Ash Ketchum noticed that there were only a few lights left burning in the various windows of Pallet Town as he stepped outside of his home and carefully closed the door, the tiny hamlet utterly quiet and serene in its usual evening sleep. He then noticed his best friend Gary Oak after his eyes adjusted to the dim, honey colored illumination offered by the town's scattered porch lights and the half moon. The other boy was lying face up on the front lawn of his own house a few steps away, apparently stargazing and lost in thought. Ash wandered over to his friend and stretched out a couple feet from Gary, mimicking his friend's pose. "Welp, just checked- the first round of the Kanto regionals starts at noon tomorrow." Ash's back quickly got damp and cold from the dew on Gary's front lawn. "Wonder who'll win it all this year?"
Gary shrugged and shook his head while looking up at the twinkling stars in the night sky above them. "Eh, I can tell ya right now. It won't be the best trainer, and may never be. It'll be whoever pays the most money to everyone else under the table, just like always." He let out a derisive snort, his nose then filling back up with the scent of cut grass and moist earth as he inhaled. "Dunno why they even bother with the Championship Series. They may as well just have the contestants open their wallets, count the money in 'em and declare the person with the most the winner instead of Pokémon battling." Gary paused for a moment, recalling something he and Ash had witnessed in last year's tournament. "You remember the team from the Orange Islands last year? The four that got disqualified due to having an improperly registered Pokémon after gettin' to the group semifinals?"
"Yeah, the ones from Moro Island? It was a Lapras that they got in trouble for if I remember right." Ash cocked an eyebrow and glanced over at his friend before looking back up into the night. "Something about the breeder chip not matching its registration papers, I think?" He pulled himself up a bit, perching on his elbows and then turning his head to Gary.
"Yep. Chip showed it hatching in Cerulean City, registration papers said it hatched in Slateport City." Gary's eyes narrowed, the stars partially blotted out. He knew better than most people how the Pokémon world worked thanks to his grandfather's connections to it, tenuous as they were. He plucked a blade of grass and rolled it in between his index finger and thumb absentmindedly as he continued. "Somebody else in that tournament paid good money for the registration paper to suddenly not match the chip, guaranteed. Quick and easy way to eliminate someone you're sweating about, and nothing can ever be proven."
Ash sat up fully, a thought written on his face. "But wouldn't they double check the registration and make sure that the breeder put the right information on the chip?" Every Pokémon had a tiny, scannable electronic chip implanted just under the skin (or lacquered onto them, depending on the species,) carefully inserted under anesthesia as part of their first health exam after hatching. By regulation, the chip had to contain the breeder's name, city, and region along with the date and location where the Pokémon had hatched. This information was then used by its owner to register the Pokémon with the Pokémon League to enable it to participate in League events, including tournaments and the Gym Challenge for each region. Any discrepancy between the information on the chip and the information provided by the owner on the Pokémon's registration usually spelled huge trouble for said owner.
"Well, they're supposed to, yeah. They're supposed to follow up with the breeder to re-verify the information on the chip, but the League usually doesn't try too hard, especially when judges are paid to look the other way most of the time." Gary sat up and looked around at the quiet, still night. "I know Gramps wouldn't lie to me, but it's hard to imagine that there were ever wild Pokémon. Imagine walkin' along and suddenly BAM! There's a wild Pokémon blocking your way."
Ash nodded and laughed lightly. "Or you could have gotten your head smacked by a flying one while you were walking along and minding your own business!" He then suddenly stopped laughing and frowned in concentration, cupping his left hand around his ear before standing up and turning left. "Did you hear that?"
"No. What is it?" Gary quirked an eyebrow as he got up and looked in the same direction Ash was, unable to hear anything or see anything beyond a few dimly illuminated lawns, houses and shrubs.
"It can't be what I think it is, but it sure sounded like..." Ash let the sentence drift off before motioning for Gary to follow him before slowly tiptoeing down towards the direction of the noise. As they walked a few more steps, Gary wondered what Ash had picked up on, realizing Ash had probably heard it first due to being closer to the noise. He then heard a few soft rustles issue from the large bush a few feet in front of him, the bush slightly quivering and dancing in time with the sound, before next hearing something completely unexpected.
