Fire Dreams and Wishing Wells
A Pokémon OC Story
Especially to me.
I mean, really. Of all the amazing stories out there, from literature to cinema, American cartoons to Japanese anime this is the one that's actually real that I get chucked into? Bloody perfect.
Well, it is an anime, technically, though I'd rather it was Death Note, or Hunter X Hunter, even Digimon would have been better than this crap.
Hello Pokémon world, realm of one-word-vocabulary animals being captured for the profit and entertainment of stupid children.
Naturally I became one of those too. A child at least, though I'm sure it's only a matter of time before my IQ points start to crawl backwards into the murky depths from whence they evolved.
I place my current physical age at about nine or ten years old and thank god they left my dental work in place, otherwise I'd need to get braces again and then at least one cosmic being would get their arse handed to them by an angry buck-toothed brat.
Red hair: check, freckles: check aplenty, blue eyes: double check for tears, clothes I wouldn't wear in a million years: unfortunately check.
Every paedophile for miles around would be attracted by my little black shorts, long stockings and ruffled sleeveless shirt that matched the green thigh-highs. The shirt looked like it was trying to give the illusion that I still had breasts (damn you to hell for taking them in the first place) and it was frankly disturbing. I had a rucksack which looked like an extra from Cardcaptor Sakura- a big fuzzy red heart with shiny silver wings in which a few things clanked about inside their bastion of pre-teen fashion. Excuse me while I retch.
The final addition to my wardrobe -aside from a pair of surprisingly sturdy walking boots- was a belt hanging low on my non-existent hips containing six red and white balls, miniaturised to the size of marbles.
Scree shifted beneath my feet- my feelings of accomplishment replaced by light-headedness and pain. My chest felt tight then everything was weightless. Falling, falling...
I had been kneeling on the grass, surrounded by trees and staring into a pool of water as a small brook gurgled and birds sang. I tried to pull my thoughts together as I stared at my younger countenance in the water.
That was ten minutes ago. Now I'd taken stock of things, with face touching, pocket patting and just generally picking my jaw up off the ground. By the time I'd realised I had transformed from a petite twenty-six year old to a just plain tiny little girl I wouldn't have been surprised if my brain started to dribble out my ears. The con props were the last straw. Brain broke. Please reboot.
I screamed, scrambling backwards as a purple rat with large front teeth approached me on all fours, hissing a warning. "Rat-rat-tata!"
My heart skipped a beat or six as I clutched it through layers of frills but the rodent didn't come closer, content to snarl from a distance. "Fucking head trip." I cursed, the profanities falling oddly out my mouth. My acid tongue had turned into a potty mouth. How humiliating. "Pokémon- of all things, freaking Pokémon."
"Yeah, I heard you the first time, can't you see I'm having an existentialist crisis here? Cut a gal a break will ya?" I snapped right back at it.
"Rat-tat-a?" The rat managed to look confused, cocking its head to the side in an oddly human gesture.
Finally, a thread of sanity to cling to. Even if I was talking to a purple mouse thing. "Existentialism is a philosophical school of thought which regards the human condition as a lonely, confusing existence," I explained, rubbing my now muddy hands off on my shorts, "it emphasises individuality as a norm that leaves everyone stranded in a hostile universe. Only this time I think it's the literal context." The pokémon I vaguely remembered from those woe-begotten years where I collected the cards and shiny stickers looked more confused than ever. "Don't worry about it, Rattata, right?"
"Rattata!" Was the proud proclamation.
"It's not nice to sneak up on little girls who have just lost their whole world." I used the term 'little girl' only for the guilt factor- I refused to see myself like that. "And I've not done anything to you."
It started growling again. "Ta! Rat-TA!" The little rumbles were directed at the six little duel-coloured balls at my waist. I didn't remember Rattatas being so aggressive but maybe this was a feisty one, or it thought I wasn't a threat. I wasn't sure if that was an insult or a compliment.
"Oh, these? You don't like trainers do you?"
"I'm not a trainer. Promise. This is just... something that happened to me I suppose. An excuse someone concocted to stick me in this mess. I'll put them away, slowly..." I unbuckled the belt and -very slowly- put it in my impractical winged bag, noting a few of the things it hit for future reference.
