This is a story I've been working on for another, well-known Pokemon website. Having just recently decided to also give Bulbagarden I try, I thought maybe I would start reposting here. I figure I'll post a new chapter every week. I'm currently at chapter 21 elsewhere, so it might take me several months to catch up to the current point in the story! But anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
Prologue: 15 Years Ago
Sammy Stark stared down at the yellow-and-green orb in his hand. The boy had never held an actual pokeball before in his life, he had only seen them used by others: trainers, his dad, his brother Tommy...but never was he allowed to handle one. His father had always been adamant that Sammy would not be allowed to touch a ball until the day he was given his own and sent to catch his first pokemon. Realizing what he'd just thought, Sammy’s freckled cheeks blushed; his dad wouldn’t have approved of that, either, as dad always called them “friends”. Sammy had never previously cared when his dad told stories of acquaintances and co-workers of his who let their own kids use pokemon because dad had been trying to teach him a lesson about maturity and earning a privilege, but all Sammy ever thought about were the other kids in Goldenrod Elementary who got to go out on the weekend and play with their parents’ pokemon. Miah Vanderbelt was the one who always had a new story on Mondays about his dad’s Bellsprout. They either went to the Pokeathalon or they took a trip to Ecruteak together to look for ghosts (Miah always said that they found ghosts together, but Sammy was skeptical) or they just played in river or picked berries. So while his dad tried to impart a message of the rites of growing up, Sammy just imagined how nice it would be if he could take dad’s Sandslash out with Miah for just one weekend and help him look for ghosts.
But that was when he was eight. Sammy was ten now, and felt like he was much more mature. Would he be able to appreciate this moment as much if he’d been allowed to play with dad’s friends when he was younger? Would the ball in his hand feel so heavy? Would his chest feel like it was about to collapse every time he breathed out? He was there in Ilex Forest about to catch his first pokemon; his first friend.
“You can stare at it all day, Sammy. It doesn’t do any tricks until you throw it.”
Of course Sammy hadn’t been sent into the forest by himself. Tommy had been asked by dad to help him not get lost and find a suitable friend. Sammy had not even realized he was still staring at the ball as they walked when he should have been looking towards the trees. He still couldn’t bring himself to take his eyes off of it, though. No matter what he caught today, it would always be his first ever friend. From now on, when Sammy threw this ball, something would emerge. What would it be? Sammy mentally pictured going into fifth grade this fall and showing off a fearsome Noctowl. Man, the look on Miah’s face when Sammy would jump onto Noctowl’s back and fly up to the top of Goldenrod Elementary; he could see it now! He’d be stuck standing there with his mouth open while all the kids asked Sammy if they could have the next ride. Bellsprout and those fake ghosts wouldn’t seem so special then!
“All right, fine. I’m going back home and telling dad you went all catatonic. No friend for you.”
“Noo!” His voice came out with much more whine than he wanted it to, so Sammy swallowed hard and regained himself. “I can do this, Tommy! Don’t tell dad I can’t!” He cursed himself mentally where he knew no one could hear and scold him; he still sounded more whiney than he wanted.
Tommy’s arm locked around his neck, and he felt his older brother start abusing his head with noogies. This stupid buzzcut that dad made him get last week made the attack all the more painful. Noogies aside, Sammy was happy to have Tommy with him. It had been five years since Tommy was ten and allowed to catch a friend of his own, and ever since then, Tommy was the guy that Sammy aspired to be. In his first year of high school, Tommy was Trainer of the Year, beating out kids four years older than himself! Tommy was already almost six feet tall, and his styled, sandy hair would never have to be buzzed down because it always stuck up. When Tommy’s friends came over, they always talked about what girls in Goldenrod High wanted to go out with him that week, but Tommy would just laugh them off. On the weekends when they were at home playing video games while dad was at work, Sammy would ask why he didn’t just go out on a date with one of those girls instead, but Tommy’s answer was always just to laugh and say the same thing. ‘Sammy, you’d burn the house down if I wasn’t here!’.
“Hey, look up in that tree!” The noogies had suddenly stopped, and Tommy was whispering. Sammy craned his neck in his brother’s grip and looked up at the nearest oak tree. Out on the edge of a branch was a tiny Caterpie chewing on a leaf. Even by Caterpie standards, this thing was scrawny. And yet, unlike probably everything else in the forest, it didn’t flee at all the ruckus Sammy and his brother had just made. It simply ignored them as it focused on its leaf. “I think you should catch it.”
Sammy, now fully free of his brother’s grasp, glanced down at the ball in his hand. He was hesitant as he pictured the Noctowl in his fantasy turn into a butterfly that wouldn’t be able to bear his weight. The image of Miah shocked in silence turned to an image of him laughing like a hyena.
“It’s a Nest Ball, Sammy. That’s why dad gave it to you to start. It’s designed to catch weaker pokemon. He wanted you to earn your first friend by proving you wouldn’t blow that ball on something too strong for you to handle.” Tommy looked back up at the Caterpie in the tree. “I’m pretty sure anyone could handle that little bug.”
Sammy noticed the leaf that this Caterpie was eating twitch a bit at those words and couldn’t help but think it must have let out a huff. But that was impossible...right? Regardless, that’s what it came down to: all those years of lectures, and dad knew that Sammy wasn’t ever really listening. He knew Sammy wanted to fit in with everyone else, and so today was his lesson. Sammy knew he had to choose between trying--and possibly failing--to get a friend he could impress the kids at school with or getting one he could grow with. His brain flashed to the image of Miah Vanderbelt laughing at the silly, undersized bug pokemon, then to that of his dad giving him another lecture if he came home with nothing. The two options juggled in his head. Miah, dad. Dad, Miah. Without realizing he was even doing it, his arm thew the ball as if it was making his mind up for him.
The ball split open when it got within catching distance of the tiny Caterpie and released a crackle of red energy. Caterpie dropped its leaf as its body was converted into the same energy and absorbed into the ball. As the ball started dropping to the ground, Sammy saw it struggling in the air. By the time it landed in a bed of oak leaves, the struggle was over. The Caterpie had been caught with barely any resistance. Sammy immediately regretted his action; until he was able to earn some money from dad, this would be the only pokeball he’d ever get, and he just used it to catch a Caterpie. He remembered hearing about the middle school kids who started out with some kind of insect pokemon--they were made fun of and called “Bug Catchers”. Their lockers were broken into, and the other kids put toy bug nets inside. A couple of kids who were less careful would get grabbed in the locker room after gym and have straw hats duct-taped on their heads. Was this really what Sammy had to look forward to until he could get the money to buy a better ball?
Tommy’s outburst of laughter disrupted the thought. “Oh man, you caught a Caterpie. You’re going to be such a bug catcher!” Yes, Sammy thought, that’s apparently what I have to look forward to. “Listen,” Tommy continued, “it’s not so bad. I mean, that little guy wasn’t scared of us, so maybe he knows something we don’t know. But the only way for us to figure that out...”
“A battle?” Sammy cried, having realized where Tommy was going. “But I just caught it! I don’t know anything about it yet!”
“Well how do you think you get to know it? Take it out on a date?”
“I’ll go easy on you. I’ll let you make the first move, and I won’t go all-out. But come on, Sammy. You’ve got to do it eventually.”
Sammy wanted to argue and protest, but he knew that there were moments when Tommy did not take no for an answer, and this was clearly about to be one of them. Without really wanting to, Sammy held out his Nest Ball and squeezed it gently; a splash of red energy emerged with a hum from the outlet on the front of the ball. The energy converted into a Caterpie (‘My Caterpie’, Sammy thought) as fluidly as the reverse had happened just minutes before. The Caterpie turned around to face its new trainer, tilted its head in each direction, and then crawled off towards an oak leaf lying just a few feet to its left. Caterpie continued the lunch that had just been so rudely interrupted. Sammy wanted to say something, but the words were cut off by the sound of another hum. Suddenly on the forest ground sat Tommy’s Vulpix, Vlam.
“Vlam?” Sammy protested. “That’s not fair!”
Tommy shrugged. “I said I wasn’t going to go all-out, don’t worry. Calm it down, kiddo.”
Vlam was Tommy’s first friend, one that he had caught in a Dusk Ball at midnight on his tenth birthday. Dad always had more faith in Tommy than Sammy, the younger brother thought. But beyond that resentment, he realized his little Caterpie was in an impossible battle. Not only had Vlam been training with Tommy for five years, but it had a huge type advantage over bug pokemon, who hate fire.
“I said you’d get the first shot in, so...go for it.”
Sammy shook his head. Vlam had just played a major role in Tommy winning Goldenrod High Trainer of the Year; this was so not fair. Why couldn’t he have used something else? “Caterpie, tackle the Vulpix!” he finally ordered.
Caterpie looked up from his leaf and tilted its neck like it had when it emerged from its Nest Ball.
“You can have a leaf later if you want, I promise! Just...tackle that pokemon!”
The Caterpie twisted its head to the other side, still studying Sammy.
“Oh. Oh no. I get it.”
“What? Get what? What do you get?”
“Sammy, it’s not that it’s not listening to you. It just...,” Tommy stopped and chewed his lower lip, “I don’t think it knows how to tackle.”
Sammy snapped his attention back to Caterpie so quickly, he felt a nerve pinch in his neck, but shook it off. “No, that’s not...come on! What the heck? You just...run at it and throw your body at it, bug! It’s simplest attack in the world!” The Caterpie just continued staring back at him. “Run! You’ve got, like, a dozen little legs!” The creature went back to its leaf, seemingly bored with what the boy was telling it.
“Well, this is embarrassing.”
Sammy wasn’t listening to Tommy. He was thinking of Miah Vanderbelt again. He was still laughing, only this time he was rolling back-and-forth on the ground in an absolute fit of laughter. In the mental picture, the tiny bug sat and ate a leaf while Miah’s friends strapped a straw hat to Sammy’s head.
“Maybe it just needs an example? Vlam, tackle that Caterpie.”
“No, don’t!” Sammy called out, but it was too late, Vlam was charging headlong at his Caterpie. Sammy felt like he wanted to close his eyes, but they were paralyzed open; he couldn’t look away. Vlam was about to make contact...and then it suddenly stopped and backed away. “What?” Sammy mouthed.
“Caterpie release a terrible scent when they are scared. That’s how they keep predators away. I’m assuming it just did that and Vlam got a whiff of it. As far as attacks go, though, I’m not sure it’s optimal.”
“So...that’s what it does? It stinks?” In his head, Miah’s friends were now beating him with plastic bug nets.
Sammy wanted to reply, but all that came out of his mouth was a nonsensical trail of consonants and vowels that didn’t make up so much as a single word.
“Sorry, Sammy. Maybe this thing’s got to learn how to battle the hard way. Vlam, use your ember on it.”
The new trainer wanted to protect his Caterpie, but his mouth and brain were still on separate pages. To his amazement, though, the Caterpie hardly seemed to need his help as it rolled nimbly to its right to avoid the spray of burning ash. Sammy regained his bearings enough to say the only thing he could think of. “String shot the Vulpix!” At the words, Caterpie pulled itself upright and spat a stream of high-speed silk that snared Vlam’s four legs, sending the tiny fox pokemon tumbling to its side.
“That’s some good instinct!” Tommy cheered. Sammy noticed he was also clapping and nodding his head. “I thought you froze up there for a sec, but you thought of an attack pretty quickly and you used enough force in your voice to get Caterpie to listen. Very professional, kiddo.” The elder brother tilted his head down and grinned, “Still, some silly string isn’t about to beat Vlam. Vlam, can you tear that stuff?”
Sammy tried madly to think of something else a Caterpie could do, but nothing was coming to mind. He couldn’t let Vlam just tear itself free, though. “Caterpie, keep pouring on the string shot!”
As Vlam struggled against the silk already there, even more piled on, creating a burgeoning cocoon. Tommy was chuckling. “Not giving me a chance to catch my breath, huh? All right, little brother, let’s put an end to this silliness. Vlam, use ember to burn away the string shot.” Vlam turned her head down to her paws and legs that were now coated in fine Caterpie silk. More burning ash erupted from its mouth. Sammy felt a lump catch in his throat that he couldn’t swallow away as the ash effortlessly disintegrated the string. But then something strange happened: Vlam cried out in agony!
“Vlam! Are you okay? Return!” Tommy held out his Dusk Ball and squeezed it twice. Vlam ceased struggling against the silk as it transformed into its energy form and was sucked back into its portable home.
“What...why did you do that?”
Tommy shook his head. “Vlam was a little careless with the ember, and it burned too fast through the silk. She ended up burning her own paw.”
Sammy gasped, “Is she okay?”
“Yeah, she’ll be fine. We have stuff for that back in Goldenrod, of course.”
Sammy called Caterpie back to its Nest Ball and then caught up with his brother, who was already making his way to the northern path that would lead them back home. Tommy had trained so many days away here in the forest that he could find his way out if he was blindfolded; Sammy’s only hope was to stay close behind him. They walked several yards with neither saying a word. Sammy finally felt an enormous smile paint his face. “So wait. I totally just beat you, right?”
Tommy slowed his pace, but never turned back to face his brother. “I said Vlam was burned. Not out cold.”
Re: Brothers' Bond
I enjoy your description and depth of Sammy's character. You filled the reader in on his backstory a little, which was nice to see since we get an idea of why Sammy is how he is, especially in his relationship with Tommy. I also like the fact that the boys' father seems to play a huge role in the way the boys act even without being a main physical character in the story. Very cool.
The subtlety with which you describe the main characters (the description of the "stupid" buzzcut his dad made him get) is really a cool detail as well since we get to see both what the character looks like AND a little of Sammy's personality as well as far as his attitude toward the haircut. Just an example of the level of detail in your writing. Nice!
Your description of the battle was also very nice.
Only suggestion I'd have is to start new paragraphs more often, anytime there is a new general thought going on. The big blocks of text make it a little harder to read, but no less good :)
Keep up the good work!
Re: Brothers' Bond
Thanks so much for your thoughts!
Originally Posted by Legacy
And yeah...I tend towards being verbose. It took me a LOOONG time and LOTS of practice to get to be any good at description. It used to be by far my biggest weakness. So now that I'm more comfortable with it, I tend towards meandering on. I do try to watch it, but sometimes it runs away with me.
Re: Brothers' Bond
It's been almost a week since I first posted the Prologue, so I thought I'd add chapter 1. This was originally two incredibly short chapters that I added together because, really, they always should have been combined. It's so crazy re-reading the old stuff from this story as I post it! It's been a while.
Chapter 1: Present Day
Sam Stark woke up in the strange bed struggling for each breath. He caught a glimpse of the alarm clock next to his bed: Three in the morning. Sam pounded his fist into the too-hard mattress; he was used to having the nightmare by now, but he knew he’d never get used to how it felt waking from it. He briefly considered lying back down, but it was all-too-common that he never fell back to sleep after this nightmare. The disappointment of not being able to do so yet again was too much to bear. Rubbing his face in frustration, he felt the beard he’d been ignoring for far too long. Shaving, he thought, would be a good way to pass the time so early in the morning.
He was thankful that Sinnoh had outlets that accommodated devices brought from other continents as he plugged his trimmers into the wall adjoining the bathroom sink. He had heard that other areas of the world like Unova weren’t as readily accessible for foreign devices. Thinking like that made Sam realize how big the world truly was, and that, in turn, made him realize just how far he’d traveled to get to Sinnoh. He’d left so much behind on his trip here, but really...what was left for him at home? He had talked to every doctor on both sides of Mount Silver; none of them had any answer that could satisfy him.
A realization fell down upon him: today was the 17th. It had been two weeks since he’d arrived in Sinnoh! That meant when the customs office in downtown Jubilife City opened in the morning, he’d be able to get his friends back. He’d had them thoroughly checked at the Goldenrod Pokemon Center before his flight so he was sure that he wasn’t bringing any foreign diseases into Sinnoh, but customs still insisted on keeping them to run their own tests. It was an annoyance, however mild. Two more weeks on top of how long he’d already waited, but these ones felt longer than the rest. He was closer now than ever to what he needed, and to wait for a silly, redundant government clearance seemed an unnecessary chain holding him back.
Sam ran his palm along his newly smooth face. He would be meeting with Professor Rowan by mid-day (he did some quick math in his head: if he could get his friends promptly at nine when customs opened, he could be to Sandgem town by noon), and he wanted to be presentable. No doubt that upon speaking to the professor he would think Sam crazy, so there was no need to show up bearded and wearing unwashed clothes to punctuate the point. What to wear? Sam had brought a suit, but that now seemed too stuffy; he wasn’t here to do a PowerPoint presentation or ask Professor Rowan to marry him, after all. He passed on the jacket and matching pants in favor of just the blue button-down and a pair of khakis that he still had plenty of time to iron. It wasn’t even four yet, after all.
As of eight o’clock, Sam had never managed to get any more sleep when his hotel phone rang. It was the customs office verifying that his pokemon (the lady on the other end of the line seemed disaffected when Sam corrected her to call them his “friends”) were medically cleared for arrival in Sinnoh. Sam was still frustrated to have had to wait even this long, and she must have heard the annoyance in his voice because she seemed to be compelled to tell him about the lady several years ago who brought a Delcatty from Hoenn without having it medically cleared. Apparently, according to the attendant, Sinnoh’s Glameow community is only now recovering to its previous numbers after a leukemia variant swept through them. Sam thanked her for this information in an effort to get her off the phone, and she reminded him that their doors open at nine.
Jubilife City reminded Sam of Goldenrod back home. The television station here reminded him of the radio building back home, and, oddly enough, both cities’ high schools had a Rhydon as their mascot. And both cities were huge! Rush hour in Jubilife was as frantic as it was in Goldenrod. Sam could hear his dad’s voice complaining about all the other drivers every morning. Everyone was already on their way to work when Sam left the hotel, and getting a bus down to customs was nearly impossible. Three of them, already filled to safety capacity, passed his stop without him. When one finally did have a small enough load to let more passengers on, Sam decided to forego the last seat he saw available so that an older woman could have it. She thanked him, and he nodded; at this point he didn’t care if he sat, stood, or danced the Hokey Pokey...he just wanted to get his friends back and get to Sandgem Town. Customs was clear on the other end of the city--near the condominiums--but traffic was nearly impassable. Sam hadn’t wanted to bring his luggage with him; he thought he could check-out after he came back with his friends, but as he watched the minute hand on his watch move faster than the bus, he started to fear he would be charged another day’s stay. The heat battered him through the windows of the bus as they sat behind lines of cars that couldn’t manage a simple merge point during construction. Didn’t these drivers understand how important this was?
