Disclaimer: Everything - including the weirdness - belongs to Nintendo.
It has always struck me as odd that there is such a big difference between generation one and generation two games, and that you are traveling back in time when you trade with your old version (as opposed to, say, transporting to a different location). And it is also weird that because of programming issues, poor Kanto loses some pretty cool locations.
Or maybe I'm just weird.
ETA: The ending has been reworked to incorporate feedback from reviewers. Also I changed the formatting of the story a little bit because my old scene breaks were stripped by FFN.
In the Time Capsule
"If you will step this way please," said the smiling receptionist.
Gold hoisted his pack onto his shoulders and stepped inside the strange-looking elevator. He'd heard stories of the new contraption that could send trainers across time, but he had not been licensed to try it out for himself until now.
"Have a good trip!" said the receptionist cheerfully. "I will be here waiting."
"So, er, I will definitely be able to come back, right?" Gold said.
He knew that some of the time capsules in other cities had been under maintenance lately, for reasons undisclosed publicly. Then again, no actual accident had been reported and this was, after all, Goldenrod City.
"Oh yes, of course," was the ready reply. "Once you're done, just step back onto the elevator." She gave him a last smile. "Tell Red I said 'hi!'"
With that, the doors of the capsule slid shut. Gold felt the machine tremble and his stomach suddenly felt funny. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea anymore, he thought. Really, he could've lived without those nidoran…the Safari Zone was bound to reopen eventually.
Soon, however, the trembling ceased. The doors slid open slowly.
Gold took a deep breath and stepped into the room. It was minimally decorated, save a table with two chairs onto which a trading machine was mounted. Red was already seated there, but he stood upon Gold's entry.
"Hey, you must be Gold," he said, hand extended. "I'm Red, from Pallet Town. Good to meet you!"
"Good to meet you," said Gold, shaking Red's hand. "I'm from New Bark Town." He grinned nervously. "This is kind of strange, my first time trading with someone from the, er, past. But you have done it before?"
"Just a couple of times during the testing phase," Red said. "Most with scientists and your Bill though." He rubbed his cheek. "I have to say, it's an interesting experience talking with people from the future."
"Do you mean people from Johto dress differently?" Gold thought he and Red were similarly attired, except Gold might have better gadgets and a bigger backpack.
"No, not that," Red said. "Just that the rules say that people like you aren't really supposed to tell me what happens in the future, but things still slip out and I'm like, 'Wow!'"
By now, the two boys were both seated facing each other at the table, though Gold was interested. "Wow what?" he said.
"Well," said Red, "the biggest thing is that the volcano erupted at Cinnabar. I never would've expected it. I was just there again last week. I even visited the volcano. It just looks so peaceful, you know?"
Gold wasn't really sure what to say. "I guess Cinnabar did change a lot," he said slowly, and then he remembered something. "Oh yeah, I hear back in the day, people see weird things at Cinnabar if you surf along the coast. Is that true? I tried it nothing happened."
A guarded look came over the other boy's face. "Well, lots of weird things happened at Cinnabar. I hope you're talking about the Pokémon Mansion."
Gold had heard about the Pokémon Mansion, where the legendary Mewtwo was created in a series of experiments that decimated all the scientists involved. But that had not been his question. He had been curious about the mysterious sightings in Cinnabar, of a pokémon that distorted reality. There were rumors, even, that this pokémon had something to do with the Safari Zone closing.
He knew, however, that this was not a topic of conversation that Red wanted to pursue.
"So, to trading, I guess?" he suggested, taking off his belt on which six pokéballs were clipped. "I know you aren't allowed to bring Johto pokémon back to Kanto, so I couldn't bring you some of the rarer ones I had."
Red waved his hand. "I know, it's okay though," he said. "Eventually I will be able to travel to Johto myself. The League is still working out the details and everything." He had taken off his own belt. "I brought my kadabra and haunter so they could finally evolve. Oh, and I have both nidorans."
"That's perfect, I was hoping to evolve my graveler and machoke," said Gold. "I also brought you a dratini and an eevee."
"Oh, thank you," Red said, grinning. "I had an eevee and it became a flareon, and then I was like, darn, the other two evolutions looked pretty nice too."
Gold nodded in sympathy. Luckily he had all five evolutions. "Not having a breeding center is pretty awful, huh."
"Well, our pokémon can't breed, so I'm not really missing out."
Gold looked at Red, frowning, as the trading machine activated. From the screen, he could see each of Red's pokémon. They looked fine to him. "Why can't yours breed?"
Red did not answer. Instead, he frowned at the screen on his end. "Hey Gold," he said. "I brought my pikachu and charizard with me. Could you tell me what genders they are?"
"Both boys," Gold answered slowly.
"Are they holding anything?" Red said, still peering at his own screen.
"Yeah," Gold said, after a pause. "Pikachu is holding light ball and charizard is holding charcoal."
"Ah, that explains things," said Red. "No wonder sometimes I feel as if their attacks are overpowered." He looked thoughtful. "Well? Should we trade?"
"You can't distinguish between genders?" Gold said, unable to comprehend this. "Or know which items your pokémon are holding?"
Red shook his head. "No," he said. "I was floored when I traded with a lass the first time, and she was telling me all these things about my pokémon that I never knew before."
"Your kadabra is holding a berry," said Gold. "Does she heal itself in battle?"
"Oh, my kadabra is a girl!" Red laughed. "No, I only wish she could. Not being able to utilize items in battle does kind of stink."
