  This guy just tried to gas you!  Who gives a flying Feebas about his equipment?  You realise that the Grimer is taken aback as well; you can sense that it was expecting new orders and is unsure what to do now that its master seems preoccupied.  You have a few seconds to capitalise on that confusion.

No time like the present, right?  You have Aura swoop around behind the Grimer and fire off a focused Gust that dislodges its sticky “foot” from the hillside and sends it bowling further down towards the cave mouth.  Before it can regain its balance, you tell her to blanket it with Stun Spore.  The Grimer quivers as the golden powder takes hold, then slumps.  Part of you wants to immediately stop and take a quick sketch or some notes on how its slimy body is behaving – do Grimer have “muscles,” and what do the paralysing spores do to them?  What is the actual mechanism of the effect this attack produces on a Pokémon with an amorphous body of sludge?  You wonder some weird things for a kid in the middle of a Pokémon battle, I gotta tell you.  But you also realise that you need to bring this fight to a close.  You tell Aura to fly up to the ledge and ready – but not release – another wave of Stun Spores.  It’s kind of a bluff; you wouldn’t actually hit a defenceless person with a dangerous toxic powder like Stun Spore (…even one who just had his own Pokémon try to Smog you unprovoked).  But he doesn’t know that.

“AHH!  I-I-I-I-I I surrender!”  You see a young man with long black hair step up to the edge of the rocks above you, his hands in the air.  He calls down towards the cave mouth.  “Koffing, stand down and come out!”  A third Pokémon, with a purple sphere-shaped body covered in little vents, floats slowly out of the cave and hovers next to the Grimer.  “What do you want?  I-I won’t turn over my fossils to anyone; y-y-you’ll have to kill me!”  Bird Jesus Christ, what is with this guy?  You tell him – a little impatience coming through in your voice – that you just want to talk.  Y’know, like you could have done in the first place if he hadn’t tried to gas you and blow you up.  You don’t say that part, I guess because you’re a diplomatic little nerd, but you should.

You give your attacker – who, you’re now pretty sure, must be Miguel the “super nerd” – a few minutes to climb down to your position.  For a moment you reach for Scallion’s Pokéball, thinking to help him down with Scallion’s vines, but then you remember that Scallion is unconscious because this little $#!t blew him up, and you’re just annoyed all over again.  A little snappishly, you demand an explanation.
“The password!  That password was for Lexa’s use only, and she would certainly have no reason to share it with someone who couldn’t pronounce palaeontological terms correctly!”  Um, okay, that pronunciation snobbery is some weirdly elitist $#!t coming from a guy who lives in a cave with a sludge monster, a broken fog machine and a talking Pokéball.  Apparently he’s paranoid and a gatekeeping jerk, but you restrain yourself from giving him an earful.  He explains that his Voltorb’s potent electromagnetic senses had detected your approach well before you came within earshot of the cave, and he’d set up the ambush “just in case.”  Miguel was already assuming the worst when you flubbed the password and he – perfectly reasonably, in his own twisted mind – deduced that you must have coerced or deceived Lexa in order to get close to him and steal his fossils.  You patiently try to explain what you’ve been doing the past couple of hours, and-

Hang on.  Why would he think someone was after his fossils?

Miguel looks around shiftily, then whips out a spyglass from the pocket of his long coat and quickly scopes out several positions both up and down the mountainside.
“The Enemy is watching,” he says through gritted teeth.  He is silent for several seconds, continuing to look around nervously, then suddenly seems to come to a decision and ushers you towards his cave.  Without recalling Aura, you cautiously proceed.

Miguel’s cave doesn’t look like the hideout of a raving lunatic – there’s a neatly made stretcher bed over by one wall, and a low folding table by the other, strewn with fossils at various stages of cleaning just like the ones you saw in Lexa’s tent, including two particularly complete and impressive-looking shellfish Pokémon specimens.  You notice that this cave has an entry into the subterranean warrens within the mountain, but it’s far too small to be passable for humans.  Miguel has hung a glowing phosphor lantern at the tunnel entrance, presumably to deter Zubat from entering or leaving through his camp.  There’s also a pretty embroidered cloth laid out on the stone floor next to the lantern, with some berries neatly arranged in rows.  Next to the fossil table is a messy pile of electronics, including what looks like an old and somewhat cannibalised radio, and it is this that Miguel directs your attention to.
“They’ve been closing in on me for weeks; ever since yesterday afternoon the chatter has been constant.”  He pulls a tattered notebook from his coat pocket and flips it open, revealing pages of indecipherable scribbles and ink splatter.  “I’ve cracked about half of the Enemy’s code words and they are definitely here to steal my fossils and return them to their dastardly masters.”

So, on the one hand, this guy is a loon.  Also, he has a working radio that has clearly been hacked together from several mismatched parts, which immediately makes him a suspect for having stolen those parts – and maybe other things – from the dig team.  On the other hand, he’s really preoccupied with his fossils, and you know that no fossils are missing from the excavation camp.  You ask, trying to be tactful, whether he’s informed Lexa or her friends about any of this.