Sam had targeted nine o’clock; in actuality he arrived at nine-forty. He approached the window and gave the attendant his confirmation slip. She vanished into a back-room for several moments before finally emerging with the two pokeballs he had left there after his plane arrived. He snatched the Nest Ball into his right hand and the Dusk Ball into his left, then carefully latched them to the notches on his belt. He patted the Nest Ball gently as he did so and looked up at the clock. Everything felt better now. The discomfort of the bus, the heat from the morning sun, the thought of paying for another day at the Jubilife Resort, and the fear that perhaps he should have worn the blazer and pants after all wafted to the sidelines now that the emptiness of not having his friends was filled. He emerged from the customs office and pulled the Nest Ball right back off of his hip. With a gentle squeeze of the ball, a Butterfree appeared in the air, stoically beating its wings to stay aloft. The black spots in the veins of its wings marked it as a female of its species; her long, black antennae zipped back and forth, helping her take in the brand new environment.
“Sorry about the customs office, Bree,” Sam said, finally getting the Butterfree’s attention, its antennae pointing at him, “I wish I hadn’t had to do that." Bree hummed lightly and shook its head, which Sam took as a sign that it was no big deal. “Are you ready to see Professor Rowan?” Bree hummed louder and fluttered up and down in the air in front of him. Sam nodded his approval at her energy. “Do you think our other friend wants to come out, too?” He snatched the Dusk Ball off of the other side of his belt and squeezed it lightly. A Ninetales emerged from the flash of crimson energy. It shook off each of its paws as if stretching out muscles that hadn’t been used in ages. The orange fox creature looked up at the tall buildings around it, decided the busy city was not worth the attention, then leaned down to lick its front paws to keep them as elegantly groomed as the rest of its fur. Its lengthy tails flopped about slowly, each in order. Sam bit down on the inside of his bottom lip as he watched his friend enjoy its freedom.
“Does it feel good to be out of your ball, Vlam?”
Twelve Years Ago...
“Vlam, use your confuse ray on it!”
The small, red fox pokemon’s six tails stood erect from her hindquarters, and her amber eyes glowed with energy. The Machoke that had been charging her suddenly stumbled and fell over, its head cracking a rock on the field in two. The crowd assembled around the battle let out a cheer; the courageous Vulpix had clearly won their hearts by displaying her own against such a battle-proven foe. Tommy’s perpetual smile, well-groomed blonde hair, and positive mannerisms certainly didn’t hurt, either. At least not with the young ladies in attendance.
Sammy, from his seat in section P row 12, let out the loudest cheer of all. Tommy had done great so far in making it to the Johto Regional Quarterfinals of his first year in the World Pokemon League, but the competition this round had stiffened dramatically. Tommy and his opponent, a tall, pale man from Olivine with tattoos sleeving his arms, had been battling for twenty minutes already. Tommy’s Crobat, Magneton, and Pidgeotto had all already fallen, and the opponent--Sammy looked up at the scoreboard to recall that his name was Thurmond--still had this Machoke and something else unrevealed in play. Tommy was down to just Vlam in this four-on-four quaterfinal. Sammy’s excitement at Vlam’s grabbing the upper-hand temporarily made him forget the empty seat next to him; the seat he’d been expecting his dad to show up and claim for the last hour.
Back on the field, Vlam maintained her offensive while the fighting-type pokemon struggled to regain its bearings. She darted left and right, each movement inching her closer to her foe. Sammy recognized this instantly: it was Tommy’s way of maximizing Vlam’s foe’s confused state. The Machoke and its trainer had no idea from where she would be attacking. A double juke put her behind the Machoke, and she began covering herself in a ball of fire. Thurmond’s voice roared for Machoke to turn around, but the bewildered pokemon couldn’t understand its trainer’s command. Vlam’s flame wheel connected into the small of Machoke’s back. The crowd hailed strong approval, which incited Thurmond to yell back at them and shake an angry fist.
Sammy was so into the moment, he never paid any mind to the man who finally came down the aisle and took the seat next to him. Sammy’s senses were ensnared by the battle; Vlam was lining up her enemy for a flamethrower, and Machoke was certainly about to go down.
“Samuel Stark?” the man next to Sammy said, oddly enough like it was a question.
“It’s about time you got here, dad. You’ve been missing Tommy’s first ever quarterfinals. You’re lucky he didn’t realize you were late. Even luckier that I’m not going to break his heart and tell him.”
The man’s arm reached out to Sammy’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, son. I’m not your father.”
Sammy flinched at the words, and pulled his arm away. He was about to ask the man who he was and why he was in Sammy’s dad’s seat, but when Sammy saw him, he realized by the uniform that he was an officer. The man nodded as a greeting, took off his blue cap, and pulled out what looked to be a wallet. He flipped it open to reveal his badge. “I’m officer Trufant. I didn’t mean to startle you, Samuel.”
Sammy’s mind wandered; why was a cop here for him? He thought about this past year in eighth grade when he told Evelyn Simmons that he was going to steal her new gaming system so he’d have something to do over the summer. Did she take him seriously? Was he going to go to jail or something? He stole a glance to the field; Vlam had just knocked out Machoke and was waiting for Thurmond’s final pokemon. Tommy had no idea what was going on! Sammy might be in jail for days before anyone noticed he was missing!
“Son, can I talk to you for a moment? It would be better if we could speak privately.”
Sammy was numb. Without a word, he got up and followed the officer to the concession area. At least he wasn’t handcuffing him in front of the crowd...in front of Tommy. Sammy couldn’t help but think that if Tommy looked up into the crowd and saw his little brother getting arrested, he’d forfeit the quarterfinals to rush the stands and save him. It was better this way, Sammy thought. His older brother shouldn’t pay for Sammy’s dumb joke on a classmate.
”Why don‘t you take a seat on this bench?”
Sammy thought it odd that this cop wanted to arrest him while he was sitting down, but maybe it was harder to resist if you were sitting. He put himself down on the bench outside Taco Barn to which Officer Trufant had pointed.
“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, Samuel. Your father is in critical condition.”
“I know, but I didn’t actually--” Wait. What did he say? Sammy had already convinced himself this was about Evelyn. His brain needed a few extra seconds to absorb this information. “My dad?” he cried, shocking a family who was getting a snack nearby. “What does that mean?”
Officer Trufant rubbed his mouth with his hand. “He was pulling out of the hospital and was involved in an automobile collision with a tractor trailer. He was thrown...,” the officer stopped there and seemed to reconsider what he was about to say. “It just doesn’t look very good. You and your brother need to come with me to see him. We’ve arranged for an escort for the both of you, and several of my fellow officers are outside waiting for us.”
Sammy knew his father needed him, but what about Tommy? He didn’t even know yet, and he had worked and trained so hard to get where he is. But this cop made it sound like dad could be... (Sammy couldn’t bear to finish that thought, and his brain redirected) ...like dad really needed to see them right away. The exclamation from the crowd out in the open-air stadium reminded Sammy that the battle was still going on. He felt a clock ticking inside of him as the officer looked at him expectantly. Dad had always said the road leaving work was awful; he talked constantly about wanting them to put a stop light there. Tommy was possibly just minutes away from the semi-finals. But how soon did they need to get to the hospital? A hundred bees swarmed inside his brain, and before he knew what he was doing, he was at the railing over the battlefield screaming his brother’s name.
En route to the hospital, Sammy apologized to Tommy for what felt like the thousandth time (he was losing count between his own sobs). Tommy had rushed from the competition at the sight of his brother yelling for him maniacally and took the disqualification loss in the regional quarterfinal round of his first year in the WPL. Tommy squeezed around his little brother’s shoulders one more time and gently shushed him. Since the day they caught Sammy’s first friend, Tommy had continued to grow, and his one-arm embrace engulfed the little brother who was clearly the runt of the family. Aside from the shushing and the sobbing and the squealing of the siren above them, the car was silent as they raced to the University of Goldenrod City Medical Center. Sammy and Tommy had both been to this hospital countless times--heck, their dad worked there, and it had long-since gotten to the point where Sammy forgot most people don’t usually want to go to hospitals. When the brothers were there, it was usually just a trip out there to pick something up at the office or to make arrangements with dad’s co-workers. Sammy tried to convince himself that this was all just a prank by dad and his buddies; that they were just messing around with his sons. His brain wasn’t buying it.
Being pushed through the hospital doors by the cops as they ordered patients waiting in the E.R. to clear the way was very surreal to Sammy. The cops told the attendant at the nurse’s station who the boys were, and even though Sammy understood the message of what he said, the words seemed to come out as a jumbled language he couldn’t decipher. They were ushered through more doors until they were in the middle of the emergency room. The officers spoke again with the information area of the E.R., but Sammy’s senses still felt disconnected; it wasn’t until he noticed the nurse at the information desk shake her head and he heard Tommy gasp that everything returned to focus.
“He didn’t make it, I’m sorry. He passed just a few minutes ago.”
Sammy’s initial thought--a thought he would regret countless times over the next several months--was that he cost his brother the tournament for nothing. It was immediately replaced with the realization that he and his brother were alone now. Mom died of cancer when Sammy was three, and now dad was gone, too. Tommy was all he had left.
Re: Brothers' Bond
Chapter 2: Present Day
Sam sat in the lobby of Professor Rowan’s laboratory thumbing through the magazine selection on the small desk next to his seat. Newsweek, Linoone Fancy, National Geographic, World Pokemon League Illustrated, and Ponyta Dressage Today; nothing that really seemed to catch his eye. Sam thought this odd because he usually enjoyed Newsweek, at least, but his heart just didn’t seem to be in a place for reading about other peoples’ problems. He felt a shiver in the base of his neck that he was unsure if he could attribute to his nerves or the air-conditioning. Just as he had always heard, Sandgem had beautiful weather outside, but it could get to be stifling indoors where the breeze from Sandgem Bay could not penetrate. Air conditioning in this seaside beach town was much less of a convenient luxury like it would be at home in Goldenrod and much more of a life necessity. Every few minutes, he’d catch the fact that the foot crossing over his opposite leg was swaying rapidly. He’d stop it, but as soon as his mind wandered off, the appendage began gleefully oscillating again. After several tries of stopping it only to find it swaying again on its own soon after, he placed his right hand on it in an attempt to hold it in place. He nodded as if to motion that this would teach his errant foot for its impudence, and he went back to rooting through the magazines for something to catch his eye. He passed a men’s fashion periodical and again cursed himself for nixing the full suit.
Bree was oblivious to all of this, as she had fluttered her way into a corner of the room and was pecking around an overgrown houseplant whose vines were snaking between Rowan’s window blinds. Time and again, she’d dig her head into the heart of the plant only to snap it back out in alarm when its leaves tickled her wings. “There’s no honey in there, Bree,” Sam would say to her as she stared down the plant, her wings stretched wide to make herself appear large. After several seconds, Bree would forget the advice and again dig into it.
Vlam watched this with what appeared to be great disinterest, curled around Sam’s inactive foot. She had always seemed slightly annoyed by Bree’s impetuousness, and Sam imagined that her thoughts must have been something along the lines of ‘How has this thing not outgrown this yet?’. Vlam had entered battles very much like Tommy always did--meticulous, patient, and subtle. She would almost always concede an opponent’s opening salvo so that she could get a taste of their power and strategy. Bree, meanwhile, never outgrew her trainer’s methods of battling from his younger days--headstrong, fast, and furious. Bree and Vlam had sparred countless times over the years while Sam was growing up; to say that Vlam had a winning record would almost be an understatement, but despite her displeasure at Bree’s immaturity, she always licked Bree’s cheek after a victory and let the butterfly pokemon chase her many tails. Bree never seemed to mind her losses to her sister much, anyway. Despite the Butterfree’s innocent veneer, she and Sam had become a potent duo not unlike Tommy and Vlam. Sam’s youthful fear of being referred to as ‘Bug Catcher’ by his classmates quickly dissipated when the two of them were constantly near the top of his class rankings. In the corner of the room, Bree had again found herself assaulted by the plant and was now buzzing at it furiously. Vlam--perhaps weary of her sister’s noise or perhaps wanting to comfort her--disengaged herself from Sam’s leg and took patient steps towards the plant. Bree studied her as Vlam buried her own head in the plant, shook its leaves, and then emerged. Bree chirped a response, Vlam cooed back, and that seemed to be the end of her great interest in the plant for the moment.
The door to the left of Sam finally opened, and he whipped the magazines back onto the table where they came from as if they had been illicit, and, in equally quick fashion, Sam was on his feet. Through the door came a much older man, a red vest covering his shirt and tie. It was hard for Sam to discern exactly how old he might be thanks to the walrus beard he was sporting that could have actually made him appear much younger by hiding his wrinkles. A sucker in his mouth not only disguised his potential age but his profession as well. The sucker switched to his left cheek as he studied Sam. “Sam Stark?” he asked. Sam nodded, and the man resumed, “Good to meet you, son. I’m Professor Rowan. I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, but I don’t get many visits without appointments.” Sam could not tell if this was an honest statement or a rebuke on Sam’s part for not having scheduled his arrival. “I was in the middle of a rather lengthy correspondence with a peer, and I did not want to lose my train of thought.” As he said that, his lollipop’s stick was also getting lost under the bristle of his mustache. “How can I help you, my boy?”
Sam wiped his palms on the inside of his khakis pocket before extending his right arm. “Yes, it’s nice to meet you, professor. I’m Sam--wait, you already said...I’m sorry.” Sam shook his head and chided himself internally. “Let me start over, Professor Rowan: it’s very nice to meet you. My father spoke of you when I was younger.”
Rowan’s eyes narrowed, then shot open. “You’re Evander’s son! Little Sammy Stark!” Sam again nodded at this more colloquial introduction. “Heavens! You wouldn’t actually remember this, but you and I have met before. When you were just a pup.”
“I was told, sir. He always held you in high regard.”
Sam’s father had apparently won an internship under Professor Rowan in his younger days. Before going into anesthesiology for human patients, he had considered working in the field of pokemon medicine. During that part of his life, he worked with Rowan in Kanto and studied pokemon physiology, evolution, and development. Sam recalled that while his father ended up going a different direction with his work, he never failed to praise Rowan as the greatest mind under which he ever worked.
“High regard then from a man who deserved to be held equally high from what I understand.” Rowan removed his red sucker and smoothed his beard with his free hand. “It was a terrible loss what happened to him. I know it was ages ago, but you have my sympathies, Sammy.”
Sam waved in the air as if pushing smoke aside. “It’s just Sam, professor. I haven’t gone by Sammy in years.”
Rowan nodded right at the time Vlam had approached him from behind and rubbed her muzzle against his hanging right hand. “Yes, I suppose that’s a name a lot of young men would grow out of.” Vlam circled the professor’s legs before settling down at his feet and closing her eyes. She had, in Sam’s estimation, always been a great judge of character, and for the first time in a year Sam had hope. Perhaps this man would be able to help him after all.
“So how can I assist the family of an old friend, Sam? This is a long way to come just to visit a man you can’t ever remember meeting.”
Sam sighed and turned away from the professor. He walked over to the wall of the waiting room where hung a map of Sinnoh. Sam studied it up and down; it was not that different from Johto back home. Mount Silver separated Johto from Kanto just as Mount Coronet here separated the two ends of Sinnoh, and much of the continent was a solid land mass, as opposed to the Hoenn islands. Despite the similarities, however, Sinnoh had something of great importance that Johto did not, and that was why Sam had left his life behind on hold to come here. Bree flittered over after noticing her trainer was engrossed in the map; she flapped about his head trying to get his attention, but he barely registered her. All he saw were three points on the map. Lake Valor. Lake Verity. Lake Acuity. The reasons he had come here.
“I need them, professor. I need the legends.” He turned away from the map and stared down Rowan unflinchingly. “Azelf, Mesprit, and Uxie. I’ve come for them, and I won’t leave Sinnoh without them.”
10 Years Ago
The sidewalk to Sam’s house had never seemed so long before. Heck, the day itself had never seemed so long! Even on the days where he had back-to-back-to-back exams, none were as long as this day had been. It had been exactly four class periods, twenty-eight minutes into a fifth, and a bus ride home since he had gotten the news, and all he wanted to do since that moment was tell Tommy. He had briefly considered getting his cell phone out of his locker between classes, but it wasn’t worth having his whole PokeGear taken away again. But the classes and the bus ride were behind him now, and it felt like the handful of seconds he spent running up his walkway might as well have been another hour. The front door was locked--Tommy always kept it locked, and Sam usually joked that he did it just to prolong the time it took him to be officially home from school--and fumbling his key into the lock was agony. Why couldn’t he just pass right through the door like a ghost?
He barged into the kitchen to see Tommy stuffing junk mail into the garbage next to their countertop. “Tommy! Guess what?”
Tommy studied him. Sam knew Tommy could tell how imperative this was by the gusto with which he’d asked him to guess, and he knew that Tommy was pretending to put careful thought into his reply when he was really just dragging it out even longer.
“You finally got an A in Geometry?”
Sam let out a laugh at the improbability of that. “No, stupid! I--”
“You can’t get an A in Geometry, and I’m the stupid one. That’s fair.”
Sam ignored him. “I got top seed in the freshman class!”
