Disclaimer : I do not own Pokemon, or any of its affiliated companies including, but not limited to, 4Kids, The Pokemon Company, Game Freaks, or Cartoon Network. The characters written within this fic are soley based upon the fictional characters created by these companies, and the story is not meant to, nor will it, receive any monetary funding.
The Game of Champions
The Shield and Star
"There is no traitor like him whose domestic treason plants the poniard within the breast that trusted to his truth."
-Lord Byron, pre-pokemon satirist
The interrogation room is sweltering. A consequence of being underground, with no exploitable vents or windows.
Comfort traded for security. Lt. Surge reminds himself for the nth time, tugging the collar of his BDU blouse away from his neck. It's little use. No doubt he will sweat right through the absorbent cloth by the time things are through.
Neither Red nor his partner exhibit any signs of discomfort; the Hero of the Bloody Bay tries and fails to find a single droplet of sweat on him or her.
But then, they are a similar sort of strange.
He finds their prisoner staring at him intently with his too-knowing red eyes, and the lieutenant has to force his hand from jinking under the table, towards his pocket.
Easy, soldier! The general's voice barks unexpectedly in his mind. Not too soon, now! Wahaha!
His fist clenches instead, hatred swelling up his throat as his mind conjures images of screaming comrades and a dark, familiar tide. For a moment, Lt. Surge is gone from the room.
Wattson's life will be his one day. He's been promised this.
With mechanical will, he banishes the spectres of his bitterly-won accolades, and takes the prisoner's cue.
"I remember." He admits, and orders, with rehearsed cadence, "Continue."
Speaking makes the heat less stifling...but does nothing to ease the crushing, spherical weight in his pocket.
The weight of a thing that Giovanni Vittore does not know is in the room.
The battlefield was constantly shifting. I could feel and hear the blocks and panels shifting as I ran, panting, through the stage-maze the Vermillion Gym computer had randomized.
Pikachu kept up easily beside me, a much more physical creature, but I could tell this battle was wearing on even him.
We were being hunted.
A bolt of electricity zinged by me, missing by a breath, and I put on an extra burst of speed. I could hear boots slapping behind me.
Somehow, the leader was tracking my movements. I'd been followed perfectly through too many forks and rooms for it to be coincidence.
Pikachu squealed as an errant strike hit him, only managing to partially ground the attack. I heard, rather than saw, him return fire. There was no answering cry.
There would be none. The lieutenant's raichu, Blitz, made up in power what he lost in agility. In a straight dust-up, he would thrash Pikachu. Worst of all, he knew so.
We kept running.
The SOSEFS was designed to be endless. Even as I moved, the operating system of the Gym was robotically shifting the blocks and panels - made of some hard, non-conductive material - ahead of us, creating new paths and rooms, sometimes even while you occupied them. One person maze paths, rooms with waist high cover, wider landscapes that required scaling; it could and did create them all. Meanwhile, a larger conveyer moved the materials as a whole around the large empty space it was staged in, explaining the minor vertigo I felt every few seconds as the system compensated for how fast we were moving.
It was the perfect battlefield trainer - one that could simulate almost any land environment that one might have to fight on.
SOSEFS stood for Special Operations Simulated Environment Firefight System.
The soldiers I'd talked to called it Shit Oh Shit Everyone's Fucking Screwed.
I had to admit it now. I'd finally come into a Gym too half-cocked.
I turned a corner, not paying enough attention, and my stomach rose straight into my throat as I stood nearly nose to nose with cold plastic and light panel. I'd finally hit a dead end.
I knew I'd find the Gym Leader behind me when I turned, but I turned nonetheless, and spoke the words I'd hoped I never would.
It was my first loss.
Sitting in a seaside cafe, I was surprised at how disappointed I was. I'd never realistically expected to make it the entire run of the Kanto circuit without a single loss. This was only a minor setback, yet I was still stunned at how completely I had been stopped.
It wasn't rocket science how I had lost. In every field - strategy, power, field command - Lt. Surge had completely outclassed me.
Picking listlessly at my meal, I let my gaze drift blankly over my surroundings.
Vermillion was a military city, having grown organically around the Kanto Marine Headquarters, back before Kanto and Johto were even unified into the Indigo League. Needless to say, it had been a long time since then, and what had once been merely a settlement grown to support the troops' needs had expanded into a city in its own right.
The benefits of living in the heart of Indigo military power were apparent everywhere one looked. The streets were clean and well cobbled, and even the air of the city seemed cleaner than normal, fresh and alive with the smell of brine.
And, despite obviously having no way to observe it, I would be willing to bet that crime was lower here than in any other city in Indigo, given that you couldn't walk down a street without passing several rangers or sailors in uniform, much like Sootopolis City, Hoenn's answer to Vermillion.
The military heritage of Vermillion was especially evident today. Today was a parade day for all the military graduates, which happened every few months or so. I watched bemusedly as the newly minted rangers and sailors marched broadly along the boardwalk in full dress uniform, all to the sound of their hysterically proud families, their formations led by their broad-hatted drill instructors.
It might have passed quickly but for their partners - the new soldiers marched side by side with the pokemon they would serve with, the same they had trained with those long months of boot camp. You could tell their jobs by their companions. Maintenance and dock workers marching alongside poliwags and machops already starting to bulk up. Security forces and rangers with growlithes and houndours. Divers with shellder and seels. Various others.
Of course, the aces of the fleet headed up the rear. Even I craned my neck as the gyrados riders made their way down the street, their draconian companions throwing up enthusiastic roars to the more than reciprocal crowd. The trainers, the top graduates of their respective classes, stared straight ahead, light glinting off of their ensign bars.
I stared in no small amount of curiosity, ignoring Pikachu as he stuck his head in my parfait. Of course I stared. The military had always been my second choice if being a trainer had somehow not worked out, and it wasn't as if I would have settled for less than best had I gone there.
In another life, one of the soldiers atop those great wyrms might have been me.
So what's wrong with me? My mind tugged me back, like a chain, to my loss a week prior. Why can't I see the path to victory?
The Vermillion Gym didn't give away badges to just anyone. The courses for learning your way to a badge involved a wide curriculum of topics from military history to electrical engineering. On top of that, students of the Gym were required to maintain high physical standards, near on par with military ones. It took some trainers years to meet the Gym's standards.
I didn't have years. I didn't even have months. So, of course, I took the second option, which was much simpler.
Like other gyms, all you had to do was beat the Leader.