“Informed her?  I can’t possibly leave my camp in a situation like this!  We could be surrounded right now…”  Miguel’s gaze involuntarily darts to the mouth of the cave.  The sun has now well and truly set, and darkness is closing in.  “And you’ve knocked out my Voltorb and Grimer!  We’re practically defenceless!”  You bite your tongue to keep yourself from spitting out a vindictive retort.  “I tried to raise Lexa’s crew on the radio, but there was no response, and I didn’t dare try again in case the Enemy was listening.  I suspect sabotage.”  You don’t sense that he’s lying about that.  He sincerely doesn’t know why Ellie and Mal didn’t respond to his transmission.  If you’re any good at reading people (which… apparently you are, I guess???), that diminishes him as a suspect… and brings the possibility of a mysterious “Enemy” back into clearer focus.  “Anyway, now that you’re here, you can go back and warn them yourself.”  He turns his back to you and begins fiddling with the radio dials.  The conversation is apparently over.

The night, however, has only just begun.  Heading back down the mountainside in the dark would be dangerous, even along the fairly straightforward route you just took, although under the circumstances you think it might be worth the risk.  The alternative is to spend the night here with Miguel – it’s not like he’s in any position to kick you out, especially if you offer to defend him from “the Enemy.”  You suppose you could compromise – write a note explaining your new intel (…such as it is), give it to Aura and have her fly back down to the camp alone.  You doubt there are any wild Pokémon out here that would pose a serious threat to her if she doesn’t go looking for trouble, but with Scallion down already you’re a little nervous about cutting your own team any further.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVIII: Chatterbox

What do you do for the night?
– Stay with Miguel

You decide, on balance, that the risks of descending the mountain at night, or even just sending Aura, are probably not worth the benefits of warning Ellie and Mal about your new intel – such as it is.  You’re still maybe 50/50 that Miguel is just a paranoid lunatic who’s picked up some unusual static on the radio and interpreted it as an “enemy” code, and you kind of want to keep your eye on him, just in case he is somehow responsible for the strange thefts at the camp.  Besides, you think Blue will probably be back with the palaeontologists by now.  Personally I think you’re overrating Blue’s sense of duty there, but I suppose it’s possible he’s decided to mooch off their supplies in exchange for providing some kind of half-hearted protection.

Miguel is still playing with his radio, scanning back and forth through different frequencies.  Unfortunately, you don’t have the technical skill to figure out whether it was, in fact, built using parts stolen from the dig team’s radio, but it’s definitely a… unique construction.  At the moment, all he’s getting is noisy static and the occasional snatch of virulent talkback racism from Cerulean FM.  You wonder if there are any Pokémon that can pick up radio signals, and resolve to catch one someday.

You interrupt Miguel to inform him that you’ll be staying the night here, and he just mumbles something vaguely positive-sounding and gestures to an open area of the cave floor where you can lay out your sleeping bag.  Now that he’s concluded that you aren’t going to either steal his fossils or murder him, it seems like you’re kinda off his radar.  You sit down, unpack some of your things and let your Pokémon out of their balls – except for Kite, since there’s no water here.  Aura takes one look around the cramped and somewhat musty cave, then zips straight back into her Pokéball, while Jane wanders over to the back of the cave and starts poking around the narrow tunnel entrance.  Scallion is now conscious, and Nancy stays at your side to help as you try to take a closer look at his injuries from the earlier Selfdestruct blast.  The light is bad in here (when you ask Miguel if he has any more lanterns to set up, aside from the one at the back of the cave, he screeches something incoherent about blackout conditions and being visible to “the Enemy”) and, not for the first time, you curse yourself for not developing more medical skills in your time with Professor Oak.  Still, you have Potions and some basic first aid supplies.  Scallion won’t be at 100% until he can get a proper rest at a Pokémon Centre, which could be days for all you know, but by morning he should have recovered enough to walk with you, and he’ll be able to fight if it’s absolutely necessary.

Miguel clearly isn’t going to sleep any time soon, but it’s dark and you’ve had a long day.  You tuck your sleeping bag into a smooth, shallow hollow in the rock floor, lay a spare blanket underneath for padding, and go to sleep with one arm around Scallion and Nancy curled up at your feet.

You are woken abruptly, very early in the blue light of morning, by a loud burst of static from the radio followed by a triumphant whoop from Miguel.  You blearily get to your feet, stumble over to him and ask what’s going on.
“Shhhhhhhh-shh-shh!  Listen!” Miguel hisses, producing a pen and notebook from inside his coat.  Has he been at this all night?  There’s a smell of ozone in the air and his hair is standing in crazy spikes.  You notice that his Voltorb – apparently much better recovered from its brush with self-inflicted oblivion than Scallion – is sitting placidly at his side, and you wonder whether he’s been “juicing” himself with electricity to stay awake.
“—–cannot confirm————” the radio says, through static.  You think it’s a woman speaking, but it’s difficult to tell.  “———-moon rocks have been——————–rock band don’t suspect————————free agents———————negotiations.  Over.”  Miguel is still fiddling with the dials, trying to get the right frequency.
“Copy that, Sun——————————–.”  A different voice now, but also female.  “——–commence neg—————–converge and secure—————–direct to High Roller——-.” Suddenly, the static clears up and you catch what seems to be the end of the transmission loud and clear.  “By the way, still encountering interference from unknown gremlins; advise caution.  Over.”
“Acknowledged, Moonraker.  Over and out.”
“See!  See!” Miguel flips through his notebook, tapping at the spider-scrawl within.  “They’re speaking in code – ‘moon rocks’ are fossils, ‘Moonraker’ and ‘Sunbaker’ are their code names, ‘rock band’ is me and my Pokémon, ‘High Roller’ is some kind of leader and ‘negotiations’ are a planned strike against this location, which means we have to move, now!”  His confidence seems a little misplaced, but you have to admit there was a certain military tone about the transmission that makes you uneasy.  You ask about the “gremlins,” the only part you heard clearly.  “Unidentified third party that’s been harassing them, stealing food, et cetera, not important,” Miguel says impatiently.  He starts wrapping up his fossils in several layers of tissue paper and stuffing them into a burlap sack.  “I scouted a new location for my camp yesterday morning; we can get there in under an hour if we shimmy down the cliff face and cut through the tunnels.”  You are about to start explaining that you have absolutely no intention of shimmying down anything, when you remember that Jane Doe is still out of her Pokéball.  Where is she?

