A/N: This fic is based loosely off of the original RBY games and is therefore set in the Kanto region, back in the day when that was the only region out there. (However, I have taken the liberty of creating new towns/cities because, hey, there's no way that there are only twelve places in the entire region to go.) This also means that if you happen to read any of my OC's past experiences and they sound like they were ripped off from the games…well, that's because I ripped them off from the games.
A note about levels: I've always kind of thought that Pokémon levels had to be able to be measured quantitatively – perhaps a chemical, like the midi-chlorian in Jedis, that could be detected in the blood or sensed by a Pokédex. In my mind, each species of Pokémon had a set concentration of this chemical at each "level;" that way, true comparisons could be made. (Yes, this is the sort of thing I thought very deeply about as a child.)
All quotes at the beginning of each chapter are by Brian Andreas of the StoryPeople fame.
This Beta for the first three chapters was the inestimable Lightning Rain.
Disclaimer: I don't own Pokémon.
"This is a story that usually I write in white ink, but most people miss it & start to read too much into it & think it says something about life they couldn't figure out themselves. So, now I write only with stuff people can read & say things as clearly as I can. Like this: don't believe anyone who writes with white ink on white paper. They have too much to hide."
Scarlet City was, ostensibly, a festering wound that no one cared enough about to bother healing, Enya decided as she hastily exited the Pokemon Center and breathed in the rank night air. Putrid trash was heaped up on every tangled street, and Grimer and foaming Raticate lurked vengefully around every corner. The atmosphere in Scarlet City was bitter and unpleasant, and the residents were even more so. During the day, the few sun rays that had forced themselves through the City's persistent layer of toxic smog beat down on the foul-smelling garbage. Now at night, the moon wasn't even visible; the girl could see a lone, mangy, and miserable Meowth crouched on the dented side of a fallen trash can, staring wistfully up into the hazy abyss.
Even Nurse Joy, whose siblings in every other town were almost nauseatingly cheerful, had healed Enya's Pokémon only grudgingly, and glowered the whole time the machinery did its work. This glare had stabbed the girl repeatedly in the back as she quickly scampered out of the Center. After making her escape, she halted on the broken and cracked asphalt and heaved a sigh of relief. The weeds that pushed through the splits in the concrete were the only greenery to be seen in the entire landscape, though landscape was perhaps not the most applicable term for a place where dingy, oppressive buildings pressed in on every side.
I miss the stars, Enya thought, peering into the murky sky like one of the moon-pining Meowth. But – she glanced down at the five red and white balls on her belt – my Pokémon undoubtedly miss them more. We've got to get out of this place soon. With that, she strode forward purposefully, turned the corner in front of the Pokémon Center – carefully ignoring the obscene graffiti that was slathered on the brick walls – and found herself faced with five unremarkable alleys. All shadowy, all rather less than appetizing in smell, but none of which looked particularly familiar. And Enya had absolutely no idea which she had exited to get to the hospital.
"Freefalling hell," the girl swore quietly. "This just keeps getting better." After a few moments of contemplation, she stepped hesitantly towards the opening that was second to the left. Immediately, several red eyes within the alleyway opened and stared hungrily at her, light from broken streetlamps reflected unevenly within them. "Forget that," Enya grumbled, taking an immediate step backwards. She reached into the neck of her loose-fitting dark green tunic and pulled out a short chain. Under the clasp, where a locket would normally have gone, hung a minimized Pokéball. It twirled at the end of the necklace until Enya yanked it off with a soft clicking sound.
"Kindle," she called out, holding out the now enlarged ball in front of her and letting the chain drop. The ball cracked open to yield a Charizard engulfed in jagged red light that soon faded; the flame at the end of the Pokémon's tail illuminated the bare street. Minimizing the ball again, Enya attached it once more to her necklace and tucked it back underneath her collar. "Hey, sweetie," she said to Kindle, reaching up to rub his nose with a smile. He grunted a greeting in return and nuzzled her hard enough to make her stagger back a step. She smacked his elbow lightly in return.