Unlike other gyms, the Leader was the most decorated soldier and special operator in Indigo League military trainer history.
There was a reason most people chose the first way. That I had learned in excruciating detail.
My pokedex pinged, and I looked down, finding a new email. The address bar of the sender was curiously blacked out.
TR headhunting military trainers in area. Keep an eye out for me?
Idly, I gave a thought to what the past me might think of myself growing up to be an ACE informant. Doubtless ACE's resources were what had allowed her to track my location.
I dismissed it almost as quickly. Green was a friend. And considering how I had recently discovered Team Rocket to be a criminal organization, I certainly didn't mind keeping an ear to the ground if they really were recruiting in Vermillion. I replied as much in a short email back.
I had no idea it would lead me where it would.
To a hero and traitor both.
I had exactly no training in espionage or detective work, or even much in-depth knowledge of the military, so after an hour musing over where I myself would recruit new Team Rocket operatives if I were a gainfully employed criminal syndicate member, I decided simply to wander and see if I ran into anything useful.
I'd only promised to keep an eye out, after all.
The city was still lively as the sun began to set. The tourism industry was alive all year round, but especially so today, probably more so than any other time than the Championships. Families from all over the Indigo League had come to celebrate their men and women becoming soldiers, and every one of them was looking to catch up and have a good time.
I could always hit a club and see if anyone's ears perked up at the sound of Team Rocket's name, but I was unlikely to get anything worthwhile from a bunch of privates and seamen just looking to get drunk and laid - not that I begrudged them that, of course.
I consigned myself to a long night of not finding anything remotely related to Team Rocket. Which was fine, of course. I had my own issues to worry about.
How to defeat the mighty Lt. Surge?
I hadn't come into the match completely blind, of course. I studied your history, most of it being public record due to your fame.
Military family, born in Vermillion. Commissioned right out of the same Gym you'd later come to run - double military degrees. Unconventional warfare and psychological operations.
Which explains why they brought you on for this interrogation, of course.
The rest is common knowledge among military circles. Assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, where most of the major military leaders in the last century have held some position. Rose to XO inside three years during the Indigo-Hoenn War. Every accolade possible lauded upon you, and for good reason.
And then, of course, the battle - and betrayal - which made your legend.
Wattson's 'failed coup'. The Bloody Bay.
Hard to believe that I'm sitting in this room with you now. There was a time when I looked up to you.
Vermillion Gym Leader Lt. Surge outclassed me in experience, power and skill, and none of the battlefield could be used to my advantage. And all his history told me was that all evidence pointed to the Lightning American being just as good as hearsay claimed.
And he'd proved it. The sinking feeling of dread I'd gotten when he'd come to me before the match personally and introduced himself had turned out to be vindicated when he'd thrashed me up and down his arena.
"PKMN Trainer Red? I've heard of you. My name is Lieutenant Robert Surge. Let's have a good match."
In terms of planning, he was a fortress. The only thing to do was to throw everything I could at the weakest point.
The only problem being, he had no weak points I could discern. If they existed, he was aware enough of them to conceal them.
I'd finally hit my first big wall. Neither cleverness nor luck would avail me.
I was pulled out of my brooding by the sound of raised voices on the edge of my situational awareness.
With almost a start, I realized that I had walked the day away. The light was already dipping below the edge of the wavering horizon, beckoning in the twilight. The boardwalk lights were slowly being lit by hand, beach workers moving from glass lantern to lantern, blazing torches in hand.
The power shortage in Saffron. I puzzled out after a brief moment. I dimly recalled a news blurb I heard somewhere - Vermillion, Celadon, Cerulean and Lavender had all pledged support to Kanto's quasi-capital city in its time of need. The nonessential voltorb and electrode circuits had probably been relocated.
There were plenty of raised voices, of course, in the increasing darkness. But I recognized an edge to these absent in other volumes.
I turned to hiss a short warning to Pikachu, but he was already on guard, hair on his back rising. Satisfied, I squinted into the darkness, seeing dark shapes on the beach in the distance, illuminated by a small fire. I waited patiently, allowing my eyes to adjust slightly.
A small crowd of humans and pokemon. Figures grappling in a short circle. Straining my ears to their limit, I could just barely hear the clink of bottles.
Using what ill-developed experience I had interacting with other people my age, I took a short detour to a grocer's before approaching.
As I approached the beach circle, the darkness fled as my eyes adjusted to the illumination of the campfire.
There weren't as many people as I thought - only five, two men and two women, all in rumpled dress uniforms. I could see bars on all of their collars.
Hooting and hollering, they were egging on a larger fourth man in the center of a circle in the sand, who was locked tightly together with a pokemon, who received my fullest attention as a matter of course.
It was shorter by a head and change than the human it was wrestling, but much broader and wider. Mottled grey-blue leather dominated the skin that was exposed, most of it being covered by the broad, hard shell that dominated its form, as large as a dining table. Its head was a squashed, round thing, with a sharp beaked mouth and tall, feathered crests growing from above its concave ear membranes - a socio-evolutionary trait which I knew denoted leadership and the possibility for future evolution, as well as allowing further directional control underwater. A feathered tail with a similar purpose extended from the underside of the shell.
Wartortle, I recalled.
There were more pokemon than just it present. On the other side of the circle, there was an entire bale of squirtles fussing around, roughhousing with each other, some watching the match with interest. A machop was engaged with a few of them, mock wrestling just as the two in the circle were. Closer to the humans, I spied a closed shellder. A spiny, female nidoran was sleeping on top, and both were clearly bored with the whole affair
As I watched, the ensign locked with the wartortle - a swarthy, muscle-bound monster in his own right, even compared to the other soldiers present - gave a mighty heave, rolling himself backwards and, placing his feet on the softer underbelly of the turtle pokemon, catapulted his opponent out of the drawn circle.
His fellow ensigns, whose voices had been steadily rising, exploded into laughter and crowded in, slapping their exhausted friend as he lay, panting in the sand. The squirtles, meanwhile, erupted in chirps and burbling, swarming the downed wartortle as they helped him roll back onto his feet.
I managed to catch the attention of one of the graduates as they helped their friend up, which soon became all of them. They stared at me a bit awkwardly, seeming a bit apprehensive at having been caught so devoid of military bearing.
I hefted the twelve-pack of Celadon Stout I had bought, and asked if there was room for one more.
That apparently broke the ice, and I soon became introduced to all of them.