"I don't believe in slavery. Your life is your own to live and all that." I staggered to my feet, the blood rushing back to my toes with electroshocking tingles as it did. "Have a nice life little guy, don't ambush anyone else unless they deserve it." I picked a direction and started walking, giving a backwards wave as I did.
The Rattata stood by the water's edge, watching me until I was out of sight.
"The gods hate me. Do Pokemon have gods? Does this world? I guess there's Mew, but that's more an ancient pokemon than a deity..." I ranted as I continued to keep my eyes on the 'path', lest I trip on a root or fall down a hole. I was thirsty and getting hungry too and after pawing through my ridiculous bag I had only found one small water flask and a bar of fruit and nut. Ruining good chocolate with dehydrated grapes. Disgusting.
That matter aside. I was likely to die from hunger if I didn't find civilisation in a month or two- my skinny self didn't have any fat deposits, being all elbows and knees. Water was going to be an even bigger issue and my ears strained for the sounds of a river, wishing I hadn't left the Rattata's territory so soon. One little canteen wouldn't last long.
At least the cosmic karma catapult had seen fit to pack me a bottle of high SPF sunscreen which I'd liberally applied to my arms and face, tying my ginger hair into a crude pin-free bun so I could do my neck too. Oh curse you Viking complexion. Soon I'd have more freckles than skin.
My feet ached. The unfamiliar digital watch on my wrist read 4:37pm and although it felt like summer I didn't know how cold the nights would be here or what would come out at night. I needed to reach a settlement before dark, if only so I could keep walking, one foot in front of the other without breaking down. If I stopped now I'd cry my eyes out and never forgive myself for attracting the ravenous wild animals that ate me.
"Are there no normal animals in this world?" I muttered as a flock of Pige flew over head and a Caterpie crawled leisurely along a tree branch. I didn't know if I should be glad or just embarrassed that I remembered these names. Though when I was a kid there was only a hundred, a hundred-fifty pokémon or thereabouts, since my cringe-worthy kiddy-craze there have been a hell of a lot more created.
The bright red Pokédex was staying in my bag for as long as I could keep it buried. The bag of Poke-Feed was going to get dumped off at the nearest Poke-Centre. If I can stomach setting foot in that place. Maybe I'd just leave it for the wild pokémon, or wait and see how hungry I get out here.
I wasn't going to become a slave master.
I didn't reach a city at all that night and although I'd been following a path it didn't seem well travelled and once it got dark my toes were free fodder for every rock and root beneath me.
I lay down against the trunk of a tree beside the road and curled up between two splayed buttresses. It wasn't cold yet, not really, but my sweat from hours of walking was cooling on my arms and my blood wasn't pumping as fast as before.
Shivering, I (after being startled by movements in the undergrowth and pokémon calls) fell into a deep sleep and didn't wake until dawn.
Sleeping against a tree, even with an obnoxiously themed bag-pillow is not comfortable. I woke with a clogged chest and sore throat with salt staining my eyes red although my tears had long since evaporated.
I felt terrible even after drinking some water and nibbling around the raisins in my chocolate bar for a bit. I was still hungry and thirsty and my feet were swollen from walking and being wrapped up all night. Perfect. I couldn't even summon a sarcastic retort or fuck you to the universe at large.
A handful of water was sacrificed to wash my eyes and, after another wipe of my crusty eyes on my sleeve, I probably still looked like something scrapped of the side of the road.
I needed water, food, directions and a head examination. I scrawled some shorthand down in the dirt with a stick- it was so much easier to think things through when I had a list.
Water was number one and where there was water there would be something to eat, be it fish or whatever. I wondered if the sum total of two camping trips and watching survival shows on the discovery channel would prepare me for life the the wild... unlikely.
Water first. Little steps.
I shifted my weight and tried to see if there was a downward slope anywhere. Mostly I'd taken a fairly flat route but rivers took the easiest course, meaning that they went downhill. I'd need running water to get it as clean as possible. Ponds contained parasites and bacteria. Swamps were out of the questions. I strained my ears for the sound of running water and kept walking.