Tommy nodded his approval. Sam remembered that it was just six years ago that Tommy had been the top freshman pokemon trainer in his school, and he had carried that through to four consecutive years as Trainer of the Year at Goldenrod High School. Tommy had changed only slightly since those days; he was still a very charming young man, but now--even at just twenty years old--he had slight bags under his eyes from all he’d taken on in the last two years; his hair was less naturally flowing and more frazzled and out-of-place. Sam was embarrassed when he realized he must have been beaming; he wasn’t as good of a trainer as Tommy, but he was still apparently pretty good on some level. He probably wouldn’t finish as top trainer overall like his brother, but at least he was seeded higher than Miah Vanderbelt. The look on his face when they had announced him as number two in the class was the second best part of Sam’s day; he had been insufferably smug ever since his dad gave him a Tangrowth for Christmas.
“Tommy, this is all because of you. Seriously. If you hadn’t been pushing me and training with me so much, I’d have never been good enough to get this.”
Tommy grinned. “Well I’m related to you, stinky. I couldn’t face the customers at work if they came in every day and said ‘Hey, isn’t your brother the kid that couldn’t beat Miah and his Tangrowth?’”
“Oh, so I told you about that?”
“Just once or fifty times. And there was a lot of muttering under your breath about how you’d like to see his Tangrowth hit Bree while she was in the air.”
“Yeah, I really don’t think it can...”
“Well I tell you what, champ. Anything you want for dinner tonight. You name it. I’ll run out to the department store and pick it up. Twenty percent employee discount celebratory dinner.”
“Sloppy Joes!” Sam responded with no hint of hesitation.
Tommy laughed and shook his head in disbelief. “Sam, you are cheaper and easier to feed for a year than most pokemon. You’re too good to me.”
Tommy picked his wallet up from the counter and began rooting around in his pocket for his keys; he probably did not notice Sam’s expression sobering up. The news of being top of his class for training wasn’t the only thing he had brought home with him today. There was also a sharp lump in his right pocket. Tommy was musing aloud about never having the sense to put his keys in the same place, but Sam was miles away from those words, in his own head. What would Tommy think? Would he be excited? Saddened? Sam’s hand slowly went fishing into the pocket and pulled out the rock he had been given at the seeding ceremony hours ago. When he pulled it out, he unconsciously checked it to make sure it was the same as what was presented to him: a bright, transparent orange crystal. Wordlessly, he held it out in an open palm for Tommy to see. His brother, having finally reclaimed his keys from the top of the refrigerator, stopped short at the sight of it.
“Where did you get that?”
“They handed out prizes to the top seeds in each class this year,” Sam replied sheepishly. For some reason he couldn’t figure out, his eyes refused to meet his brother’s. “Freshman class winner got a fire stone.”
Tommy’s hand was patting Sam’s shoulder so fast, he hadn’t even seen his brother extend it.”That’s great, Sam! I guess poor little Zeek is going to become a Flareon! And just in time for your Trainer of the Year tournament.”
Sam wanted to use words, but he suddenly found that he didn’t know any. He merely shook his head, afraid of what his brother would say when he found out.
“No, huh? You’re still shooting for an Espeon, I guess. You really should groom it a little better then, Sammy. I can’t imagine it loves it when I am cutting the knots out of its fur.”
“Vlam.” It was the only word that Sam’s brain would release.
Tommy withdrew his arm from his younger brother’s shoulder. His mouth opened, but then closed again right away. A second time it gaped, but again no words followed. Tommy was twenty now, and had been with Vlam for half of his life. Sam knew their father could have gotten Tommy a fire stone if he had wanted to while the elder brother was growing up, but he never did. Sam remembered the lesson his father had taught him once, giving the impetuous child a Nest Ball for catching his first friend. Was keeping Vlam a Vulpix all those years a lesson for Tommy? Sam tried to imagine what lesson that might be: appreciating what you have? Not expecting others to change for you? It didn’t matter. Dad was gone now, and Sam wanted his brother to have this stone.
“No, that’s all right, Sammy.” Tommy’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Vlam’s been fine all these years. And she barely ever gets to battle anymore except in our spars. You should keep that.”
Sam shook his head furiously, his brain still on the fritz for spoken language. His eyes did finally get the bravery they needed to look into Tommy’s.
Tommy sighed. “Okay.” He relented, Sam thought, and the pressure that had been building in his jaw that he hadn’t even been aware of until now eased away. The older brother grabbed Sam and pulled him in for a hug. When was the last time they had spontaneously hugged? Sam couldn’t even recall. “Dad would be so proud if he could see you, Sammy. Just like I am.” And just like that, Sam was hugging him back.
After releasing each other, they said their temporary goodbyes so that Tommy could get going to the Goldenrod Department Store where he worked as an assistant manager and pick up Sam’s victory Sloppy Joes. Tommy had been employed there since shortly after dad had passed. Their father was a doctor, so thankfully he had managed to save enough to help keep the brothers afloat, but there were still taxes to be paid on the family property, as well as utility bills and upkeep costs. Sam had thought it would be better if the two of them just moved into a smaller apartment, but Tommy wouldn’t hear it. Their parents had this house built when they found out mom was pregnant with Tommy, and he refused to let it go; he thought of it as his birthright. It was uncomfortable to think about, but they had been kind of lucky ever since dad passed. The University of Goldenrod City Medical Center swallowed all of their dad’s medical costs and they footed the bill for his burial. And since dad worked at a university-owned hospital, Tommy (and eventually Sam, too) had their tuition paid for at the school, as well. That assistance only went so far, however, and Tommy did the best that he could to cover all the bases, working as many hours as he could grab when it wasn’t absolutely necessary for him to be in class.
Sam’s mind went back around to the Trainer of the Year tournament; he’d need to choose which friends he’d be entering. Bree was a no-brainer; she was his first and his best. As his brother had noted, Zeek was not ready for this, though. He hadn’t heard from the Johto Day-Care Center recently, so he didn’t know how his Nidorino, Barnabus, was doing. It was weird, the day care had been mailing him weekly updates, but he hadn’t heard from them in a while... Sam’s eyes caught a glimpse of the garbage can and he remembered his brother stuffing mail in their as Sam walked in the door. He might not have recognized the update letter and thrown it away. Sam started digging through the pile of coupon periodicals and credit card offers, and while he did not find the letter he was hoping for, he did see an official-looking paper from the University of Goldenrod City. He easily recognized the UGC watermark that had come on so many of Tommy’s other notices from the school. He either must have thrown it away by accident or it just wasn’t important; Sam checked just to be sure.
He was barely a few words in when the shock of the letter hit him. Tommy had failed out of the university! The notice attributed this to bad grades and an overall lack of regular attendance. But Sam couldn’t figure out how that could be; his brother was always so smart and ahead of his class. Even if not for his family ties to the university that got him in for free, Tommy’s test scores had assured him a slew of scholarships at any school of his choosing. There’s just no way he could have failed out! The realization crept into Sam’s awareness like a spider stalking prey in its web. Tommy hadn’t failed his classes because he couldn’t handle them; he had failed because he simply wasn’t going often enough. He was working fifty hours a week at the department store on top of taking care of the house and helping Sam with his studying and training. He had forsaken his future in favor of providing Sam one for himself.
Tommy had given his brother a normal life despite their parents both being dead. Sam, in return, gave him a rock. He buried the letter back in the trash where he found it and headed to his room to study Geometry.
Re: Brothers' Bond
Chapter 3: Present Day
Sam felt less secure in Rowan’s laboratory than he previously had in the lobby. The lab had no windows, only lifeless fluorescent bulbs above him. One, which was not quite in the center of the ceiling but a few feet to the right, flickered continuously since Sam and the professor entered. Amidst all the other lights that glowed flawlessly, this one shouldn’t have bothered anyone; it barely registered in the room that something was off in the lighting, but it still reminded Sam that the light was not natural. The laboratory seemed to be cut off from all signs of life and nature whatsoever, actually. There was no weaving plant here to integrate itself into blinds; to that point, there were no windows to blind there at all. The sterile white walls held no portraits or paintings. The floor was a hard vinyl surface that helped reflect the chill from the air conditioning upwards. Sam yearned for the natural light, hardwood walls, and vegetation of the waiting room as he pondered how a professor who assists in raising young pokemon can operate in such a dead room.
“I’m sorry I asked you to put your pokemon away--what were their names again?”
“Vlam and Bree,” Sam answered, his voice as lifeless as the room. He made no attempt to differentiate which was the Ninetales or the Butterfree. His brain was busy being shuffled back through countless rooms like this one, where he received disheartening word after disheartening word for more than 12 months now. The image of Vlam curling around Rowan’s feet and the hopefulness that her analysis of his character provided felt like they had happened to someone else he might have read about in a story. All he could think of was his rage at useless so-called medical experts. And his brother’s black, emotionless eyes.
“Yes, Vlam and Bree. I’m sorry I asked you to put Vlam and Bree away before coming here. This is where I work on any sick pokemon that come my way. You’ll understand that I need to maintain as germ-free an environment as possible, right?”
Sam nodded, but all he could ponder was how anyone--human or pokemon--could possibly feel better while in this room.
“You seem discomforted here. I apologize, Sam. I merely hoped we could speak in private. Speaking of going after our continent’s legendary pokemon...that is obviously a sensitive matter. I wouldn’t want just anyone to hear you talking like that.”
“I don’t care who hears me, professor,” Sam barked. Rowan’s words had stirred something inside him, and now his spine felt prickly. “I am going to catch them.”
“Now now, son. I can’t imagine how you even think this possible. First of all, no one has seen or documented any proof of the legends in decades,” Rowan stopped there and appeared to be playing with numbers in his head, “possibly centuries! Secondly, you’re hardly the first headstrong young man to come to Sinnoh with designs on capturing them. It’s a countless number of trainers that have failed; how could you think you’ll succeed? And also--”
Sam was tired of his words. Where previously the professor had spoken to him respectfully, possibly even affectionately, his words were now sharpened with the points of lecture. Sam knew he was being scolded, an insolent child who thought himself too big for his britches. “I’m not like the others.”
Rowan’s mouth froze in mid-thought. “How do you feel so?” His words had an air of being rhetorical. He was merely humoring Sam with this question.
Sam shook his head and turned away from the professor. This laboratory was bad enough, but Rowan’s attitude was the same as everyone else’s. The same as dozens of doctors who had no answers for Sam and looked at him like he just grew a second mouth every time he challenged their certainty. He turned away from the professor. “When they came here, why did they do it?”
Are you following this conversation at all, old man, Sam thought but did not verbalize. “Come for the legends.” Sam turned back and Rowan was stroking his beard.
“To become more powerful, I suppose. Either as trainers or as human beings looking for the secrets of infinite willpower or knowledge.”
“So they came here for themselves?”
“It would make the most sense.”
Sam closed his eyes and thought of a still-charming man confined to a hospital bed, having not spoken a word or moved a muscle in a year’s time. Sam thought of eyes that used to invite you into conversation, and that now were as empty as the vacuum of space. Sam thought of Tommy.
“Well I don’t want the legends, Professor Rowan. I don’t want to train them, I don’t want to battle with them, and I don’t want their secrets. I need them to save my brother’s life. Or give him one back,” his voice began failing with uncertainty. “I don’t know...I don’t know what I need them to do, but I...I need it...”
“Your brother...Tommy.” Rowan’s eyes rolled to the top of his head as if he could see the lightbulb going on there. “I am sorry, I had forgotten you had one. It’s been so long…” He pushed his hands into the pockets of his vest; it reminded Sam of a chided young boy who felt guilty about something. “But I don’t understand. How could the legends help him?”
Sam had steeled himself for having to do this, and so he began his explanation of something that had happened just over a year ago, but had roots much deeper in his past than that. He told the story of Tommy Stark, an amazing young man who thought nothing of raising his younger brother after their father died. Tommy, who sacrificed everything just to make sure that Sam would never want for anything.
A year ago, Tommy's sacrificing for Sam should already have been over. Sam had been a year out of college; he should have been finding a job. But the job market was hard for everyone, so Sam was still living at home. He often wondered if he would move out even if he had his own job. At twenty-four years old, his brother was all he’d ever known. Tommy worked two jobs at that point; he had long-since been promoted to manager position of the Goldenrod Department Store, but he was working part-time at the Pokemon Center, too. Tommy never said it aloud, but Sam knew he missed battling, and working at the Center gave him the chance to be around pokemon and trainers all day. Was Tommy jealous of Sam? Sam was in the World Pokemon League just like Tommy had so briefly been. Was he jealous to see Sam living the life that should have been his? He always seemed so happy, so proud. Sam hated wondering if he himself could ever be so selfless with his life because he feared he’d not like the truth of the answer.
Sam had already had a busy day that evening when he finally arrived home. Leaving Tommy at home to tend to the headache his older brother woke up with, he had spent the morning at the CareerLink working on his resume and finding job listings. He managed to drag himself out to a few places that were looking for entry-level workers. He’d finally given up looking for work that would put his degree in Pokemon Psychology to use, so at that point, anything would have worked. Tommy told him that eventually they’d need counselors at the Pokemon Center, but there were just no openings currently, so Sam wanted something to merely get him through until that day. He barely got out of his last meeting in time to get to his WPL match in the afternoon. Coach William Overton, a lanky older man with too much product in his fiery hair, chewed Sam out for almost missing his check-in time, but all was forgiven when Sam swept his rookie opponent away. After a few customary interviews and the post-match handshake, it had been safe to say the only thing on Sam’s mind was when he would start getting matches on prime-time television.
Tommy had cheered Sam away from such distraction by preparing stuffed porkchops, one of Sam’s favorites, for dinner that evening. Sam remembered their discussion that day about the match and the job-hunting, and how a few times, he saw Tommy shaking his right hand as if he was trying to clear it of invisible spiders. Sam didn’t think much of it at the time, just that his brother must have burned himself on the casserole dish and was flinching in pain. They sat at the table, and Tommy began telling Sam that he thought there was going to be an opening at the Pokemon Center soon. One of the resident pokemon therapists was apparently interviewing in Azaela for a head counselor position, so Sam would have a possible foot in the door in the coming weeks.
After dinner they settled in to watch some other WPL Johto matches--Tommy was always very insistent that Sam study as much of his opponents as possible—and it was then that Sam noticed something: Tommy was trying to describe the methods of one of the trainers they were watching, but his words weren’t coming out right. It was like there was a fog hanging in front of his mouth catching the words as he made them.
“A few seconds after that, he collapsed. He’d suffered a massive stroke,” Sam’s voice felt tiny as he finished relaying the memory to the pokemon professor. “He’s been catatonic ever since.”
Both men were silent for some time after that, and Sam actually appreciated it. As much as it pained him to do so, Sam had relayed this story several times since it happened, and so many times the other person’s reaction has been to saccharine their voices and pull Sam into a hug and tell him what a “poor thing” he is. In contrast to that, he admired what he viewed as reverent silence from Rowan. All good things, as they say, do come to ends, and Rowan broke the space between them.
“I would never make so little of your pain as to say that I know what you’re going through, Sam. My parents both lived full lives, and my sisters are both with me today and have given me beautiful nieces and nephews. What you’ve gone through is awful. But it doesn’t answer the question of why you think the legends can help you.”
“My brother is stuck in a bed, unable to will himself move. He’s forgotten everything about his previous life. And he can’t remember his relationships. Not with Vlam and not with me. Do you see what he’s missing? Willpower, knowledge, and emotion.”
Rowan’s eyes widened. “Son, you’re talking about mythical abilities attributed to legendary pokemon. Not only are we not sure they still exist, but we have no way of knowing if they are truly responsible for such matters.”
“Well what else am I going to do?” Sam’s voice grew large again. “Go see a specialist? Or a homeopathic doctor? Oh wait, I already have! More than I can count. I haven’t found a single human being alive that has an answer for the severity of stroke that Tommy suffered. And if I can’t find a human…”
“It’s…not unheard of. There’s certainly healing abilities in the pokemon kingdom that have proven useful on human conditions. But what you are asking for…what you are expecting…”
“Professor, I’m going to do this. I’m going to at least look for them. I don’t know what else to do. It’s the only shot I have left.”
Again, Rowan was silent. Sam knew he was carefully considering his response. He probably didn’t believe in what Sam needed to do, but perhaps he would at least empathize with it. Finally he replied, “I can’t leave my lab or my offices. I simply have too many people that depend on me. But if this is something you truly want to do, I can send an assistant to guide you around Sinnoh. I will be honest, Sam, I think you’d have a better chance chasing the end of a rainbow; I honestly do. But as a favor to your family, I’ll help you as much as I can within reason.”
It was all Sam could have asked.
Re: Brothers' Bond
Chapter 4: Present Day
The newly caught Shinx bounced happily at its trainer’s left side. Occasionally Bree would float down to it and let out a sharp chirp, and the Shinx would reply by rearing up on its stubby hindlegs and swatting up at the Butterfree. Bree was too quick, however, and would always flap herself just out of reach. The Shinx would let out a few yips to let it know it wanted the butterfly pokemon to come lower so they could play together. On Sam’s right side, Vlam kept up with her trainer’s gait and ignored the other two more childish pokemon.
Sam couldn’t rationalize in his head why he felt compelled to capture the Shinx. He had already left most of his friends behind, in the comfort of neighbors and friends who pitied Sam and were happy to do what they could while he did what he had to do. Secretly, he suspected they all thought he was losing his mind, so perhaps they felt they were doing right by the pokemon to keep them out of their trainer’s mad hands. Whatever the reason, he left many of them behind and had decided only on bringing the two. Waiting two weeks for customs to clear just Vlam and Bree could have turned into an indeterminable wait if he had brought even more of his friends, and besides that, it felt right to just bring the Ninetales and Butterfree. But if that was the case, he wondered, why stop in the woods to catch the black and blue creature? Sam looked over to his left at Bree, then in the other direction to gaze at Vlam. When Sam had encountered the Shinx, it was in a forest where everything else that crossed his path fled at the sight of him. Starly and Bidoof zipped off into the high branches of their trees when alerted to Sam’s presence. But when he saw this underfed Shinx, it barely registered Sam’s existence. It had its head buried in a berry bush, live electric sparks snapping off of its tail as it crunched away. It had a small torso yearning to be filled with food, and it was not giving up its treasure no matter who was there...just like another friend he caught one day, Sam realized as Bree buzzed about his head. Was that all there was to it? He stood back and watched the Shinx trying to match Vlam’s pace on its much scrawnier and stubbier four legs. It was disinterested in Bree now, and yelped in the deepest voice Sam imagined it could muster at Tommy’s Ninetales. The elder pokemon refused to turn its head back in acknowledgment, but Sam saw her lightly flick her tail around to keep the Shinx interested. It felt good to be standing still while he watched them; he had taken a rental car to the end of the main roads, but since then he’d been walking for hours through these woods. The tall trees kept the sun off of him, and he realized, now that he was relaxing, just how sweaty he’d become. The Shinx was now swatting Vlam’s paws and barking back-and-forth, from Vlam to Bree; sparks were radiating from its tail just as it had been when he came across it. It dawned on Sam that the Shinx thought that Vlam was not aware of the Butterfree’s presence and was now trying to alert her. The name Chispa came to his mind; it seemed to suit the little girl.
