Prologue

The Day the Earth Stood Still

My name is Hunter Yamauchi, and I am a Pokémon Breeder. At least, I used to be. I don't know who or what I am anymore. Not since the virus broke out.

I suppose you could say that my story really started about five years ago. I had just spent my teen years studying alongside Professor Rowan of Sandgem Town. All my life I had wanted to become a Pokémon Breeder. Even when I was young, I didn't get excited by Pokémon battles or tournaments. Instead, I spent my youth in the library. I read about which kinds of food different Pokémon liked, how to determine a Pokémon's characteristics, and even what abilities could be passed on to a Pokémon from its parents.

Professor Rowan, Sinnoh's resident Pokémon Professor, had heard of my studies from one of my school teachers, and contacted me to ask if I wanted to help him in his lab. In return he would teach me as much as he could about Pokémon. Naturally, I was ecstatic. A chance to work with an expert was exactly what I needed to establish credibility in the fields of Pokémon breeding and study. To make things even better, Professor Rowan had found the trainer that took down Team Galactic just a few years prior. This was a chance to learn while also making a name for myself.

My internship with the professor taught me many things, though I never fully understood what he was working on. It appeared to be something to counteract an that illness he said was becoming a problem in the Johto region. He told me that the issue had first been discovered in Goldenrod City and was rumoured to have come from an old lab belonging to the criminal organization Team Rocket, which had been inactive for almost a decade. He was very secretive about the project though, and I learned little else about what had happened. I did as I was told, and while we worked Professor Rowan would tell me about the many things he had learned studying Pokémon. His findings were fascinating, and even extended to the proper way to care for inorganic Pokémon, like the gelatinous Ditto; or Porygon, the Pokémon created entirely by human programming.

When I turned eighteen, Professor Rowan decided that it was time my internship with him ended. Though he had still not completed the project he was working on, he felt I had learned everything he had to teach me. He was so pleased with my work that he offered to help me open my own Pokémon Daycare, anywhere I wanted. Though I had been raised in Solaceon Town there was already a daycare there, so I decided to set up shop on Route 205 between Floaroma Town and Eterna City. We built the daycare right next to the entrance to Eterna Forest. Before my father passed, he always used to talk about how much he loved travelling to Eterna, but unfortunately he was always too sick to ever take me there. I finally had the chance to see it while doing what I loved.

Thanks to Professor Rowan's connections, the Yamauchi Pokémon Care Facility was up and running in just six months. Being so close to the city, trainers often stopped by on their way through, and so business was steady for the first few months. It wasn't too long until I was able to hire staff to help out. First, a young girl from Floaroma Town named Akane, and then a boy around my age from Eterna City named Hayato. Over just a few months we helped dozens of Pokémon and their trainers, and even raised a few that evolved while in our care.

It was a year after the daycare had opened that I ended up with my first Pokémon. Having always been interested in breeding, not training, I never had the opportunity to raise a Pokémon of my own. Sinnoh was in a time of peace since Team Galactic activity had reduced, and so I spent all of my time studying instead of out exploring and meeting wild Pokémon that I could tame. With the daycare running, I got to care for so many Pokémon that I didn't really mind not having one of my own. At times though, when I saw a trainer come to pick up their beloved Pokémon, I would see the strong bond between the two and wonder if I was missing out on something.

One morning Hayato and I were getting ready to open the daycare when Akane ran in, a Pokémon in one hand and a Pokéball in the other. She ran up to me in a panic, and started telling me about how she was on her way to work when she found a trainer yelling at his Pokémon. The trainer had just been in a battle and his Pokémon, a Cubone, had lost. Before Akane could intervene, the trainer threw his Cubone's Pokéball to the ground and stormed off, commanding it to stay away from him. Akane sat down, still cradling the Cubone in her arms, tears welling up in her eyes. Hayato and I sat down with her. She seemed exhausted, and explained to us that she had run all the way to the daycare worrying that Cubone may have been injured. Since they were still learning a lot about Pokémon care, Hayato and Akane didn't know how to fully examine Pokémon for injuries. I asked Akane if I could take a closer look, and with a nod she handed Cubone over to me.