Two or three hours on my little legs and there was finally an end to these seemingly fathomless trees. A valley plain had opened out around me with a few shrubs and pines clinging to the forest outskirts, before giving way entirely to wild flowers and pollen-dusted flowers. A discarded field, my mind supplied, or a patch with thin soil unable to support larger growth.
I'd seen more pokémon on my travels since waking, but they seemed content to leave me alone if I didn't make eye contact and kept my distance. I nodded to a Taillow whose name I only knew because it shrieked at me in warning.
"Just passing though." I skirted it carefully and it eyed me beadily, hunkering down on what I assumed was a ground nest. It didn't call for reinforcements or try to chase me down. No unprovoked attacks which just proved to me the intelligence and wrongful imprisonment of these beings. How many trainers would have tried to catch that Taillow, killing its unborn chicks in the process?
There was a river that flowed down the valley in a steady trickle. It was clear and I chanced a few handfuls of cool bliss before filling my canteen. If the river widened further down there might be fish or it could lead me to a town eventually.
I continued downstream. There was no time to admire the flowers. My stomach swayed and daylight burned beneath my feet.
The river did widen but it soon disappeared underground. Something to do with a limestone table and ground water... I couldn't remember my geography lessons well enough to explain how that happened in technical terms. Porous rock or old caves that had given way- whatever had happened I now had no direction.
Worse still, my body rediscovered a way to get rid of excess fluid that didn't involve merely sweating out my own body weight. In abject embarrassment I hunkered down in the grass and relieved myself, my ears burning though there was no one to see me.
After hours of stumbling around, my stomach in knots and without a clue where I was going, I finally reached a town by dusk. By that time I was thanking every deity I could name that I didn't have to sleep in the woods again that night.
"Viridian Ciry?" I read the welcome sign. "That must make that... Viridian Forest." I glanced behind me. I hadn't watched the anime since I was really ten years old and never played the games although some of my school friends had. I racked my brain for further information. "Maybe it's an earth badge you get here... plant badge? There was a green theme..." I snorted. Like that was any use to me. There had to be a hotel around here somewhere-
"Loitering at this time of night is very suspicious!" A vaguely familiar female voice challenged from behind me and I -once more- thanked the gods that something seemed to be going my way tonight and people spoke English. The familiar form of one of the Jennys loomed over me- seeming to have sprung from nowhere on one of her nightly patrols.
"Good evening officer." I bowed clumsily for extra effect. "I'm a little lost. Is there a hotel or hostel nearby?" There was a purse in my rusksack with a slim clip of notes- if the yen rate was the same as back home I should be able to get a good night's rest and some provisions come tomorrow.
"Aren't you a little young to be travelling on your own?" Officer Jenny leaned over me, hands firmly planted on her hips. To a real ten year old, it would have probably been intimidating.
"I'm older than I look, ma'am, but I really would like to sleep inside tonight." I tried not to show my impatience. Really, didn't she have better things to do than interrogate little kids? First Ash, then me.
The power trip junkie's frown deepened. "Viridian is a small town-" funny, it had said 'city' on the sign "- all we have is the pokémon centre."
My hopes plummeted. "No hostels? Inns? Ryokans?" Jenny shook her head and I bit my cheek to stop any tears from forming, focusing my gaze on the ground. "I see. How do I get to the next town then? That has somewhere I can stay, right?"
"But-" Jenny spluttered, "Pallet Town is even smaller than Viridian and Pewter City is on the other side of the forest! It will take you days to get to either one of them!" She shook her head, dark blue bun bristling to resemble a porcupine even more. "Why don't you just stay at the pokémon centre?"
"I'm not a trainer." I gritted out, anger now overtaking frustration but the police officer was not deterred.
"Not a trainer? Then why are you so far from home?" I scowled up at her through my fringe and tried to keep my redhead temper under wraps. "Well, Nurse Joy won't mind one more. You're much too young to be out here by yourself- especially if you don't have any pokémon!" She made to take me by the arm but I danced out of her reach, much to her frustration. "Why don't you want to sleep at the centre?"