When Sam had woken up that morning in Professor Rowan’s guest bedroom, the professor told him that the assistant who would be helping Sam was already at Lake Verity. Apparently the assistant lived near to the lake and received word from Rowan to go there over night. Rowan had also been kind enough to set Sam up with a rental car. Sam asked what he owed for it, but Rowan waved him off. Sam indulged in an omelette and sausage and a warm shower after seeing the car; for the first time since arriving in Sinnoh, Sam did not feel rushed. He hadn’t realized how many meals he’d ignored lately not because he didn’t have the time, but because his mind was too burdened to think of regular sustenance. Everything seemed so imminent all of the sudden. Sam would soon find out the car was packed with tents and food and other necessities. He was taken aback by the professor’s generosity, and asked if Rowan had any final advice for him.
“Life is full of changes of plans.”
Those were the words Rowan had left him with late in the morning. The drive down Route 201 wasn’t terrible; it took Sam only two hours, and the weather just off of the Sandgem beach was impeccable. But where the road ended, the Verity Forest began. Sam had expected to meet the assistant there, but there was no sign of anyone. A quick call to Rowan confirmed that the assistant had already made it to the lakefront, but not to worry because the lake was a straight shot through the woods. Ninety minutes later, Sam was wondering just how much of a shot Rowan was talking about. The path was clear enough, and Sam did not doubt he was making his way there, but an endless expanse of trees gave no hint that a lake was before him. Starly who saw him called out in song to the rest of the forest, warning them to flee from possible predators. It was the only sign of life in the forest aside from when he’d encountered Chispa. The Shinx was nice, sure, but she wasn’t the Mesprit he’d come here to catch.
Mesprit, the Being of Emotion, as it was called in legend, was rumored to be a unique psychic type pokemon that had resided at Lake Verity for centuries. The stories were that when it and its brothers were hatched from a single egg, their mere existences gave human beings abilities that they had previously lacked. Mesprit found that it could fly above the world using its vast mental powers, and when it did so, it awakened base emotions in humanity. For the first time, parents loved their children and rivals hated each other and people mourned the loss of family and friends. Sam thought of Tommy’s eyes that were no longer capable of even recognizing his own brother. Changes of plans, Sam thought, were simply not on the menu. Sam would find Mesprit and he would restore his brother. That was all there was to it.
“Halt! These are my woods, and if you want to pass, you’ll have to battle me!”
Sam had been so entranced in the thought of having Mesprit’s gifts bring Tommy back, he had allowed himself to be come upon from behind. He turned to see a teenage boy--not quite yet an adult--with wild blonde hair curling upwards on either side of his head. Fiery orange eyes stared into Sam’s, and the young man flung the arms of his scarf back dramatically. The weather certainly was not calling for a scarf, so Sam thought the boy must have been wearing it ironically. Shinx clawed at Sam‘s leg, clearly startled at the boy‘s booming voice, and even Vlam‘s tails had stiffened at the sound of it.
“Don’t play dumb. You heard me. Battle me for the rights to walk in my woods!”
It was the silliest thing Sam had ever heard. The woods were apparently endless, and this kid just haphazardly decided he owned them?
“Look, I’m just looking for something. I really don’t--”
“You can use those three jokes for pokemon if you want, buddy.”
It would take more than that to insult Sam or get his ire up. “Get lost. Seriously.”
“Like you already are?”
“I know where I’m going. I’m following a path.”
“You know where you’re going. Right. That’s why you missed the turn about 15 minutes ago that would have put you right out on the lake.”
Sam was confused. At first that he had somehow missed an apparently obvious turn, but then at the fact that this boy knew he was trying to find the lake. “Wait...how did--”
“How did I know you were looking for the lake? Yeah, like I’d be such a good assistant to Professor Rowan if I wasn’t out here waiting for some dumb foreigner to miss his turn.”
“Yeah. You’re late, by the way. I’ve been here all day. Just for that, I’m fining you a million bucks!”
No way, Sam thought. There’s no way Rowan was working with some overeager brat like this. Was there?
“Yeah, I’m the assistant, knucklehead,” the boy replied as if reading Sam’s mind. “Name’s Barry, and I hear you’re the fool who thinks he can catch one of our legends.”
Sam made a mental note to talk to Rowan about the professionalism of his staff. He then made another one to talk to him about child labor laws. “How old are you, kid?”
“Old enough to beat your sorry butt in a battle!”
Sam groaned. Just talking to this kid felt like running a marathon. He wished he was back to being alone and lost. “Okay, I’m sorry I called you ‘kid’. How old are you, Barry?”
Barry straightened his posture, and tightened his scarf. “I’m sixteen.”
“Is that old enough to have some kind of internship with an established professor?”
“If you’re concerned that I’m not up to your standards, don’t. I’ve worked with Professor Rowan for years. He gave me my first pokemon! And I’ve helped him out of some jams.”
“Anyway, the turn you missed is back here a ways. I uprooted some bushes and used them to cover it up. I thought it’d be funny to watch you wander on past it.”
Sam wanted to have Vlam set this kid on fire. It was suddenly the only thing he’d ever wanted in his life.
“Come on,” Barry continued, “I got a camp set up at the lakefront and everything. We can catch up on how much more awesome than you I am there.”
Vlam, use flamethrower. Those words tasted better in Sam’s mouth than any cake he’d ever eaten. But he swallowed them and followed the teen. Barry had fallen wordless on the way back to the missed path; he simply hummed to himself. Sam also remained quiet, but it was simply out of fear that if he opened his mouth it could only be to make his team attack the young assistant. When Barry revealed the missing ‘path’, Sam understood how he missed it: there was no way to possibly discern it! Barry must have torn up a dozen shrubs and planted them back right on the cleared walkway. What the heck was wrong with this kid? Just as gleefully as he must have placed the plants there, the youth knocked them all back out of the way.
“It’s just about half a mile this way,” Barry announced after revealing the path.
As they followed the path, Sam found himself oddly impressed by the young assistant’s stride. It was very upright and very swift. Even though Sam was older and taller (not that much older, Sam thought before reassuring himself that he was in his physical prime as a man in his mid-twenties), he was having a hard time keeping up with it. There was a cockiness to the way Barry moved, as if nothing could be as important as what he’d set his mind to. Sam wondered if Barry would even have noticed something as mundane as a Shinx too caught up in its meal to acknowledge that it should be afraid of him. Noticing Chispa’s failing attempt to keep up with him keeping up with his new partner, Sam withdrew his friends into their portable homes. They didn’t need any more insults from this kid, anyway.
The lake was far bigger than Sam had imagined. He could see the other side, but it was quite a distance away and nothing distinguishable could be made out, and the length was enormous, as well. The eastern side actually disappeared into the woods, so Sam had no idea how much further that way went. Sam was not sure what he imagined would be here; perhaps a giant cave? Or a totem? Or just Mesprit itself floating above the water? But there was no sign of anything. There was a brief shoreline covered in branches and leaves, a calm lake, and then a far off opposite shore. Sam’s heart sunk in his chest; where did he go from here? The lake was unaffected by Sam’s heartbreak; calm water licked the shoreline as it was brushed in gently by the breeze between the trees. Sam could see minnows dancing in the shallowness by the shore. He glanced away from the water itself; maybe it was a red herring, he thought, so he looked all around at the trees and the shoreline. There had to be some kind of clue; some way to draw Mesprit out.
“All right, what’s the plan, man?”
The words bounced off the interior of Sam’s skull. Initially, he planned to stay at the lake as long as it took to find Mesprit. But now with this impatient child with him, would that still even be an option?
“Well, we just got here. First things first, we’ll need to get my things out of my car and ready for the night. After that, obviously I need to explore the circumference of the lake. From there I’ll need to examine the surrounding area. I need to get some kind of idea as to what draws it out and how. We’ll move forward with catching it from there.” Sam hoped the confidence he was trying to project with his voice was there. Barry agreed--whether because of the confidence of because he was just agreeable--and they began to unpack for the evening. Night arrived faster than Sam had expected after getting all of his supplies out and integrated with Barry’s, and he still had no solution to the riddle of Lake Verity other than this idea of simply looking around. He thought that a fresh day might give him renewed perspective on how to progress from here, and Barry agreed.
Tommy sat in his hospital bed with his sunken face leaning down, chin resting on his sternum. Sam tried to speak to him, but his voice was gone. The hospital room was black except for the light over Tommy’s bed, and Sam could hear none of the telltale signs of being in a hospital. There were no machines humming, no nurses ordering medications, no other patients talking to each other. It was just Sam and Tommy and this dark room. The silence suffocated Sam, but no matter how much he tried to call out to his brother, his vocal cords refused to obey him. When Sam tried reached out to take his brother’s hand, Tommy’s bed glided away from him. He slammed his fist down on the end of the railing near Tommy’s feet in anger at his own impotence, and his older brother’s head jumped. Sam leapt back with a start; had Tommy moved on his own, or had the force of the slam jarred it? He reached again for his brother, and this time the bed stayed in place, allowing Sam to stroke Tommy’s chin.
Tommy’s hand shot up and grabbed Sam’s arm. Sam yelped twice: once in surprise at Tommy’s reaction, and again when his older brother twisted the arm away from his chin. “Tommy, please!” Sam shouted, his throat finally back in control. “It’s me, Sam!”
Tommy’s face lifted to meet Sam’s; his eyes were solid black and his mouth was wretched into a scowl. As their eyes met, Tommy pulled himself out of the hospital bed. This caused Sam to fall backwards onto his rear and try to crawl away from his approaching brother. “You,” Tommy said. “Sam. You.” Sam’s arms pushed him back as rapidly as they could, but his previously crippled brother was gaining on him. “You did this.” Even worse than the accusations of his brother was the sudden beeping sound of Tommy’s hospital bed; a beeping that was growing in volume...
Sam’s eyes opened to find the beeping permeated his reality, as well. No, he thought, the beeping was real to begin with, and it had crawled into his nightmare. The next thought he had was that Barry was not only wide awake, but he was standing upright, staring across the water. As Sam regained more of his bearings in the awakened world, his ears let him know the sound seemed to be coming from the direction Barry was looking.
“What is that sound?”
Barry shook his head, but never removed his gaze from past the lake. “I don’t know.”
Re: Brothers' Bond
Chapter 5: Present Day
Sam had thought Barry was moving fast when they were just on their way to the lake yesterday, but he realized he hadn’t seen fast until the young man, abandoning camp and all of their belongings, raced along the edge of the lake in an attempt to get to the northern side. His feet came down so hard and so quickly, he almost trampled a family of Bidoof who weren‘t aware of his presence until nearly too late.
“Barry!” Sam called out from behind him as he did his best to stay caught up. “Barry, what’s going on? You’re leaving all of our supplies behind!”
“You can stay with them if you want, but I’d rather you came with me. So either keep up or don’t!” Barry’s gait hardly changed as he yelled the order back to Sam.
Sam had no time at all to be indecisive, and he knew it. If he paused to consider his actions for even a moment, Barry would be out of sight. With that realization, Sam increased his speed in an effort to stay just behind Barry’s trail of dust. He still had no idea why Barry was running so fervently, but it was obvious that the sound from the other side of the lake had awoken something dire within the young man. It was a side of Barry that Sam had seen no sign of yesterday.
After a few minutes of a dead sprint around the periphery of Lake Verity, Barry finally slowed down, placing his right arm over his chest as he did so. Sam knew Barry must have been feeling the same vice squeezing his lungs that he did. Their pace reduced itself to a quickened walk, and Sam finally had enough time to realize wherever they were rushing off to, they were doing it in their pajamas. Sam tried to imagine whatever creature was making the mechanical beeping noise being intimidated by his flannel sweatpants and white tank top, but it seemed all-too-unlikely. Somewhere in his haste, he had lost one of his knitted slippers, and he tried to calculate if having one was any more ridiculous than either having both or just being barefoot. He settled on kicking the other one off to match his bare feet; he could recover the socks when they came back around the lake.
“Did you bring your pokemon?”
Sam was almost shocked that Barry had spoken; he hadn’t said anything since demanding Sam’s decision. Sam’s hand went to the exterior of his pockets and he felt the three lumps within. “I did, yeah. Why--”
“Good. You sleep with them? Smart.” Barry was still not even turning his head to Sam when he spoke, choosing instead to keep his eyes locked on the shoreline. He really must not have wanted to lose even a step’s worth of his speed, even while recuperating from the sprint.
“I guess. I just--”
“Do you know anything about the beeps?”
“The beeps? You mean the noise? No, how would I? I just got here--”
“It has nothing to do with you?”
Sam desperately wanted to finish a thought without another interruption, but this question wrecked into his brain like a runaway car. “What? With me? No, no it’s not.”
Barry nodded and picked up his pace to a light jog. His vice must have loosened somewhat. Sam wished his chest would tell him the same. Nevertheless, he increased his own speed to match.
The beeping that had saved Sam from his nightmare grew louder as they rounded Verity. Sometimes it would disappear for minutes at a time, only to re-emerge later. As they got closer, other sounds began mixing in. First, a heavy, rapid sound of two hard materials colliding. After that, the sound of hydraulics. What they were approaching was definitely man-made. Not only that, but it had to be some kind of heavy machinery. He was considering the implications of that thought when he saw that Barry had come to a stop and was crouching. The motion he made with his hand signaled Sam to do the same.
Maybe a hundred yards of trees and shrubs separated Sam and Barry from a small construction force in a clearing of the woods. There was a large, orange backhoe that emitted a cautionary beep--the sound that he had been chasing--when it needed to back up. Not far from the backhoe sat an idling bulldozer and a matching orange breaker. All three pieces of machinery had the same picture of a fiery bird blazoned on their doors. There was obviously a man in the backhoe steering it backwards off a mound of dirt the equipment must have dug up, but the other vehicles seemed empty, and half a dozen men milled about outside them, all clad in matching construction hats and red jumpsuits. There were too far away for Sam to discern anything they could be saying.
“What do you think is going on here?” As Sam turned to Barry to get an answer to his question, he found the young man snapping pictures with his cell phone. Sam stared on as Barry then began inputting information into the touchscreen. “What are you doing?”
“Sending these pics to the professor. You seriously don’t know these guys?”
“What? No. I told you--”
“Awesome. Good. Okay, I have to call him. Hold on.”
Another statement interrupted by Barry, but Sam was much less concerned about this one. Barry pulled the phone to his ear, and Sam went back to studying the crew. The last man working exited the backhoe and joined his partners on the ground, studying the hole that Sam figured the breaker and backhoe joined forces to bore.
“Professor Rowan, hey it’s me. Did you get the pictures I sent you?...Good...Yeah, they’re just here at the north side of the lake...So did you recognize the emblem on...Phoenix Shipping Corporation?...No, I never heard of it...” Sam’s eyes shot back-and-forth between Barry and the workers by their equipment. It seemed impossible that they could hear Barry at this distance, but what if they could? Were they allowed to be here while this crew was working? Barry’s conversation continued, “Well that doesn’t sound so bad...No, he’s right here with me, he doesn’t seem to know these guys...Yeah, I believe him. I am not particularly suspicious of guys who whimper in their sleep...Do we have permission to?...Awesome...Oh, you know I can, but what about--CHRIST!”
When the ground shook, it dislodged the phone from Barry’s hand, sending it into a bush several feet away. Both Sam and Barry toppled to the ground as the floor of the forest revolted beneath their feet. Sam felt a sticky rain trickle down on him, but only for a moment--it stopped as suddenly as the earthquake underneath him had. He reached to the back of his head to feel the wetness of the rain, but it was more than wet. It was also thick, and when he brought his hand back around, he could see it was white and brown. He lifted his gaze to the trees, and that’s when it hit him: whatever had so suddenly startled himself and Barry seemed to also scare the birds and the pokemon in the trees above them. “Son of a--”
“Hey, are you okay? What was that?”
Sam’s attention was called back to the more pressing matter. “I don’t know...” Suddenly a thought hit him. “Well those guys dug a hole, right? Maybe they set off some kind of explosive when the hole got deeper than their machines could go?”
“Those idiots. Look, Sam, I know you’re here to see Mesprit or whatever, but I might need your help, and you’d be doing Professor Rowan a favor, too. You want to come help me stop some unlicensed construction?”
Barry was right enough that this was not why Sam had come to this lake. Whatever this was, it really wasn’t his business, and what authority did he or Barry have to tell these guys what they could or could not do? But when Sam thought past that, he concluded that he might never see Mesprit with these people here destroying the forest. “Sure. Whatever. I mean, I guess. But what do we--”
Barry pulled two of his pokeballs out of his pocket. They were plain red-and-white pokeballs, the cheap kind that were generally so undependable that they were used almost exclusively to catch fresh, defenseless hatchlings. “Follow my lead.”
Barry shot out of their cover and into the clearing where the men worked. “Excuse me, gentlemen!” he called out, “I’ve come to check your paperwork and licensing for your project here today!”
