I was lost. No two ways about it. As I looked over the trees in the forest, their tall trunks standing firm, their green leaves softly fluttering in the slight breeze, and the ferns and other flora that served as underbrush, I knew it in my heart. I could hear the chattering of Sentrets, the mid-afternoon cry of Hoot hoots, the chirps of Pidgeys in the otherwise still air, the growling of my stomach—I’d been lost in the forest for just under a week, and had been out of water and food for half that time. My heart was beating so loudly that I figured that every Pokemon in a mile radius could hear it. Logically, I knew this couldn’t be true, but logic and I hadn’t been on the very best of terms lately, and those terms were getting worse and worse every day. I was lost and I was scared—I knew this combination was a recipe for disaster, but I couldn’t help it. I had lost my whole family, my friends, and now even my home to war! I liked the outdoors more than most of my family, when they were alive, but now if I never again entered a forest, it would be too soon. Screw that, it would be fine with me if I never even saw a forest again!


Who am I? A very fair question. I hope my answer is good enough. My family had never been much for adventures, and for the most part I hadn’t either. We lived in Viridian City, and we liked it because as far back as anyone in the family could remember, we have always lived here. That, and we own—owned the Pokemart there and all the tourists, trainers, and people for the major airport in Kanto set us up pretty well financially. For most of the first ten years of my life, I had been studying to be Professor Oak’s aide, and was just about to ask him if I could take his test when he suggested that I go on a Pokemon journey. He knew that I wanted to be a researcher, and told me that I would get valuable insights on Pokemon if I went on a journey that I wouldn’t get otherwise. He told me that watching Pokemon interaction would probably be the basis for my future research. Someday, I plan to be a professor as prominent as Oak. I’m eligible for college, if there were any left in Kanto, and know more than most kids my age about battle strategies, famous battles in history, and battle techniques. Those subjects were my driving passion in school, and have been the subject for several hypotheses I have made on new attacks that could possibly be formed. Because of the small fact that I have no Pokemon, however, I have no opportunities to test them out. However, I now see why Oak wanted me to go on a journey, and what he meant by valuable experience. That’s why I’m off to Johto, so I can get a team and test my hypotheses. Someday I’ll have my own lab, and I’ll churn out new techniques like nobody’s business.


I’m about average for my age in about every way except for my battle knowledge, black hair, brown eyes, and a craving for adventure that can only be filled by a Pokemon adventure, which most kids who are fifteen have already had, or at least started. Thus the trip to Johto. The only things I have are what I had with me before my house blew up. A set of jeans, a black shirt, and a red vest, plus the one Pokeball I’d saved most of my money for five years for. It only cost me two thousand dollars because I caught a sale! I also had my survival notebook—the one I had filled with notes during the survival classes that were mandatory before the invasion. You know, the classes where almost everyone else was goofing off or sleeping. I had only one thing more, and it was my most prized possession. It was a Pokedex, taken from Professor Oak’s lab just hours before it was burned to the ground.


The first few days of my trip were fun, like exploring the unknown. I had helped a few Pokemon, and gained some friends, like the Asfiriath I was following, who claimed, from what I could decipher of its gestures, that it knew the forest well and could guide me through. Apparently the Asfiriath was an upstanding Pokemon, because it led me to places that were safe and Pokemon needed help. It seemed to be a rule among Pokemon that if you helped someone, you would help him or her in return, which to me is a very good system, considering my situation. The two-foot pony looked back at me and snorted, which I had learned was its way of telling me to come to it. As I hurried forward, faster than my walk before, I couldn’t help but admire the grass-type’s beauty. Even though it was far too small to be ridden, it was rare in Kanto or Johto, and was thus a treasured part of any serious trainer’s collection. The small, leaf-like green scales that covered most if its body seemed to glitter in the sun, and its face and legs, the only parts of its body that wasn’t coated in the scales were covered with brown and green scales, adding an almost camouflage that was hidden in places by its vine-like hair.