Kindle had been Enya's first Pokémon, obtained as a Charmander on her fourteenth birthday from Professor Oak. The Pokémon rarely did as she ordered until one day she thought to simply ask, at which point he was happy to obey. Upon this basis of equality, a close friendship quickly grew, unpredictable and fiery and wonderful. Two years later, Kindle had evolved twice, Enya had trained five other powerful Pokémon, and together they had beaten the Elite Four at the Indigo Plateau. Yet still the two best friends played off of each other fiercely, like two sparks.
"Are you feeling better now?" Enya asked worriedly, pushing her silky brown hair out of her eyes. At midday, the Charizard had been hit with a powerful Toxic attack while battling in the middle of an unnamed forest; several Full Heals had had no effect on the status issue. It had taken the rest of the day and a significant portion of the night to even locate a Pokémon Center in Scarlet City which, when found, looked exceptionally questionable. Enya would be completely unsurprised if the Pokémon Center's machines had not healed her Pokémon entirely.
But Kindle smirked and gave his trainer a thumbs-up. He had learned human gestures and symbols as a hobby and an easier way to communicate, and now they were a natural part of his conversation. Sarcasm, also, was another learned human trait he had picked up a while ago, and he fairly reeked of it now.
"I know, this wasn't the choicest place to get you fixed up, but it was closest," Enya defended herself. "Anyway, that's why I called you out. We're going to get out of this diseased pit ASAP. Only I'm lost " – a snort, quickly stifled, from Kindle – "and this city is a freaking labyrinth. Would you mind flying above the streets I should take to hit the main road out of here? I'll follow the light from your tail."
Pointedly, Kindle shook out his wings and flapped them sharply, a long scar on one thrown into sharp relief by his tail's flame. "No. I will not fly on your back," Enya growled, tensing. This argument again. "You don't know the move Fly, and I got in enough trouble from the Pokémon Field Move Union last time you gave me a ride. The fine's not so bad, but do you want to be grounded for a month?" Zephyr, the only Pokemon on her team who did know Fly, was a hulking Aerodactyl and would never fit into the back alleys of Scarlet City.
The Charizard stuck his long tongue out at Enya and then gave in, turning to make a rude gesture at the eyes still glaring out from the alleyways, which rapidly disappeared. Kindle said something in the language of Pokémon loudly and clearly – something, Enya imagined, that was not entirely polite and nonthreatening – and there was an instantaneous ruckus of scuffling and banging from every alley. Once the noise settled down and the wild Pokémon had, Enya presumed, run off, she glanced at Kindle. The self-satisfied smirk on his face assured her that she had nothing to fear from the Pokémon of Scarlet City tonight.
"Thanks, sweetie." Enya shifted the heavy bag on her back and tightened the straps a bit. Kindle nodded and took off with one great wing stroke. He took to the sky and quickly disappeared within the sickly haze of pollution. All that was visible was a soft corona of reddish light emitted by his tail, twisting and swirling in the air. This nimbus circled a few moments, and then struck out in one direction, above the alleyway in the middle.
"I knew that," Enya muttered, heading after the sky-bound flame. "I knew this was the one." The lane was as unfamiliar to her as ever.
For a couple of hours (Scarlet City truly was enormous), the girl followed the light, paying more attention to her Pokémon's trail than her own and consequently tripping with amusing regularity over garbage and bricks. It was tribute to Kindle's skills of intimidation that no wild Pokémon sought out the origin of the crashing noises as indication of easy prey, and Enya was grateful to him. But not too grateful, since every so often, the Charizard would briefly lose track of her and soar ahead, leaving her standing alone and lost in the stench until he realized his mistake and returned.
It was during one of these interludes in which Kindle was out of sight, and dawn was beginning to brush the hazy horizon, that one of the reasons Scarlet City residents were so incredibly bitter became clear. People often went inexplicably missing when out alone. No remains were ever found, which ruled out Pokémon attacks, but no other explanation was ever offered. The people simply vanished like mirages, and were never seen again.
It was awfully easy for a small group of elite Team Rocket scientists to hide in a large place like Scarlet City.
"Likely Target sighted, Green."
"Copy, White. Describe current position and Target."
"I am on the roof of the abandoned Potion factory on the corner of Greengage Avenue and Fairview Street. Target is Caucasian, female, approximately five foot four, late teens. It has short brown hair, wears a green shirt, blue jeans, a black jacket. A backpack. It is alone and staring at the sky."