The two men outside the circles were Huey and Leonard.
"Just because we aren't rocking gyarados doesn't mean we aren't honor grads." They assured me, which their grades backed up. The sleeping shellder was Leonard's partner, marking him as a combat diver, while Huey's, a staryu, was apparently out in the surf, doing a little night swimming, marking him as a ship signalman. Both of them were still in training.
"Just because they're honor grads doesn't mean they're both not jackasses." One of the girls assured me. I noticed her leaning into the shirtless wrestling ensign and instantly intuited that they were together in some way.
So fast after graduation? But I suppose soldiers lived lives short and fast.
Her name was Ann. She was hospital tech with a specialization in anasthesia, which explained the nidoran, whose poisons had numbing qualities. She seemed impressed that I knew so before she mentioned it.
She was also reserve, so after a few more weeks of technical training she'd go back to civilian life, awaiting the call to return to active service.
Leonard grinned handsomely, placing a limp-wristed hand against his chest. "Tending house and home for Phillip, waiting anxiously for her beloved's return." He seemed like the funny man of the group. "I can just imagine it. Ai, Phillip, when will you return to my arms? Yowch!"
As a reward for his performance, Ann threw her empty bottle at him. "Shit in your hand, wetsuit boy."
"That's some bedside manner you've got there." Huey cracked quietly, causing Leonard to bust out laughing and Ann to round on him.
Ann's significant other introduced himself in the meantime, holding out a dark hand. Thankfully, he'd found his undershirt to put on in the meantime. "It's Filipe, actually." He said, mild for his size. There was an understated solidness to the man, like he could wade into a river and it would move around him. "Phillip is the Indigoan version."
I grasped it and put two and two together, hearing his name. He was a Sevii Islander.
Filipe merely nodded. "A lot of my people take the military route to getting Indigo citizenship. Those who aren't too bitter, anyhow."
"Filipe almost placed for gyarados. They didn't have much public schooling on his island, so he had to work twice as hard as the rest of us to catch up scholastically." Ann piped up suddenly, sounding defensive. "He's come a long way and earned everything he's achieved."
The large man, looking faintly embarrassed, placed a hand on her shoulder. "Querida." He said, faintly admonishing.
I understood. The Sevii Islands had been a contentious issue ever since they had made contact. Since the Indigo League had so much more land and population than them, the impoverished archipelago, much attacked by large sea pokemon, was largely dependant on Indigo for most modern services, and yet didn't pay taxes as citizens in Indigo did. This made them a financial drain that was either worth it or not, which was about as far into politics as I was willing to venture.
In made sense that some would potentially see Sevii Islanders as welfare thieves or illegal aliens, I supposed, which was likely the sort of thing that Ann had become so defensive about.
I didn't really take a side on the issue, myself. As I said, politics were never my thing.
I'd never met a Sevii Islander before, so I'd never formed an opinion on one. Saying so seemed to be the right answer, and Ann seemed to ease up a bit.
"Enough bullshitting." Said the last girl. "Remember the rules? He's a new guy. "
She sat off to the side, a rattata moving animatedly around her. She was even duskier than Filipe, with inviting dark eyes and an understated accent - Orrean, if I wasn't mistaken, which made her even more foreign than the large Islander, and certainly explained her complexion, which extended to every inch of her skin I cared to inspect.
Huey and Leonard both hooted, the latter caring to fill me in. "That's right! Listen up Red; this here is Squirtle Sumo, hosted by Vermillion's own Squirtle Squad, and the rule is - if it's your first time here, you have to wrestle. Get in the circle!"
Her rattata made her a wayfinder, a ranger who specialized in charting new territory; a rather dangerous job, and one I respected - I couldn't think of many more worthy causes than that of exploration.
I hadn't yet caught her name, though.
Her alluring smile widened. "It's Dawn. Now lose the shirt."
All of their group laughed at that, with me following a second behind them. I shrugged out of my kit, not having much to be ashamed of. Why not?
Stepping up to the wartortle, I abruptly realized that it definitely wasn't short - Filipe was just exceptionally tall. The pokemon stood almost eye to eye with me, staring at me levelly. It looked none the worse for having been flung earlier.
"Go!" Someone said, and we both seized each other.
I was immediately overpowered as the wartortle pushed his superior weight and strength onto me. Swearing, I took a knee and reversed my push into a pull, winching into the wartortle's armpit as I made to fling him.
The wartortle, recognizing the move, went with the momentum and flipped over my shoulder onto its shell, rolling instantly back to his feet to charge back at me.
Panicked, I made the mistake of standing too far back up, allowing the wartortle to get under my center of gravity. With a triumphant squark, he hooked under me and lifted me bodily off the ground.
Realizing I was seconds from becoming a projectile, I brought my legs in and under me, pincering onto the wartortle's head.
Unfortunately, human-on-human tactics weren't designed for pokemon anatomies. With his neck mostly protected by his shell, the wartortle made a poor target for a headlock.
With a heave of effort, my legs slipped off the turtle pokemon's smooth skin. The next thing I knew, the sky and ground had traded places, my stomach flip-flopped, and I hit the sand in a heap, the breath driven straight out of my lungs.
Groaning, I picked myself out of the sand, expecting jeers and the squeaks of bombastic squirtles. Only, I didn't hear anything but the crackling of the fire. It took me a few seconds of dizzy reorientation before I abruptly realized how strange that was. I frowned and looked up.
Lt. Surge stared back at me levelly, clad in full service-dress, hands in his pockets. Off to the side, the graduates were all standing awkwardly at attention, with the exception of Filipe, whose shirt was being rapidly buttoned up by Ann.
My mind worked furiously as I tried to remember some audible cue, some background noise that had signalled his approach, before resigning itself. If there had been, I'd missed it, too caught up in the bout. The Gym Leader had snuck up completely unnoticed.
Gathering myself up, I slapped damp sand off of my bare chest and looked him straight in the eyes back, determined not to be cowed.
After a pause just barely short of awkward, he tilted his head and gave me a brief once-over. "Legacies of a misspent youth?" He asked, voice mild.
I suppose he was talking about my respectable collection of scars. I glanced down at myself, cataloguing them for the first time in a while. They ranged in size. The smallest currently visible was a tiny pock-mark on my abdomen, while the largest was a blotchy burn that looped over my right shoulder and went down my back like a rope. Funnily enough, the severity of those two was actually inversely proportionate - the burn had just been steam from an over-affectionate camerupt, while the puncture scar had been from a sandslash that hadn't liked the way I handled her young. I had been laid up for a week and a half off that second one.