“What is it?” I asked as I reached it. This was probably what had kept me sane during the long trek. Having a conversation, even a monologue, with somebody or something else. Asfiriath’s nostrils twitched, and I sniffed too. I had learned early on to mimic Asfiriath when I knew it wanted my attention. I smelled something burning…smoke, and—FOOD!!


I took an involuntary step forward, then looked down at Asfiriath eagerly, “Let’s go!” I said, a little louder than usual, and charged forward. After a few strides, I could see a cavin in a clearing, with smoke drifting lazily out of the chimney. But the bruning smell wasn’t coming from the cabin. I slowed, and a gray streak zipped across my path in front of me. If I hadn’t stopped, I would have been tripped.


Immediately, I stopped, and Asfiriath was at my side, trembling. “What is it? I asked, but before the pony could respond in any way, shape, or form, four simultaneous roars erupted in the jungle, each at ninety degrees to each other, yet forty-five degrees to me. They had us boxed in, I realized, and I recognized those roars. They were Arcanine roars. It only evolved through a fire stone, so they had to be trained. That meant that either someone had stumbled across me or the Rockets had found me again. Once again, the gray shape darted in front of me, but this time it stopped directly in front of me, lip curled and growling. I heard a caw from above me and looked up to see a Murkrow. I had been caught in a trap. Ambushed, or hunted down. I wasn’t sure which.


The Pokemon in front of me was a Darnyen, one of the fastest creatures in the world. Not much taller than Asfiriath, it was obviously much older and much more experienced. It glared at me with a baleful expression, its dark gray hair sticking every which way—a result of the electricity running through its veins. Its green eyes seemed to glare right through me.


Asfiriath pressed closer against my legs, and whimpered. A sound I wasn’t even sure that horses could make. I picked up the Asfiriath, staggering a bit under its weight. It was only about twenty-five pounds, but it was still hard, when it seemed like it was scared of heights. I waited there for the owner of the Arcanine to approach, or the Darnyen or Murkrow to tear us to pieces.


I could hear the brush crackling in four directions as the Arcanine approached deliberately, and slowly. Making me squirm a little in anxiety, which was no doubt their prupose. Then the first of the Arcanine could be seen, coming out from behind a tree. Arcanine are tall, lean beasts with creamy white fur that erupts under its neck, under its front legs, and behind the knees on its back legs. The creamy white fur also is very prominent on its plume of a tail, which separates at the top, with half of the fur going left and right in a backwards fashion. Aside from the white fur, it is mainly orange, with a medley of black streaks, not unlike that of its predecessor, Growlithe, who it grows from with the help of the elemental powers of a Fire Stone. At six feet, three inches tall, and three hundred forty-two pounds, it is, without a doubt, one of the most imposing of any dog-shaped Pokemon, and its strength more than matches its intimidating bearing, which is why Asfiriath understandably began to panic, but I held her still, knowing that if it ran, it would be dead in seconds under the Arcanine’s giant paws. I was worried. If I had to fight with Arcanine, the battle would be over in seconds, because all but the Darnyen had a type advantage over Asfiriath, while Asfiriath had no such advantage.


“Well who do we have here?” a voice asked, and it took me a moment to realize that it wasn’t my own, but another human beings! “Looks like a trespasser and his Pokemon.” I looked at the man, who had appeared to my right out of the forest. “Well, no harm done, boys, he’s not a Rocket, and he’s not hurting my property. That was a good ambush, but I can handle it from here.” The Arcanine turned away smoothly, never slowing their pace, and scattered into the forest. The Murkrow crowed again, and took off into the forest, looking for who knew what. The Darnyen, however, stayed where it was, glaring at me with the same cold expression.


“Sorry about the scare, son, but I don’t like people on my property.” The man was old, about as old as Professor Oak, if I could remember the Pokemon prof correctly. The man had thinning brown hair, red eyes, and a cashmere sweater. “May I ask who you are and what you’re doing here, and if I may not, I will.”