"Do you have White's position, Yellow?"
"Roger that, Green. Clear visual on the Target. Do you want us to take this one?"
"Affirmative. Let's go for the record tonight, boys. You come back with four Targets in the bag, and I might give you tomorrow off."
"Excellent. Yellow, you've got the stage."
"Deploying the tranquilizer now, White. Give it a few seconds…and…Target's down. Move in."
"Approaching the Target now. Preparing the P-72 Morphic injection. Serum is prepared. Preparing to inject – damn! The Target's not unconscious! It's not moving, but its eyes are open and are focusing on me. Yellow, shoot it again!"
"Negative. There was enough in that tranq to bring down a Tauros. Another could kill the Target."
"Then it dies, Yellow! We cannot risk it remembering this later on; you know we've only done so well here because no one knows we're around."
"Deploying second tranquilizer now. First death on my record in a decade, White. I hope you're pleased."
"You cut me deep, Yellow, and unnecessarily. The Target is alive, but is now unconscious. It's a tough kid, I'll give it that."
"Boys, get a move on. Inject the Target, collect it, and get out of there. You've already been in the open too long."
"Yes, Green. Injecting the P-72 Morphic serum now. Hey, there's a Pokéball on a chain around the Target's neck."
"Take it. It's probably just a pet, but we can always use fresh Pokémon."
"Good point. I've got it."
"Is the Target rejecting the drug, White?"
"Negative, Green. It's taking it well. The Morphic process has just begun."
"That was quick."
"I know. Maybe it was the extra sedative – make a note of that, Yellow, and we'll look into it later."
"Report on the Target's progress, White."
"It's moving along smoothly. Target has shrunk to what appears to be its final size, about the width of both of my hands. It's been swamped in its clothes now, but earlier I saw white fur, elongated ears, at least one tail. My money's on a Mankey, maybe, or a Meowth."
"If final size has been achieved, bag the Target and get out of there. The last of the Morphic process can occur en route to headquarters."
"Roger that, Green. Securing the Target now. Hang on…There's a belt in the pile of clothes. It's got five balls on it! Dammit, this Target's a trainer!"
"You morphed a trainer? How could you – you know we can't keep trainers; they're too well-known! People will be looking for this Target!"
"It was an accident, I swear! Its shirt was long and…wait. Yellow, can you hear that?"
"No. What is it? Sirens? Footsteps? The voices in your head telling you to do dumb things?"
"Very amusing, as always. And no. I think they're wing beats. Something's coming!"
"I can hear it now. And…the sky! Look up, it's burning!"
"Holy mother of – it's a Charizard! And it's angry!"
"Retreat, both of you! I will not lose operatives on a routine collection round for the sake of a trainer that we could never hold on to. Leave the Target and get out of there; it will die soon enough. The streets of Scarlet City are no place for an infant."
"Copy, Green. Come on, White - we are so gone."
The Team Rocket scientists, while having had far too much time to watch quiet black-and-white spy films, were nevertheless good at their job, both in the lab and in the field. And, being Rockets, retreating was their specialty.
Charizard were the subject of an ongoing research project at the laboratories of Professor Oak. They were mysterious creatures and didn't give up their secrets easily, but there was one discovery that the professor thought might very well save many people and Pokémon trips to the hospital. Charizard, as a species, suffered from what Oak called Fire Rage. In situations that would result in adrenaline flooding the human body, pure lava coursed through Charizard veins. While this did not harm the Pokémon, it gave them a sense of unbalance that, combined with the circumstances that caused the reaction, often shoved the creature's consciousness to the background of its mind; instinct took over. Even the most self-controlled Charizard was susceptible to the power of Fire Rage.
That night in Scarlet City, self-control was the last thing on Kindle's mind. In fact, before his Fire Rage took over, the only thing on his mind was the fact that something was horribly wrong with Enya. (Why had he lost sight of her again? The smog was no excuse!) He didn't know how he knew this, but he just knew – and then he knew nothing but the roar of lava in his mind and the sheer ferocity of his protectiveness towards his trainer.