I looked down at the Pokémon. Smaller than the average Cubone, this one was just under a foot tall. He had thick orange skin, small arms and legs, a short tail, and on his back were two large protrusions that looked like spikes. He was wearing a large skull helmet, a signature piece of any Cubone, though this one appeared to be a bit too large for him. Around his neck he was wearing a brown leather scarf, like the ones I had seen in old cowboy movies. In his left hand he held a large bone club, though its grip was weak and its arm hanged lazily at its side. Whenever I tried to look it in the eye, it would turn its head and look away in shame. Hayato asked if Cubone would be okay, and I assured him that I saw no signs of serious injury. Then Akane asked a question we were all thinking: what were we going to do with this abandoned Pokémon? As she asked the question, I looked down at Cubone again. This time he looked back up at me. As he looked up, tears still in his eyes, a feeling came over me. Much like the feeling I had when I was watching other trainers bond with their Pokémon. With a smile I looked back up at Akane and Hayato, and told them that I would be taking care of Cubone. He would be my first Pokémon.

My relationship with Cubone was difficult at first. He refused to eat for several days, no matter what kind of food I made for him. Fortunately, he was curious about me. I would often catch him watching me as I cared for other Pokémon, but once I looked at him he would either avert his gaze or run away. Finally, a month after he had come into my care, Cubone approached me as I was feeding some Pokémon. He had barely been sleeping or eating, and was finally looking to me for food. We soon discovered that Cubone really liked spicy flavours, so I mixed him some food using the spicy Liechi and Petaya berries, with a bit of dry Ganlon berry to balance the high saturation of the other ingredients.

Shortly after that things took a stunning turn. Not only did Cubone come to trust me more, but he even became my own personal helper. He seemed to like watching me mix different kinds of food, and quickly learned which Pokémon liked what flavours. Within a month he was helping me with the daily feeding routine, and even managed to mix some food on his own. The other Pokémon responded well to him, more easily trusting another Pokémon than a human they did not know. Despite the big change in Cubone's mood, though, at night I could still hear him up late, trying to stifle sad whimpers and howls. On top of that, his Pokéball was broken and unusable, something that seemed to stress him out from time to time. I tried my best to create a space for him to get away in private, but the layout of the daycare made it difficult to find the room. On top of that, I was never able to find time to get his Pokéball repaired. I kept it with me anyway, though, in hopes that one day I would be able to have someone fix it.

Since Cubone could understand the other Pokémon on a personal level, he was able to find out exactly what each one needed. As word spread, more and more people came to the daycare. Even some Gym Leaders came to have us take special care of their Pokémon, as a way of giving them a break from days of battling. My new staff were getting full time hours, and we started getting special requests from the Eterna and Floaroma Pokémon Centers to house patients who needed long term care. We also managed to work with the Centers to get more resources for the daycare and additional work benefits for the staff. Everything seemed to be looking up for my small business, but the month Akane got sick, everything changed.

Akane had missed work for two weeks straight when Cubone and I decided to go check on her. Though her parents seemed optimistic, it was clear that they were tired and stressed. Their house was also very messy, and they explained that caring for Akane had been taking up all of their time. When they showed us to Akane's room, Cubone stopped at the doorway, growling. I tried to get him to enter the room, saying that Akane would be happy to see him, but he refused to move another inch. Shrugging at her parents, I told Cubone to wait outside the door.

As always, Akane greeted me with a wide smile. She looked very pale, except around her nose and eyes which were red and swollen. She reassured me that everything was okay, and was certain she had caught the flu from someone she battled out on Route 204. Apparently she had encountered a trainer a few days before she got sick. She could tell from the strain in his voice and his frail appearance that he was ill, but he demanded they battle nonetheless. As she told me her story, I noticed her scratching at a cut on her hand.

When the battle began, Akane sent out her prized Pokémon Luxio, the cat-like electric type Pokémon. She had been given Luxio when she was only six years old, back when it was still a baby Shinx. In response, the other trainer sent out a Chatot, the parrot Pokémon. Akane could instantly tell that something was wrong. The Chatot's feathers were all ruffled, and its eyelids were drooping, as if it could hardly stay awake. There were small chips in its beak, and its usually bright blue, green, and yellow feathers seemed to have faded. Before anyone even gave any commands, the Chatot darted at Luxio and dug its beak deep into his side. Luxio let out a cry unlike anything Akane had ever heard, so she instantly withdrew him. As she angrily yelled at the other trainer, he just laughed to himself and turned to walk away. Akane started following him, but after a few steps the Chatot flew at her and bit her hand.