Surge's weren't the only eyes on me that I felt, and I forced myself to shrug casually. Youth? Certainly. But none of the scars I'd earned on the Professor's ranch would I call misspent.
They were medals of honor, not unlike his, at least in nature, if not in scale.
Unbidden, every human eye leapt to the lieutenant's throat, where the object in question hung, apart from his other medals.
The Shield and Star. The highest decoration a soldier could be awarded in the Indigo League. The other regions had similar medals, but their annals were somewhat less distinguished, given how many of the recipients were still alive. The Shield and Star was a honor above honors, only given in cases where one's personal act of valor went both beyond the call of duty and what was thought possible to do. Entire conflicts had been fought without one being awarded, and it was open to both men and pokemon. More by what it required than by any specific prerequisite, it had always been awarded posthumously.
Until the Bloody Bay. When General Wattson, the then commander of the 26th SOS convinced over half of his squadron to defect with him to the side of Hoenn in the middle of the war, hijacking the flagship destroyer of the fleet - powerful enough to turn the tide of the war - and cutting a swath out of the Vermillion Bay with the power of some of the strongest trainers in the Indigo military.
It had taken his XO, pretending to go along with the coup till the last possible moment, to stop him, turning on slaughtering to near a man the very same men and women he'd presided over till they turned traitor. A single junior officer, who'd never forgotten his allegiance even when his mentor did.
Until Lt. Surge. The man who'd very possibly saved our country. It was only after he'd defeated his traitor squadmates that the loyal 26th members, legends like Red Musashi and Callsign K had shown up to bolster him. Wattson had barely escaped with his life that day.
The living legend considered what I'd said, and shrugged minimally. "A fair comparison." He allowed. Glancing over at the nervous ensigns, the leader added in a wry voice. "At ease. I didn't come here to light anybody up, and I don't actually outrank you by that much."
His pay grade was hardly the point, obviously. I'm sure there were those that even outranked him that probably paid the Gym Leader due deference.
"You're not wrong." Lt. Surge admitted dryly, as the graduates visibly sagged with relief, shooting each other glances. "Unfortunately, 'Lieutenant' is too integral to my brand name now. I could tame the Moltres and I still wouldn't get promoted. Rank has it's privileges my ass. At least being a Gym Leader nets me special duty pay - barely."
That broke the tension somewhat, as the ensigns broke up laughing. I didn't see the humor, but I supposed it was probably a military thing. Or maybe it was just having a figure of such high command be so down to earth with them.
After a second, the laughter died down. An awkward silence ensued - the ensigns too star struck to speak themselves, myself too busy trying to discern his motives. Lt. Surge for his part was inscrutable, seeming content to survey us, weighing.
His eyes settled on the largest of us. "Filipe de Natal. I've heard of you."
The Sevii Islander started nervously, before rumbling. "Sir."
"I know your name. You're to be assigned to the 26th. I make it a point to know everyone who's assigned to in-process, for the same reasons you might expect." Lt. Surge extended his hand. "Of course, in your case, I should know. I asked for you."
The large man seized the lieutenant's hand and shook it firmly, his face caught between confusion and trepidation. "Sir?"
"Not many greenies get assigned to us. We're the best of the best. Maybe that was part of the problem, before. I chose you because of a specific reference in Sergeant Sowell's assessment. Personally, I know Sowell as the most spiteful, hateful and downright mean drill instructor I have ever met in my life. I wasn't sure she'd ever said or wrote a nice thing about anyone in her entire career until I read your file. She said you had 'exceptional and admirable moral character'. Having met her, I'm sure you understand that for her, that is damn near a love note. That's why I chose you."
Filipe's voice was thick with emotion. "Thank you, sir."
Lt. Surge's dropped the handshake and punched him straight in the arm, right where the squadron patch would be on a combat uniform. "I expect the same level of integrity from you when you make it to the 26th. I don't think I'll be disappointed."
The ensign, too overwrought at this point, merely nodded fervently, clenching his jaw tightly in an effort to keep his composure. Ann rubbed his back soothingly, smiling a small but radiant smile.
I felt almost obscene, watching such a display, as if I was some sort of peeper. It came off as impersonal, but obviously the Gym Leader's words had a deep and personal effect on Filipe. I wondered if this was the sort of bond I had missed out on when I chose to strike out on my own.
"Of course, that was only one of the reasons I came down here." Lt. Surge continued, after a brief pause. "The other was to run an errand for the local police." Turning slightly behind him, he addressed the darkness. "You'll have to stop malingering back there sooner or later, you know. Time to turtle up and face the music."
Slowly, the one he had been addressing became clear, as a dark blob I had originally written off became larger as it stepped into the light. It was another wartortle.
But no ordinary one. My eyes grew wide, and I stared.
His size was nothing to speak of, being shorter but wider than the other wartortle that I had been wrestling with. His visage was what stopped me short.
His skin was covered in scars. As my gaze traveled the length of him, I couldn't find four inches apart not covered in some mark. As he passed me to stand, seemingly apprehensive, in front of Lt. Surge, I saw his shell. It was completely unblemished.
The wartortle was a complete anomaly, one that nearly hurt my brain to think about. It wasn't that wartortles didn't get into fights often - on the contrary, wartortles were extremely aggressive, given that their final evolution was triggered and fed by intense conflict. It was the reason the blastoise was the staple and spearhead of the Indigoan destroyer.
It was that exact penchant for conflict, it was theorized, that gave them such a strong behavioral and evolutionary urge to defend using their shells. It was only good sense, besides; dreams of evolving meant nothing if you didn't survive to realize them, and a wartortle's skin and underbelly weren't that much tougher than even human skin.
How, then, was this impossibility of evolution standing in front of me? A wartortle, who'd obviously never once turned his back?
The gang of squirtles, upon seeing him, immediately exploded into joyous chitters, surging around him. After a few seconds, they turned whining, clearly expecting some reaction that wasn't coming. One squirtle ran off, coming back with a pair of dark, extremely angular sunglasses, offering them up plaintively. The other wartortle, with whom I'd been wrestling, merely crossed his arms, glowering. The scarred wartortle ignored them all, staring into the night past.