I sighed, and slowly let Asfiriath down to the ground, who stood by me after I straightened, even if she was a little cowed of the Darnyen. “Tyco Sanders, sir. I’m on my way to Johto, and this isn’t my Pokemon. It joined me several days ago, and has been my guide ever since.” I licked my cracking lips.


The old man grunted, “You sound like a Tintian.”


I narrowed my eyes at his words, “I am NOT a Tintian, and never want to be near one of those savages. A Tintian would at least know how to survive in a forest. I haven’t had food or water for four days now!”


The old man looked startled, “Four days? Why didn’t you say so in the first place, come on into my cabin, I’ll get you fixed up with a proper meal and give you a good night’s rest before you’re off.”


“Thank you,” I said, very grateful for the invitation, “I would really appreciate it. You don’t know how much.”


The old man grinned, “All right then, let’s get you inside. But we’ll need to get you cleaned up first. Some of my clothes should fit you. You can wear them while we’re washing yours. Sparky, let’s go.” The Darnyen got up, and stood to the side of the trail as first the old man, then Asfiriath and then me went past. Then he moved in behind me and padded along slowly. I had no doubt that he didn’t trust me yet, and was ready to attack me and/or Asfiriath at the slightest provocation.


The old man continued to talk about life in the woods as we walked towards his cabin. Apparently I was the third refugee from Kanto that week that had gone onto his property. He had put them all up for a night and sent them off the next day with clear instructions on how to get to New Bark Town, a map, and a Pokemon that would keep them safe on the trip there.


Slate opened the door to the cabin and entered, “Erin,” he said, I found the person that set off the Arcanine.”


A girl turned around from in front of a stove. She was a tall, striking young woman, with brown hair that reached to her waist, her left eye was gray, and her right eye was green and a simple blue dress, with an apron over the front, “Supper’s not quite ready, Gramps, Give me a few minutes.” She said, looking me up and down before turning back to the stove, “You’ll need to get cleaned up before we eat. The bathroom is over there.” She pointed to her right, “We keep a Blastoise around the house to do laundry. He’ll have your clothes washed by the time you’re done.”


Slate grinned and clapped me on the shoulder, “Better do what she says! She’s the cook. She doesn’t have to feed you.” I chuckled hesitantly, not sure if he meant it as anything more than a joke or not. I moved towards the door that the girl named Erin had pointed to and entered it, finding a modern bathroom, albeit small and cramped, with a working shower.


Oh, that shower felt good. I was washing off weeks of dirt and grime, since the Rockets never allowed us to have much water, and I had never felt so good in my life. A chance to get cleaned up, promise of food and water, and a real bed to sleep in, not some cheap moth-eaten cot or hard ground, but an actual bed! If this was what life in Johto was like, I couldn’t wait.


True to Erin’s word, my clothes were fully cleaned by the time I finished my shower, my notebook had been cleaned off as much as it could be, and even the Pokeball that I had never used had been polished. “Wow,” I breathed. This was a lot to do for a simple refugee. After I got dressed and combed my hair, for the first time in ages, I left the bathroom.


“I,” I started, then paused, overwhelmed by their generosity, “I don’t know what to say. I’ve been practically living on the streets for the last five years, and when I’m off to Johto to start over, I get treated with such respect…I don’t know how to thank you.”


“Oh, there’s no need to thank us, son. We’re just doing our job to help right the wrongs of the Kantan government.” The grandfather said, almost sounding as if his words had a hidden meaning.


“Sit down,” Erin demanded, “Supper’s ready and it’ll get cold if you stand around and jabber all day.”


I grinned, “And if I don’t?”


Erin didn’t miss a beat, “Then I throw you out of the house.” she replied flatly.


With a mock-worried grin, I hurried to sit down, and began scooping generous portions of food onto my plate, because I had seen that the others had already started. “I don’t think I caught your name,” I told the old man, “Pass the mashed potatoes, please, and the corn, too.” I said, waving in both the food’s directions.


