A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXX: Remedial Sciences

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

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

  • Catch a Pokémon
  • Study the environment and ecosystem

Ask the other guy to join you?

  • Sure, why not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uh…?

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

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

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

Hang on.

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

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

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

9 thoughts on “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXX: Remedial Sciences

  1. I love how the narrator became his own character. Very fun. I am curious what could have been making the fire (although I voted for Sandshrew and Ekans cause I love those Pokémon). If I were to guess, Vulpix or Growlithe, maybe Magmar?

    Also hunting Pineco must be difficult. They love to explode.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, sandshrew is adorable, I would love having one too.

      Can’t really imagine magmar living in plains, though, they don’t exactly seem good at sprinting to chase prey. I’ll bet that growlithe or vulpix are the most likely option, given they’re ubiquitous in Kanto and well suited to this habitat. This also seems like somewhere ponyta might live, albeit they can’t use many firebreathing attacks, and even if omnivorous, which is somewhat doubtful, they probably are still mostly herbivorous and wouldn’t burn down grass to chase down prey… ponyta are a real stretch, but I just thought I should mention them, especially as I can more easily imagine rapidash, specifically, hunting as a source of protein.

      However, all three of those are quite common by kantonian standards, and the narrative has set up at least a bit of a mystery about the source of the fires, so we could also be on track to find something rare- houndour seem like they’d be perfect if Chris was planning something like this. A somewhat exotic pokémon with a rare type that still wouldn’t be out of place at all here. The regions that tend to have fauna overlap with Kanto are mostly just Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh, but in a situation like Jane’s, we could also get darumaka, heatmor, pansear, or salandit. I’d suppose fletchlinder but I doubt those would run around leaving footprints.

      And although this hypothesis seems to me ridiculous, as it would drastically overblow the level of narrative importance this mystery has… I can’t help but imagine that this seems like something a quilava might do. (don’t judge me, the cyndaquil line are my favorite fire types.) Any fire starter besides chimchar and tepig, really. I myself don’t tend to imagine starters having a natural habitat outside the company of humans- I think they’re domestics species like housecats or dogs- but that’s not hard canon.

      Can’t wait for next update, where there’s at least a 50% chance my theorizing about mystery all turns out to be a mountain out of a molehill- it was growlithe or vulpix, and the only reason there was an unknown factor was to bring across the joy and intrigue of studying ecology.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Given the focus on Pokemon ecology, my money’s on Houndour. They’re native to Kanto in GSC and are notably tactical pack hunters, the perfect culprits for intentionally setting wildfires to flush prey into ambushes

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    2. Remember, Self-Destruct doesn’t normally *kill* the user. Pidgey has an advantage not only because Pineco’s special defense is lower, but because Gust isn’t a contact-based move like most of Spearow’s. In a setting where both combatants don’t just stand there and take hits like in the games, Gust probably allows them to harass their prey from a relatively safe distance or even provoke an explosion intentionally!

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  2. Charmander, vulpix, growlithe, flareon magby/magmar cyndaquil and houndour are the native species i’d suspect of this preying though some of my less intuitive guesses would be numel, torkoal, pansear, heatmor, salandit, alolan-marowak or carkoal as the mountain native fire types that would leave footprints [slugma, fletchinder and baile oricorio were discounted IMO for not being likely to leave footprints] Personally i think this is likely being done by either a slow pokemon that cannot easily hunt down prey on it’s own or a weak/young pokemon that cannot hold it’s own in fights yet resorting to indirect tactics,

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    1. I’d discount torkoal and numel, for I think exactly the reason you counted them.

      This stategy takes creatures hidden in the grass and quite literally blows (up) their cover (yours, too), triggering a short, intense chase where no-one can hide and everyone is confused but on high alert. You could try to use the fire to corner or debilitate your prey, but that’s not liable to work- they’ll see and smell the fire coming before it’s burning tall all around them, and start running unless all paths are blocked- and these are foothills. There’s not necessairly many corners you can box someone in.

      It fails for a slow, bulky predator because there’s an escape route, and the hunter needs to outrun its prey’s immediate reaction, instead of an ideal ambush where the prey’s caught/its mobility is compromised as soon as it knows what’s happening. Similarly, it fails for a weak, crafty predator because the trap doesn’t necessairly debilitate the prey.

      Instead, I assume it’s the work of something that attacks in short bursts of speed with strong attacks- many predators in real life can outrun their prey on the short term, but don’t have as much stamina. They lose hunts if their prey sees them coming and runs before they’re in range to close in for attack, but also need to get around hiding spots and camouflage.

      The tussock grass probably partly obscures everything around, and it’s hard to sneak up on someone that’s also sneaking. So something fast lights its immediate surroundings on fire, and everything on striking range breaks out in a short-term chase that can be over in one or two strong hits.

      Of course, I don’t mean to say “you’re wrong and dumb and I’m right”, as I’m not actually a biologist, or even in college- fresh outta high school- so I don’t exactly know what I’m talking about. I just like the subject and enjoy talking like I’m very clever.

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      1. No, That’s fair, I hadn’t considered it from that angle, I was thinking of the burning tactics being to injure, corner or debilitate prey to allow the slower predator to finish them off whereas you’re looking at it as a method to cause confusion for a faster predator to take advantage of and sweep them

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  3. At the rate that we’re catching pokemon [and with a potential fifth member on the way] i’m worried that sooner rather than later we’re either going end up with more pokemon than we want to deal with or just a team of the first six we found simply because *they were the first ones we found*, Not to say we should only have a limit of the six who we carry with up but i’d rather we have a smallish close knit team rather than a hoard of pokemon we only have because we took the chance to catch something every time the opportunity presented itself…

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