Kindle flew as quickly as he could back the way he had come, his gaping jaws pouring out flame that scorched the haze that cloaked him. This both cleared the air a bit and was extremely cathartic. The Charizard followed his sharp nose; through the reek of fire and rot, Enya's aroma was fresh on the breeze, in addition to two other human scents. His trainer smelled agreeably like ripe apples and old books; the other two smelled of fear and chemicals that clawed viciously at Kindle's nose. Roaring loudly enough to rouse the city from its apathetic slumber, he tracked these scents to an intersection between two shadowed streets.
He landed lightly in the crossroads, wings open and snapping, tail whipping threateningly. This was where Enya's trail dead-ended. But the only thing there that emitted her pleasant scent was a pile of cloth that slouched carelessly on the asphalt. Enya's clothing? The shock of this realization – that Enya was lurking about somewhere without her fabric pelts – startled Kindle out of his Fire Rage. His trainer was, as most humans were, almost obsessive about covering her skin with odd and oftentimes unnecessary coverings. It was a human thing.
So what was Enya doing without her clothes?
A small noise, a sort of mewl, distracted Kindle from his musings. It came from within the folds of Enya's clothing, and a soft shifting of cloth followed. Overcome with curiosity, he pulled back the layers of fabric – jacket, shirt, a bag that he pulled out and set aside for fear of squashing whatever it was that had made the noise – with the tips of his fearsome claws until he revealed a small mound of lightly breathing white fur: a newborn Pokémon kit of some kind, too small and curled up to be identified. The Charizard sniffed it, intrigued, and realized the creature was female, and furthermore was the source of Enya's scent. In an embarrassing surge of surprised instinct, he snorted a small fireball. It landed innocuously on the pile of clothing but began to gnaw on the jacket hungrily, smoke rising in innocent curlicues into the air.
Kindle, panicked at the thought of being the death of a kit, snatched the newborn up and cradled her to his chest with one massive hand. The kit easily fit into his palm and seemed pleased, in her lethargic childlike way, to be next to a warm body. She purred slightly and uncurled. Large pointed ears tucked onto the curve of the back of her head came into view and a thick tail slipped out from its tightly held position. An Eevee? Kindle had never seen an Eevee kit before – for all he knew, they were born with white fur and grew the brown later on. An almost incomprehensible mumble of eev from the newborn confirmed this guess.
The Charizard watched with a rueful stare as the rest of Enya's clothing began to smolder and ignite; even if he put the flames out now, the fabric would be threadbare and sooty. His trainer was going to be so very angry when he found her, for a naked human was a sorry being. A sudden thought struck him, and he realized that if Enya was off without her clothes, the thin belt to which she attached the rest of the team's Pokéballs was buried within the rapidly burning pile of pelts. Leaning his left half – the half that shielded the kit – awkwardly away from the blaze, Kindle frantically plunged his other hand into his little inferno. He groped about through the layers of disintegrating fabric until he felt a circular object.
Daring to hope, the Charizard yanked the sphere out of the fire; from it, a frail length of cinders and four other Pokéballs hung precariously. He sighed with relief and carefully set the balls to cool next to Enya's bag, which he now realized, rejoicing, that he had retroactively saved from a fiery doom.
Disaster successfully averted – well, as much as was possible; his trainer's clothes were still ruined – Kindle turned his attention back to the Eevee that smelled of Enya. During the Charizard's panicked rescue of his teammates, the newborn had stretched out and gotten completely comfortable in his hand. Belly-up, the kit purred like a distant stampede of Tauros and seemed to have a pleased smile on her muzzle. A glint of shine in her belly fur caught Kindle's eye; he oh-so-carefully parted the fur with the tip of his claw, slipped it underneath the sparkly thing, and lifted up. Stretched like a spider web over his claw was a thin, delicate gold chain that, from the looks of it, wrapped a few times around the Eevee kit. From the chain a clasp dangled, looking like it was designed to hold a locket. But Kindle knew better - the clasp was meant to hold a modified Pokéball. His, in fact.
Kindle was hit with a realization like a Thunder attack - this Eevee not only smelled of Enya, but, somehow, was Enya.