You hear an excited yip from the back of the cave, and see Jane’s head poking out of the narrow tunnel.  She must be small enough to slip through.  You’re certainly not, though.  You take another look around.  The phosphor lantern that you assumed Miguel had hung up to deter Zubat from leaving the tunnels through his cave is still there; Miguel is frantically packing up his other belongings, but has made no move to grab the lantern, or the strange embroidered cloth on the floor.  You do a double take – didn’t the cloth have some berries sitting on it when you went to sleep?  Maybe Jane ate them.  Jane yips again, a note of impatience in her voice.  You explain that you obviously can’t follow her that way, which she seems to understand but isn’t happy about.  Finding another entrance to the tunnel would be time consuming, and you definitely need to head back to your own camp to regroup, but it seems like Jane thinks she’s onto something pretty important.

Meanwhile, Miguel – who is efficient, if nothing else – has completely dismantled his radio, crammed the pieces and all the rest of his worldly belongings into his burlap sack and a hiking pack, and is almost ready to move out.  You’re not sure you’ll be able to find his new cave if he leaves, so if you want him to stick around, now’s the time to say something.  On the other hand, he’s an annoying piece of $#!t, so there’s that to consider.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXIX: Down the Rabbit Hole

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Where do you want to go?
– Follow Jane’s lead

What about Miguel?
– Persuade him to join you

There’s really no question here – even after hearing the transmissions he picked up, you’re not convinced that Miguel’s rambling about “the Enemy” represent an urgent threat.  It’s just a bunch of code words and static; you have no reason to think it’s connected to the mysteries you’re here to investigate.  Jane… well, you don’t know what she’s found, but she clearly thinks it’s worth investigating, and as a Pokémon trainer you feel like you have to trust your Pokémon’s instincts.  Besides, the palaeontologists probably have Blue and Squirtle with them.  They can handle anything that comes up, right?

…you promise yourself you’ll be quick.

Miguel is clearly itching to get moving.  You tell him to hold up and take a look at the back tunnel with you.
“What!?!?  Didn’t you hear a word I said!?  The Enemy will be here any minute; we have to move!”  This… is going to take some finesse.
You remind Miguel that you’re only here and involved in any of this because you’re trying to help the dig crew, who have had their equipment and supplies stolen.  For all any of you know, Miguel’s “Enemy” might be behind it and could be targeting them too, so you need to work together (you also haven’t ruled out the possibility that Miguel is behind the thefts, and want to keep him where you can see him, but you don’t say that part out loud; you’re not a moron).  Besides, you can help him if he’s attacked.  You admit you’re not sure what Jane has found, but you’re sure she’s onto something.
Miguel’s face contorts as he makes a series of strangled groaning noises, torn between following his original plan and sticking with you.  “Gnnnnnyyyyyrrrrrrhhhhggggghhh—???  Argh!  No!  I have to get to my safehouse, where I’ll be safe!”  By ‘safehouse’ you assume he means his next dark, damp cave hidden somewhere on this Helix-forsaken mountain.  “Gahh- but- ack, look!  The nearest human-sized entrance to that cave system is on the way to my next base camp.  I’ll show you where it is, I’ll help you get there!  But that is it, little friendo.  I’m not sticking my neck out for you!”
Well, it’s better than nothing.  Without help or directions, and with your limited wilderness skills, it could take hours to find the cave entrance you need.  You make one more effort: maybe he won’t take any risks for you, but Lexa’s his friend, isn’t she?  Sort of?  A little bit?
Miguel grumbles something incoherent, then throws his hands in the air.  “Fine!  Whatever!  But I’m not coming with you; I have to at least try to follow some semblance of basic op-sec!  Once my new position is secure, if I can move undetected, and if I can observe the tactical situation and develop an action plan, then maybe I’ll try to join you at their camp.  And frankly Lexa had better appreciate this!”

Miguel has already packed almost everything away, but that one lantern is still hanging next to the tiny tunnel at the back of the cave, and he hasn’t picked up the little square of embroidered cloth sitting on the cave floor either.
“It was here when I moved in,” he says distractedly when you ask him about it.  You’re about to press the subject when he hauls his massive hiking backpack onto his back, stuffed with all his worldly goods, and declares: “Right – move out!”
Jokingly, you ask whether he’s packed his tinfoil hat.  He suddenly becomes incredibly grave and explains to you, in a low voice, that tinfoil actually focuses the thought-control waves.  How do you think tinfoil hats ever became a stereotype?  It’s because They want you to wear them.  Think, kid!

To be clear, that’s me paraphrasing, not agreeing; this guy is a fµ¢£ing nutcase.