It seemed that a pair of Pokémon had hidden themselves under the bush, an Eevee and Pikachu to be precise if Gary recalled the cries correctly. There was a pained, distressed inflection to the soft cries that definitely did not bode well. Not wanting to scare the pair off, Gary tapped Ash on the shoulder, whispering very softly. "They sound hurt, so we need to be careful. And we probably need a flashlight." His mind was still processing the fact that there appeared to be a pair of loose, unattended Pokémon not even a few feet from them. Probably got separated from their owner or wandered away from a breeding farm. Well, hopefully we can catch them and get them scanned to return them.
"Got a flashlight," whispered Ash, Gary jumping slightly before realizing that he hadn't even noticed Ash leaving or coming back. "Might spook 'em if I shine it under there, though."
"I don't know if they'll be in any condition to run. They both sound in pretty bad shape, and we shouldn't stress them out any more than they probably already are." Gary started mulling over different options in his mind.
"Hey, I know what might work!" Ash whispered happily after a few moments. "Do you think your grandpa might have some food left from when he took care of his friend's Arcanine?"
"Actually, he might. I'll go check, keep an eye on 'em in case they move." Gary walked down to his grandfather's house at a brisk trot, letting himself in with the spare key under the doormat. He closed the door behind him, tiptoed into the small tan and white kitchen, turned on the light and began rooting around in the drawers and cupboards as quietly as he could. The faint, spicy smell of last night's curry hung in the air as Gary searched through pots, pans, various cooking tools and cooking ingredients. He finally found a box of Pokéchow half hidden behind a bag of rice. "There it is," he muttered under his breath before grabbing it, making sure to turn off the light and exiting the house triumphantly, closing the door and locking it behind him.
"Did you find it? They haven't moved." Ash was still standing vigil a few feet from the bush after Gary jogged back to his friend.
"Yeah. I'm gonna pour some food on the ground and see if they're interested." Gary opened the box and poured a small mound of dark brown kibble a step closer than he and Ash were to the bush, hoping that the smell of the food would lure the pair out. Almost as soon as he backed up after pouring it, a pair of muzzles could be seen poking out slightly from under the bush, the sound of eager sniffing soon carrying on the still, somewhat chilly night air.
"Pikaaaaa?" A Pikachu slowly emerged first, its nose and ears twitching as it slowly crept toward the food on all fours, favoring its back left paw and wincing a little with every step. It was also dirty, covered all over in light scratches that looked to be from small claws or talons and a rib or two was almost visible under its fur. It seemed to not even notice the boys' presence, its focus completely on the meal before it. Its dull eyes suddenly brightened as it finished approaching the food and gave it a final sniff, a wide smile flashing across its face. It then turned its head towards the bush and cried "Pipipikachuchuupikaaaaaaaa!", its tone clearly indicating delight.
"Eev, eevuiiii?" came the curious-sounding reply. An Eevee in similar condition to the Pikachu emerged from under the bush, clearly favoring its right front paw as it went to join the Pikachu. As soon as the Eevee managed to limp to the pile of food, both dug in with an amount of gusto that seemed to indicate why their ribs had almost been showing- clearly, neither had eaten in a while. They were almost gulping the pieces of food down whole, neither seeming to pay any attention to the pair of humans that were standing not more than four feet away.
"Jeez, they look pretty bad," Ash softly commented with a frown. "Looks like someone dumped 'em right after a battle without taking them to a Pokémon Center." Ash's fists clenched in anger at the thought of someone not only dumping a Pokémon like it was a piece of garbage, but also leaving it to die.
"Yeah, and look at how fast they're eating. They must've been totally starved." After his hushed reply, Gary realized that they had to get the pair to a Pokémon Center to heal their injuries, and fast. "We better get 'em to a Center. The closest one's up in Viridian, isn't it?"
"I'm pretty sure." Ash nodded as he studied the pair of Pokémon. "But how do we get there? Or better yet, corral these guys to take them there?" Even with how quiet they were trying to be, Ash noticed the pair's ears twitching softly in their direction every time he or Gary whispered. After the pile of food had been polished off, two pairs of wary eyes met Ash and Gary's.
The Eevee made the first move, slowly moving towards Gary and sniffing in the direction of the box of food he held. "Vui?" It kept approaching until it seemed to get a good enough sniff of the box before backing up with its head tilted in apparent puzzlement.