“Oh, didn’t I say it? I’m Professor Andrew Slate. I used to work with Oak, but then I decided to take my work out here where I could do it easier, and I wouldn’t have to imprison Pokemon.” The old man replied, grinning.


“Here we go, off on another speech,” Erin muttered, cutting off a portion of her steak.


“What’s wrong with my speeches?” Slate demanded.


“Gramps! I’ve only heard them about fifty times each!” Erin rolled her eyes, and paused in her cutting for a moment to look at the professor, then resumed her work.


“Wait…Professor Slate?” I said, the name sparking an old memory. I reached into the pocket that I had put the Pokedex I had hidden for four years from everyone else, for fear that it would be stolen, “Weren’t you the one that helped invent these?” I asked, pulling it out and showing it to him.


Slate suppressed a grin and Erin made a face at me, “Young man, I did practically all the labor for those gizmos. Oak may claim that he did most of the work, but he wasted decades trying to build that little device you have in your hand, while I went out and did all the actual research. The original Pokedex was an entire library, of real books, mind you.”


“You just had to bring it up,” Erin muttered, going back to her food.


Slate reached out and picked up the Pokedex, “All those years of research to make this tiny thing? It doesn’t seem right for some reason. It doesn’t scream out at you that men spent their entire lives working on an encyclopedia of Pokemon. I haven’t seen one of these in twenty years.”


“Why are you trying to get to Johto?” Erin asked, obviously trying to change the subject.


“Well, you know the current political conditions inKanto, I know,” I started.


“That the Engarans, who have supplied funding to the Rockets covertly for years, have taken over Kanto in a little over a day, razed Fuschia City and the buildings on Cinnabar Island, and given Team Rocket control over the country, while they try to take over Tintia, who is their main opposition in the grand scheme of things, yeah, I think we pretty much know the current political situation, considering that not a day goes by that an Engaran attack on Tintia is on JNN.” Erin said, and by the way that Slate leaned back in his chair and that Erin’s voice had gotten much more tense suddenly, I sensed that I had broached a sensitive topic.


“Riight,” I said, “Anyway, Viridian City has borne the brunt of the rebel insurgents attacks, and over half the town have been leveled. My brother was killed in the first Engaran invasion, and my family over the past five years. I’ve lived there my entire life, and as far as I know, so have most of my ancestors. My house was leveled just over a week ago by artillery. The Rockets told me that it was a suspected Rebel enclave, and that I should find the orphanage that they set up there. All I had is what I have with me, and the clothes that I’m wearing, plus some money that I spent on a backpack and food. I don’t have anything in Kanto left worth living for, and I am hoping to start a new life for myself in Johto.”


There was a moment of silence, then Erin speared a piece of her steak with her fork and waved it around as she asked, “How long do you think it will be before Tintia falls, and the Engarans turn their attention to Johto?”


The question took me aback. I had never even considered that. My life had always revolved around getting out of Kanto, and starting over. I had never even given a thought to the fact that Engara might spread its domination even more. “I-I never thought of that. I guess I’ll work in Johto and head to the Orange Islands.”


Erin sighed frustratedly and put her silverware down hard, “Tyco, grow up and smell the roses! Where will it end? If the Engarans have taken over one country, what’s to prevent them from taking over another once Tintia is out of the way? Engara has been a country of war for hundreds of years. Do you think that will stop just because they conquered?”


“Erin, that was uncalled for,” Slate reproved her as I sat there, my appetite forgotten.


How long indeed would it be? How long would I have to live as a free man? How many more kids would suffer my fate. “But what can I do?” I thought out loud, “I don’t have any super great team! I haven’t even started on my Pokemon journey!”