"Big Brother got picked up at a sailor bar picking fights with machokes." Lt. Surge spoke in the same direction the scarred wartortle faced, his voice solemn. "At least he didn't involve the little ones this time, but any more of these incidents and I won't be able to protect him anymore. The sheriff was talking about putting him cold storage, Trident Lead."
Perplexed, I turned to where they were facing-
-and a terrible obelisk rose in the night, sand shifting. I bit off a startled curse, as Pikachu darted behind my legs. There was no hissing from him this time; only the silent, whisper thin feeling of him trembling against my calves.
I'd thought it was a boulder.
With the pneumatic hiss of steel on steel, the twin peaks rose along side the peak of the behemoth's head. The moonlight glinted on the head of each heavy cannon as the blastoise stepped into the light.
The scarred wartortle's defiant screech split the night like a knife. I turned to him, flabbergasted at his audacity.
The terrible war machine moved faster than it had any right to, barreling smoothly into the light, lifting the man-sized pokemon up above his head like a bundle of hay before slamming him to ground. The hollow slap of the wartortle's shell let all who listened know that no mercy had been spared in the blow.
Then, the blastoise crouched and roared.
That description is a bit of an understatement. There aren't any apt adjectives, so I'll try to explain it allegorically.
Any given person on the street has the physical capability to scream a threat. Saying 'I'll kill you' or something similar. Some will be able to yell it louder or softer than others.
It takes a certain quality to be able to make someone believe it, make them know you do it. That quality would outweigh any amount of volume or force. It was the origin of the saying that you could 'see it in their eyes'.
When Trident Lead dropped Big Brother into ground and roared his challenge, even those who it wasn't directed at could feel their guts clench. Feel their wills quail. The sound of the blastoise's cry invoked a visceral and primal knowledge, like a bad memory one would rather have surpressed-
-that this creature had taken life, bore no qualms about doing it again, and stood confident in his ability to execute said action.
As the blastoise turned, the marks of his history became apparent - his shell was wrent and gouged, with great uneven cracks running through the length of it, which shifted as he moved. My eyes widened. He was broke-backed.
It certainly explained why the alpha turtle was looking after a group of miscreant squirtles, instead of heading a battleship gunnery. That kind of medical disability probably wasn't tolerable in a military setting, and was probably what had discharged him.
"He's yours for now, Trident Lead." Lt. Surge continued blithely, ignoring the display. "But next time-"
All pretenses of his keeping cool vanished as the blastoise rounded on him, fixing him with an even more menacing glare than he had his subordinate. Surge took a few wise steps backward, as did every other person in the clearing, as Trident Lead began to growl. It sounded like he was gurgling on raw bones. The Gym Leader's raichu immediately leapt in front of his trainer, lines of electricity rippling down the rat's raised hackles.
As I was watching, an insight came to me, one I couldn't prove but my gut told me was right.
Before, with Big Brother, that had been a serious reprimand, meant to teach, or at the very least, scare. But this?
I couldn't back it up, but I knew, somehow I knew, with the same surety that rivers ran downhill and the sun rose - there was hate here. This was more than a simple whim or mood swing.
There was history between Lt. Surge and Trident Lead; bad blood of some sort. And whatever it was-
-it was enough to have Indigo's most intrepid soldier in retreat, hands raised. My curiosity instantly overrode my fear, going from nothing into overdrive in no seconds flat.
"Even now, lead gun? Still?" Lt. Surge asked, a melancholy expression on his face. The growling only increased in volume. Blitz braced himself, looking ready to start firing bolts at any second. I could feel, rather than see, Pikachu preparing himself similarly to defend us both.
The Gym Leader sighed then, dropping his hands.
"...I shouldn't be surprised. If you didn't accept it then, you wouldn't now. You…" The lieutenant's face turned slightly bitter. "If I'd known, it would have been different. You know that, right?"
Trident Lead took one step forward, and roared - not a warning, but a warcry. The squirtles scattered into motion, reforming behind him. Behind the blastoise, both wartortles took flanking positions.
Lt. Surge's conflicted face settled into a cold, military mask. "As you were, then, Trident Lead. We won't meet again. Enjoy the past you insist on dwelling in, and your band of jolly dropouts." He turned and began stalking off into the night, waving once over his shoulder. "Enjoy your night...and thank you for your service."
The air was tense as the war hero took his leave. I scooped a seashell out of the turf and hefted it thoughtfully as the Squirtle Squad and their leader gradually eased up.
I took a deep breath and underhanded it at Trident Lead.
It bounced off his meaty foreleg, barely making a sound. But it got an instant reaction, the blastoise whirling around and rooting me with a steady stare. As I stared into the veteran warrior's eyes, I knew instantly that this idea I hadn't been my brightest.
It wasn't that the great turtle was wroth - no, from looking, the only sign of his previous anger was the steam escaping his shell as his two hydro-cannons retracted. But I had underestimated his measure.
Standing under the blastoise's inspecting gaze felt like being blasted by a firehose. Every half-baked idea for questioning and manipulation fell away under the weight of it, stripped away like thin paint. I had thought to root out the source of the secret that had sent Lt. Surge in full retreat, but in pursuing such, I had attracted the attention of a being not only stronger but smarter than me.
And I had attracted it rudely.
I swallowed heavily as the blastoise took one heavy step forward. The desperate urge to take my own step back rose up in a panic, and on snap-instinct I ruthlessly quashed it - Big Brother hadn't backed down, and something told me that whatever I'd get, I'd get twice as hard if I flinched. Instead, I fixed my feet and looked up at him, schooling my features.
Trident Lead wasn't angry. That much I could feel, the same way I was beginning to come to predict Pikachu's mercurial shifts in mood. Instead, I was reminded immediately of Shiryuu, the Professor's dragonite, the immense feeling of experience that colored every interaction I'd had with him, as if I could hear the depth of his years behind every action he took.
But Shiryuu had never been much interested in me, where this creature was. I was instantly aware of the sense that he was reading me as much, and with more skill. I was a raw nerve; exposed, and so very vulnerable.
As I recalled the train of logic my thoughts had taken, an ugly flush rose up in my face. Craving wisdom from one so much my elder, and my first instinct had been sleuth? For the first time in a long time, I was utterly embarrassed.
All the while, Trident Lead stared down at me, impassive.
"Uh, Red." Leonard's voice broke the silence like a whismur being born, the joker of a soldier sounding uncharacteristically serious. "Man, maybe you wanna step over here?"