"Piiiika." The Pikachu's eyes slowly slid between the two boys, suspicion evident in its tone. Small sparks began to issue from its dirty red cheeks as it glared at each of them in turn.
"Hey, calm down!" Ash placed his hands out in front of him. "We're just trying to help."
Suddenly a large wooden box with small holes in it emerged from the shadows beyond the bush and was placed over the Pokémon with a dull thunk, trapping them both under it. The sounds of scrambling and scratching began within the box. "You both could have been seriously hurt. You should have woken me up to help," a familiar voice chided from the shadows. Samuel Oak stepped into view with a stern frown on his face. "It was lucky that someone rooting around in my kitchen woke me up. I assume that was you, Gary." When his grandson nodded in the affirmative, he continued. "I heard their cries and came out to investigate and catch them if needed."
"Sorry." Ash bowed his head as he realized that the older man, usually called 'Professor' Oak, was absolutely right.
"Well, at least they're caught now. They need help," explained Gary as he looked down at the box. "They don't look too good."
"I noticed that. You two kept them distracted long enough for me to sneak up on them," nodded the professor in reply as he donned a pair of rubber gloves and slowly began sliding a piece of wood under the box, sparks flying out of it as he worked. Once the box was sealed, he picked it up. "They can tucker themselves out in here while you get them up to Viridian City. It would probably be best to take your bikes." Samuel began to head back towards his house. He suddenly turned around when he was halfway there. "Let me know how things turn out."
"We will." Ash then dashed back to his house for his bike and met Gary on the dirt road through town, the other boy already on his bike.
"Grab a side and let's go." Gary pointed down at two makeshift handles on either side of the box.
"Got it." Ash grabbed the left side, Gary grabbed the right and they both very awkwardly remounted their bikes. "Should be a straight shot up as long as the weird guy that doesn't let people walk through his lawn's not there, but he should be asleep this time of night."
"Yeah, should be." Gary nodded and began pedalling, Ash quickly pulling even with him as the pair took off straight north, hoping to reach Viridian City with no problems.
"How did they get so heavy on the way here?" groaned Gary as the pair arrived in front of Viridian City's Pokémon Center. The brightly lit Center cast a warm, welcoming red glow into the night that pierced through the darkness and lit up the immediate area. "It feels like they weigh a million pounds all of a sudden."
"'Cause we've carried 'em with the same arm all the way here. Wanna switch?" replied Ash with a grin as the pair slowly made their way off their bikes, swapped sides, gripped the box handles and entered the Center. The mingling smells of liniment oil, pine and antiseptic hitting them like an ocean wave as the door quietly whooshed shut behind them. The clinic seemed abandoned at the late hour, an eerie silence broken only by their soft footsteps pervading the immaculately clean space as they continued to walk forward.
A pink-haired woman in a pink and white nurse's uniform who was standing behind a large counter on the other side of the room waved at them. "Hello you two! I don't think I've seen you here before. How can I help you this evening?" She practically beamed as Ash and Gary approached and hefted the large box containing the Eevee and Pikachu up on the counter. A Chansey then wandered out from a room located back behind the counter, the Pokémon quickly studying the wooden box and giving a confused look to the woman bearing a name tag reading 'Nurse Joy' .
"Could you take a look at this Eevee and Pikachu? We found them under a bush in Pallet Town and they both looked pretty bad, so we brought 'em here as soon as we fed and caught them." Gary indicated the box.
"They also weren't in Pokéballs and we couldn't find anyone around, either," Ash added.
"How strange that they were alone, but it's good that you managed to catch them and that you brought them here." She examined the box, then carefully slid the bottom open. After she removed the top of the box, revealing two sleeping Pokémon that were obviously exhausted from travelling and clearly mistreated, Nurse Joy frowned and turned to Chansey. "Chansey, hand me my Pokénav. I've got to report this immediately."
After Chansey dug around in its pouch and handed a pink Pokénav over, Nurse Joy pulled up something on the device's touch screen and tapped a few times on it before snapping several pictures of the Eevee and Pikachu, then holding the device to her ear. She looked back up at Ash and Gary. "You're sure there was no one else around the area where you found these two?"