True to his word, Miguel leads you along a hidden, twisting path through the dense, thorny mountain vegetation, under a spur of rock jutting out of the hillside, and finally stops at a deep, ominous-looking fissure in the stone.  Jane yips excitedly when you peer down into the darkness.  Apparently she can smell whatever it is she found down that other tunnel.
“It opens up as you get further down,” Miguel says, pointing.  “Pretty tricky for an adult, but…” he looks you up and down, framing you with his hands to try to get an impression of your scale.  “How old are you, anyway?”  You start to answer, but he cuts you off.  “Whatever, whatever; you’ll be fine.  You have rope, right?”  You do not have rope.  Again, Miguel cuts you off when you start to reply.  “Arrgghh!  Here, take this rope; tie it to a rock so you can climb back out and don’t die in a cave like a moron.  But don’t you dare tell anyone I gave you this, or they’ll all want one.  Adiós!”  Before you can say goodbye, Miguel takes a flying leap down the hillside, crashes into a thicket and vanishes instantly into the brush.

Well, he… happened.

You use Miguel’s rope to anchor yourself to a big boulder near the entrance to the fissure and clamber down into the darkness.  Jane, smaller and faster, hops down from one ledge to the next, barking impatiently as you squirm downward with your feet and back braced against the rock faces.  It takes a good 15 minutes, wiggling bit by bit, to descend a few metres to where the cave opens up and you can stand and walk.

It’s darker than the inside of a Muk’s butthole in here.  Your Pokédex has a torchlight; it’s not made for spelunking but you suppose it’ll keep you from tripping over a stalagmite and killing yourself.  Why the hell did you let Blue catch that wild Charmander, anyway?  Wouldn’t some fire have been nice, right about now?  It’s all right for Jane, she can see in the dark… I assume.  What would even be the point of being a Dark-type if you couldn’t see in the dark?  She’s been running ahead, yapping impatiently for you to follow, but just as you start to worry about finding your way back out again, Jane suddenly goes completely silent.  You feel her brush against your leg, then hop up onto your shoulder, where she quietly mews in your ear.  You suppose you’re meant to stop and pay attention – and be quiet.  Waving your Pokédex’s light around, you just see rocks, cave slime, dripping water… yeah, just rocks.

…just rocks.

You haven’t seen any Pokémon here.  Every other cave on this mountain is infested with Zubat, and most of them with a range of other cave Pokémon like Geodude and Paras.  Where are they?

You think you hear… giggling?  Somewhere up ahead?

Oh.  Oh, right, okay; I see where this is going.  Um.  Kid, you should turn around and leave.  Like, now.  Right now; just recall Jane and turn around and climb back out of here. You’ve already done plenty to satisfy her curiosity.  You have $#!t to do anyway, and frankly I can’t imagine this ending well.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XL: Fey Realms

You’re not going to pay any attention to the warnings, are you?

  • lol, no; follow Jane’s lead and keep going, quietly

yeah I figured, Larry said the same thing just before The Tangela Incident.  God, he was a piece of $#!t (rest in peace, man).

Opting for a stealthy approach, you turn off the light on your Pokédex and put your trust in Jane’s impeccable night vision.  Reaching down to touch her shoulder with one hand so she can lead you, you creep slowly forward, hearing the giggling grow incrementally louder.  You think you can see a pinkish light source around another couple of bends.  With any luck, you can peek around a corner and get a look at whoever – whatever – is hiding here without revealing your own presence.  These caves are full of weird rock formations formed by the slow dripping of water and accretion of limestone; with Jane’s help, you move from one to the next as the light slowly gets better and you find yourself able to see properly.  Finally, you crouch behind a big stalagmite right next to a bend in the tunnel, the strange pink light around the corner now almost as bright as torchlight.  You slowly crane your head around the bend, and see… just a floating ball of soft pink light, hovering in a dead end.  Puzzled, you stand and walk up to the light.  There’s no heat coming off it, it’s just… light.  Reminds you of the light that Pokémon glow with when they evolve, or when they channel energy for some of their more powerful techniques.  You vaguely recall that some Psychic, Ghost and Fairy Pokémon can create spiritual light sources, a minor application of their abilities that doesn’t even rise to the level of a real battle technique like Flash.

And then you hear, somewhere behind you-


well fµ¢£

You spin around to see three rotund little pink Pokémon with curly fur, pointed brown ears and big poufy tails, all standing on two legs, rhythmically waving their arms back and forth as a blue glow builds around their fingers.  You have only a couple of seconds to register intense excitement that these must be the legendarily shy and reclusive Fairy Pokémon, Clefairy, and that you must be watching their fabled Metronome technique, then another second to realise that this is probably an extremely bad thing, before the three Clefairy squeak triumphantly and snap their fingers in unison.  To their own apparent surprise, their stubby little pink arms stretch out like melted cheese.  With a sudden elastic spring, they reach out and wrap their creepy cheese-arms around you and Jane, once, twice, three times, pinning your arms to your sides and trussing up Jane’s legs.  You’re uninjured, but can’t reach your Pokéballs to call another Pokémon.  Jane glares at the hostile Pokémon, her Leer stinging them with the sheer force of her indignation, but although two of the Clefairy flinch back, they don’t loosen their grip enough for her to wriggle away.  You angrily stretch out your fingers towards your belt to try and touch or dislodge a Pokéball, but the tentacle-arms just constrict you even more tightly, enough that it starts to hurt, and you admit defeat.  The Clefairy, apparently unsure what to do with you now, start talking to each other.  You glance at Jane, hoping for some interpretive help, but she just seems to be sulking about being taken by surprise and captured so easily.  The Clefairy seem to come to a decision, and begin gradually stepping backwards in unison, leading you along with their rubber-arms still wrapped tightly around you.  You comply and follow them.  Clefairy are… enigmatic, but you’re not aware of any evidence that they’re carnivorous, or anything else that would suggest they’re likely to have nefarious intentions here.  You’re sure you can talk them down, or… something.