His suggestion filled my ears poisonously, and I waffled. What if all of this is in my head? What if the entire exchange with the blastoise had existed entirely in my head, and I was merely extrapolating from a vacuum?
Common reason said it was the more likely. But…
My gut had driven me this far, through paths that would have been undreamed of by a more cautious boy from Pallet Town. I couldn't break trust with it now.
It was more than want. Trident Lead knew things I needed to know, and I needed him to teach me, even if I didn't know what those things were at this point. He was my only lead after days of ruminating on how to press forward. But first, I needed to apologize.
Instead of stepping back, I stepped sideways, sketching a quick mime sign for apology as I stepped back into the circle. I didn't sense a reaction in the blastoise, so I took a fortifying breath and shooed Pikachu out of the circle.
Pikachu sent me a look, which encapsulated every ounce of his doubt in my plan, which he had no doubt sussed out. After an appropriate pause - which perfectly outlined how much he was washing his paws of my stupidity - my starter pokemon very primly padded his way out of the circle and took a seat, watching.
"Red, buddy-" Huey's voice was thick with forced cheer. "-you're kinda freakin' us out with all this silence. What're you-?"
Then, in another sign, this one universal, I clapped my hands once and beckoned Trident Lead into the circle. From the elder turtle, I sensed something new - surprise.
From the side, I heard Leonard, finally out of funny things to say. "Uh, well. Uh."
"...he can't be serious." Huey.
Ann snorted, voice thick with wryness. "Dawn, I owe you twenty idols."
"You do. I told you it was him." Dawn answered, out of sight, voice thick with something else. I ignored most of their exchange, dropping into a ready stance.
Instead, I looked at Filipe, and told him to slap me awake if I got knocked out. His dark eyebrows rose as Trident Lead stepped into the ring.
It was a painful week after that, working off the bruises from that encounter. Maybe if I'd taken it easy the night after, I would have healed faster-
-but after the blastoise had finished testing me, Dawn had volunteered to walk my beaten, much more sober self home. And then she'd elected not to leave. 'Restful activities' did not very well describe the rest of my night after that.
But it had worked. I'd won Trident Lead's attention. And that was how I still found myself on the beach, more than a week later, watching over the Squirtle Squad as they romped about.
Filipe plodded up with another cold, alcoholic something he'd gotten from one of the beachside stands.
He was the only one left in Vermillion after the week had passed, everyone else having been shot off to various other cities and Gyms to complete their technical training. Filipe, being a special operations candidate, fortuitously had his indoc training in the same place, and we'd fallen into a routine after running into each other a few more times.
It was comfortable, uncomplicated. In another life, I was sure that Filipe and I would have gotten along famously. However, we both knew that we'd be setting off in different directions sooner or later, so for the time we just enjoyed each other's company.
Gratefully, I accepted the drink, holding the cool glass against my spongier flesh.
"We heard about you a bit in basic, you know." Filipe offered, stretching out in a chair beside me, his rippling dark flesh drawing more than a few eyes. "It's how Dawn knew you. We were cut off from the outside world, so as a reward, whenever we were good, the drill instructors would feed us bits and pieces of news. You were news. Still are, a little bit"
I grunted, keeping a sure eye on the squirtles. Next to my left side, the massive, uneven form of Trident Lead sat, tucked inside his ruptured shell. I didn't believe for a second that he wasn't still watching me. I could still feel pulses of emotion, every now and then.
Pikachu was up, watching the squirtles with me. I'd had to nose him away from the more adult drinks Filipe had brought, and had offered the compromise of a oran berry confectionary, which he'd graciously accepted, before roasting it to half a crisp.
The squirtles - with Big Brother and Daikoku mixed in - were all mixed in together, tripping over each other as they chased a flutter of butterflies.
Nearby, Lola, the jynx I'd traded for all the way back in Cerulean, stood hard at work, maintaining the illusory flock, weaving new snow as her black, rubbery hands and bouncy hips twisted in arcane gestures. It had seemed cruel to leave her in her pokeball in such a vacation venue, and I'd also been curious to see if she had some hidden talent in battle - Lorelei's jynx, Morgana, came to mind, a literal enchantress of the Ice-type and a terror in her own element.
It wasn't to be, sadly. It wasn't that Lola lacked the skill, or the will - she was quite talented in her own right, and in the sparring match I'd put her up in against Daikoku, it wasn't pain she'd shied away from. What she lacked was killer instinct; all she had done was hide behind various illusory ice sculptures, reflecting light onto their forms to make them seem real, until Daikoku had finally encircled and caught her. She never went on the offensive.
Lola was an artist, not a fighter. In time, it was possible I could teach her the fighting mindset.
But time was not something I had enough of to gamble with.
"What are you looking for?" Filipe asked lazily, more to make conversation than anything else.
It wasn't that I was looking for anything, per say. The day afterwards, when I'd shown up on the beach, Trident Lead had sat me down in front of them, grumbled slightly and then promptly went half to sleep.
After that compelling introduction, it was as if a flip had been switched. Big Brother had gone from indifference to outright hostility, and every problem the squirtles encountered came directly to me. Trident Lead had put me in charge, to see how I would do.
A squirtle found a spoiled bottle of Moo-moo milk and wanted to drink it. Two squirtles got into a fight and one got too mean with the other, stepping on his tail. A group of squirtles wanted to band together and take back the underside of the docks from the mean zangoose that had taken up squatting there.
It was...tricky, resolving them. Not because I couldn't think of good solutions. That wasn't the test. The test was resolving them how Trident Lead wanted them resolved, without him giving a single visual cue.
I'd learned immediately that he could tell when I was guessing, and that guessing made him angry faster than being wrong with confidence. Not that he accepted being wrong, either - Trident Lead wanted things done his way, exactly, without error or delay.
For the squirtle with the milk, he wanted the squirtle to drink it, get sick, and learn his lesson. He wanted me to step on the tail of the squirtle that had been victimized and ask the meaner squirtle if he liked it. He wanted me to encourage the group of squirtles, with Big Brother sent for backup.
There wasn't an emotion that described that desire, so I had to intuit it from the combination that the blastoise did let free, which was always very deliberate and very sparse.
It was a challenge. I felt like a baby, learning a new language for the first time, with a very impatient parent. Except, unlike with Ashford back home, the language wasn't physical.
I'd gotten frustrated one time and actually resorted to hand language to get my point across, after trying to talk to squirtles obviously too young to even recognize human languages. It had worked, of course, but at some cost. Trident Lead had radiated intense confusion for one second, before irritably picking me up bodily and throwing me into the ocean. That message had been fairly easy to intuit.