"No one except his grandpa, who helped us catch them." Ash indicated Gary, then shook his head.
Nurse Joy nodded before a faint murmuring could be heard issuing from the Pokénav nestled by her ear. "This is Viridian City's Pokémon Center calling." She smiled. "Good, thanks for asking, but I have to be the bearer of some bad news. Could you please transfer me to the on-call officer working Cruelty and Abandonment?" she continued when the mumbling stopped. Nurse Joy sighed and put the Pokénav down on her desk and pressed another button, calm, soothing instrumental music issuing forth from it. "I'm going to try and heal these two up while I'm waiting to make my report. I have to ask you both to please not leave the Center until Officer Jenny arrives and gets statements from you."
"Channnnsey." The word 'heal' seemed to be familiar to the Chansey working behind the counter, the large pink Pokémon smiling before reaching into its pouch and bringing out a square spray bottle filled with blue liquid, holding it as best it could in its two round arms and handing the spray bottle to Nurse Joy with a wide smile. "Chanseeeeey chan!"
"Thank you, Chansey. That's just what I need!" Nurse Joy gave her coworker a smile before twisting the cap off the spray bottle and inspecting the settings on it, twisting it to a different setting. She then began spraying the liquid onto the Eevee and Pikachu, the medicine softly coating them with a fine blue mist. She then gently ruffled their fur to make sure the medicine would reach their skin and work its magic, the effect immediate as soon as the last of the spray had been absorbed.
Both Pokémon leapt off the counter directly into Ash and Gary's arms, the Eevee choosing Gary and wagging happily while the Pikachu lightly nibbled at Ash's shirt. The two then decided to have a race after receiving some affection from the boys, both leaping down to the floor and racing around the Center while cheerful cries and the soft clambering of paws echoed through the mostly empty building. During one lap, the two stopped just long enough to make happy noises in Ash and Gary's general direction before galloping off again.
"Well, it looks like they're feeling much better, doesn't it?" asked Nurse Joy with a laugh. "I guess we can let them run around until Officer Jenny gets here." Her Pokénav rang and Nurse Joy picked up the device after seeing who the caller was. "And there she is. I need to make my report, would you two mind sitting over in the reception area?" she asked politely,
Gary and Ash wandered over to two beige-colored leather sofas that they'd passed on the way in, plunking themselves down on opposite ends with a pair of tired sighs. The soft, comfortable couch seemed to act like a sleeping pill, both boys yawning and getting comfortable as the adrenaline of finding, catching and bringing the Pokémon to the Center quickly wore off despite the noise created by two Pokémon racing around. "Haulin' them here was some workout," muttered Gary as he nursed his tired right arm, the murmured hum of Nurse Joy's conversation adding to the white noise in the background.
"No kidding," Ash replied as he cradled his own overworked arm. "I almost can't feel my arm at all. We had to get 'em here as fast as we could, though." The two then settled into a companionable silence that lasted until a blue-haired woman wearing a blue police uniform walked through the door with a clear purpose, efficient staccato footsteps falling behind her as she made a beeline for Nurse Joy's counter. A Growlithe was hot on her heels, taking in everything and happily whining when it caught sight of Nurse Joy and Chansey, its nub of a tail furiously wagging and mouth lolling, the small Fire-type panting happily.
The uniformed woman spoke to Nurse Joy at length while it appeared that the Eevee and Pikachu had finally tuckered themselves out, the pair curling up to sleep in a rugged corner. Her conversation with Nurse Joy finished, the officer walked over to Gary and Ash and pulled out a notepad. "I'm Officer Jenny. I assume you boys are the ones that brought in the two Pokémon that Nurse Joy reported?" She offered an apologetic look. "I'm afraid I'll have to have you both tell me what happened again." Her Growlithe wandered back over to its master.
"That's us," nodded Gary. "Found 'em in Pallet Town under a bush, no owners nearby or anything."
Ash picked up where Gary left off. "With the way they looked we thought somebody had dumped 'em after a battle without taking them to a Center. They were pretty skinny and beat up, so we fed 'em and then brought them here.”
"I see. Well, you boys definitely did the right thing. Their owners are going to be investigated for cruelty based on what you've told me and what Nurse Joy showed me." Officer Jenny made some notes. "Do you know if these Pokémon are owned by anyone in Pallet Town?"