I finally let out all my bottled up frustration, my voice dropping to frigid tones. "I don't condone the symbiotic- no, parasitic relationship that trainers have with pokémon. Wild pokémon never asked to be captured- that's why trainers have to literally beat them into submission to get them in a pokéball. No- even worse, they make their own brethren fight them and forcibly tear them away from the life they once had. How many trainers stop to ponder if the pokémon they just added to their collection had friends or family- a mate or eggs?" I toss my head of ginger hair and snort. "I bet it's less than one in a hundred who stops to ponder the ramifications of their actions to living, sentient beings."
Officer Jenny shook her head, utterly disturbed, like I just told her the sky was green. "But pokémon love their trainers! Even if there is some difficulty to begin with-"
"Difficulty?" I interrupt. "Wild pokémon are beaten and subdued by their soon-to-be-trainers, even if they don't battle them directly. Anything that happens after that, as far as I'm concerned if the result of Stockholm syndrome and social conditioning."
"My Arcanine has been my partner for years, I've had him since he was an egg and I would never beat or subdue him!"
"Then the subservience was either bred or conditioned into him- you had expectations of him since the day he hatched to fight your battles for you and obey your commands. And even if you do love your Arcanine and he loves you- how many trainers would toss their pokémon aside if they couldn't evolve or didn't do as they said? How many abuse or belittle their pokémon and how many organisations or charities are there to actively police this behaviour?"
"The police force in every corner of the globe considers that to be our solemn duties!" Jenny snapped back- now she too was losing her cool and our heated words were drawing a small crowd.
"Really? Then let's talk about the hegemony that your society is built upon-" Jenny looked confused and I sighed, "hegemony is the social standard that a large body of people accept as 'common sense' or 'the expected course of action'. In this case it would be the vast majority of people in 'every corner of this globe' who believe that it's smart to push young children to leave home and make their way in the world by subduing and subjugating sentient beings. The whole idea behind a 'Pokémon Journey' is not only cruel to the pokémon that are exposed to the whims of someone emotionally immature but the actions of those parents border on child abuse!" I glared daggers at the loitering crowd before swinging back to stare at the aghast officer. "And that is why I'd rather die than have anything to do with the pokémon centre. It may be a hospital, but it also facilitates and encourages the slavery and trafficking of intelligent beings."
"You- you're being ridiculous! The things you're saying-"
"Officer Jenny- you haven't been able to give me one solid argument against what I've said. I ask you to challenge 'how it's always been' and 'common sense' because all you need to know about the situation is that trainers make pokémon fight for them. For money or glory or whatever petty reason they can come up with. Pokémon are subdued before capture because they don't want to be caught. Anything after that is just them making the most of a bad situation." I breathed deeply, tears beyond me but at the state of mental and physical exhaustion. "Now, if you'll excuse me officer, I'm going to find a tree to sleep in or something."
With my head held high, I marched back the way I came. There were some pretty thick canopies back that way, I'd be protected from the rain at least and if I curled into a ball I would conserve most of my heat. At least it was summer... "Ack!"
Jenny had a firm grip on my collar and used her superior height and strength to drag my stupid pubescent body in the opposite direction from the one I was heading. "You're coming with me to the station, young lady!"
I twisted in her grasp to no avail. "The hell! What did I do?"
"Breach of the peace, confession of intent to commit vagrancy and swearing in front of a police officer." She responded primly.
"That is bullshit!" I snarled. "You're just annoyed that I didn't agree with your twisted world views!" I twisted myself, but Jenny had my t-shirt firmly in her grasp and wasn't letting go. I eventually had to go with the flow to avoid her ripping it- it was the only shirt I owned after all.
"What did I say about language? You're going straight to lock-up little girl and you'll spend the night thinking about what you've done. I'll call your parents in the morning."
I snorted. "Good luck with that." Jenny's authoritative stride faltered for a second but she picked up the pace quickly enough.
"What's your name?"
"Why do you care?" I shot back.
"I need your identification for processing of course."