It had been my breakthrough, however - now, instead of using the mistermime hand language, I simply imagined myself miming the signals I would have used. The more vividly I imagined, the more it worked. The first time I resolved one correctly and felt Trident Lead's approval, and knew it was directed towards me, I felt a burst of pride I hadn't felt since Professor Oak had first praised me.
I could already feel the world a little more keenly through my newly awakened senses. I could tell that Daikoku was having a great time with all his new friends, which made sense for the friendly ivysaur. I got a sense of bone-deep weariness and contentment from Filipe, enjoying the morning sun before he'd have to head off to more grueling training.
For Pikachu it was much more vivid. He knew as well as I did why I was here, and his feelings were a mirror of my own. Idly, I reached out a hand and ran my nails through his fur, scratching an itch I could feel he had.
There was more to this language, this art, I could tell. I only had hints, but even hints made me excited for what I could imagine was possible.
My musing was brought to halt by a strong flash of negative emotion. The morning haze cleared instantly, and my eyes snapped to Big Brother, the originating point.
Somewhere in the middle of the romp, he'd wandered off and come to face with a golduck. I could feel his temper ramping up second by second, and I was up in a flash, making a fast trek to intercept.
Big Brother was shorter than the gangly Psychic-type by a head and half, and he stared up, growling to answer the sibilant hiss than was emanating from the taller pokemon's bill.
I almost snapped at Big Brother. He'd started a few fights since I'd become impromptu commander of the Squirtle Squads, for no other reason that he liked fighting. But something made me pause.
I could taste the difference in the air. Normally, by now, Big Brother would already be swinging. He liked to start fights, even if he got punished for it afterwards. His body was rigid now, same as always, but he was holding back - holdinghimself back. He didn't want to fight - he wanted to hurt.
The golduck's trainer swam up, climbing out of the water, approaching with wariness. "Hey man." He said carefully. "You want to control your guy there, yeah?"
I ignored him, and directed my attention towards the golduck. I didn't know him, hadn't spent more than a minute in his presence. But I could feel irritation, amusement, disdain. There was no way to know who'd started this confrontation.
But, when the golduck turned his head and clucked mockingly, not at Big Brother, but at Trident Lead, I knew exactly who was going to end it.
Before Big Brother could react at all, I snatched my hat off and shoved it into the wartortle's chest, forcing him back a step. Then, I reached out and grabbed the golduck by the beak, and forced him to look at me.
I didn't make a sound. I just stared into his eyes, and knew. Knew, and made him know, that the next time he opened his bill to utter a single of syllable of ableist crap that I would turn his five idol ass into change.
The golduck went a little crosseyed. I felt more disbelief than confusion.
The trainer broke in then, of course, forcing me back, which I allowed. "What the fuck, dude?" He snapped angrily.
I didn't bother to explain myself. Instead, I informed him that his pokemon had just pissed off two dozen squirtles and one out of two wartortles, the other which would be returning from hunting before too long, and that finding another spot of beach might be a wise course of action. I didn't bother mentioning Trident Lead, figuring the blastoise went without saying, given that, standing now and wide awake, he was likely the tallest thing on the beach.
The trainer shifted uneasily, eyeing up the squirtles who'd gone perfectly still as soon as I'd risen from my chair. They were all watching, heads cocked curiously, waiting for my direction.
And then he made the wiser decision and took my advice, just as I knew he'd would. I'd sized him up the second he swam up - he was no poke-battler, just another schmuck with a trainer's license.
Filipe plodded up, my bag clutched in one hand for some reason. He stared after the pokemon I'd just confronted uneasily. "Perhaps you should stay out of the water for a little while, crazy. Wild golducks are known to confuse trainers into drowning themselves, and from the looks that one was giving you, he was considering going back to his roots."
I acknowledged him with a grunt, and turned to Big Brother, holding out a hand expectantly.
The wartortle, regarding me with unreadable eyes, did nothing for a short second. Then, taking my hat in his massive claws, he very deliberately uncrumpled and smoothed it, taking great care with the unfamiliar object before returning it to me. I placed it back on my head, and Big Brother watched, seeming a bit stunned.
I raised one eyebrow at him, trying to compress my intention into a single facial twitch. Then, after a long moment of waiting, I glanced over his shoulder at the squirtles he was supposed to have been watching.
Big Brother jerked as if he had been flicked in the ear, and stomped off in their direction, radiating a slight embarrassment.
I turned to Filipe - or more specifically, my bag, which I now realized had been vibrating this entire time, ringing with some unfamiliar, muffled tone. I patted down my pockets briefly, before remembering I had left my pokedex back on my beach chair, open with a half-written final bugfix report for the Professor on it.
He handed it over. "Figured it was for you."
Rummaging through it, I found the origin to be Bill's letter, the one he had shoved in my hands before kicking me out. After the experience he'd put me through, I'd forgotten to open it, and now pinched out what had initially felt like simple paper, but now appeared was obviously not.
A shimmering message flashed in red and gold lettering across the wafer-thin electronic paper, with a soundbyte of concierto music on loop over it. LAST CALL TO BOARD It read. Slightly below, it continued with a steady tone.1:52:27. It pinged every minute. On the back it read, The Maiden Voyage of the SS Anne : A Once in a Lifetime Experience.
Slightly poleaxed, I stared at it for nearly a minute. Eventually, Filipe snapped, "You're late, man!"
I twitched. This was...if I were a legendary cultish sort, a sign? No. I recalled briefly what I'd heard: the SS Anne, a groundbreaking foray into allowing non-military folks a first-look foray into the Dark Continents. The rich, non-military folks, of course.
I considered the chances that Lt. Surge wouldn't be included in this matter, and dismissed them as too slim. This was his city, damn all rank. He'd be on that boat, and my mind had an answer for the question I'd been pondering for the last week. And just maybe, with enough luck, good or bad...
I had to go. It wasn't a question. For a pokemon trainer like me, it was natural instinct to charge into this sort of breach, at least to me.
I jogged over to Trident Lead. I had to go, but I didn't say it.
It wasn't necessary, for him. I stood at attention before him, fixed with the uncomfortable feeling he could monitor the inner workings of my reasonings, and the uncommon feeling of anticipation that he might find any of them wanting. Somehow, somewhere, he had become my leader, and I didn't have it in me to question how.