I looked over her cut closely. It seemed to be healing nicely, and didn't look abnormal for a Chatot bite. It wasn't uncommon in the daycare for Pokémon to get into fights and sometimes bite each other, so I had already seen many different kinds. I reassured her it would be fine, and that Chatot bites weren't venomous or dangerous, just painful. I asked her how Luxio was doing, since he had been bitten too. With tears in her eyes, she told me Luxio had gotten sick as well, and died the night before.

That evening I got a frantic call from Professor Rowan.

"Hunter? Hunter I'm sorry to call you so late," he said, speaking very quickly, "I wish I had time to explain."

"What's going on Professor?"

"My research... my experiments... all of it lead to nothing. Things have gotten worse. Much worse. Johto and Kanto... soon Sinnoh... It's going to be difficult Hunter." His voice shook violently as he spoke, and he sounded like he hadn't slept in days.

"I'm meeting some of the other renowned Pokémon Professors, and we're going to try to come up with a plan... but Hunter, you have to understand, even if we come up something it won't be in time to stop it. Even if we come up with a plan... something bad is about to happen."

"Stop what Professor Rowan? What is about to happen?"

"I can't explain. I just... I've sent one of my research aides out to see you. He has a file for you. It is imperative that you get that file and keep it safe. I can't guarantee that the other Professors and I will be able to come up with a plan. Or even survive to see a plan through. There are copies of all of my research in that file. He's heading to you through Floaroma Town. That research cannot fall into the wrong hands. When you get it, you have to..."

Before he could finish the call was cut off. I tried calling him back but every time I would receive no answer. It was starting to get dark, and the last few Pokémon we had been taking care of were picked up by their trainers. For the first time in weeks it was just Cubone and I alone in the house. I had no idea what Professor Rowan had been working on, or what could have possibly gone wrong. Alone in the daycare, all I could do was wonder what Professor Rowan was talking about when he said something bad was coming.

The next day I woke up to Cubone poking at me. Confused and only half awake, I let Cubone lead me to a nearby window to look outside. In the yard in front of our house, a small group of Kricketot, the bug Pokémon, were standing and staring off into the distance. Their normally red bodies had paled to a pink hue, and many of their antennae were bent or broken off entirely. A lot of them had large bite marks on their bodies, and some were even missing limbs.

I was ready to run for the door to try and help, when Cubone grabbed me and pulled me back to the window. Again he gestured for me to look outside. I couldn't figure out what he was trying to show me, so I just watched. After a few seconds, a Bidoof came hopping by. It's normally puffed up tufts of fur looked messy, and it appeared to be shaking. Following it were more deformed Kricketot. The Bidoof backed away from them slowly, but the group standing in our yard cut him off.

I stared in disbelief as the horde of Kricketot pounced at the Bidoof, biting and scratching at it viciously. Though they attacked with force, there seemed to be a certain absent-mindedness in their movements. Some even stumbled over one another to get at the helpless Pokémon. Soon the biting and scratching lead to entire chunks of its flesh being ripped off. Again I tried to run outside, but Cubone grabbed me and pulled me back to the window. The Bidoof laid dead on the ground, and the Kricketot started backing away from it. The Pokémon stayed there motionless for a few seconds, and then started to twitch. I could barely believe my eyes as it got up, and started crawling around our yard.

Cubone and I started making sure all of our doors and windows were locked, and closed our curtains. We then turned on the television to see if there was any news about what we were seeing outside. On every station, reporters were talking about strange attacks across the globe. Both Pokémon and people seemed to be going into a frenzy, attacking one another. The strangest part was, victims of the attacks were being bitten and eaten by the assailants, and those that appeared to be dead would then wake up and start attacking others around them.

As the day went on, different stations started shutting down, but the ones that stayed on gave very little additional information. Rumours were spreading that several criminal organizations may have been involved in what was happening, including Team Rocket from the Kanto and Johto regions, and Team Plasma from the Unova region. Many were saying that Johto had been hit the hardest, and was possibly the source of this strange condition that was affecting everyone. The last anyone had heard from the region, was from Pokémon Professors Oak and Elm, and Oak's grandson Green, who had managed to get several survivors into the Dragon's Den in Blackthorn City and fortify it.