"Not exactly the best way to convince me, Officer." I sighed, shrugging out of her hold until she just had a guiding hand on my shoulder. "Aisling." For 'dream', 'Hughes' for 'fire'. I had dreamt of drowning the night before, I wondered how many levels that was ironic on.
"Ash-ling?" Jenny pronounced carefully. "How do I get in contact with your parents, Aisling?" She had some skill, not asking for my family name right off- probably figured my first was enough to track me down and normally she'd be right.
I felt like laughing. "Tell you what, officer. If you can find any missing persons reports or home listing out on me, I'll go home myself. Okay?"
Jenny's brow was creased as she checked me into one of the cells- they were all empty tonight though I didn't think the fluffy blanket was standard issue, nor the mug of hot chocolate or the teddy bear (presumably from Lost and Found). I was too tired to argue though and after draining the warmth-bringing liquid I fell asleep on the hard bunk like it was a feather bed. The teddy, I stubbornly attested to myself as I faded into dream, I clutched purely because it made a decent pillow.
The Viridian City Officer Jenny was still at her station when the early hours of the morning rolled around. She hadn't been listed for night duty, but felt that if she went home she wouldn't get any sleep anyway.
Aisling was just a little girl- there was no doubt about it now. Curled up in a ball clutching the bear which had been unclaimed for over a year, she really did look younger than when she was awake. It wasn't everyday Jenny came across a child with that bearing or vocabulary.
Abused kids weren't her expertise- her sister in Cerulean worked part-time in a youth centre that got a few runaways and neglected kids passing through but this Jenny felt out of her depth.
"-the actions of those parents border on child abuse!"
Jenny rubbed her eyes, letting out a long sigh. She would vid-call her sister in the morning. They tended to keep the same hours so if Jenny was supposed to be in bed, ten to one the other Jenny actually was.
Until morning then- coffee. Lots of it.
I woke up slowly and with a crick in my neck. If it wasn't for that I could almost convince myself that I was in my own bed, in my own room, and I had a few minutes left before I had to get ready for work.
The prison bunk dug into my back and there could be no mistake. I was in the fucking pokémon world and had been detained for political activism. I was a prisoner of war. I scowled at the smiling bear face I'd been using to supplement the flat prison pillow. No way was I being overly dramatic about this.
There weren't any windows, but I felt like I'd been sleeping for a while- my head had that heavy quality that comes from over-sleep. I lurched to my feet, catching the blanket before it fell.
"Hey! Is anyone there?" I pressed my knees together. I don't want to pee in the cell toilet! Those bars left me awfully exposed. "Don't just leave me in here!" I shouted again, this time with a touch of panic.
The clacking of heels sounded along the corridor, a double-time drum roll and Officer Jenny appeared looking frazzled. "Coming!" She pulled the keys from a ring attached to her belt and unlocked the cage. I practically ran to the door, my feet preforming a skippy little dance as I continued to hold my knees together.
Jenny pursed her lips, trying not to laugh. "Down the corridor, up the stairs and first on your right."
Jenny considered following her -just to the door- but her sister said on the phone that hovering would be 'detrimental to establishing trust'. Plus Aisling had left her cute little bag and boots under the bed- the girl wasn't going far without shoes.
Despite having full access to the police data bank, Jenny hadn't been able to find anything on Aisling and was beginning to doubt that was the girl's real name. Not least of all because Jenny had searched birth records as well as missing peoples reports. Maybe she was spelling it wrong- the redhead had pronounced it so the 'Ash' was lilted.
Maybe there would be something in the bag...
Jenny shook her head, a few strands coming loose from her bun which she'd had pinned up for over twenty-four hours. You're an officer of the law, Jenny! You can't just do that! Even if it's not really stealing... no, it's trespassing! She worried her lip, lack of sleep getting to her even if she had dropped off for a few hours before Aisling started shouting. This is not what sis meant when she said trust building. Though I really want to know... Just think of it as evidence. Evidence.
Jenny tiptoed into the cell, she would have to be quick, but she was still conflicted even as she picked up the heart-shaped bag. Her hand hovered over the zip and this was her last chance to turn back... She opened it and gasped in surprise.