Gary shook his head. "Could be, but I've never seen either of them until tonight and Pallet Town's tiny. Either Ash or I would have seen at least one of them by this point if someone in Pallet owned them."
"Yeah, and there's only one person in town right now that even has any Pokémon. No way we would've missed 'em," added Ash with emphasis.
Officer Jenny closed her notebook and smiled. "Alright, thanks for the information. Now to find out who their owners are. I'm going to have some serious questions for them." She pulled a small, square black colored device out from her belt and walked over to the pair of sleeping Pokémon, turning the device sideways then kneeling down and running the device gently down the backs of both the Eevee and Pikachu, the two not even waking up. A confused look crossed her face after she studied the device and softly whacked it a couple times. "I hope that's not right," she quietly muttered before trying again, then standing up and awaiting a reply from the small machine.
"Error Zero Zero Two now confirmed after second attempt. No breeder chips detected on scanned Pokémon One or Two. Please try to scan again," chirped a cheerful, feminine robotic voice that suddenly issued from the small device.
"Wait. Neither of them has a chip? How could that happen?" asked Ash with a cocked eyebrow.
"It could happen a few different ways, although it's incredibly rare," frowned Officer Jenny as she studied the sleeping pair of Pokémon. "Their owner may have had their chips surgically removed and then dumped them, or they could have had their chips removed to replace them, but they somehow ran off before the new ones could be put in. They could also be escapees from an unregistered black market breeder that never had them chipped in the first place. Those breeders don't tend to like putting their information out there," she finished with a rueful smile.
Gary asked a question he almost didn't want to in light of the new information. "What happens to them if their owner or owners can't be tracked down?"
"I'm going to check the worldwide missing Pokémon database, but I've got a funny feeling I won't find anything on these two. We'll take it from there if that's the case." Officer Jenny smiled at Gary before pulling out a dark blue Pokénav and efficiently tapping on it. After a minute or two, she nodded and put the device away. "Exactly as I thought. No missing report of an Eevee or Pikachu at all." After placing the Pokénav back into her pocket, she turned to Ash and Gary. "Technically, I'm supposed to report unregistered Pokémon to the League and take them there to be registered for use in the League's training arenas. That is, unless I can find a licensed trainer or trainers to take them both and pay the registration fees with the League for them."
"Hey, kiddo! C'mon, up with ya!"
Tracey Sketchit mentally swam to consciousness as he felt a great shaking on his left shoulder. He opened his eyes and almost yelled in fright as the fuzzy, incredibly large man in front of him slowly zoomed into focus. Tracey's eyes widened and his right hand went to his chest before he remembered where he was and why. He then closed his eyes and let out a calming breath before getting to his feet a little unsteadily due to the slight rocking motion of the dented up and well used small cargo boat that he was in, gentle waves making soft lapping sounds as they met the boat. The briny smell of the sea filled Tracey's lungs as he took a few deep breaths of the brisk night air to fully awaken himself.
The veteran sailor he'd bummed a ride to Kanto from three days ago, who'd given his name as Walter, was illuminated by bright lights that ran the length of both sides of his vessel, his white T-shirt stained yellow by the lights. Walter grinned at Tracey, his sun-reddened, burly face lighting up. "Didn't mean t' startle ya, but we're in Kanto waters now, right next t' Pallet Town offa 21. This 's where ya wanted t' get off at, innit?" The massive man stroked his wild black beard as he turned from Tracey and surveyed the inky landscape, adjusting his well-worn sailor's hat during the process.
Walter then dug into the front left pocket of his faded blue jeans and pulled out a tarnished silver pocket watch, examining it under the yellow lights and smiling widely. "Made some real good time from Trovita, we did. Th' wind was with us; now t' hope she stays with me till I get t' Vermilion." Walter folded the map back up, put it away then looked down at the sea and frowned. "'Fraid this is as close as we'll be able t' get. Ya may get a bit wet makin' landfall."
"That's OK. Thanks a lot for the lift," replied Tracey with a smile as he somehow squeezed his sketchbook into his orange backpack that was almost bursting at the seams and got ready to wade to the shore. He carefully made his way down the ladder on the side of the boat and found the bottom half of his legs almost instantly, wholly numbed by the icy cold water, the Orange Islands native's teeth chattering as he thought of the balmy waters of home. Oh come on. I haven't even been gone four days yet. This is no time to get homesick, he mentally chided himself as he began to wade his way to shore. He heard Walter call out after he took a few steps.