I mean, I don’t want to say “I told you so” or anything, buuuuuut…

Your captors take you down a different tunnel, one that you hadn’t even noticed before in the gloom, but is clearly visible in the halo of pink light following you.  After a couple of twists, you start to hear the distant giggling sounds again, which you now recognise as the high, lilting voices of more Clefairy.  You soon emerge into a large chamber, lit by several more glowing light balls.  There are… you blink a few times, looking around.  There are at least a dozen more Clefairy here, mostly playing with a range of different items.  Scattered around the cave, you can see tools, bits of broken machinery, stacks of berries that must be supplies, a pile of rubbish, sheets of metal, scraps of tarpaulin and black cloth… your eyes snap back to the broken machinery.  A coil of copper wire, some speakers, a circuit board, a bent antenna… you realise that the rubbish next to the berries is a stack of wrappers from some kind of protein bar.  These Pokémon have been stealing from the dig site!  And they- wait, no, that makes no fµ¢£ing sense.  Why would Pokémon dismantle a radio?  Think this $#!t through before you think it, kid.  Another four Clefairy have walked up to you and are talking to the three holding you captive.  One is wearing a little bandana made of a strip of black cloth – you can’t help but start hypothesising about whether it might be a status symbol or even a mark of rank, or maybe just something that they thought looked nice.  The Clefairy with the bandana steps up to you and starts patting you down, searching your pockets.  You protest and try to ask what’s going on and why you’ve been captured – Clefairy are supposed to be highly intelligent Pokémon, with some ability to understand human speech.  Jane yaps angrily.  Bandana Clefairy just looks annoyed and begins a Metronome, but apparently thinks better of it, turns to one of the others and gives an order.  Two Clefairy take deep breaths, open their mouths wide and begin to sing, a high, haunting sound full of sad mysteries and dark longings.  And that’s the last thing you remember.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XLI: Perchance to Dream

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you dream about?

  • Your Pokémon
  • Blue

As the mountain cave fades away and the Clefairy’s strange song fills your head with fog, you come to realise, all of a sudden, that you’re back home, in Pallet Town.  You’re at school, on your lunch break – and so is Blue, who is mid-sentence saying something about why studying Pokémon scientifically is dumb.

You were never close with Blue, back in Pallet Town.  Obviously you knew him – you were at school together and he’s related to the Professor, so it would have been hard not to – you just didn’t feel like he had the qualities you wanted in a friendship.  And, I mean, fair play to you; he’s a piece of $#!t.  But you remember this day.  Your Pokémon Studies teacher had asked the class why people become trainers, and you and Blue had gotten into a fairly spirited argument about how much trainers should value strength and power, which spilled over into lunchtime.  You think it was about six months before you both left home.

Only… your Pokémon are all with you.  That doesn’t seem right; you didn’t have Pokémon until you left Pallet Town – then again, maybe you did?  Even Kite the Magikarp is there, but she’s just kinda… floating through the air in circles as if she’s swimming.  Maybe that’s because this is a dream – or can Magikarp just do that, when they’re out of the water?  You think it’s the second thing; you’re sure you remember reading something about that.

“But how do you explain that when wild Pokémon fight each other all the time, huh?” Blue is saying.  “They want to get stronger, same as trainers do!  It’s just in their nature!”
“He’s got a point, you know,” says Jane Doe in a silky, self-assured feminine voice.  “I have lots of reasons for wanting to get stronger; you get into all kinds of interesting battles and I’m just happy to be along for the ride.”  You’re pretty sure she could always talk.  She told you about wanting to get revenge on Team Rocket, right?  There’s no way you’d know about that if she couldn’t talk.
“Isn’t getting stronger just a means to an end, though?” asks Scallion, his deep, nasal voice pensive.  “We get stronger to develop our powers – to get closer to what makes us unique as species.”
“And what about if what we’re best at is making others stronger?” Nancy the Negator wonders.  “There’s gotta be more to it, there’s gotta be!”
“Karp, karp, karp,” Kite glubs argumentatively.  She can’t talk.  You’re pretty sure this makes sense.
“I already got what I wanted,” Aura says dreamily, her voice whistling through her wings like wind.  “I have wings, I have magic, I don’t have to eat leaves all day and hide from Spearow… more power than this, I could take it or leave it.”

You remember how this conversation went; you’re supposed to say something about science and advancing the collective knowledge of humanity.  But you weren’t sure of yourself even then, because of course part of you agrees with Blue; you want to win badges and fight in the Pokémon League and become a Champion.  You don’t want that because you think it’ll make you a better scientist, or even really for the glory, you just… want it.

“Of course you do,” Blue says, even though you haven’t said anything out loud.  “We all do.  Sooner or later you’re gonna have to embrace that and accept that strength just matters because it does.”  He leans in close to your face, then playfully taps you on the nose with two fingers.  “Smell ya later!”

Sounds to me like you’ve got some thinking to do about why you want the things you want, kid.  Do it on your own time, though.  There’ll be no namby-pamby “character development” on my watch.