Miniaturised pokéballs attached to a standard belt and a bag of pokéfood which would feed almost every pokémon types in a squeeze though it wasn't optimal. The last incriminating item was a bright red Pokédex. Jenny pressed the bio button and it blared to life. Loudly. Jenny scrambled to turn the volume down, angling her body guiltily so she might muffle some of the noise.
"I'm Dexter, a Pokédex programmed by INSERT NAME for Aisling Hughes of INSERT LOCATION. My function is to provide Aisling with information and advice regarding Pokémon and their training. If lost or stolen, I cannot be replaced."
Well, that was odd. Suspicious too. Jenny memorised the serial number for the theft database along with the spelling of Aisling's name which had flashed up on the bio screen. Then she turned the Pokédex off and slipped it back into the bag. Nothing else to note- a flask, sunscreen, some chocolate and a purse, she left those well alone, guilt and time getting to her. Carefully she put the bag back into the position it was before and went to the watchman's desk like she'd been sitting there the whole time.
But why would someone who so obviously hated trainers be one herself? Jenny worried a nail between her teeth as she thought about it.
A minute later, Aisling (A-I-S-L-I-N-G) padded back on her sock-clad feet looking sheepish and Jenny didn't have any more time to ponder the conundrum.
I felt almost human after my bathroom break- taking the time to fix my hair and wash my face. It had begun to strike me as I stared into the wall of mirrors that if I had had my way the night before I wouldn't have the luxury of running water or a bed to sleep in. Guilt gnawed at me despite all attempts to stamp down on it.
Damn it all to hell.
"I, er. Thanks I guess." I felt my cheeks going red- another reason I hated having fair skin. "I thought it over and even though arresting me was out of order-" I cut myself off, I was heading down a slippery slope again. "I mean- you gave me somewhere to sleep indoors and even if your methods were... unconventional I think you meant well, with the cocoa and the bear and... stuff." I finished weakly. The heat had crept across my ears and down my neck.. "So, thank you. That's all I wanted to say."
Silence. I sneaked a peek through my ginge-fringe and saw Officer Jenny with a strange expression on her face, stuck half way between confusion and... melancholy? No, that wasn't quite right but by the time I raised my head to get a proper look her professional mask was firmly in place.
"I stated my reasons when I put you in lock-up last night, Aisling." It was the first time she'd called me by name and although she was harsh on the first syllable it was good to not be called 'little girl' or 'young lady'. Her expression softened. "But yes, it would have been heartless to let you sleep outside. So long as I'm in charge at this station I will do my best to protect every citizen from foreseeable dangers... even if they don't always agree on the methods employed." I grinned despite myself and my smile was answered in kind. "Would you like some breakfast? We keep cereal in the break room."
My stomach fluttered though it restrained itself enough to not let out a loud growl, though it evidently wanted to. I accepted the peace offering. "That would be nice. Thank you, Officer Jenny."
Jenny had never seen anyone treat fruit loops with such reverence. It was obvious that Aisling wanted to dive in but was retraining herself for the sake of manners. When Jenny turned away to the cappuccino machine for just a moment, half of the cereal (a hefty mountain) had been swiftly devoured. Sure enough, when Jenny made a point of looking away again, the bowl was completely empty. Forty-two seconds. That had to be a record.
"What do you plan to do next?" Jenny asked, as casually as she could over the rim of her coffee mug.
Aisling shrugged. "I'm not sure. I can't stay here forever- not unless I commit a serious felony or something," she grinned but the expression seemed strained, tired and actually contemplating it. "I can't live in hostels for the long-term foreseeable future, since I don't have that much money and I'd rather not live in the wilderness if I have to." She cocked her head to the side with another considering expression. "Maybe if I get some survival guides and camping gear- if I had a hand axe or a machete and some rope I'm pretty sure I'd be able to make a lean-to. I'd need to pick a climate with mild winters and an ecosystem that could support me indefinitely..." The girl continued to mutter to herself and Jenny couldn't help but feel sick. Here was a child- a precocious child but a little girl all the same who would rather live in the woods than go back home.