"Hey, will ya be needin' a ride back? I'm headin' back t' the Islands in a week, not t' far outta my way t' swing back by here 'fore headin' that way."
"I appreciate the offer, but don't worry about it. I plan on spending some time travelling the mainland," half-yelled Tracey in reply. "Thanks again," he finished with a wave before the sailor nodded back with a smile, then fired up his boat's engines and slowly vanished into the night. Once Tracey slogged to shore, he pulled out a Pokéball and released the sole Pokémon he possessed, an aging male Scyther that had been given to him in lieu of a cash payment two years ago from a trainer-turned-breeder who'd wanted several sketches of his prize winning Rapidash. "Well, we're here. Sorry that you had to stay in your ball for the whole trip, but you were kind of freaking Walter out."
"Scyyyyyyyyyyyy-therrrrr scy." His tone was distinctly unamused as Scyther shot Tracey a glare before surveying their unfamiliar surroundings, a calm seashore stretching on either side of them with a dirt path leading inland.
"Seems pretty quiet around here, doesn't it?" Tracey pulled a towel out of his backpack and quickly dried his legs. "Now to try and find a place to spend the night," he muttered as he threw the damp towel over his shoulder then pulled out a thin guidebook entitled 'A Trainer's Guide to Kanto' from his pocket. Not that Tracey planned to engage in the Kanto Gym Challenge, but he figured it would be a good idea to find out who was who in the Kanto Pokémon world. People that owned Pokémon were one of his main sources of income, after all. His sketches were the only way that he'd been able to afford the expense of the Pokémon licensing exam, which had become a necessity after the kindly breeder had offered the Scyther to him; Tracey had always had a soft spot for Bug-type Pokémon.
"Scy scyther scy?" Scyther tapped the side of his scythe-like arm on a brightly illuminated sign reading 'ROUTE 1. PALLET TOWN STRAIGHT AHEAD'.
"Good; we're right on track. Let's see if we can find a hotel." Tracey set off down the path as fast as he could manage with the case of sea legs that was quickly rearing its head. "I have to admit, it'll be nice to sleep on solid ground again."
After walking for a bit, Tracey and Scyther arrived in Pallet Town to find it completely quiet and deserted, everything so quiet it almost gave the Pokémon artist the creeps. Hmm...doesn't even look like anyone's awake here. Guess it's time to check the guide again. Tracey ran a finger down the first page until he found what he was looking for.
TOWN: PALLET TOWN
Gym Challenge Location?: No.
You will find Pallet Town connected to the sea by Route 21 to the south. This route heads inland and becomes Route 1 as it exits Pallet Town to the north, continuing directly into Viridian City.
TOWN: VIRIDIAN CITY
Amenities: Pokémon Center
Gym Challenge Location?: YES. Earth Badge
Challengers who beat the leader of the Viridian City Gym earn the eighth and final badge of the Kanto Region Gym Challenge, the Earth Badge. Please note that this badge is far and away considered the most difficult in the region to obtain. Only highly skilled trainers should challenge this Gym, and in fact many trainers we've spoken to recommend saving this Gym until the very end of your Kanto Gym Challenge. The leader, Giovanni, is a Ground-type Pokémon specialist.
We also note that strangely, this Gym does not seem to be open very often according to the locals.
"Hey Scyther, wanna go rest up at a Pokémon Center? It sounds like there's one not too far from here," queried Tracey as he tucked the book in his pocket.
"Scyther scyyyy scytheeeeeeer!" was the enthusiastic reply, Scyther's wings beating rapidly as he cried out happily. His joints bothered him every now and again as he grew older, but a visit to a Pokémon Center always eased his pain for at least a week. All he'd understood was 'Center,' but Scyther knew it was a good word- a great one, in fact! He quickly fell in alongside his human, the thought of the nice woman in pink who always made him feel better making Scyther's aching joints almost completely vanish already.
I swear sometimes that he can understand almost every word I say, Tracey mused with an inward laugh as he studied what he swore was a smile on his Pokémon's face.