The men began exchanging words with each other, but Sam could not understand them; not because he was too far away now, but because they were speaking in a language he did not know. Now that Sam was closer, he could see the skin tone of these men was slightly different from his own, as if they had a permanent suntan, and that’s when it hit him: they were no more native to Sinnoh than he was. They must have come from one of the equatorial regions. One of them, a man with full, bushy sideburns, stepped forward from the rest. He was not as thickly built as Sam imagined construction workers to be, but maybe with so many machines and explosives doing the work, he did not need to be. “Hey, kids. This is not a playground, there are dangerous stuff at work here. I am sorry if we did startle you, but you are going to have to get go from here.” The man’s imperfect speech and accent seemed to confirm what Sam already suspected.
“Happy to,” Barry smiled at the worker, “just as soon as we check to see if all your paperwork is in order. Verity Forest is protected land, after all.”
Sideburns turned back to his group and shouted something in what was probably his native tongue. His coworkers replied in kind, and he turned back to Barry. “Child, I am to be serious. You have to leave. It is,” he put his hand on a Great Ball that hung from his belt by a keychain, “not safe here for you.”
That was apparently all Barry needed. Both of his arms pressed forward, red energy flashing forth from his two pokeballs. In the space between himself and Sideburns materialized two pokemon: one, a child-sized monkey with red and blue warpaint on its face and flames dancing on the end of its tail; the other a tortoise creature that was easily the size of a large SUV. Sam recognized them from the tour guides he had read about Sinnoh as a Monferno and a Torterra, respectively. The Torterra was especially impressive, having a fully grown small tree sprouting from its shell and protective, rocky plates growing out from the sides of its head. Upon its emergence, it sat perfectly still except for its head, which moved to study its environment. The Monferno shuffled swiftly from side-to-side and stretched its knuckles to crack them.
Sideburns yelled something back to his crew while he unhooked his Great Ball. Sam braced for them to rush forward to help him, but they instead turned towards the heavy equipment and raced for them. Energy was just emerging from Sideburns’ ball when Barry yelled to Sam.
“You deal with whatever he’s got! I’m going to stop those guys! Torterra, fissure away those vehicles!”
The massive tortoise slammed its oak-like left front leg about a foot deep into the forest floor. A crack in the earth broke under the breaker, and the machine teetered sideways into it. Sam tried to watch to see if anything was happening to the other devices, but his view was suddenly obscured by a large, rotund pokemon. Sam was familiar with it as a Hariyama on only a rudimentary level from the studying he did when he was still active in the World Pokemon League. He never had the displeasure of actually seeing one in person until now. It’s huge, three-fingered palms swayed in the air in front of him, and its thick eyebrows formed a menacing V-pattern on its forehead.
Sam fumbled for his pocket. He had never been in a purely confrontational fight before; all of his previous battles, many though they had been, were either friendly spars or WPL matches. He found the Nest Ball in his left pocket and squeezed it one time, bringing Bree forward in a flush of energy. While the boy he was with was destroying Sideburns’ machines, it seemed a bad time for Sam to ask what the rules might be for this fight. Sideburns yelled something to Hariyama in the language Sam couldn’t understand, and the massive fighting-type brought its flattened hand down in a chop onto Bree. She reeled backwards from the impact, but managed to stay airborne.
“Hey! I can’t understand that! That’s...really unfair.” Sam found that he was pointing an accusing finger at the foreigner. Sideburns shouted another mystery order, but this time, Sam had his bearings more together. “Bree, fly up! Just...stay away from it!”
Hariyama’s right leg whipped around to kick Bree, but she had managed to narrowly avoid the impact by flying several feet into the air. “Yeah, you can yell all the gibberish you want now, but your fatty ninja pokemon can’t fly, so why don’t you calm down? We just asked to see your license and paperwork!” Sideburns scowled in response and let out another roar that did not sound like the friendly invitation to drink coffee and sort this all out that Sam had hoped for.
Hariyama bent forward and slammed both of its hands into the ground in front of him. After a second of straining, it pulled a clump of dirt and stone the size of an oven from the earth and pitched it at Bree in one fluid movement. The Butterfree was struck by the rock, but still managed to use her ability to fly to roll with the impact and stay aloft. Sideburns opened his mouth to call another attack.
“Oh, I’m done with this. Butterfree, psychic the heck out of tubby and end this!”
Bree zipped down and landed directly on top of Hariyama’s head. She dug her blue feet and paws into the fighting-type’s scalp and splayed her wings wide. Visibly, nothing else seemed to happen until Hariyama screamed in agony. It fell onto its belly, defeated.
“Do you yield?” Sam had no idea why he barked those words, but he had to admit to himself: it sounded really good. Sideburns recalled his Hariyama and took three hesitating steps backwards. When it seemed that Sam and Bree were not pursuing him, he turned and rushed off into the woods. Sam noticed the rest of his group must have already fled there; it was now just Sam, Barry, their pokemon, and some wrecked machinery.
“Really? ‘Do you yield’? That’s the direction you decided to go there?”
Sam shrugged. “It felt right.”
“I thought you were threatening to cut his head off.”
“I think he thought so, too. Did you see him book it out of here?”
Barry rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you’re a lion among men, what with your bird poop hair and your night whimpering”
“Oh, you caught both of those, huh?" The adrenaline from the fight was beginning to fade, and Sam’s thoughts went back to the lake. Had those guys frightened away Mesprit? Would he still have a chance to catch it after all the ruckus they had made? He was removed from his thoughts by a sudden sensation on his back; Barry’s Monferno jumped up onto his shoulders and bounced in place. He panted heavily into Sam’s ear.
“Hey, stranger danger! We talked about this.” Monferno waved Barry’s words off and continued to happily bounce around on Sam’s back. “Eh,” Barry continued, “I guess he knows you’re with me. He likes everyone, though. Don’t be too proud of it.”
Sam scratched Monferno’s large, oval ears. “What do we do now?”
“Well you’re here to play Lake Warrior or whatever, but I’ve got to get back to Professor Rowan. These guys work for some shipping company that just opened in Canalave City. No idea what they’d be doing here. If you want to come along, I wouldn’t say no.”
Sam knew he had a decision to make. This wasn’t why he’d come here, and he had no idea what it even was. He did know that it was none of his business, and it certainly wasn’t going to help Tommy. But seeing Mesprit seemed less likely than ever now. Maybe, he thought, if he went back to Sandgem Town with Barry, he could take the time to study what he now knew of Lake Verity and find its secrets.
Re: Brothers' Bond
Chapter 6: Six Years Ago...
“Most kids can’t wait to get as far away from home as possible for college, and you want to stay here? You’re crazy, Sammy.”
Sam and Tommy stood outside Ilex Hall, the largest educational building on the University of Goldenrod City’s campus, hosting most of the math and business courses that the school offered. Seeing as how Tommy had attended the university, however briefly, Sam couldn’t have imagined anyone he’d rather have guide him around the campus. The first place they toured had been, of course, Whitney Williams Stadium, the school’s official pokemon stadium, just a short bus ride off of campus and named in honor of one of Goldenrod City’s most famed trainers. Tommy was very insistent that Sam enter the National Collegiate Pokemon Association right away in his freshman year and see if he could translate the success he had in high school to a more competitive level. Not that it would take much prodding for Sam to do that; he knew he’d be signing up as soon as registration for first-years was open. After that, they’d visited the cafeteria halls; Tommy had made it clear that while the cafeteria was a good bargain with the meal plans the university offered, the restaurants around campus were the better option taste-wise. Since then, they’d been visiting the various educational facilities. Harrison Hall, where most of the science labs were located, was a very modern building whose eastern wall was entirely glass window panes, and it stood in stark contrast to the gothic layout and worn concrete walls of liberal arts building, the Abeshire Building. They had skipped the southern area of campus where most of the dormitories were located; Sam had made it clear that he wanted to live at home for at least his freshman year.
“I mean, with your grades and your marks as a trainer, I’m sure most of the universities in Johto would accept you in a second. There’s no reason to feel tied to Goldenrod if you don’t want to be.”
Tommy wasn’t wrong, and it made Sam feel egotistical to think so. But UGC was a respected school, not to mention the only one Sam could attend entirely on scholarship due to his late father’s employment there. Tommy was already working so hard to provide for them both that Sam knew he couldn’t entertain the notion of adding college costs on top of that.
“Yeah right. And what happens while I’m gone? You sit around and talk to yourself until you go crazy? Or you finally start working the ten hours a week you don’t already and drive yourself into the ground? Face it, you don’t know where you’d be without me.”
“I’d be neck-deep in women is where I’d be. Without the oh-so-sexy declaration of ‘No, baby. We can’t go back to my place. My kid brother is up watching pro wrestling’, I’d be solid gold.”
Sam sputtered a few words, but nothing pointed was coming to him as he tried to imagine his brother meeting women. It was a disturbing thought, broken up by Tommy’s laughter. “Oh man, you need to see your own face, Sammy. I think I just broke your brain.” Tommy patted his brother between the shoulders. “Like I have time to date? Wishful thinking. But man...you are so gullible, kiddo.”
Sam was relieved, first that he did not have to imagine Tommy dating any further, and then by the fact that his living with his older brother wasn’t the reason Tommy didn’t get to do so. He’d never admit it to his brother, but the weight of the guilt he felt over everything that Tommy did for him was pretty heavy. The fewer things he could add to that pile, the better.
They moved away from Ilex Hall so that Tommy could show him the Banner Memorial Library that was on Sitrus Avenue, the main road through campus. Every so often, Sam would notice Tommy take a deep breath and just stare off at a building or a university transit bus or a bench on the lawn outside of a building. It would only last a moment, but there was definitely something there. A memory, Sam thought, or perhaps a regret? If Tommy felt bad about his failing out of UGC, he’d never let Sam know it. He still remembered the day the letter came and his questioning his brother over it. Tommy just chuckled and replied, “College is hard, kiddo. You better get your grades up so you can see just how hard some day.” And then he effortlessly changed the subject to using his new Fire Stone to evolve Vlam. As Sam thought of it like that, college was the only thing that Tommy didn’t make seem effortless. He was constantly on the receiving end of promotions at work, he had more friends than Sam could count, and he usually made short work of Sam when they sparred their friends. His brother was everything Sam was and then some; if Tommy couldn’t handle college, how would he be able to?
He hadn’t consciously stopped walking, but he knew the fear of his upcoming freshman year had halted him when he saw that Tommy was now several feet ahead of him and turned back looking at him.
“Hey, you only need to stop and look both ways at an intersection. It doesn’t really apply to the middle of the sidewalk.”
“What if I can’t do it?” He instantly felt ashamed at having to speak loudly enough for Tommy to hear him. Any of the other kids milling about campus could just have heard him, and what if he had to share classes with them this year? They’d remember him as that whiny freshman who can’t hack it.
“Can’t do what? Stop at an intersection? I’d kind of hope that’d be a skill you’d have mastered by now...”
Tommy bridged the gap between them. He studied Sam for a second, and Sam waited for his advice. “Well we’re always hiring at the department store!” Sam looked back at him expectantly. He needed something real now, and Tommy seemed to understand. “Hey, listen. You got this. You’re a better man than you know. For someone, you know, who’s barely a man.” A short jab in Sam’s arm punctuated his last point...
“Are you even listening? Does senility really hit this early?”
Sam was shocked out of his recollection of another time by this youthful voice next to him. When his eyes refocused on the present, he saw what had sent him into his own memories so many minutes ago.
“Waves.” Sam swallowed a burp. “Seasick. God...”
Barry and Sam had boarded the ferry bound for Canalave City about an hour ago. By that estimation, it was approximately fifty-five minutes ago that Sam’s insides began revolting against him. He could only remember one other occasion when he’d been aboard a ship, and that was when he was twelve. Tommy, his father, and he had taken a summer vacation cruise to Cianwood City. Not far from the coast of their destination, the sea had turned rocky and a storm battered their ship. If Sam were to put it crudely, he figured he must have lost 5 pounds just from regurgitating into their cabin washroom. That memory made even the mild waves brushing their ferry almost more than he could bear. After that, he enjoyed no aspect of the vacation. It was no wonder, Sam figured, that his mind saw fit to distract him with a more pleasant memory of years gone by.
“Really? Wuss. It’s just some water. Look,” Barry started doing jumping jacks on the deck of the ship. “See? I’m fine.” He kept going. Jumping. Up and down. Up and down. Up and--
“Oh god, please stop that!”
“The jumping and the moving all the time!” Sam exclaimed while pressing his palm to the side of his head. “Stop it!”
Barry finally settled back down. “This plan is failsafe. We’re totally going to find out what the Phoenix Shipping Corporation is up to. You know, as long as they don’t do anything dastardly like bounce around.”
“I’ll be fine once we’re on land.”
“Better be. By the way, while you were ignoring me, I was trying to show you the herd of Wailmers along the side of the ferry. Too bad we aren’t allowed to catch them from here, though.”
“Do Wailmers really come in a ‘herd’?”
Barry shrugged. “What would it be then?”
Sam pursed his lips in thought. Nothing was coming to him. Flock? No. Pack? Maybe. “Herd it is,” he finally replied, done wasting brainpower on the matter. Barry nodded, triumphant.
The ferry’s speaker system broke the sudden silence between them, “We’ll be docking at Canalave City momentarily. We hope you enjoyed your time with Canalave Ferry, and we look forward to serving you again.” A shot of static signaled the end of the announcement.
Canalave City was supposed to be to the Sinnoh continent what Olivine City was to the Johto: the region’s major port and import/export town. Sam had rarely been to Olivine back home, and one of those few times was when he was boarding his unfortunate cruise. It was an awful town as Sam remembered it. The air constantly smelled of dead fish no matter where you went, and the boardwalk was loaded with garish, tourist-trap souvenir shops trying to sell sweatshirts with pictures of Krabby or the Olivine Lighthouse on them. The lighthouse seemed to account for all of the town’s history; apparently it was a big deal twenty years ago when it had to be physically moved backwards into the shore a few hundred yards due to the erosion of the land by water over time. It was all anyone talked about when he had visited. The ships coming in and out of the docks were loud and obnoxious, and the huge crane devices propped on the water’s edge to assist with removing cargo were a tremendous eyesore. Even thinking just these details about Olivine was enough to ball Sam’s fists, but at least he’d stopped thinking about the water.
He still wasn’t sure why he was doing this. After the disaster in the forest hoping to catch a glimpse of Mesprit, and instead getting a glimpse of possible illegal activity, he and Barry had met up with Professor Rowan in Barry’s sleepy hometown of Twinleaf Town. Rowan asked Barry and Sam to take this trip to Canalave to see what they could find out about Phoenix Shipping. Barry was, of course, excited to go. Sam, less so. But what was he to do? Barry was brash and reckless, and if everybody at Phoenix had the same violence-first crisis management skills that those workers at the lake had, the kid could be in real trouble. Sam cursed Rowan for sending Barry on such an errand, and then he cursed himself for not just letting them dig their own graves without involving him.
The ferry slowly docked, and Sam’s first impression wasn’t a bad one. The city was constructed around an inlet of water that dug into its heart. As the ferry cruised to its final destination, Sam saw buildings on both sides. It was an impressive feel, as if the city was welcoming him fully into itself. Sam inhaled deeply as he took in the encompassing city. Dead fish smell. “I hate port towns,” he muttered to himself.
“Hey excuse me!” Sam noticed Barry was banging on the window of the ferry conductor. “How do we get to Phoenix Shipping? We’re supposed to meet someone there.” The conductor mouthed a reply from inside his cockpit, but Sam couldn’t hear it from where he was standing. Barry seemed to be able to, however, as he nodded and gave the conductor a thumbs up. “It’s pretty close to here,” he noted to Sam. “Just right up the boardwalk.”
They were halfway between the ferry dock and the Phoenix building when it finally occurred to Sam to ask the most rhetorical question he imagined he’d ever ponder. “You don’t really have a plan for what to do when we get there, do you?”
“Nope. Just gonna play this by ear.”
“Okay, yes. Tell me, what is your ear playing right now?”
Barry scratched his chin with his index finger. “Hm. Walk in. Find the receptionist or accountant or CEO or whoever’s at the front desk. Say ‘why were those guys performing illegal construction at Lake Verity?’ in a very menacing voice. Get answers.”
“Yep, that’s pretty good. But how about instead of that, we do anything else?”
“I like the sound of that, too. What have you got?”
Sam grabbed Barry’s shoulder to stop their progress down the boardwalk. Getting to the building before the plan was fully fleshed out seemed unwise. “Okay. You work for Professor Rowan. Professor Rowan is the legally authorized Pokemon Professor of Sinnoh, right?”
“Okay. I’m going to assume that, just like in Johto, Regional Pokemon Professor is a cabinet position, yes? Rowan was appointed by and serves under your Minister Benicini. Am I right so far?”
“Then you--and by extension, I--are legally representing not just the Pokemon Professor Rowan, but Secretary Rowan. We greet the receptionist as such, prove our credentials by contacting the professor, and ask to speak to Phoenix Corporation’s legal advisory team regarding some--and we won’t say what kind--but some kind of ‘sketchy legal matters’. Still with me?”
Barry nodded, but it seemed to Sam as though the assistant was looking through him. He certainly didn’t seem like the kind with an attention span large enough for a detailed plan. Undaunted, Sam continued.
“We ask the legal team why the Phoenix Shipping Corporation would be performing illegal drilling and construction on government-protected land, and why they responded to queries about their licensing with violence.” Sam pulled his hands up to his chest in an innocent manner. “We explain that we are sure it is just a misunderstanding as to how they ended up there, and perhaps their employees were just startled by our presence, but we are required to report back to Secretary Rowan with answers on this matter regardless. We make it seem like it’s all a big inconvenience, and we want to help them clear it up as quickly as--”
“We’re going to sneak onto a boat.”
Sam smacked his lips in response to Barry’s latest interruption. He sighed, “Yes, that is also a robust plan. Detailed plan of action filled with subterfuge and tact, vis a vis sneaking on a boat. Dilemmas like this keep men up at night...”
Barry pointed out past Sam, to the docks behind them. Curious, Sam turned and saw the boat to which Barry was alluding. Sam’s frustration grew, but he felt it best to continue to humor Barry. “It is a nice boat, I’m sure, but I think you’ll find my plan has more--”
“It’s a cargo ship.” Suddenly, it was Barry who sounded exasperated at Sam. “And the cargo being loaded was labeled ‘Acuity Project’.”