“And yet you have an Asfiriath who is willing to travel with you,” Erin said, nodding her head to the grass type, who was waiting by the door, looking uncomfortable in an enclosed space, “That speaks for your ability to control Pokemon, Tyco. How would you feel if you could have stopped the Engarans, but didn’t. If you just let your fear conquer you, and you took the cowards way out? How would you feel as all the countries in the world are conquered, one by one? Sure, most would band together, but none would stand for more than a year or two at most. What would you do when all are conquered? What then?”


“I-I guess I’d have to fight back?” I mumbled, unsure of what else to say or how else I could ever respond.


“How would you, considering that you are starting your journey late, and you don’t have a Pokemon yet?” Slate asked, putting both elbows on the table and leaning forward interestedly.


“I-I don’t know. I have to some way, but I-don’t know how I will.” Erin had a triumphant look on her face, for winning the argument apparently.


The meal continued in silence, and when I got up, Erin did as well, “I’ll take him to his room.” Erin said, and led me into a bedroom that was down a small hallway off the main room. “This is it. Think about what I said at supper. I have friends, if you want to help fight the Engarans, look me up in the morning.”


I slipped into the bed, too distracted by all the things that Erin had said to fully enjoy the bed. “What should I do?” I asked myself, “The Engarans won’t stop until they’ve conquered the world, and I need to stop them, but I don’t have a good enough team.” I thought about what Erin had said, about her friends. I wondered if they were really real. If they were, I realized, I had to find Erin in the morning. If they weren’t, then at least I’d be in Johto.


I wasn’t able to sleep, and got out of bed at about three in the morning and went outside. Asfiriath was lying down, and Erin sat on the doorstep, looking up at the stars. She turned around and saw me, “Hi,” she said softly, “couldn’t sleep?” she asked, in a much more gentle tone than the forceful one she had used during supper. She had changed dresses. She now had a dark blue one with small stitches in silver thread that gave it a very beautiful look.


“Yeah,” I said, sitting down beside her in the doorway. I looked up at the stars and saw a Zubat or two flying against the stars, “I envy them,” I muttered, “They can fly away from the Engarans, and even if all of humanity is conquered, they’ll never be found if they hide in the deepest cave or in the biggest forest.”


Erin was silent for a moment, then said, “I’m sorry about my behavior at supper. I just—I lost all of my relatives except for Gramps to the Engarans. That makes them a sensitive subject.”


“I know how it feels,” I said, truthfully meaning it, “Do you want to hear about my family?”


“Yeah,” Erin said, turning her face so I couldn’t see it, but it sounded like she was getting ready to cry.


“I had a brother, Caleb, two big sisters, Susan and Emily, and my parents, whose names were Shirley and Daniel, but everybody called my dad Dan. Together we ran the Viridian Pokemart, but I think you knew that already.” Erin nodded wordlessly, and I hesitated, not sure where to start, then dived in, “My brother and I never really were anything more than rivals. Anything and everything one of us did, the other had to do better. When he got a new computer, I got a better one. The same went on and on and on until…” I trailed off, shaking off the memories, “Susan was the stereotypical pretty girl. Always had the latest fashion, was always on the phone, cared more about status and popularity than anything else. My parents were kind and gentle, but considered Pokemon journeys as nothing more than a source of income. They had told us many times that Pokemon trainers were never content with what they had, so they had to leave it all in an attempt to find what was already in front of them.”


“Me? I was never expected to do anything but run the Viridian Pokemart, but when I began wanting to be a Pokemon Professor, my parents encouraged it. I studied for two years under Oak to become his aide, when he suggested that I go on a journey, and that it would help me be a good Pokemon Prof.”


I paused, looking down, “When I told my parents, they just about hit the roof. I was forbidden to go to Oak’s ever again, while I lived with them, I was grounded for two months, even from school! They hired a private tutor, and I lived the next two months under house arrest. We’ve never been much for adventures. We’ve always stayed in one place. Caleb told me that he envied me, and Susan started wondering how she would survive on a journey without a mall or a beauty boutique nearby at all times, but it was Emily who helped me through it all. She told me that she always wanted to go, and encouraged me never to give up on my dreams, the whole big sister bit. But she really meant it. She quizzed me on Pokemon and types, and all kinds of battle related stuff. I’ve always been fascinated with battles, I don’t know why. She smuggled in textbooks related to Pokemon journeys, and I had to read them in her closet with a flashlight so I wouldn’t get caught. But then…” I sighed.