You wake up, your hair askew and your mouth dry.  The chamber where you fell asleep is empty now – the Clefairy are gone, and seem to have taken all their stolen supplies and junk with them.  They’ve left one of their floating light balls, though – in fact, it looks like they’ve left a trail of them, possibly leading back to the cave entrance.  That’s… suspiciously considerate of them.  You catch sight of Jane Doe, still curled up on the floor next to you, and suddenly think of your other Pokémon.  Your hands flash to your belt – all your Pokéballs are still there.  Checking your backpack… some of your food is gone, but not all of it, and your notebooks are untouched.  Your sleeping bag is missing too; you should ask Ellie if her group has a spare when you get back to camp.  That’s a pain, but you’ll survive.  But…

…oh.  Ohhhhhh dear.

The little $#!ts have taken your Pokédex!  Those things are expensive!  And they’ve probably just stripped it down for parts, too, if what you saw of their inventory was anything to go by.  What the hell do they want that stuff for, anyway?  Obviously you’re fascinated by their behaviour and you’re already compiling a report in your head, but it’s hard not to get pissed off about this.  You wake up Jane and follow the trail of lights, which leads you quickly and easily back out of the cave, although you almost lose the path a couple of times purely because you’re grumbling to yourself about your Pokédex.  It’s not even like the Professor will be mad at you; heck, you’re certain he’ll be fascinated.  It’s more wounded pride than anything else.  Speaking of wounded pride, Jane doesn’t seem too happy either.  You reassure her that it wasn’t her fault, and she was right to chase that lead on the stolen gear from the camp, which seems to cheer her up a bit.  Still, you already know Jane’s the vengeful type, and you have to imagine she’ll be eager for a rematch if you run into those Clefairy again before you leave the mountain.

When you climb back out of the cave, the sun is already quite high in the sky; you must have been out for a good couple of hours.  To be fair, you kinda needed the extra sleep; the floor of Miguel’s cave wasn’t exactly comfortable.  Anyway, in a roundabout sort of way, you have solved the palaeontology team’s problem.  Kinda.  I mean, you haven’t stopped the thefts or gotten their stuff back or anything, but at least you have a good idea what’s happening.  You also have pretty good reason to think the thieves aren’t trying to hurt anyone, and you can’t imagine there’s anything else on this mountain that’s likely to be an immediate threat.  It’s probably time to go back and check in.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XLIII: Rocket to the Moon

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Return to camp?

  • Take the scenic route, explore a bit more of the mountain

You’re still feeling understandably salty over a bunch of wild Pokémon ambushing you, knocking you out and taking your stuff, so you decide to blow off some steam by wandering back down the mountain in the opposite direction to the way you came, looping back around by a longer path to return to your camp site from below.  You still have your notebook; you don’t need a Pokédex to do some solid field research, and you can send Aura up to fly overhead and let you know if she spots anything interesting.  You meander downward, stopping now and again to idly draw some of the plants or take a leaf rubbing; it’s all lichens, hardy mountain grasses and unpleasant thorny shrubs up here, only a couple of twisted, put-upon trees.  It makes a lot of sense that you’ve only seen cave Pokémon like Zubat and Sandshrew.  If you had all the time in the world to map the place out, you’d be interested to find all the springs and streams to see whether any cool Pokémon live there, although to be honest you doubt it.

Out here, further away from the real trails, you can also see some odd marks in the soil, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before – like someone took a power drill and used it to make precise, neat, shallow little holes in the ground here and there.  You show the marks to Jane, who appears profoundly uninterested, and Scallion, who is curious but doesn’t seem to have any additional insight.  You make a rough sketch and move on.  Luck just doesn’t seem to be on your side today, and you don’t find any other evidence of Pokémon you didn’t already know about… but you do find signs of one you knew about but hadn’t yet seen.  You’re on the northeast slope of Mount Moon now, where the sunlight is weakest.  There are a lot of wild mushrooms here (most of them, alas, inedible to humans, although you pluck a few that should be okay for Scallion), including some red ones with yellow spots that you know by sight.  If those are tochukaso, then…

You start angling for the darker gullies and follow the mushrooms whenever you see them.  It doesn’t take long – you round a big boulder and right there, in its shade, is a little orange Bug Pokémon with two big front claws and a pair of red and yellow mushrooms growing out of its back.  The Paras meets your eyes and considers you for a second… and doesn’t run.  It strikes a defensive stance, its back arched to present its toxic mushrooms towards you.  Game on.  You look down at Jane Doe, who is still out of her ball, walking with you, and give her a nod.

With a puff of purple smoke, Jane turns into a perfect image of Kite, your Magikarp, and flops lamely forward towards the Paras.  The Paras blinks in confusion, then rushes forward to stab the flailing fish with one of its big claws.  At the last second before it connects, “Kite” slaps her Magikarp tail into the ground and gracefully somersaults into the air, slams into the Paras from above, then twists, bounces back and strikes it again from behind.  The Paras whips around and begins to fire a blast of sparkling golden Stun Spore from its mushrooms, but Jane is too fast.  Dismissing her illusionary form with a shimmer of purple light, she darts right back around the Paras, jabs it in the side and flips it onto its back.  She gives you a quick smirk – easy win.  You return her a professional nod, then grab a Pokéball from your belt and throw.

Paras has joined the party!
Level: Novice
Type: Bug/Grass
Nature: Jolly
Gender: Female
Height: 31 cm
Weight: 5.6 kg
Moves: Scratch, Stun Spore, Poison Powder
Ability: Effect Spore
Special Skills: None/Unknown?

The thought occurs that this is the first wild Pokémon you’ve really properly “caught” since Nancy on your first day as a trainer.  You let your new Paras out and apply a little healing potion (something else the Clefairy “thoughtfully” let you keep), just as a “no hard feelings” gesture.  The sentiment seems mutual, and the little shroom-bug cheerfully agrees to ride on your shoulder for a while as you get to know her.

