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. 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…

Scallion

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.

Aura…

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.

Scallion
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.

…oh.

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.

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

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