1 - Waking Hours

Incessant buzzing. Indicator of impending sunrise, impending workday, impending duties. Pain in the ass.

"I'm up!" I grouched, struggling for the Poliwhirl-shaped alarm clock, a gift from the nieces. The digital display read 5:50 A.M.

"Cooooold." The wife moaned her complaint, even though she had (predictably) acquired most of the bedding over the course of the night. I threw what remained of my share of the blankets on top of her. The sheets stank, evidence of our rumpus last night. The act always drained us to exhaustion. She could afford to sleep till 8:00; I was not so fortunate. The secretaries are starting to gossip about my eye rings.

Checklist of morning routines:

Bathroom, visit the toilet, then the sink to wash out the rank scum infesting the corners of eyes and mouth. Stare blankly at my withered face, complete with sagging, darkened eyelids.

Wake up Sally, household computer. Order her to turn the heat on and relax home security.

Walk the house, end in the kitchen. Turn the coffee maker on, prepare a batch of Kanto Valley Brew, retrieve the newspaper. Ignore the news, tear out the comic strips, chuck the rest into the recycling bin. It's Friday, in other words, bacon omelet breakfast day. The alarm was specifically set ten minutes earlier than usual to accommodate the extra cooking time.

Finish cooking, slip omelet onto plate, pour glass of orange juice, sit, and begin simultaneously munching and reading comics. Contemplate cooking skills. Fifty-two weeks in a year, for six years, minus travel, yields roughly 220 omelets cooked in a lifetime; I'm still a below-average cook. Bacon is too crispy today. Meanwhile, this Kid Ikarius strip is pretty funny and politically astute. Chuckle, then chug the orange juice and coffee in turns.


I lean back into my chair, taking in the various shivers, stresses, groans, tensions, and other random sensations of a freshly woken human body. The first hint of sunlight touches the underside of far-away clouds.

"Alright, I'm awake now."

I navigated through the house, a venerable mansion bought from a dead-man's estate. Modern renovations peaked out at various intervals, gadgets and modern trimmings skillfully implanted into the nostalgic veneer of the place. Down a flight of steps and through an underground hallway, I entered the newly built Rec Center addition. In the main training room, a large computer terminal took up an entire wall. Inserted prominently into six slots were pokeballs of various design. Dozens more were stored within turn-style mechanisms.

"Up and at 'em!"


A rumbling vibration shook the walls. My team leader, my pride, my partner, Metagross, burst out of his pokeball. Its idea of greeting the sunrise was to attempt to cause 4.0-scale earthquakes by simply roaring. Or technically, it was vibrating its processor-like brains to warm them up.

"Meta." Only seventeen known species can, with training, mimic the human language; Metagross are not one of them. Still, as its longtime trainer, it's easy to pick up the intonations, the slight variations in the pitch and synth of its voice, and the crude language consisting of a limited syllabary. So that, one can understand the mind of one's own Pokémon. They are remarkable creatures, and have much deeper thoughts than most trainers give them credit for. In this case, it's asking what we're doing today, with the implication that it wants to go out and battle.

"No, sorry, it's Friday. Too much work to do." I rub my hand in circles across its surface, as if waxing it. A low vibration, like a grumble, signals its unease, but it appreciates my touch.

"What the hell. Doubt there'll be anything to do, but you can come to work with me."

"Bommm!" It liked the sound of that. I went to the turn-style and picked up the first pokeball. A moment later its occupant materialized beside Metagross.

"Amore, dear, how are you this morning? Good? Lovely." Amore, my Gardevoir. Not weak, but by no means a battler, her primary duty was to act as caretaker and nanny to my large collection of Pokémon. "Please look after the others. Friday routine, as usual. Today is free play. Ah, well, I'm taking the main team to work today, so get them awake and ready in a hurry, if you will. I'll be back after dressing."

"Veyovoir! Viora!" She bowed and then set about her task. I paused a moment, watching her release each of my fifty-two Pokémon, one at a time, into the training chamber. Outside the chamber was my deck, just large enough for a regulation Pokémon match, and then a sheer drop. Beyond that, nothing but fifty-nine acres of unadulterated wilderness. Every conceivable terrain, from rocky river canyons, forested lakesides, craggy hilltops, rolling meadowland, to dank marshland, all patchworked together and available for play. The nice thing about Indigo Plateau, there's just so much land around here. It's not like Mossdeep, where the island forces intimacy with one's neighbors. And it's a far-cry from Redwood and Castelia; I despise my high-rise flats. There's no room to live there, no room for my Pokémon to explore, no room for the inevitable collateral damage when they train. The cities' worst offense is that, seventy and sixty floors up, respectively, I feel so out of touch with the earth. It's much too airy. Indigo, however, is in every way dominated by the earth. The mountains are close by, and enormous, practically reaching into the sky. Only here can I look up and see the earth. This is probably my favorite estate because of that.

Back in the master suite, the lady was curled in a ball. I groomed and dressed as quietly as I could, and then tip-toed over to the bedside. My head bent down to the little corner of face peeping out from the covers. Her breathing was light, barely noticeable even at three-inches' surveillance. I kissed her forehead.

"Goodbye dear. I love you."

"Hnnnm?" She's not really awake or comprehending. I don't want to spoil her slumber too much, though.

"I'll be out late again. 8 at the earliest."

"Mmmkay." She burrowed deeper under the covers, till nothing at all remained visible.

I turned to leave, but paused at the doorway. The furled ball of covers that was my wife was still and silent.

I'm up and gone before she wakes, six days a week. We never talk in the morning, except for these half-conscious interchanges. What if I died at work, one day? What if this was our last exchange? It seemed insufficient, meaningless. I know of people who have departed on worse terms, but that's no comfort to me. I want every single moment we spend together be precious enough to last a lifetime, because, god-forbid, it might have to.

I sighed. Six months on, and our marriage is already on the rocks. Six months on, and this job continues to find new ways to frustrate me. Now I can add morbid thoughts of worrying about final exchanges to the heap.

I collected my fortitude and left the room. A quick stop at the Rec Wing to collect my team- Amore had a done an impeccable job, as usual. I tapped one button on the latch of each to hear their digitized cries. They're still tired and grumpy, but seem happy to get out of the house. Good.


My driver, Wilkins, appeared at 6:55, on schedule.

"It's me versus the world," I muttered, climbing into the back.

These days, with my position? That phrase was more truth than metaphor, it seemed.