“But then,” Erin prodded, and I could tell she was very interested in my story.


“But then the invasion came.” I finished.


“Oh,” Erin said, “I see.”


“Yeah. We got word that Caleb was caught in the cross-fire on his way home from school. I could have been with him if it hadn’t been for that journey. The Engarans raided the store, took everything, down to the last cent in the register. They practically cleaned out every bank account, took over almost everything, took over every single business, confiscated every single Pokemon that anyone owned.  In a single day, we went from one of Viridian city’s foremost families, to just another destitute family in a conquered city that had lost its pride. Tanks and troops rolled through the streets for a year, and troops still guard the Pokemart and the Pokemon Center. My parents were the next ones. They were killed the day after the invasion for looting, when they were only trying to get the store in order. Susan died six months later, of some sickness that was never diagnosed. Emily stayed with me the longest. She helped me prepare for my journey. She was in the house when…” suddenly I was there again, seeing the house as I walked back to it, exhausted from a long day’s work cutting down the trees in Viridian Forest for Team Rocket, when I heard a whistling that I knew was incoming artillery. It hit my house dead on and leveled it.


“I don’t know what I’d do if I was right there,” Erin’s voice cut into my thoughts, and I realized I had narrated it for her. Erin was still turned away from me, and her voice was thick, as if she were holding herself back from crying.


“The Rockets said that the rebels were using it as one in a chain of mobile headquarters. The part that sticks with me the most, besides my family, is the day that Oak disappeared. I was on my way to see him when I saw a convoy leaving his lab, where he sometimes lived because he forgot to go home. I saw him in the truck. They were Engaran soldiers, as always, but there wasn’t a Team Rocket overseer there. That meant it was a purely Engaran operation. I learned later that he was taken to Engara and is probably still researching, but all his research goes to the Engarans.” Erin nodded, still facing away from me, “Anyway, I went into his lab. Practically everything had been gutted, slashed, stolen or smashed in some way, but I managed to find the Pokedex, the one that I showed you, underneath some books that had been ripped up. I took it and ran, not knowing when the Engarans would come back, and return they did…to burn it. This is the only thing that I have to keep Oak’s memory alive.” I took a necklace out of my pants pocket, “Just like the only memento I have of Emily.” It was a locket, and inside it had her picture an mine. She had given one to everyone in the family the Christmas before the invasion, each one was personalized, but it was the one thing that reminded me of her each day. Of her strength, and how she wouldn’t have given up if she were in my shoes.


That got Erin’s attention, and she turned her head slowly to look at it. “May I?” she asked, holding out her hand. With only a moment’s hesitation, I handed her the locket. She turned it over in her hands, examining it carefully, “Wow,” she said, “This was made by Ruby Rockers.” She looked up at me, “One of the foremost jewelry makers in all of Tintia, if not the world. It has a lot of monetary value, but even more, in regard of the memories I’m sure it keeps with you.” She offered it back to me, and I took it, looking at the locket with renewed wonder. How had my sister scraped together enough money to be me this?


“So is this a one-way street?” I asked, not sure of what else to say.


“Huh?” Erin asked, as if she wasn’t quite sure what I meant.


“I poured out my heart to you, so do I get to hear about your family?” I asked pointedly, looking at the locket for a couple more seconds before putting it back in my pocket.


Erin hesitated, then got up, “I’m taking a walk. I’ll tell you if you come with me.”


I got up, “Fair enough, but is it safe?”