Her home life must have been horrible- that was the only possible reason why Aisling was so adamant against pokémon capture and training, because she equated their experiences to her own.
Jenny had suspected, but to hear confirmation from the child herself... the only other possible explanation for even part of it would be if Aisling's parents were dead but that didn't seem right either. Jenny like to think she was a good judge of character and body language, but she had seen only resentment when Aisling talked about parents. Add to that the closed-off attitude and a disrespect for authority figures...
"You could get a job." Jenny suggested as mildly as she could, cutting off Aisling's mumblings.
The girl scoffed, though not unkindly, it seemed more self-deprecating. "Yeah, like someone's going to hire a ten year-old without an address or references."
"Everyone can do something." The policewoman pointed out gently. "Is there anything you're good at?"
"Marketable skills?" Aisling looked thoughtful again but shook her head. "I could write a CV in my sleep, but without references... no prospective employer would give me the time of day to showcase myself."
"What skills do you have?" Jenny asked, genuinely curious.
"Um, let's see..." Aisling started counting off on her fingers, "a typing speed of seventy words a minute, editorial experience, waitressing experience, I can work stage lights, audio and special effects -that could be useful in a studio or radio station I suppose, though I've only worked stage- and I know my way around a coffee machine though I wouldn't call myself a barista." She blinked, cocking her head to the side as if she had just realised something. "I guess my reading, writing and vocabulary skills are far beyond what one would expect as well."
Jenny nodded dumbly. If even half of that was true... she was dealing with a prodigy, and there was the matter of child labour to address as well. Anyone under the age of fourteen needed a permit to work, one of the many things that was included in the Pokédex system though that only covered training your personal pokémon, battle compensation and entering tournaments. Extra duties such as training someone else's pokémon, breeding, stabling and healthcare were all subsequent qualifications that needed another permit and rigorous testing to obtain any one of them. Aisling hadn't mentioned pokémon skills at all. Was it really so painful?
Jenny tapped her chin with a thoughtful smile. "I could use someone around here to help me with filling and administration. Lots of reports need to be digitised and we don't have enough officers in the station to spare one to do it."
Aisling raised a red eyebrow pointedly. "You arrested me last night and now you're giving me a job? I thought you couldn't work for the police if you had a criminal record."
"You don't have a record." Jenny insisted, "if everyone was put on file for spending a night in a cell there wouldn't be enough people with clean files to hire from. Not only that but you're a minor."
"Which means you can't charge me, but you can hire me instead?" Aisling shook her head. "I'm not all that familiar with y- the legal system but that's got to be a hypocritical set-up."
Jenny shook her head stubbornly. "You don't have the permits to earn a fixed wage," here there was a wince- an admission of guilt? Jenny ploughed on, "but there is money in the budget for an internship and there's no age restriction on that. Interns don't earn much but you could use me as a reference at a later date. If you do a good job." She added, she wasn't going to hand it over on a silver platter, "it would be a springboard for a work permit at a later date."
Aisling's eyes glazed over- a mix of blue-grey that Jenny hadn't noticed until she leaned anxiously over with her offer. The girl bit her lip, worrying it between her teeth then those eyes snapped up. "I don't want to be a charity case. I'll take the job, but only if you're going to make me work- don't fob me off on fake tasks just to keep me busy."
"Believe me," Jenny assured, placating Aisling's pride as it reared its head again. "There's plenty of work in the station you can do."
Aisling held her gaze for a moment then nodded. "Okay, let's talk business."
Jenny looked tired, exhausted in fact, so I saved most of my queries for a later date. I could always ask her about sick-leave, notice and holidays at a later date. Instead I asked about hours and rates, calculating in my head how much I would earn on a weekly basis if I worked my minimum against my maximum hours.
At first Jenny only wanted me to work two days a week with the occasional extra half day, but I talked her into a standard four with a half or full day holiday off the working week. She seemed surprised that I could work my head around the budget notes she gave me, which wasn't astonishing considering my current predicament. I sighed and pointed out that establishing four days as my standard work week would exempt me from overtime pay unless I worked more. That was well within the police station's budget.