By mid-afternoon, you’ve swung around and started heading westwards back up the mountain, and are just in sight of the camp.  You can see people moving around and you’re about to wave to them, until Aura abruptly drops out of the sky and lands on your other shoulder, trilling anxiously and flashing her wing spots at you.  You immediately understand she’s trying to warn you of danger and duck behind a convenient boulder.  Moving forward slowly now and slipping from one piece of cover to another, you gradually get close enough to see what spooked her – three women, all in black, with big red capital Rs on their shirts.  Jane growls quietly but angrily.  These are members of the same criminal group you fought in Viridian Forest with those bug catchers, ‘Team Rocket.’  In fact… looking more closely, one of them might be one of the same people – the one who called herself ‘Kelly,’ who ditched her defeated comrades and got away.  It’s a good thing you had Aura in the air, or you might not have realised anything was off until you were right on top of them.  You can see all three of them are carrying stuff out of the camp tents and piling it in an open space by the fire pit.

You don’t see Ellie and Mal, or Blue, or any of the others, so you double back to make sure you’re out of earshot, then scrabble up some ledges in order to come at the camp from a different angle.  Once you have a better vantage point, you can spot the six palaeontologists and Blue outside one of the sleeping tents.  All of them are tied up, hands behind their backs, legs and feet trussed up, sitting in a circle and tied together with a big rope around all their torsos, except for Lexa, who has merely had her hands bound and a big stick jammed through the spokes of her wheelchair, which is positioned out of arms’ reach of the others. The Rockets seem to be largely ignoring them, and most of them look pretty defeated – heads hanging, faces blank – except Ellie, who seems to be watching the Rockets with a building fury in her eyes, and Lexa, who mostly just looks really annoyed.

Blue, who is staring dejectedly out into the distance past your hiding place, suddenly squints and cranes his neck upward.  His eyes widen as he looks directly at you.
“Where the heck have you been?” he mouths at you silently, exaggerating the words to make them easier to follow.  To be honest, you suspect “heck” was probably not the word he actually meant to use, but you’re gonna give him the benefit of the doubt.
You shrug helplessly, point back up the mountain in the rough direction of Miguel’s lair and the cave you explored earlier, then hold up your new Paras over your head to show him (she dutifully waves at him with one claw and does what you suspect is the Paras-mandible equivalent of a cheery smile).
Blue stares at you, duck-lipped, clearly wanting to smack his hand to his forehead but prevented by his bound hands, then finally mouths an overpronounced, incredulous “what?”  One of the Rockets turns around and starts heading towards the prisoners, so Blue quickly shuts up and pretends to have been staring at the horizon the whole time.

Blue’s Pokéballs are just sitting unguarded on a table (he has… his Squirtle, that Pidgey, the Charmander and Pineco he caught on the way here… as far as you know, that’s everything, unless he’s caught something else up here on the mountain).  You have to assume most or all of his Pokémon were defeated already, or the Rockets wouldn’t have left them unsecured.  That means you can’t plan on getting any help even if you free him, but on the other hand, it’s likely that he went down fighting, so there’s a good chance they’re also under strength.  Ellie and Mal mentioned that some of their crew had Pokémon, but that they were a bit rubbish at fighting, so you can’t count on them either.  You’re also acutely aware that Scallion is still not back up to full strength after being exploded by Miguel’s Voltorb yesterday.  You’re outnumbered, which calls for strategy: either a sudden and devastating surprise attack to exploit the fact that they don’t know you’re here, or some divide-and-conquer trickery.  Alternatively, you could try to talk to the Rockets and find out what they want, see if there’s a peaceful resolution to be had, or you could just free your friends by stealth and leave without fighting.  Or, y’know.  You could always just ditch them and head straight for Cerulean City.  I’m not saying you should, I’m just saying it’s definitely the opposite of what Larry would’ve done, and Larry was a dumb asshole.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XLIII: Rocket to the Moon

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Do you want to give Paras a nickname?

  • Receive an AI-generated name

Okay!  Look at this, kid; you’re gonna love this.  It’s gonna revolutionise the whole business of naming Pokémon.  All you have to do is plug in some context data to get the AI started…

and presto!

Um.  Well, it… uh…

Look, it’s still in the experimental stages, okay?  Needs some… y’know, refining.  Work the kinks out.

I mean, your Paras seems pretty chuffed about it; she’s acting all bashful and her mushrooms are blushing.  Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.

Ah, whatever; Cutie it is!

What do you do next?

  • Try to draw one of the Rockets away from the camp

Who will be your go-to Pokémon in case of a fight?

  • Jane Doe, the Zorua

Divide and conquer it is.  And putting your chips on Jane makes sense; she’s been itching for round two against these bozos since before you even met her.  Not to mention, Kelly has that Drowzee, remember?  Yeah, you remembered.

You creep back from your vantage point to review your options.  You know Jane’s going to be your opener when the fighting starts, but you also need something to get the attention of one of the Rockets.  You could always use one of Jane’s illusions, of course, but you don’t really want to send her into the camp alone, even in disguise.  Maybe a loud noise that one of them will want to investigate?  Not something that sounds too scary or dangerous, or they’ll want to stick together.  A rare Pokémon…?  They seem to like rare Pokémon.  What Pokémon do you have that can make a loud noise…?