“Perfectly, the Arcanine, Murkrow and Sparky are constantly patrolling these woods. Not even a Ratatta gets past them. Let’s go to the garden.” She said, offering me a hand up. I shifted uncomfortably, then took it. I wasn’t sure how I should act in regards to her. She had offered to take me for a walk, and I didn’t want to come on as inappropriate. But if I wanted to hear her story, I had to go with her. It felt slightly colder than my own hand, and slightly smaller. I released it as soon as I got up. “It’s all right. I don’t normally do this, walk with strange guys at night, but I do usually walk through the garden each night, to check on things, and after the story you just told me I feel that I need to.”


“Look, I don’t know what your intentions are,” I said, a little uncomfortably, “but-“


“You’re worried that I’m trying to hit on you?” Erin asked in an amused voice.


“Well, uh, yeah, a little bit.” I admitted, feeling myself blush.


“Don’t worry, Tyco, I need to check the plants anyway. I do every night before I turn in, and you need to hear my story.” I nodded, still feeling the redness in my cheeks. “Where do I start?” she asked herself.


“Well, the beginning would probably be best.” She paused for a few moments, as if organizing her thoughts. “I envy you, Tyco,” she said, “You lived a normal life that I never could have. My parents divorced before I was born. Both wanted me and neither wanted me to live with the other, so I lived with Gramps. He moved out here four years before I was born, and it must have been a hassle for him to take care of me and try to do his research at the same time. Gramps is pretty well traveled, and he’s even been to Tintia a time or two.” She saw my incredulous glance and grinned, “Yeah, Tintia. It’s not the place we always think of, you know. It’s the only country in the world that has a tri-cameral government, with a Pokemon, human and mixed houses of representatives. Even though it’s surrounded by hardship, they press on through every struggle. They don’t give up, and they don’t fall back unless they have no choice and more would be lost than gained by staying where they are. One of the things that stuck with him on his trip there, though, was the fact that Pokemon were equals, and were free to roam about wherever they wanted, and they considered Pokeballs to be hideous things that only the worst Pokemon, or Pokemon in need of punishment would be trapped in. When he came back he freed all his Pokemon, and only the six you saw in the forest today stayed with him. Darnyen was his first, the four Growlithes were litter-mates he raised from new-borns, and the Murkrow is actually a Tintian citizen who was fascinated with the fact that he was a Professor and wanted to see what he actually did.”


Erin paused and knelt down to check on a plant, then got back up and continued walking, “Enter myself, a newborn into a bachelor’s life. He had to have sacrificed his research for a couple of years before I was old enough to be on my own. And he had to answer my questions about where mom and dad were. When I was old enough to realize that they weren’t coming, I went through denial, I said I hated them, then realized it was for the best, and that I’d be able to stay with Gramps all year round and help him with his studies. Then a little over five years ago, the Engarans invaded Kanto. Gramps and I were at a conference at Indigo Plateau at the time, and his Pokemon were going to wait for us on the edge of Viridian Forest, and Murkrow had gone home to visit relatives, so he didn’t have any Pokemon for them to confiscate. We were also meeting my parents there, it was only my third time meeting them in my entire life. Before I could even talk to them, one of the walls blew out. A piece of debris caught my dad in the head. He had to have died instantly. My mom went seconds later when the first rounds of ammunition were fired into the room. Kanto’s best and brightest were killed that day, including, as I’m sure you know, Ash Ketchum, Gary Oak, and the gym leaders Misty Waterflower and Brock Slate, who isn’t a relative of mine as far as I know.”


“After the Rockets questioned us, Gramps and I were allowed to go, and we hurried back here, and we’ve stayed here ever since. Murkrow runs into New Bark Town for supplies now and then, but, that’s about the size of my life story.”


I looked down, and realized that we had gone from the vegetable to the flower part of the garden, “I-I don’t know what I would have done if I had seen my parents killed.”


Erin bit her lip, “I-I know what you mean. Now you can see why  I feel the way I do about the Rockets.” Her voice caught and her eyes filled with tears.