Suddenly, the previous day's events struck me. Had Professor Rowan known about this strange condition that was affecting everyone? Could that have been what he was working on the entire time I knew him? Was it possible that the trainer Akane had encountered was also suffering from this condition? If so, did that mean her and Luxio were going to turn into monsters like the others had? All of these questions and more raced through my brain as we watched one television station after another go off the air. By the time night fell, every network had shut down.

Every now and then Cubone and I would look outside, and we noticed that the number of deformed Pokémon wandering around our house had been steadily increasing all day. Sometimes a few would wander off and get distracted by something, but there would always be more to replace them shortly after. Then, just as were trying to settle down and get to sleep, we started hearing scratching and loud banging on our front door.

We approached cautiously, hoping to try and get to a window and take a look at what was making the noise. The banging grew louder, and before we could even reach the door the lock snapped and it swung open. On the other side was a group of about ten Pokémon, who all started stumbling into our hallway. They were made up entirely of local Pokémon: mostly Kricketot and Bidoof, and a few of the slug-like Shellos. All of their skin and fur had faded, which made the Shellos look particularly strange. Normally bright pink and blue in colour, their slimy bodies had faded to a dull grey.

In shock I started backing away, but tripped over a loose board and fell to the floor. My ears rang and I struggled to come to my senses. I felt dizzy from the fall, but knew that if I couldn't shake it off soon these Pokémon would attack us. I sat up, and as my vision came back I saw Cubone standing at my feet. He had a determined look in his eyes, and once he was sure I could see him he gave me a quick nod. He then turned to face the incoming horde, raising his bone club and pointing it at them. He then turned his head back to look at me. At first I was confused, but quickly it dawned on me that he was awaiting my command.

I froze. I thought of how hurt Cubone was when he first came to me, and all of the times I had heard him up at night, crying. I had never even had a Pokémon before, let alone a Pokémon battle. Yet in that moment my skills as a Pokémon trainer were going to mean the difference between life and death. I saw the look on Cubone's face, and felt a great sense of pride well up inside me. Getting to my feet, I yelled words that I never imagined I would hear myself say.

"Cubone! Bonemerang!"

In response, Cubone quickly threw his bone club forward. It flew though the Pokémon horde, hitting a few of them in the head, and a few in their arms and torsos. Each collision made a loud cracking noise. Some of them fell to the floor, while the others continued to lumber forward. As the bone club came back, it hit a few more, and I started to notice a pattern. It seemed as though any that were hit in the head would die, while the others continued on. To test my theory I told Cubone to specifically aim for their heads, and each time he did the Pokémon he hit would collapse.

Cubone continued to throw his club, until finally only one Bidoof remained in our house. It was close enough to Cubone to bite him, so I quickly yelled for him to use Bone Club. Without hesitation Cubone lifted his weapon in the air, and smashed it down onto the Bidoof's head. With a loud crack, the Pokémon let out a shriek and fell to the floor.

A heavy silence filled the house. Though the Bidoof was dead, Cubone was still holding his club out in front of him. I waited a moment, but he didn't budge. Taking a slow step forward, I whispered his name, not wanting to startle him. When he heard my voice he dropped his club and fell to the floor, shivering.

I ran over to him and cradled him in my arms. He was crying and trying to stifle his sobs. I remembered the first time I held him like this, after his trainer had abandoned him. Then I thought about what had just happened. We had never battled together before, and I had never had a Pokémon battle in my entire life. Our first Pokémon battle, and it had been against vicious monsters that were out to kill us. And we had killed them all. Cubone had killed them all.

I felt tears well up in my eyes as I held him close and tried to reassure him everything would be okay. But as I looked at the darkness outside our front door, I felt myself longing to believe the words I was saying. Part of me wanted to believe that when we woke up the next morning, everything would be back to normal. Maybe then, in a couple of weeks, we could get back to running our daycare. That thought helped me feel a bit better, but another part of me still felt like the world was changing. Yet I had no idea that in less than a year, we would be driven from our home and forced to leave Sinnoh forever.