He didn't judge. There was a short period of blankness, emotion wrestled behind clear, well defined doors. The blastoise's face shifted in several directions, brow creasing, gums rising over teeth, baring the predatory omnivore bones. Things that could have meant anything in any sapient species.
The blastoise made a decision abruptly, and started off, making his way down the beach in short, stumpy steps, the crowd of day-goers parting in his wake.
It wasn't a question of whether to follow. I did, with all my subordinates in wake.
The walk was utterly silent. Trident Lead had taken on a reverent air of sorts, that was easily detectible to those who cared to notice.
It was easy to see the effect on those it didn't. Smiling people he passed found their smiles fading. Pokemon playing stopped as he passed, and watched him go, immobile, like he had laid a spell on them in the middle of the surf. Volleyball games put aside, games of tag put on hold. Trident Lead was on a mission, and everything his wake was put on hold.
Wake. That was a good description. We were a vigil, without even knowing who was lost.
Eventually we migrated out of the sand, to the boardwalk of Vermillion. No one barred our way. The power of the creature guiding us acted as the nose of our prow. There was no words exchanged. The crowds simply parted.
We came to a museum. The structure was prefabricated, simple. It seemed like a four-story building folded in on itself into two, as if from some great pain. The community visiting it seemed younger than most. The greeter at the entrance balked at his appearance.
"I-I'll clear the gallery." He said, obviously used to the blastoise, but in no way prepared for him. In a separate line of thought, I wondered if one could be.
It was no great work of art we came upon. A great slab of steel had been liberated, from some great bulkhead. Upon it, names were inscribed, in a harsh font - too begrieved a scribe to be someone unfamiliar.
Pkmn Sgt Adelmar
The list went on, and on, and on. I turned around, and found Filipe silent, staring at the names with lidded eyes, face slack and pale like he'd been shot. The emotions he radiated were a mad pastel - horror, anger, sorrow, all swaddled in a heavy blanket of reverence.
"Thank you sir." He said quietly, under his breath, soft words through a tightly controlled larynx. "Thank you ma'am."
I felt strange, out-of-place, at odds, without knowing - as if I had stepped onto holy grounds without knowing, void of customs, not aware of how to pay respect.
A weighty hand guided my steps. I found myself noticing Trident Lead's arm - blue-grey scales, marked with the scars of small mistakes. Dragging cuts, burns, gouges; he was no genius. Just smart, in the way the experienced were.
We came before a particular section of bulkhead. There were makeshift shrines set up all around, but this one, I could tell by the air of Trident Lead, was special, sacred to him. There was an odd terror in knowing that I stood in the heart of who he was.
There were other things on the table - a water-damaged letter, tags, a baton. It wasn't the important part I could tell, just from the atmosphere.
A visored helmet, built for no human cranium, dominated one side of the display. The chin straps were broken, sheared, as if it had been torn away by a powerful, clawed hand. There were stripes of rank on the front, along with the designation, T-1.
Trident Lead placed his meaty claw delicately upon the carapace, and turned to me, deep, weighing eyes measuring my every movement.
My breath left me. This was the deciding moment. I could even detect a hint of anticipation, eagerness, radiating from the older creature. I stretched out my hand and-
-black, cold water, oil slick-
-howling gyrados mad with grief-
-a petri dish of blood on those lauded decks-
-double agent, thrice turned-
I gasped in breath, like a drowning man for air, a moment away from touching the helmet's surface. Warning signs flashed in my brain, heedless of evidence, survival instincts blaring out of some forgotten corner of the human mind.
I pulled my hand back, my vision sucked back to the present. The sounds of dying screams left my ears.
What the hell was that?
Trident Lead stared at me, in a way that could only denote disappointment.
Stumbling back, I fled the Hoenn War Museum. I had a cruise to catch. The monster's gaze followed me, all the way to the exit.
Kanto Pokemon Encyclopedic Index Entry #009 (J. # 239): Blastoise
Basic Characteristic: Water-type, final evolution of squirtle. Large, bipedal tortoise-like pokemon. Its body is dark blue and is mostly hidden by its tough, brown shell. Omnivorous. Avg. height 10'09", avg. weight 409.4 lbs (completely dehydrated).
Description: Only a few in very many squirtles will be born with the right trait and evolve into a wartortle. Of wartortles, because of their combative nature, fewer still will survive long enough to evolve into their final form. A blastoise is not merely an apex predator, but the accumulation of a lifetime of fighting experience. Where other evolutions occur naturally through time, the evolution to blastoise can only be triggered through repeated exposure to the hormones released during fight-or-flight situations. Over repeated battles, the wartortle's shell slowly warps to form the holes the cannons will eventually extend through, switching to a diet more common to rock-type pokemon to accumulate the ore necessary to grow them.
Nickname(s): The Shellfish Pokémon, soldier turtles, gun-titans, the fist of Indigo
"...Blastoise are an interesting study in alternate methods of hydration. While they are perfectly capable of ingesting liquid and rehydrating the normal way, in a pinch, their shell can flex open, allowing water to seep inside in the case that they are submerged. If on land, they also possess an organ that acts as a sort of hyper-dehumidifier, absorbing water from the air through special pores which open in their skin. Their bodies, due to their tumultuous lifestyle, have adapted to be extremely efficient in budgeting water. It is only when kept away from water in very arid environments that the problem of limited 'ammunition' would be likely to occur ..."
The Sevii Islands: A group of islands ranging from small to large to the southeast of the Indigo League coast, east of the Hoenn landmass and northeast of the Orange Islands. A protectorate of the Indigo League, they are most famous in recent history for the virus sweeping the islands. Lorelei, a native of the Islands, has lobbied passionately in the recent months for more aid to be sent, petitioning Silph Co in particular. The company has yet to release a statement.
Broke-backing: A condition unique to the blastoise line of evolution. Due to the immense amount of stress the shell undergoes in the pokemon's lifetime, eventually, some break. In the wild, this is almost always a fatal condition, being as the shell breaking robs the creature of its means of buoyancy and respiration. Typically, at this point, most blastoise choose to accept their fate, swimming out to sea until the weight of the water seeping into their shell overcomes them, pulling them to the bottom and drowning them.
Cold storage: A punishment for criminal pokemon deemed unable to reintegrate into the wild. A pokemon put in cold storage is placed in a long term pokeball indefinitely, until the resources to rehabilitate them become available. Typically, cold storage cases are not reviewed for years.