I wondered for half a second what to do. I mean, would I be an insensitive dope and stand there while she cried, or would I be someone who would try to comfort her. Without thinking, I drew her to myself, and she hugged me. I wasn’t expecting it, but it was what she needed. As she cried into my shoulder, I could feel my own eyes filling up with tears as I relived those horrible days that I had gone through. It wasn’t manly, but I didn’t care. Only soldiers were supposed to live through what I had, and soldiers weren’t supposed to be in Kanto in the first place. Somehow I got her back to the steps outside the door, and we both sat down, both quietly crying over something that shouldn’t have been, and something we couldn’t change.


After several minutes, and we had both calmed down a bit, I looked up at her, “You said that you had friends. Could you give me their names and addresses? I’ll look them up when I get to Johto.”


Erin looked up at me and smiled through the tears that were still coming down, “I’ll do better than that. I’ll take you to them.” She got up and re-entered the house, swiping at her face.


I was left sitting there, staring at where she had been sitting. “Wait, take me to them? How can you do that inside the house?” I asked, getting to my feet and following her as she went down the hallway. She opened a door that I had discovered was a broom closet, and pulled me inside, “Uh, what are you doing?” I asked as she shut the door behind me.


Erin didn’t answer, but moved further back and tugged at something. It sounded like a wall was being pulled back, then I heard her moving, but I wasn’t sure where or for what. Then there was a click, and a light blinded me. “Ah!” I said, “Put that away!”


“First, I have to know what you’d be willing to go through to defeat the Engarans.” Erin said, in a voice of authority over and above the one she’d used in the kitchen when we’d first met.


“After what they’ve done to me? I’d die if it meant defeating them.” I shot back, incensed that she hadn’t picked up on it yet.


“Then I can take you to my friends,” she said, taking the flashlight away from my eyes and further back into the closet. She had pulled back a false wall, I discovered, and she knelt down and pulled back a false floor, revealing an elevator filled with supplies. She climbed down onto the elevator, and gestured for me to come down. The elevator had lights, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in an enclosed space with a girl for any extended period of time, especially considering I didn’t know how long this trip would take.


“Come on,” Erin said, “You said you’d give your life, but you can’t take an elevator ride?”


“It’s not that, Erin,” I said, hesitantly, “I just want to be…appropriate.”


“Look, if you want to help defeat the Engarans, then get down here!” Erin said, a trace of amusement in her voice. I hesitated an instant longer, then climbed down after her. As soon as I was in, she punched a button and both hidden panels slid shut, as well as the top part of the elevator. Then the lights came on, and Erin shut off her flashlight. “It’ll take about five minutes to get to where we’re going,” Erin said, “So make yourself comfortable.”


It was a LONG five minutes. I was constantly wondering if I should have phrased what I said differently, or even if I was making the right choice, but when the doors opened, and I got my first glimpse of what would be my home for the next several years, I knew it had been the best I ever could have made.


I saw a cavern that had to be at least ten miles across, with a giant lake in the middle. The lake was surrounded by a city and had a pillar sticking up in the exact center, and the light that illuminated the entire chamber came from the top of the pillar. The lake glittered like a sea of crystals that had been smashed up and thrown together. I couldn’t see so much as a ripple, and I doubted there often was one. A river flowed from the other side of the lake, I could see, and had several waterfalls as it made its way down to the lake. “Wow.” Was all I could say, “Your friends live here?”


“Well, actually, this is where they spend most of their time. This isn’t the living level.”


“This place is big enough to need its own living level? Who staffs it?” I asked, completely taken by surprise.


“Tintians, Johtans, refugee Kantans, and people from Hoenn and other countries that want to help us free Kanto.” Erin replied easily, as if she had answererd the same question dozens of times, which, I realized, she probably had.


“And you-you work here?” I asked, dumb-founded.


“No,” she said, “I live here. Welcome, Tyco, to your future. And to the future of Kanto. Welcome, to Rocket-Bane.”



To be Continued…