Sam was struck silent. A second of the three Sinnoh lakes that housed the legendary trio was Lake Acuity. Was it possible that whatever this company was doing at Lake Verity, they also had planned for Lake Acuity? And, if that was the case, it seemed almost certain that the Phoenix Corporation was after the legends, as well. If that vessel made it to Lake Acuity while Sam and Barry were busy pussy-footing with a bunch of lawyers, who knows what its crew could do?
“Gotta say, Barry. Loving this boat plan.”
They studied the cargo ship in silence as they slowly made their way close to the pier, being careful not to get close enough to rouse any kind of suspicion. A total of five more crates, labeled just as the ones Barry had seen, were loaded onto the deck. Some of the crates were as small as compact cars, others were as large as a storage unit. From the boardwalk, they had counted just a handful of crew onboard, not many more than what they’d seen working the site at Lake Verity. This crew seemed harried, checking tie-downs and scanning in crates, but as the crates finished being loaded, they disappeared into the ship. Taking this as their opportunity, Sam and Barry rushed to the side of the ship.
Sam’s heart sank. They couldn’t just walk in the pier entrance, but the boat was at least twenty feet tall. Now that they were next to it, he couldn’t think of any way to get on board. He shrugged his shoulders to Barry, still careful not to make more noise than necessary in case they missed a crew member on deck.
Barry shook his head and then tapped his temple. He snatched one of his regular pokeballs from his pocket and released Monferno. The fiery monkey bobbed happily on the pier until Barry waved for its attention. Still trying to remain quiet, Barry made a cup with his two hands and bent forward. Then he sprung back upright, bringing his cupped hands upward as he did so. Monferno nodded in understanding, and likewise cupped his hands and bent forward.
Barry pointed to Sam, who arched his eyebrows and shook his head. Having this little monkey who could fit on Sam’s shoulders heave them up and onto the deck? It seemed crazy. Barry nodded his head in reply to Sam, and Sam realized he might not have any choice. The ship would undoubtedly be departing, so it was now or not at all. He reluctantly placed his right foot into Monferno’s hands.
Sam was not quite sure how he stifled his screams as he was heaved upwards and then landed on the metal deck with his back, but he had. He would have never imagined Monferno had that kind of power in him. Moments after Sam’s landing came Barry’s; it was equally graceless, but he seemed less disturbed by it than Sam had been. They both sprang up to their feet; Sam did it to look around and ensure no one saw them, while Barry did so to withdraw Monferno back to the safety of its ball from its spot on the docks. Sam saw no one, but he still didn’t want to take a chance. He pointed to an array of crates, and the two of them ran to conceal themselves in it. As they got there, they felt the cargo boat pulling away from the dock. Whether it was the superior plan or not didn’t matter now; they were on their way to Acuity.
Re: Brothers' Bond
Well I just stopped by to say that so far I have really dug the story, and you've created a pretty cool world around the poke-verse, what with a WPL and the brother's lives
Re: Brothers' Bond
I'm thrilled to have someone stop by and let me know they are appreciating this! Thanks for your time, Ty!
Originally Posted by Typhlosionisafirebadger
Here's the next chapter....
Chapter 7: Present Day
Chispa whimpered unhappily. Sam thought that letting her out of her Friend Ball so that she could stretch her eager little legs would make her happy, but it quickly became obvious that all she wanted was to run about the deck of the cargo ship. Sam considered that this was not a great idea given that he had no way of knowing when any of the Phoenix Corporation crew might need to come out onto the deck, and so it went that she would start moving towards the edge of the crates where Sam and Barry had concealed themselves and Sam would have to issue the most stern whisper he could muster to get the Shinx to come pouting back to his side. This would last for a few minutes at best before she would start testing his attention again by creeping towards the opening that lead to the deck.
If Sam were to be honest with himself, he was thankful for Chispa’s misbehaving; it kept him on alert for her and distracted from the three sensations within him that were joining forces in an attempt on his life and sanity. The first, and the one he most expected, was his seasickness. While the Canalave Ferry had only a calm strait to cross to get to Canalave City, the Phoenix Corporation vessel was circumnavigating the Sinnoh continent, and the waters here on the ocean were much more vulgar than those the ferry had to contend with. His stomach lurched with every wave that assailed the ship, and his mind was flooded with memories of the storm off of Cianwood in his youth. He had thus far been able to keep his insides under the control, but he couldn’t help but wonder how long that would last.
The second sensation, one that was seemingly in direct conflict with the first, was that of hunger. Sam and Barry had been aboard this ship for almost twenty-four hours. Having not intended to be away from civilization for so long when they arrived in the city, the two of them had no inclination to bring any supplies or food with them. As the hours passed, Sam couldn’t help but ponder how long they’d be at sea before he’d have a chance to eat something. Anything. And what if the boat they were on did not dock near a town or a city? Would they have to abandon surveillance on the crew to get something to eat instead? He thought that one day without food was probably not terrible; people had survived much worse than that under more dire circumstances. It did little to settle him. He was still hungry.
The third of these sensations was by far the worst at this point. The stowaway voyage had started in the quite temperate Canalave City, but as it stretched up the Sinnoh continent, bitter cold slammed his body. For as poorly as Sam and Barry had planned for a time without food, they were even less prepared for this insidious chill. Sam wore only two layers of short-sleeved tops and jeans; Barry was possibly even worse off with just a long-sleeve top and shorts. Sam wondered if he now missed the scarf he’d worn earlier to Lake Verity just for fashion. The cold was the reason why they’d released their pokemon to begin with a few hours ago; at least Vlam and Barry’s Monferno were capable of radiating warmth. It had gotten to the point where the risk they ran of being spotted due to the light of their friends’ flames was easily worth it.
The thought of Vlam using her heat to protect him made him appreciative, and he reached out to stroke her back. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Chispa using what she must have perceived as his lack of attention to inch towards the edge of the cargo crates. Sam hissed shortly through his teeth, and she yelped in frustration but returned to him.
“I think we could train her here.” Barry’s mouth was having a hard time properly enunciating his words due to the chill within him. They had been quite conversational, if quietly so, upon boarding the ship, but hunger and cold and annoyance were settling in to both of them, and they spoke less and less. Barry probably, like Sam, just wanted the ship to dock as soon as possible. “She’s small, and we could probably do it here without being noticed.”
Sam shook his head, and it was more vigorous than he intended since his body must have taken it as a cue to unleash a prolonged shiver. “No,” he answered when he finally regained control of himself. “I’m not training her.”
He could tell Barry was already asking why not, but he was not sure he even had an answer to give. It reminded him of the same feeling he got when he was in Verity Forest and felt compelled to capture her. The Shinx looked back at him as he found himself studying her, and she wagged her sparking tail before flopping to the ground beside him, her belly exposed for him to rub. She was too innocent in the forest that day to know that she was supposed to run from him. Was that all it was? Regardless of the reason, Barry nodded without an answer to his question and went back to making sure his energetic Monferno wasn’t about to set the crates about them on fire with his tail flame.
Sam still couldn’t believe the cargo was so brazenly labeled. The Acuity Project. What would an international shipping company be doing running around the lakes of Sinnoh? There were hardly any packages that needed to be delivered to protected national park lands. On the other hand, it wasn't hard to write off how the workers on the Verity site reacted to his and Barry’s presence. Barry was an overzealous kid, and hell, he made Sam want to attack him, as well; that really might have been a misunderstanding on Sideburns’ part. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, the idea that he was freezing to death on this cargo ship, his stomach racing itself to see if he starved or threw up from seasickness first, all over a misunderstanding and some easily explainable happenstance.
He opened his eyes without even realizing he had closed them. Mentally, he made a note to watch that; the cold was apparently a more subtle foe than he imagined, and he doubted his body could afford the slowed heartrate that sleep would bring. Chispa was gone! The thought hit him in the face like a glass of water. He couldn’t feel her body next to him; she must have dashed out onto the deck when his eyes closed. Barry’s eyes were closed, too, so he couldn’t have noticed her leaving, either. Sam cursed himself for succumbing that easily. Before he was even on his feet to find and retrieve Chispa, he heard a familiar foreign noise. A voice speaking in a language he didn’t understand, and it was coming from the other side of the crates. Chispa must have been seen!
He rushed out from his safe spot, his body no longer recognizing cold or hunger or the rocking of the boat. There was a man in a padded coat waving his arms and shouting at poor Chispa who’d been backed to the edge of the ship. Sam had no way of knowing if this man wanted to throw her overboard or give her a treat, but he wasn’t about to find out.
“Hey! Leave her alone!”
The man turned to Sam. He had a dark, ungroomed moustache, and it made Sam think of Sideburns. Did these guys all come from the Cult of the Thick Facial Hair or what?
“Just back away from her, and we’ll talk this out.” Sam held up his open palms peacefully, to show he was no threat. “Just let me recall her, okay? We’ll play this however you want after that.”
The men at the Verity site seemed to understand and speak English, even if they weren’t particularly peaceful. That did not seem to be the case for this one, though, as his reaction to Sam pulling Chispa’s Friend Ball from his pocket was to shout back at him and reach for something in his coat’s pocket.
“Monferno, toss him!”
Sam’s attention was pulled to Barry’s voice behind them, and then immediately back to the man with the moustache. Monferno had sneaked close enough to him to grab around the waist. Sam looked on in horror as Barry’s pokemon flipped the foreigner overboard.
“NO!” Sam shouted. On pure instinct, he rushed to the edge of the ship, grabbed a life vest that hung there, and threw it into the sea as close to the man as he could. “Grab it!” Sam yelled, pointing at the vest. He was as relieved as he could ever remember being in his life when he saw the shivering figure make it to the safety device. “Are you psychotic, Barry?”
“What are you talking about? That’s basic problem-solving there.”
“That guy could die out there! The water here’s got to be about thirty-three degrees, and who knows how close to land we are. We’ve got to try to save him.”
“No. You should worry about to save yourself.”
Sam looked upward, to where the new voice had come from. Behind the railing going around the second level of the ship stood the rest of its crew, eight men all of similar foreign skin tone. Sam instantly thought back to the shout he let loose in horror as Monferno threw their co-worker overboard; they must have heard him, and here they were in response. Sam couldn’t help but jealously note that they were all dressed appropriately for the weather.
Next to him, Barry seemed frozen in the moment. He never even acknowledged the threat of the ship’s staff. He was still looking out over the side of the vessel; his hands were shaking, but Sam somehow got the sense that it wasn’t from the cold. Barry was rash--there’s a good chance he hadn’t thought about his actions when he ordered his friend to deal with the crew member. He must have locked up when Sam presented him with the reality of what could have happened. Sam felt awful now for yelling at him and questioning his sanity; he had just been trying to help and clearly didn't want to hurt that guy. Chispa was cowering behind his feet, and Sam realized it might be up to him to get them out all of this.
“Thank goodness you guys are here,” Sam lied, “your friend fell overboard when we tried to present him our credentials. We need to get him back on-board before he freezes or drowns. I threw him a life vest, but the water is so--”
“We will put down a lifeboat for him. You do not worry about it. What you should worrying about is what we do to hitchhikers.”
The man who was speaking was surprisingly clean of facial hair, and he appeared to be very large. It was hard to say if he was as big as he appeared due to all the warm layers he was wearing. Snow pants, a padded coat like the other man’s, and a ski cap added to his size. He had the same accent that Sam remembered from Sideburns.
“We’re not hitchhikers,” Sam replied. It was true, at least. Something was lost in translation between their language barrier there. “We just...” He thought back to his plan in Canalave; it was worth a shot. “We’re here legally representing Secretary Rowan, and--”
The man whom had taken the lead speaking role for the crew raised his right arm, and his companions all pulled out various kinds of pokeballs. Sam paused, then started waving his hands downward to signify for them to calm down. Ending this without conflict, however improbable, was definitely ideal.
“Whoa! Hold on, guys! No one is in trouble here. We just have some questions about--”
“Sam, watch out!”
At Barry’s words, a dozen flashes of luminous energy erupted onto the deck of the ship; its crew had unleashed their pokemon. At least their abrupt aggressiveness shocked Barry out of whatever stupor had possessed him. It was Sam who now felt as though he had been stunned. Barry summoned his Torterra, as well as a third friend that Sam hadn’t seen him release before. It was a blue penguin-like creature with four white dots on its stomach and two yellow crests lining its head from its beak upwards. Sam recognized it as a Prinplup, a rare aquatic pokemon from the Sinnoh region. It shuddered, happy to be free and ready to battle.
“Sam, I really need some help here, if you’d like to get in the game! I’m handicapped enough as it is by how much Torterra can’t do on a boat.”
Sam nodded and recalled Chispa into her Friend Ball. Stuffing her ball into his right front pocket, he grabbed the Nest Ball inside it. Bree was released into the air just as Vlam bounded out from behind the safety of the crates to his side. The Phoenix workers’ pokemon outnumbered his and Barry's friends more than two-to-one, and Sam quickly realized that Barry was right about the limitations of his most fully evolved and powerful friend. Without any earth beneath Torterra’s feet, it was going to be unable to use some of its fiercest attacks. Sam recalled the fissure it had used earlier and realized that was right out, but he was interrupted by a dozen voices he couldn’t understand before he could consider any others. The Phoenix Corportation pokemon were being ordered to attack.
“Vlam, confuse rays and baffle attacks! As many as you can handle, all right, girl? There’s too many of them, and I need them off balance! You’ve got to do that for me.” Vlam seemed to bob her head in agreement with Sam’s words before streaking off to the middle of the fray, her magnificent tails stiffening outward. “Bree, fly out of range as high as you can. I want you to put anything that isn’t with me or Barry to sleep. Can you do that?” Bree hummed a reply and sped up above the boat’s deck as fast as her silky wings would carry her. Trickery tactics seemed like the best bet at this moment given the odds; if they could keep their enemies off-balance, they might be able to hold out and calm everybody down. Vlam was moving fast, darting in front of enemy pokemon and stopping just briefly enough to hit them with a blue-toned light show before dashing off to the next foe.
In the air, Bree was not so lucky; she had no sooner gotten into the night sky than a blue bird pokemon with a red breast began following her. The bird--Sam recognized this foreign pokemon as either a Taillow or a Swellow, he couldn’t remember which was the evolved form’s name--moved too quickly for her, and it refused to allow Bree the time to set up a sleep powder attack.
“Bree, whirlwind! Blow it out of the sky!”
Bree began forming a swirling vacuum using the power of her wings, but the bird opponent began doing the same. Sam cursed under his breath at not being able to discern who was giving it orders. The crew were all looking in every direction at the chaotic battle scene; it was impossible to discern who was guiding the bird. The bursts of wind crossed in mid-air, dissipating each other almost immediately on contact.
Sam wanted to issue another command, but he was knocked from his feet by a charging iron lizard. Sam tried to right himself, but the spike-backed steel salamander before him stared him back down. It looked as though it would charge again if Sam didn’t stay where he was. He tried to crawl backwards and earn himself some distance, but the Lairon wasn’t having any of it; it was outpacing Sam’s backwards movement as it stepped forward towards him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw Monferno rush away from the Lotad it was engaged with and knock the Lairon onto its side with right fist that ignited in a blaze upon impact. Lairon let out a shrill, metallic screech as it tried to get back to its feet; its frantic movements signified how much the fire punch had hurt it. Barry’s Monferno extended its left hand and pulled Sam back up to his feet. Monferno made a throaty, joyful noise which Sam acknowledged with a nod and then bounded back to the ground fray against Lotad. Sam glanced up to see that the avian pokemon had taken advantage of both Sam’s distraction and its speed advantage; it was striking fast with stiff shots from its wings. Butterfree was still aloft, but it was dazed and hurt. Sam decided to take a note from Lairon's playbook and give the Swellow something else to think about for a few moments.
“Vlam! Use a fire blast on that bird!”
Vlam came to a halt from her rapid-fire offense and belched a sofa-sized fireball into the sky. Butterfree’s opponent caught sight of the attack at the last instant and rolled out of its path. It might have singed a feather or two, but it mostly avoided the fireball. That was fine with Sam since it had now given distance between itself and Bree,
“Bree, psybeam! Stop it from staying airbone, at least!”
Bree’s antennae twitched, found the bird across the air from it, and then stiffened. The bird froze, then let out an agonized squawk and began spiraling downward. Sam’s exclamation of victory was short-lived, however, when he saw Monferno crash to the deck after a burst of water attack hit it dead on. Above the fray, Bree did not have even a moment to catch her breath from her previous battle; a Golbat was now chasing her through the sky.
“Vlam!” He wanted to call out another fire blast from his Ninetales, but she was equally engaged in dodging the rapid-fire strikes of a Meditite whose psychic powers were able to defend it from Vlam’s confusion tactics. Vlam let out a pained howl; the Meditite, floating in the air in a yoga position, must have been using its invisible telepathic powers. “Vlam, fight it off with a fire spin!”
Vlam shook her head to fight off the Meditite’s attack and unleashed a spinning vortex of flames. The Meditite seemed at first to be engulfed by the attack, but it appeared in an instant outside the flames. It must have teleported free, and it went back on the attack on a stunned Vlam.
“Barry! This isn’t working out super well for us! Please tell me you’ve got a back-up plan.”
Just a few feet away, Barry nodded and recalled Monferno into its pokeball. “Use a surf attack, Prinplup. As hard as you can, buddy!”
The penguin pokemon shoved away a a tiny lobster pokemon that had been trying to attack it with its pinchers. Before the Corphish could right itself, Prinplup blasted it with a concentrated burst of water from it beak for good measure. Prinplup crossed its wings in front of its body, and its eyes began to glow with blue energy. The foreign enemies seemed to pause and brace themselves for a big attack, but as the seconds passed, it became clear nothing was happening.
“That back-up plan was underwhelming,” Sam sighed. “Anything else?”
“I don’t know. I really thought that’d work better out here on the ocean.”