You move slowly back around the camp until you’re downhill and almost out of earshot again.  Hidden behind a boulder, you bring out Scallion and Nancy the Negator to brief them and Jane on the plan.  You decide to leave Cutie on your shoulder; she’s probably not in any condition to actually fight after battling Jane, let alone powerful enough to contend with whatever Team Rocket is packing, but she may as well watch.

As soon as you’re ready, Nancy starts cheering loudly and dances out from behind the boulder, jumping up and down enthusiastically.  Jane Doe veils herself in a flash of purple light and dances out beside Nancy, looking exactly like her.  Zorua illusions are bad with sound, but with a real Minun right next to her, no one will notice if Jane’s chanting is off.  You should be just close enough to get their attention.

Sure enough, a minute later one of the Team Rocket gangsters comes stomping down the hillside, with a surly expression like she drew the short straw and the other two made her go and take a look.  It’s the sour-faced woman with pink bangs and a black flat-cap that you recognise as “Kelly” – not her real name, you remember, but it’ll do.  She has a Pokéball in one hand and some kind of net in the other.  As she gets closer, you see her catch sight of the “two Minun” and start to grin slyly, readying the net and changing the direction of her approach, aiming to come at Nancy and Jane from the side.  She thinks they haven’t noticed her, too immersed in their dance.

Here are the things Kelly should be considering:

One: Minun are very rare in the Kanto region and live mainly in verdant, secluded meadow habitats, not high, rocky mountains.  In fairness to her, it’s possible she is considering this, and her finely honed poacher instincts have already distilled that information to the sound “ka-ching!”
Two: It’s extremely unusual for multiple Minun to hang out together without a Plusle or some other Electric-type to balance their negative charge.  Trying again to be fair, you know this, but Kelly probably doesn’t.
Three: In her ill-fated encounter with you and the bug catchers in Viridian Forest, you had Nancy on the sidelines cheering for your other Pokémon.  She’s probably tried to put that particular battle out of her mind.  As it turns out, this was a very dumb move on her part.

And in the spirit of being fair to her, she does suddenly hesitate, right at the moment she seems close enough to throw the net, doubt flickering across her eyes.  It’s just kind of a shame that’s also the moment that you snap your fingers, Nancy takes a quick triple hop backward to keep up her cheering from a safe distance, and Jane drops her veil and somersaults forward to knock the net from Kelly’s hand with her Fury Swipes.

“GAAAGH!” Kelly yells, opening the Pokéball in her left hand and immediately fumbling for another.  Her Ekans materialises in a blaze of light, but before it can register what’s going on or take any orders, Jane has perfectly chained her opening Fury Swipes on Kelly into a string of nasty claw attacks all along the length of Ekans’ serpentine body, each strike in time with a syllable of Nancy’s chant.  Ekans hisses, rears up and fires a Poison Sting spray that completely fails to connect as its trainer, distracted by grabbing for her second Pokéball, tries to spit out a tongue-tied order.  Jane feints left, then darts around to strike Ekans in the back of the head; it’s already out cold by the time Kelly’s Drowzee hits the battlefield.  Kelly has seemingly regained her composure, but despite having held Jane in captivity before, you don’t think she actually knows what a Zorua is.  She makes the mistake of ordering Drowzee to use Confusion.  To continue the theme of being fair to her… well, it’s an easy mistake for a Kantonian trainer to make.  Famously not a lot of Dark-types in this region.  Jane smirks as the psychic wave folds harmlessly around her, then appears to flicker out of existence for a moment before dashing forward past Drowzee, spinning lightly on her hind legs and slashing it down the back.  Drowzee lamely tries to make a hypnotic gesture before groggily collapsing to the ground.

Kelly glares at Jane with a mixture of shock and fury, recalls both her Pokémon at once and goes to make a run for it.  As she turns around, you step out from behind the boulder and call out to her.  Kelly does a double take.

“Wh-YOU!”  Her face looks as though it’s wrestling with several different thoughts at once – anger, surprise, humiliation, determination, calculation.  She hesitates just long enough for you to execute the final step of the plan.  Before she can run back up towards the camp site, a blanket of twinkling blue-green pollen motes settles around her head.  Scallion looks up at you and gives a satisfied nod as Kelly promptly falls asleep.

Nicely done, kid!  You grin at Scallion, Nancy and Jane Doe and congratulate them on the flawless execution of the ambush.  Cutie, still perched on your shoulder, makes an enthusiastic chittering chirping noise that you can only interpret as the sound of a very impressed Paras.  But you don’t have long to celebrate.  You drag Kelly back behind your boulder and hurry to tie her hands and feet with Scallion’s vines.  You’re not great with knots, but it’ll have to do.  You’ve taken out one of the three Rockets with only a fraction of the energy you spent on your last battle with the likes of them.  You could keep up the misdirection approach that’s worked so far, but when the other two realise Kelly’s been gone too long, they’ll come after her, and they’ll be on their guard this time.  They might even have heard the sounds of battle.  You also can’t move Kelly far in a short time, even with help from your Pokémon (none of them are really built for carrying heavy loads).  Maybe it’s better to press your advantage and attack before they get ready.  Heck, if you still think parley is on the table, you’d be in a stronger position now that you have a prisoner to exchange.  Assuming the other two give a Rattata’s ass about Kelly, which… well, I guess we’ll find out, one way or another?

2 thoughts on “A Pokémon Trainer Is You! The Story So Far

  1. this went on hiatus at a hilariously appropriate moment in the story, didn’t it?
    if you’d had to discontinue it permanently there’d be a pretty good in-character explanation as for why, at least XD

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s