And if Enya was an Eevee kit, then nothing was as it seemed. The Charizard quickly extricated the newborn from the chain lest she accidentally choke herself and, for lack of a better option, slung it around his own neck, where it lightly hung on the curve of his chest. He sniffed about; the scent of chemicals and fear was almost entirely gone, but a couple of sources remained. His nose led him to the first where it lay balanced in a crack in the sidewalk: it was his own Pokéball, marked by the crude flame Enya had scratched on it in the early days of their friendship and the special clutch that coupled with the one on his trainer's necklace. Kindle plucked the sphere up, shuddering at the thought of the ones who smelled so horrific putting their scent on it, and spent several frustrating moments wishing for smaller claws as he wrestled with reattaching it to the chain for safe-keeping.
The second source of the smell was hidden in the shadows, but shadows were little bother to Kindle, who took light with him wherever he went. Swishing his tail out in front of him, he illuminated the sinister gleam of dark metal. Approaching, he reached out to the ground and picked up the black firearm. The Charizard held it up to his eyes and saw, lit by his flame, a bold red R emblazed on the barrel of the dart gun. He immediately recognized the symbol of Team Rocket; the fist holding the gun clenched convulsively, and with a sharp crumple of metal the weapon was bent in half. Team Rocket had been the source of half of Enya's troubles over the course of her journey so far, and Kindle had little love for them and their grandiose schemes. If they were responsible for this current predicament, he would be unsurprised.
Tossing the ruined gun onto a towering pile of empty Potion spray bottles, Kindle sniffed around, hoping to catch more of that foul scent, but doubting that he would. His nose was excellent; if he only smelled two sources, then there were only the two.
Enya – for, with the introduction of Team Rocket into the situation, Kindle was truly certain now that the Eevee kit had previously been his trainer – stirred within the cradle of the Charizard's hand. A low whimpering whine began to emit from the newborn and she frowned into his palm. Kindle nudged her gently, seeing if she could be consoled with contact, but this only prompted louder wails. The fire Pokémon concentrated on the flame within him, heating up his skin a bit in case Enya was cold, but that didn't quiet the infant either.
Cursing his lack of parental instincts and beginning to worry that Enya was going to attract undue attention with her cries (for it was hard to fight while cradling an infant), Kindle shushed and rocked her nervously as he made his way back to the canvas bag that belonged to his trainer and the five Pokéballs that contained the rest of his team. He scooped the latter one by one into the gaping top of the sack and then pulled the drawstring shut with the tips of his claws. He slung one strap of the bag over his right shoulder; it was a precarious fit, for the Charizard's shoulder was too muscular and awkwardly shaped for carrying human gear, but it would do until one of the more humanoid members of his team could take care of it. That would, however, have to wait until Kindle was out of the city – his teammates were some of his closest friends and he would not expose them to Scarlet City if he could help it.
As Enya well and truly began to wail, her voice high and demanding, Kindle pumped his wings and flew once more into the murky haze that masqueraded as sky there. Though he cupped the kit closely to his chest to keep her from being bare to the biting winds and the thick smog, her yowls quickly gave way to shivers and sickly wheezes. Noting this, Kindle flew like a Charizard possessed, straight as a Vine Whip out of Scarlet City's boundaries of stone and stench. He headed instinctively for a small, peaceful glade that he had admired when they travelled through it earlier that day, shortly before the fateful battle in which he had been poisoned.
Unconsciously, Kindle began to sing in a gravelly bass a silly little lullaby that Enya had made up and sung to him when he was a Charmander and had had trouble sleeping. He didn't even realize that he was singing until he began the second repetition and noticed that the Eevee kit was silent, breathing steadily, her unexplained discontent forgotten for the moment in the wake of slumber. The Charizard smiled, his eyes soft as he cracked open his hand to peek at the serene kit, and continued the lullaby:
"Hush now, flare-tail, cool your heart.
Leave your watch, let dreaming start.
Rest your fire-tongue, hide your face.
Feel sleep's gentle, warm embrace.
Close your flame-eyes to the night.
Wait for break of morning's light."
Kindle flew on steadily, his main regret for the moment only that Enya was in no state to be teased about the fact that, in spite of all her protesting, she still ended up flying with him.