The Phoenix crew’s pokemon, who had previously been cowed by Prinplup’s potential attack, regained their assurance and started pressing forward again. Golbat was again terrorizing a weakened Bree in the air, and Vlam was back to facing off with the Meditite. Sam suddenly wished that was all of the bad news.
“Oh god," he muttered in Barry's direction. "What did you do?”
Barry turned, presumably to ask Sam what he was talking about, but he didn’t even need to get any words out; it was impossible to miss what Sam had seen. An enormous wave was barreling towards them, having formed several dozen yards out in the ocean. It had to have been the result of Prinplup’s surf attack. With the whole ocean and the force of the water and wind behind it, the wave attack had reached massive proportions. And it was bearing down on the ship. Sam figured the crew had to have seen it by that point, too, but he was too mesmerized by it to check them.
Sam gained just enough of his wits back to withdraw Bree and Vlam into the safety of their pokeballs right before the wave hit. The world vanished in a flush of water which quickly became all he knew. He felt the force of the wave push him backwards, causing his back to slam into a hard object. It forced the air out of his lungs, and he was barely able to gulp another lungful down before the water pulled him all the way under. He pinballed off several more things--one felt like the railing on the ship and another like one of the crates he had been using for protection--but he forcefully held onto the precious oxygen in his lungs until the impacts ceased. He lost all track of what happened to Barry and the ship’s crew, but that was replaced by another realization: he was no longer on the boat at all. Whether he was washed away alone or the entire vessel tipped under the ferocity of the surf was unknown to him. He was underwater in the middle of the ocean, and he had no idea which direction was which. He tried to swim in the first direction his body would move towards in the hopes he would find air, but the water was frigid and it assailed his muscles; they refused to work with him. He collided with something large, and it was propelling him in the direction he then knew must have been down; the object must have been one of those crates, and that most likely meant the entire ship was down. His lungs felt like they would rip open if that’s what they had to do to release his last breath. The air inside of him seemed like a vicious enemy now, but he knew he had to fight to hold onto it. If he exhaled now, he was finished. A thousand lights flickered against the backdrop of his eyelids, and consciousness was becoming just a memory as the cargo box continued to ride him to the bottom of the sea.
Re: Brothers' Bond
Sam had just finished putting away the dishes, and he looked around the kitchen. Spotless again. Ever since Tommy’s stroke, he had gotten pretty good at keeping the house in order. It wasn’t so hard, he thought, it was merely just about keeping your promises to yourself that you would do it. If Sam made sure to vacuum and dust and wash the dishes just a little each day, it only took a little bit of his time, and things never got out of control. Besides, it was his job to clean up now that he was the man of the house. He was the only one in the house, at that.
He set his dishtowel on the rack next to the sink and turned the knobs to the stop the water pressure, but the water didn’t let up; he tried again, but the knob just spun loosely in his hand. The water was unstoppably filling the sink, and he knew soon it would fill his home. The drain wouldn’t be able to handle the deluge, and it would overflow and fill the kitchen and then the living room and then whole house and then his lungs--
A noise from the living room distracted him. It was the sound of someone moving about. Sam poked his head around the corner of his cyan-colored divider wall and saw Tommy up and out of his hospital bed. He was disconnecting all the wires and machines that had been monitoring his health.
“Hey, Tommy. You can’t do that. You’re in a coma; you have to take it easy.”
“Am I?” Tommy asked, looking down at his hands and then up his forearms. “Am I in a coma?”
“I don’t feel like I’m in a coma. I think I’m dead. Is that why you can see me? Am I dead?”
“You might be.” It did make sense to Sam. If Tommy was dead, then that would explain why he could see and talk to his older brother.
Tommy pulled the last IV out of his arm and came forward to hug his brother. Sam felt the tears well up in his eyes as he burrowed his face into Tommy’s shoulder. For being dead, Tommy felt really soft. Sam wished his brother wasn’t so dead.
“I’m sorry I died, Sammy. I really didn’t want to leave you.”
Sam’s tears were an irresistible force, and they flowed into the sleeve of Tommy’s favorite sweater, the blue one with the grey, horizontal stripe he wore twice a year at Thanksgiving and Easter. Sometimes on Easter it would be too warm for a sweater, so Tommy would pull it out of his closet anyway put it on a third chair at their dinner table and tell Sam that the sweater wanted to celebrate anyway. They would always put a plate of food in front of it and joke that the reason it didn’t eat was because it didn’t want to burst at the seams. It was really funny.
“Sammy, you have to go to school soon, so I think you should go get a bath.”
Sam agreed. Now that his brother was dead and awake, Sam could start going to school again. He would tell Miah Vanderbelt that Tommy came back to him, and no one in Miah’s family would do that for Miah. That would really get him good.
He rushed up the stairs and turned the bathtub on; it seemed to take a long time to get the water temperature right. No matter how much he fidgeted with and manipulated the knobs, the water still came out extremely cold. Sam studied the water pouring out of the tub faucet. It reminded him of something from earlier, but he couldn’t remember what. He tried to think...after he came home from school, he did the vacuuming. What else?
“Is the water right?”
Sam was startled out of his thoughts by his brother’s words. He ran his hand under the spout one more time. The water was warm now. “Perfect,” Sam answered. He turned the water off and hopped over the wall of the tub into it. His hand scooped water up and run it over his other arm, rubbing it clean through his shirt sleeve.
“Is it making you clean?”
“It is. I feel a lot better, Tommy.”
“Is it washing away your sin?”
“What sin? What are you--”
Sam’s words were cut off by Tommy’s hands around his neck. His brother’s face was flush with red now, and his pupils were tiny. His blonde hair was completely disheveled. Arched eyebrows punctuated his rage. “You forgot about me!”
Sam tried to argue that he never did, but Tommy’s hands cut the words off at his throat and they died there, unspoken. His brother continued, “You were supposed to stop me from dying, but you didn’t! You went all the way to another country because you promised me you’d get the legends, but instead you went chasing after that bird.”
The bird. Sam remembered now. Tommy made him promise to catch the legendary pokemon, but he forgot about it and started trying to find it instead. The legendary pokemon would have woken Tommy up from his coma; what would that stupid phoenix have done for either of them?
Tommy’s hands forced Sam under the bath water, and the tub spout was running again. There was too much water above him and too much weight pushing him into it. All he could see as he looked up was Tommy’s malice weighing him down. Sam wondered if he’d still be able to see Tommy now that he was dead.
Sam sat up suddenly and gulped the air around him. He swallowed one sharp breath followed by another, followed by another. There wasn’t enough air in the white room to fill his lungs; he needed more! Something... there was something in his nostrils. He yanked the plastic tube out with force; it was coming between him and the air that he needed. He needed all of it. Sam heard words, but they were nonsense. To his left, he saw Barry. Barry’s mouth was moving and words were coming out, but none of it made any sense to Sam; the speech was garbled and hollow. Rowan’s assistant’s head turned and he began shouting his echoing gibberish to someone else. Several people in white uniforms flooded his vision and pushed Sam flat back onto the bed in which he lay. These were the same people that couldn’t help Tommy back home, and they were here now to not be able to help him, either. He just needed air; he just needed to breathe, so why were they resisting him? Something pricked Sam’s arm, and he felt his opposite hand slap one of these people. They were trying to put him back to sleep; they were trying to take his air away. Sam wanted to continue swatting at them, but there must have been weights attached to his hands now, they were so hard to move. The people positioned the object back into his nostrils while Sam begged them not to. He heard one of them start counting, and then Sam’s world faded to black.
When Sam’s eyes opened again, he immediately realized he had no idea how long it had been since he was awake the last time. The fluorescent bulbs gave no hint of the daylight (or lack thereof, Sam pondered) outside. Another hospital room full of artificial light and artificial life; Sam’s body shuddered.
“So are you going to spaz out again or what?”
Sam turned his head at the sound of Barry’s voice and was surprised at how sore his muscles were and how much effort he had to exert just to get his neck to cooperate. When he had woken up last time, he moved with much less discomfort. The joys of adrenaline, he thought. “No. No, I’m sorry about that. I was really out of it, I guess. Where are we?”
“How long have we been here?”
“Not that long, really. Maybe a day?”
Sam’s mind refused to stop sending in questions as he rubbed the IV in his right arm. The feeling of the catheter under his skin was unsettling, but it was hardly at the forefront of his mind. A lot of things must have happened since Barry’s surf attack. “Let’s just skip ahead and I’ll ask one question that is all the questions: What happened?”
Barry nodded. “I might have underestimated the potency of that wave attack back on the boat.” Barry let out a chuckle and rubbed the back of his head. “It knocked the whole thing over on its side. I had Prinplup--” Barry paused and looked upward for just a moment before meeting Sam’s eyes again. “I guess that’s ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prinplup’ at this point, but I had him round you and those other guys up and take us all to shore. It took a few dives to get all of them, but it wasn’t tugging at my heart to make them wait a few minutes while I saved you and me, you know?”
“Did you get them all?” Sam knew firsthand what being in that water was like, and he wouldn’t have wished it on anyone.
“Dude, are you auditioning for sainthood or something? I did, but damn. Okay, the first guy that Monferno chucked I messed up on and felt bad about. But after that, they jumped us without any explanation. Screw’em.”
“Where are they now?”
Barry shrugged. “Don’t know. Don’t care. Not all of them were in shock and half-drowned like you were, so I just left them on the shore to fend for themselves. If I stayed there and played junior paramedic with them, I was running the risk of... well, something happening to you. I put as much distance between them and us as I could, and then I called the ambulance.”
Sam wanted to ask Barry how he could have left people who were soaking wet out in the freezing weather, but he found it extraordinarily hard to scold someone who’d just busted his hump to save Sam’s life. “Thanks,” was all that he could get out.
“Think nothing of it. Hey, did you catch that part where I oh-so-subtly hinted that my Prinplup evolved after all this? It was awesome! I mean, he did beat, like, fifteen pokemon at once. Oh, and you. He beat you, too, I guess.”
The thought of Barry’s pokemon shocked Sam to attention and reached down to where his pockets should have been. He found only the warm skin of his thigh, uncovered by his hospital gown under the bed sheets. “Where are my balls?”
Barry froze, his tongue caught beneath his teeth, staring at Sam reaching downwards under his sheets. A smile spread across his lips. “... Heh heh...”
“My friends!” Sam corrected, the thought of what he just said dawning on him. “The balls with Bree, Vlam, and Chispa. Where are those?”
Barry pointed to a tall, narrow closet next to the restroom door. “You had them secured. They’re with your clothes in there.”
Thank god, Sam thought. He clearly remembered recalling his friends into their transportable form, but he hadn’t any idea if he managed to hang onto their pokeballs during the wave. Relief settled the panic inside him as quickly as it had arisen just seconds ago.
“The good thing in all this is that those guys aren’t making it to Lake Acuity. So that part turned out well, right? I guess we can let Rowan know that we put a stop to them in that regard, (let’s not tell him how, though). I wonder if we should think about heading to Lake Valor next and see what the odds are that they’ve got guys working there by now...”
Barry trailed off, now pondering their next move to himself. Or maybe it only seemed like Barry got quieter as Sam went into his own mind. He had come all the way to the northern-most area of the continent, and now Barry wanted to leave without ever having visited the lake. Uxie, the second of the Sinnoh lake guardians and the being of knowledge, could be right under his nose, and already Barry was planning for moving on. Knowledge. Sam recalled Tommy in his hospital bed, unable to think or remember anything about his life.
“No, I got this already. We’re not going to stress you out. I’m going to call and book us some bus tickets. Nice and leisurely this time. Getting on that boat was a stupid idea, and I coulda got you killed. We’re gonna do this next one the right way.”
Sam wanted to reply, but what could he say? This was important to Professor Rowan, and the professor had already done so much to help Sam. He set Sam up with Barry, he gave him the rental car and supplies, he treated Sam’s mad plan with respect after it was explained to him. And couldn’t these two plans come together? Sam could always come back to Lake Acuity later if he needed to. Until then, going with Barry could only ensure the safety of the third of the guardians, Azelf. Really, what was the downside of continuing on with Barry?
“You forgot about me!” The words from his dream earlier echoed in his mind. Sam rationalized to himself that it was not that he was forgetting about Tommy--he was doing this for Tommy, in fact. The goals were not mutually exclusive.
Barry was lost in his thoughts, probably preparing for the bus ride he’d mentioned, so Sam sat and fidgeted with the oxygen tube in his nostrils. Even now that he had his wits about him, it was annoying and uncomfortable. Sam felt embarrassed by his outburst earlier. What was he supposed to tell the nurses when they came back in? Sorry I tried to assault you; I thought my comatose brother was trying to murder me in a bathtub for breaking a promise to him. Yeah, that’d go over gangbusters. He’d probably get an all-expenses-paid trip to the psychiatric ward for forty-eight hours.
Sure enough, shortly after that thought, a pair of young nurses did enter the room to check Sam’s vitals. He was humbled yet again when he realized he was so caught up in himself earlier, he had no idea if these two were there when it happened. He elected to just say nothing and try not to dwell on it; it was surely not the first time hospital staff saw a patient erupt like that. The shorter brunette nurse said something about his blood pressure being a little high; Sam couldn’t help but laugh. After that, they asked him to fill out the paperwork he obviously was incapable of doing when the paramedics brought him in. As Sam filled in his insurance information, he wondered if any insurance company in the world would ever touch any children that he might ever have. He imagined his family’s last name would be on every insurance company’s blacklist for the next three generations. We’re sorry Mr. Stark, an insurance company would tell his hypothetical son, but apparently car accidents, strokes, and falling in the ocean are all pre-existing conditions in your family.
Sam was pleasantly surprised when the nurses informed him that he was healthy enough to leave whenever it suited him now that he was awake and aware. His body had recovered from the state of shock, and there was no frostbite damage. It had been far too long since any medical staff gave Sam good news, so he didn’t question it. Sam announced he was going to change into his clothes--which the hospital had so kindly laundered for him, he was told--and Barry couldn’t get out of the room fast enough.
“Did I tell you Prinplup evolved?” Barry called out from the other side of the door as Sam pulled his polo shirt over his head.
“You actually did.”
“It was pretty awesome. It beat, like, twenty pokemon at once.”
“Yeah, he beat you, too. Hospitalized you! So you better think twice before you mess with me, buddy. More where that came from.”
Sam heard the smile in Barry’s voice, and it lifted his spirits. Barry was happy that Sam wasn’t badly hurt. And not just in the sense that he was generically happy he didn’t accidentally kill a man; there was something more to it that Sam couldn’t put his finger on.
“All right, I’m done,” Sam called as he pulled up his zipper.
“Are you sure?”
Sam stared at the door between them, incredulous. “No, I forgot to put on my underwear and pants, oops. Yes, I’m sure. I know how to dress myself.”
“Can’t be too sure,” Barry said as he opened the door and walked back into the room. He plopped himself down in the chair that was next to Sam’s hospital bed and seemed engrossed in his phone. He must have felt Sam’s eyes on him, because he held up the device and just said “Ordering bus tickets.” Then he went back to work on the keypad.
Sam grabbed the three pokeballs in his pocket. He had no clue what he would have done if he hadn’t managed to fasten them before the wave hit. It’s possible that Prinplup would have been able to recover them just as it had rescued Sam, but if not... the thought was too awful to continue. Sam redirected his brain. Next time it came up in conversation, he needed to ask Barry the genders of his friends; Sam felt bad just calling Prinplup an ‘it’ in his head.
A knocking on the door to his room pulled him out of that thought.
“Come in; I’m dressed.” Sam winced at offering that. It made it sound like there was a perpetual valid concern that he might not be.
The man who walked through his door was not hospital staff. Immediately, Sam noticed he had the same skin tone as the men from the two crews he and Barry had encountered. He was clearly not any kind of laborer like they had been, however. He was flawlessly dressed in a pinstriped grey suit and solid red necktie. His thick black hair was meticulously styled to the right side, arching slightly upwards as it parted. No, this man certainly never worked a day of his life on a construction site. He was tall, too; at five-foot-eleven, no one had ever accused Sam of being short, but this man was a solid three or four inches larger than he. He had no facial hair, but he did have a glowing smile.
“Mr. Stark and Mr. West?” As Sam and Barry affirmed his inquiry, he continued. “It’s a pleasure to meet you boys. For transparency’s sake, I will let you know I am here in direct opposition to my lawyer’s advice. But I am certain we can discuss whatever it is we need to like the civil gentlemen I’m sure we all are. I told him I had every faith we could sort all this out.”
Lawyer’s advice? What was going on here? “I’m sorry, sir; I’m a little confused. I must have missed your name...”
The man blinked slowly and bobbed his head. “No, I’m afraid I forgot to give it. My apologies. I am Henrique Alonzo. I am the President of Phoenix Shipping Corporation.”
Re: Brothers' Bond
It was pretty basic as far as world history goes.
Sometime around three hundred years ago or so, the country of Kanto was the first civilization on the planet to learn that pokemon could be both efficiently captured and trained to work with humans. The Kantoans discovered the process by which they could transform pokemon into high-frequency, unstable energy that could be contained in a mechanical orb that would harmonize the energy signature and keep the creatures in stasis. It was all very technical and would require a science class to understand rather than a history lesson. As pokemon were brought from out of the wild and into households, it was found that the energy stasis aided in relaxing them and making them more peaceful and pliable to working with humans.
Well, humans being humans, Kanto barely had time to take a deep breath with their new friends before the Premier of Kanto decided that the best way to use this new technology was on a national defense level. Pokemon may have been living creatures, but they were creatures with tremendous offensive potential, as well as hides that were highly resistant to many of the weapons of the day. Within a few decades, Kanto had a huge militarized pokemon force. There was an Air Force of precision Charizards, flying through the skies with more maneuverability than the most advanced jets of the age and blasting pure flame at their enemies. Then there was a Navy of raging Gyarados, able to withstand and attack from the harshest depths of the ocean and swimming circles around helpless submarines. And this was to say nothing of an infantry of Machamps and Gravelers, shredding tanks into heaps of scrap as artillery bounced off their massively powerful bodies. The Kantoan armed forces became the world’s most dominant power overnight by ignoring mechanical weapons and using instead the ones with which nature had surrounded us.