"How does experience share work then? Do you have that?" said Gold curiously.
"Oh, of course, yes," Red said. "Everyone on my team shares the experience equally."
Gold shook his head, amazed. "It's only three years," he said. "It's kind of hard to believe."
Red shrugged. "Lots of things are hard to believe," he said. "Like how they discovered two new types of pokémon in three years and recategorized some pokémon and some moves? Gosh, what wouldn't I give to see some steel-types or dark-types!"
"Well actually –" Gold wanted to say that magnemite and magneton, which did exist for Red, were actually part steel-types. Then he remembered the rules.
"Er, never mind. Sorry, I almost – well, I don't know what I'm allowed to say and what I'm not."
"No big deal. I get that a lot." Red shrugged. "Personally, if the changes you describe are underway anyway, I don't see why the League is so strict."
Red turned to the pokémon. "Oh hey, they're evolving," he said. Sure enough, a machamp and an alakazam soon stood in place of a machoke and a kadabra.
"They won't like us as much now," Gold said, "now that we traded them." He scratched his head. Gosh, not giving things away was hard. "What I mean to say is –"
"Yeah, I know, our pokémon don't have happiness," Red said, rolling his eyes at the absurdity. "Oh, except my pikachu, but he's a special one."
"So I guess eevee don't evolve for you if they really like you?"
"Nope." Gold looked down at eevee's pokéball. He was about to be traded next. "And in case you're curious, no, trading pokémon holding items doesn't evolve them either," Red said. He spoke almost absently, as if he were tiring of discussing evolution differences. "Hey, you are going to Pokémon League soon, right?"
"I hear Lance is the new champ now and my old friend Blue is the new gym leader of Viridian."
"Actually, I met Lance a couple of times," Gold said. "He's quite amazing and that dragonite of his saved me back in Mahogany Town. The Team Rocket grunts would've beaten me otherwise!"
"Team Rocket. I thought I disbanded them."
Gold opened his mouth to repair damage, but Red was pensive again.
Two more pokémon evolved: gengar and golem.
Gold watched Red, ever so inscrutable, as they finished the rest of the trade. He wondered if Red knew that he would become a legend in Johto; he wondered if Red had already become a legend, in his own time.
When the trade was over, Red shook Gold's hand. "Thank you," he said. "Maybe we'll see each other again, you never know."
"Yeah," said Gold, though he didn't know if he wanted to see Red again. There was something unsettling about the boy from the past. "Oh, by the way," he said, as he stepped into the time capsule, "the receptionist said 'hi.' Good night."
The last thing he saw, before the doors slid closed, was a confused look on Red's face. This time, Gold was not even sure what he'd let slip.
Poor Red, thought Gold, as he stepped out of the Goldenrod Pokémon Center and into the bright sunshine. He lived in a monochromatic world, without day and night, without gender, without items. The pokémon he could catch and train were limited and people were unaware of a world beyond Kanto.
"I'm sure glad that I'm here, and not there," said Gold to his pidgeot, feeling almost sorry for the dratini and eevee he traded back. But there was no time to think of that now. "Come on, time for us to go to the League!"
His pidgeot crowed in agreement and soon Gold was in flight. He turned on his radio and tuned into Professor Oak's talk show, letting the strange events of the day float away.
Poor Gold, thought Red, as he stepped out of the Saffron Pokémon Center. His world was as limited as its muted colors, but it was ever so much simpler. Battles were more straightforward and seas had no whirlpools. The Viridian Forest was still green and beautiful, Mt. Moon tall and imposing, and Cerulean Cave held true intrigue.
He patted his new pokémon fondly. Perhaps they would be unaccustomed at first to the new world, but eventually…
He got on his bike and began toward cycling road. He'd won the Pokémon League, to be sure, but it was always time to train. Besides, he could earn some money for eevee's evolution stones. Right now he was thinking a jolteon, since there was a lack of good electric types in Kanto.
Better hurry though. He was supposed to visit Pallet Town tonight. Someone named Mary was visiting Professor Oak and he expressly wanted both Red and Blue to be there.
Red pedaled harder.
He would not know that he would see Gold again, though not in a room that defied time and space. Nor would he know that Kanto would adapt quite well to the changes foretold by Gold and the others.
The news reached Red in the depth of Silver Cave. Gold had defeated the Pokémon League.
He was not surprised. Sabrina had once foretold the defeat of Red at the hands of a boy from New Bark Town, who wore oversized shorts and an earnest smile. He had been the new League champion then, too overcome with the exuberance of defeating Blue for her words to register.
Red had been thinking about future often lately. Not the future of any specific future, but the concept of future. Psychics had long proclaimed to be able to see the future, but what did they actually see and how reliable were those visions? Red did not believe that the future was set in stone, immutable despite human actions.
Red did not have psychic powers, but he did not need any. He saw the future many times, through the hints dropped by careless trainers in the time capsule. Quietly, he had adapted himself for the changes creeping upon Kanto. Indeed, he had adapted very well, while others struggled. His eevee was now his espeon; his other pokémon were equipped with items that enhanced their battling prowess.
The tunnel that led into this last cave had become dimly lit and the light was growing stronger. It could only be Gold. And Red would not known, not until later, that the young boy from New Bark Town had gone to his native region, piecing together from other people's words the path traveled by the former champion until eventually his search led him here, to this moment.
Yes, he would battle you, Sabrina had said. And the outcome I saw is yours to accept.
Red smiled. His hand found his first pokéball and enlarged it.
He was ready.