Johto was quick to accept the offer of annex that Kanto had offered. Being close to Kanto in both proximity and relations, they knew what kind of military force the Kantoans had at their disposal, and they happily agreed to peaceful surrender into what would become Kanto’s burgeoning empire. After that, Kanto turned its eyes to the rest of the northern continents and launched an invasion next on Sinnoh. The history books would tell you that war lasted thirty-eight days and was more than a little one-sided. It was such an overwhelming and popular victory that General Rayner, who oversaw the action, was swept into office as the next Premier of Kanto after Premier Jordan retired.
It was apparently said back in those days that the Kantoan empire spread around the north more quickly than water from a spilled glass across a countertop. So many countries deferred without a struggle, it was debated throughout the history texts as to what even constituted an official war or battle. It was not until Kanto turned its gaze southwards that it encountered its first true resistance.
As tales of the limitless Kantoan military force circulated the globe, the southern continent of Hoenn began work on its own pokemon armed forces. They had struck an alliance with the resources-rich region of Unova, and were able to develop their own pokemon technology in a fraction of the time it had taken Kanto so many years before. When the Northern Empire began moving south, Hoenn was able to strike back at them with a ferocity they’d not yet encountered. Not only was Hoenn suddenly a near-equal military foe, but they had species of pokemon at their disposal that the North had only sparingly seen before.
The Century War was the name given to the hundred-plus years of relatively endless battles between Kanto and its Northern Empire and Hoenn and the United Southern Continents. It was said to have been the most brutal war in the history of the world, no doubt helped by the fact that quite a few unsavory characters came into power during that time. Premier Gardner was a brute who came into power midway through the century and was known to order the torture of southern prisoners in order to extract information. President Stewart of the south had a penchant for sending attacks to areas densely populated with non-military personnel in an attempt to terrorize the north into turning on their leaders out of fear. The casualities, of both human and pokemon, were innumerable.
Fortunately, most of these vicious ploys backfired. As Kanto and Hoenn continued a war in which neither side made much progress in expansion, new philosophies were quickly spreading throughout their citizens. The idea that pokemon were living, feeling creatures that should not be used as tools of war was taking hold in the hearts of the public. When the empire started, people had only known pokemon as wild animals, but when the technology to catch and train them became more widespread, humanity found these creatures to be powerful, yes, but also smart and empathetic. What started as a few sparsely-attended meetings would turn into government petitions and then into large-scale rallies. The populace decided they wanted the pointless war they grew up under to end, and they wanted pokemon free from their shackles as military weapons. On both sides of the equator, politics became inundated with people who shared these new progressive lines of thought, and the world started changing, even if slowly. The war between north and south lessened and finally came to a halt with the signing of the Scott Treaty--named for Premier Scott who proposed it--and Kanto granted independence to the regions under its empire that wanted it. Pokemon were taken off of the battle field and put back into the wild, as well as in households, sanctuaries, and stadiums where they could enjoy playful, sanctioned battles under the watchful eye of medical professionals and rights activists.
Still, even though the military actions had ended, there was still tension between the northern and southern continents. Hate and prejudice doesn’t tend to quite fade away, even after so many decades; it stays simmering, just beneath the surface. The two sides maintained strictly separate cultures and traditions. Tourism was low between the hemispheres due to the harassment foreigners faced in each region. The World Pokemon League only sparingly had special events between northern and southern regions since riots were so frequent. Society on a global scale may have shifted towards a peaceful and progressive attitude, but individuals were still very full of insecurities and distrust; despite the new age of enlightenment, the separate regions sometimes seemed like they were still worlds apart. That was why it was so odd to Sam.
“You speak really good Kantoan for someone from Hoenn, Mr. Alonzo.”
“Thank you, Mr. Stark. I’d be poorly equipped for the travels and meetings my position requires of me if I were anything less than fluent in the world’s most relevant languages, but I still appreciate your attention and compliment.”
“Yeah, we’re all--”
This time Sam cut Barry off. Barry’s voice had an edge to it, and Sam knew that this meeting had to be played a little more tactfully that what might have been in his partner’s repertoire, “How can we help you, Mr. Alonzo?” Obviously he was here because Sam and Barry had destroyed so much of the Phoenix Corporation’s property, and for that reason, it seemed best to just play dumb for as long as they could get away with it.
“Please, Mr. Stark. I’m not so uncouth as to walk into a man’s hospital room and expect a him to assist me in the midst of his recuperating . At the moment, I’m afraid I simply want to tell you that I am happy you and your associate are in good health, and I would very much like to meet with you when you are feeling well enough to leave here.”
“Yeah well, it’s your lucky--”
“I’m sure we can arrange that, yes,” Sam again cut Barry’s impetuousness off at the pass. “Hopefully I’ll be able to leave shortly here since I’m doing all right. How would we go about finding you when we do?”
“I’ve a room at Snowpoint Resort. It’s under my name. I’ll tell the front desk to be expecting you so that they can direct you to my suite.” Mr. Alonzo extended his right hand, and Sam took it. Mr. Alonzo’s handshake was sturdy, but not intimidatingly so. “Again, I’m very pleased that you seem to be recovered.”
Sam thanked the President of the Phoenix Corporation for the comment, and Mr. Alonzo turned out of the room. Barry began to speak, but Sam shushed him; it was ridiculous to think of a successful businessman leaning over to listen at doors, but Sam imagined this was the kind of man who would do anything it took to get what he wanted. A minute passed, and then two, before Sam finally broke the thickening silence.
“Well that was odd.”
“I was going to ask if you two wanted to be alone for a second there. What was with all the playing nice-nice?”
“It’s the old ‘honey versus vinegar’ concept.”
Barry stared at Sam and wore a vacant expression. “What?”
“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It pays off more to be nice than abrasive.”
“I am not familiar. Why are we catching flies?”
“It’s not... we’re... it’s just a saying--”
“You know what catches the most flies? A fly swatter.”
The fly swatter analogy was actually a pretty good metaphor for Barry, so Sam merely nodded in reply.
“So what’s the play here? Are we actually going to this jerk’s hotel room? Or are we getting the heck out of town?”
Sam looked back to the door through which Henrique Alonzo had just left. He hadn’t really had an answer to that yet.
“So, hey, if I invite you guys into this very obvious trap, do you think you could, you know, walk right into it?”
“Why yes, I do believe that is what we’ll do. We'd love to.”
As their banter suggested while they trudged through the streets of Snowpoint City—streets that were buried in over a foot of snow despite the calendar’s clear indication that it was the tail-end of spring--Sam and Barry were convinced that Henrique’s invitation was nothing short of sinister. It made perfect sense: why would he refuse to talk to them inside a crowded hospital and then invite them to a secluded suite? Given Sam and Barry’s short history with Mr. Alonzo’s employees and property, why was he even so gracious and personable to them? Unless, of course, he was guilty of something, Sam determined. And if he was guilty of something, what were the odds he’d continue to be so pleasant?
“So, seriously, why are we actually going to his place when we openly agree it’s a trap? This is a dude who’s catching flies. What’s he using?”
Sam rubbed his chin with his thumb. “Well, he was nice to us, so he’s using honey. According to the saying.”
Barry shook his head. “Are you sure you have that right? Like, shouldn’t it be bees? Bees want honey. Not flies.”
“No, bees make their own honey; they don’t want honey. It’s like...you don’t have to go out and get hair. You make your own.”
“Bees make honey like people make hair?”
“That analogy really got away from me. Look, I didn’t make the saying up. I can’t answer for it.”
“It’s a dumb saying.”
Sam shrugged and backpedaled to Barry’s original question. “The reason we’re going there is that it’s really the only lead we’ve got. We can keep bouncing from lake-to-lake trying to stay ahead of these guys, but that’s hardly ideal. For all we know, they've already been to Lake Valor, anyway. Besides, running makes us look like the bad guys here. We’ve got nothing to hide, so why take off like criminals?”
“Because the real criminals are luring us into a trap?”
“I can’t really refute that.” Sam was going to continue, but he felt a large chunk of snow slide down his boot and wet his socks. It eliminated everything else from the front of his mind. “Seriously? God. What is it with this town? We’re, like, three weeks away from the first day of summer.”
“Higher altitude and further from the equator. Good skiing, though.”
“Oh.” Sam went back to ruing the snow in his shoe. When he was young, around Barry’s age, he’d started keeping track of all the things he’d do if he ever got elected to power. The list was simply for fun, as Sam had never had any political aspirations, and its contents were haphazard. He’d periodically rule on matters like banning certain foods he didn’t like and making television programs he did (but felt were underrated) mandatory viewing. He hadn’t thought about that list in years, but his mind flashed to it here; he decided he would make snow illegal. He could already feel the dampness pooling at the bottom of his sock and wrinkling the flesh on his toes.
When this kind of weather hit Goldenrod City, the city shut down harder than if an army was invading. School was cancelled days in advance, stores would only open a few hours at a time--and even then only to sell necessities--and nobody left their house unless they had just about chopped an entire arm off. Snowpoint, conversely, was apparently oblivious to its conditions. The sidewalks were full of people going about their lives, and every building Sam and Barry passed was open for business. Even the roads had their fair share of traffic, most certainly helped by the plow trucks that came by each block every 25 minutes like clockwork. Sam tried to imagine what the carnage would be like on the streets of Goldenrod during this kind of weather, but his brain couldn’t do it; when it snowed at home, the vehicles vacated immediately.
Snowpoint Resort was a ski lodge in the most classic sense. It spread out over the course of several miles of property, and its claim to fame, besides the immaculate slopes, was the lodges themselves. They were fashioned from wood, but—according to the pamphlet Sam was given at the hospital when he informed the nurse he’d be heading there—contained all the amenities of home, such as a jacuzzi, individual heating controls for each room, king-sized beds, and theater screens. Whose home did they get these amenities from, Sam couldn’t help but wonder. The attendant at the front desk informed Sam that Mr. Alonzo was staying at the Coronet Suite; it was a large cabin on the fringe of the resort boundary. Doubt crept into Sam’s head and told him that perhaps Barry had the right idea of just ignoring Mr. Alonzo’s invitation and moving on with their lives. A private suite with no adjacent rooms or guests, at the edge of a posh resort? In Snowpoint, no one can hear you scream, Sam thought.
As they approached the cabin door, Barry announced that he did not want to be the one who knocked on Alonzo’s door. Whether this was because he wanted to absolve himself from blame if the meeting went sideways or because he thought the door itself might attack him, Sam didn’t care. At this point, it was just a matter of getting it done with. And getting his wet feet out of the snow.
“Mr. Stark and Mr. West!” Henrique Alonzo beamed as he opened the door and waved for them to enter. “Thank you so much for coming. I was looking forward to your visit.”
“Wouldn’t miss it.” There was still a crust to Barry’s voice, but at least his words were pleasant enough.
“I know it seemed so odd that I came to your room at the hospital only to stay so briefly. I was torn, you see, between wanting to meet with you in person rather than sending a proxy and not wanting to disrupt your rest. I just hope I didn’t come across as…well…”
Sam could tell Henrique was searching for the right word and decided to spare him the trouble. “Please, don’t worry about it. We thought no such thing.”
Mr. Alonzo smiled and nodded lightly. He then motioned towards the sofa in his suite and shut the door behind the three of them. Sam took one last look back to see the outside world disappear behind the wooden door.
“May I offer you both something to drink?”
“Vodka on the rocks.”
Sam soured his lips at Barry in disapproval, even though he was mostly sure his partner had been joking. “We’ll both take coffee; that’d be great. It's pretty cold out there.”
Henrique reached down to the intercom on the glass endtable next to the black leather couch. “May I have two coffees in the Coronet Suite? We have cream and sugar here in the room.”
Sam’s muscles relaxed, and he realized he didn’t even feel himself tense up when Mr. Alonzo reached for the phone as if it had been a pokeball or a gun. “Thank you.”
Mr. Alonzo settled into the extravagant-looking couch and crossed one leg over the other. “Gentlemen, I’m sure we could make meandering small talk and not really say anything for quite some time, but I respect you both, so I’m going to get to the heart of the matter. I am aware of the…,” he paused and seemed to yet again mull over a selection of what to say, “incidents you’ve had with my employees.”
In a way, Sam was relieved by Mr. Alonzo’s directness. At least it eliminated the stress of wondering what this meeting was about. “Yes, those incidents have been quite unfortunate…”
“I assure you both, I accept that my men were at least half to blame in those—“
“Yeah, at least,” Barry interjected, emphasizing the last word. Sam shook his head at him, but Mr. Alonzo just chuckled.
“My men are not quite as well-versed in your language and culture as I am. Not to mention that most of their interactions here in your country haven’t been ideal. They are threatened a lot. They get screamed at that they are stealing jobs from the people of Sinnoh. When they go shopping for supplies or groceries, store clerks follow them around as if they would steal anything they could fit under their shirt. They’ve gotten used to everyone’s default reaction to them being racism and jingoism.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that,” Sam said, and he was. His trip to Sinnoh hadn’t been marred by any of that, but then again, he didn’t know what it was like to look and speak differently than the citizens there. With Mr. Alonzo presenting these facts to him, Sam remembered he'd always heard others say that people from the Hoenn area were thugs and criminals…did he let that color his actions when he encountered them?
“Well, so am I, because I fear that when you both showed up, it lead to their attacking you because they felt as though you were the aggressors. Either there to attack them or sabotage the machinery.”
Sam’s sympathy turned to skepticism here; the entire crew of construction workers and heavy machinery handlers were intimidated by a high school student and a recent college grad? It seemed unlikely, but Sam said nothing. Mr. Alonzo was being very gracious, and there was no reason to start challenging him yet. Sam was thankful to find that even Barry was holding his tongue.
“Their actions cost me quite a substantial amount in equipment, to say nothing of the lost hours of labor or transportation costs. But sometimes that is just the price of business.” Mr. Alonzo leaned back into the couch. Sam nodded, but could think of nothing else to add. Mr. Alonzo switched gears. “You both have no doubt figured out that I’ve come here for the legends of Sinnoh, right?”
Sam nearly choked on his own tongue; He and Barry had certainly suspected that, but to have Mr. Alonzo so freely admit to it was beyond what he’d imagined. What a brazen thing to say, Sam thought. “We… well… yeah. We kind of figured that, of course, but—“
“You’re aware that poaching legendary pokemon is illegal, right?” Barry spat, “Why would anyone just come out and admit to that?”
"Poaching?" Mr. Alonzo, the pitch of his voice rising. "No, not even close, Mr. West. Let me ask you a question: When a farmer needs assistance raising his crops, is it poaching when he catches a Gloom to encourage their growth? When a demolition crew catches a Rhyhorn to help them tear down a building and remove rubble, is that poaching? Or is it poaching when a hospital uses an Audino to heal an injured person's minor bruises or superficial injuries?"
Barry raised an eyebrow. "That's three questions."
"Pokemon are a huge part of our daily lives. But we don't even know all about them. We have pokemon that transport us to our jobs. We have pokemon that work on construction sites to help us build. We have pokemon that battle in stadiums to entertain us. But these are just rudimentary day-to-day duties. They do these things because they are strong or because they can manipulate plants, sure. But what about the legendary pokemon?"
Sam's mouth was dry suddenly, and he wished the coffee had made its way to the cabin. What was Henrique Alonzo talking about, and why was it making Sam uncomfortable?
"People talk about legendary pokemon, and we're talking about abilities that range from controlling the weather to manipulating time and space and everything in between. Think about how that could benefit humanity, gentlemen. We could stop storms and natural disasters in their tracks before lives and property are lost. We could erase our greatest mistakes from history; no more Century War and the hate it spread between our regions." Mr. Alonzo opened his arms wide in front of him as if to emphasize the scope of his ideas. "We could have perfect knowledge and understanding of the world around us. I've not come here to capture Sinnoh's legends or put them on display. I've come here to find them and get them to use their powers to benefit mankind. All of us. "
"They don't belong to mankind, though; they belong to the world." Barry's words shocked Sam out of his laser focus on Henrique's words. Sam had been engrossed in the thoughts, but Barry had wasted no time in having a rebuttal. "Do you really think it's in anyone's best interest to corral pokemon that can control time? Or human emotion? Yeah, gee, what's the worst that could happen there, right?"
"And those abilities are safer unmonitored in the wild?"
"Considering that, historically, the legends basically just putz around on their own, hide, and not mess with us? Yeah, I'd think so. They don't go around using their powers on a whim, so they're probably a lot smarter than we are."
Sam watched as Barry and Mr. Alonzo went back-and-forth. What was Barry saying? Wasn't he with Sam to help him get the lake guardians so that Sam could heal his brother?
"Your view of what these pokemon could mean to the world is awfully short-sighted, Mr. West."
"And your view of how gracious and well-meaning humanity would be in the face of these possibilities is awfully wrong-sighted."
Mr. Alonzo tilted his head down and smiled. Slowly, he shook his head a few times as if he were pardoning himself from engaging in a verbal battle with Barry. "I see your point of view, Mr. West, don't get me wrong. And I also get that you must feel very confident in expressing it. After all, you and Professor Rowan have had the legendary pokemon of Sinnoh hidden away and protected for quite some time now, haven't you?"
Re: Brothers' Bond
Oh snap, Alonzo made a pretty ballsy claim this chapter, didn't he?
Wondering if it's a ploy or not. Never thoughts about the diff regions having diff languages
Re: Brothers' Bond
Wow! Color me impressed. I've got to say, that I'm already in love with your story. The plot, the characters, the world that you have constructed! If I'm being completely honest, it's inspired me a bit and helped me to clear up my own visions of the type of Pokémon world I want to write of. Anyway. Let me say that your grammar and mechanics are impeccable. I don't think I encountered any significant errors and no smaller ones that popped out at me. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more! I'll offer a more in depth review on the next chapter you post, given how far you're in the story right now. :)