"You can't do heavy lifting- even if you need to bring files up from downstairs, get someone to help you. Don't climb any ladders and you absolutely cannot handle a firearm. Do any of those things and you cannot sue the station should anything happen to you. There's a full list here," Jenny passed me a page of A4 stacked full with bullet points of 'do nots'.
"Obviously I wouldn't pick up one of the guns." I paused, thinking of criminal dramas I had seen. "Unless everyone else in the station was incapacitated by hostiles and I had the choice between grabbing a gun or getting shot in the head. Then I wouldn't worry so much about health and safety." Jenny did not seem impressed with my television knowledge.
"Don't even joke about it!"
I raised my hands in surrender. "I won't," I actually hadn't been kidding, but never mind, "where do I start?"
With a bright smile carrying a sinister edge, Officer Jenny led me to file room. I sneezed. Maybe I imagined it but I'm sure the dust shifted a little.
"You can't sue for allergic reactions either." Jenny added helpfully.
My first week was the hardest.
Contrary to popular belief, Jenny wasn't the only officer on the Viridian task force, just the most dedicated. There were four others- an old timer called Bill along with his nephew and deputy, David, and two middle-aged officers who had gone through the academy together, George and Paul. I was introduced to everyone but mostly kept to myself in the record room on the ancient computer. I got through two boxes of files and almost as many boxes of tissues before I couldn't take the sneezing any more and hunted down the cleaning supplies.
On the second day, with the floor mopped, the work surfaces dusted and the single basement window cleaned I managed to make decent lee-way. It was awkward to copy the files from their handwritten state onto the computer, not least because not everyone had neat penmanship, but because I needed both hands to type quickly and that meant I couldn't hold the file up to see it properly. After trial and error, I erected a desk-top podium from some paperback novels and a cardboard box.
By the time the fourth day- my last that week rolled around I had carved a little niche for myself in the basement, commandeering a coffee mug and guarded it religiously, though I couldn't actually indulge in caffeine. Someone, maybe Jenny or Bill, I wasn't sure, started to stock orange juice in the mini fridge and I could be seen knocking it back like a less satisfying whiskey shot between the hours of nine and four.
I was naturally introverted and my habits were just exasperated by my current state. Bill was nice, in a lazy grandfather kind of way and David could be good for a laugh if he forgot for a moment he was talking to a little kid- that guy had a mouth on him would have made sailors blanche. As for George and Paul, their bubble seemed impenetrable, they were so inseparable I didn't know how to approach without feeling like an outside party.
Jenny finally approached me in my own territory after my first week, I had seen her upstairs when I was getting lunch (toast and fruit mostly, they constituted almost all my meals) but she hadn't come downstairs since my first day. She looked appreciatively around the dust-free space, taking note of the several boxes marked 'converted'. I swung around to face her in my chair, the navy blue prison guard fatigues I had commandeered from storage rolled up about my skinny wrists and bare feet. "Hey, Jenny."
"That's 'Officer Jenny' to you, newbie." The elder chastised without any heat and an easy smile. "It's a lot nicer down here now. I'm so glad I arrested you."
"Thinking of making it your new interview process?"
"It would be a good way to sift the wheat from the chaff." Jenny grinned devilishly, shifting the bag in her arms to rest on her hip as she checked her watch. "You have a few minutes left. Want to go spend your first pay cheque?
Pffft: first. "I should really save it." I said warily, I hadn't sat down to calculate my potential over-time, but my base rate wasn't much. I was so glad everyone had let me stay in one of the holding cells- there weren't any prisoners in Viridian at the moment and I got to sleep with the door unlocked.
"Technically," Jenny added, seeming to read my mind, "it's the basic monthly rate in advance. If you work overtime you'll get the extra every week you work."
I blinked. "Why do I need it now?" I didn't like the idea of muddling my numbers, or taking what I hadn't yet earned.
Jenny fixed me with a hard stare. "Aisling, you have three changes of clothes: The ones you came in with, the ones your wearing and a janitor's uniform. The washing machine in the break room is for stains obtained on the job and, frankly, I don't think it's ever seen so much use. I brought your real clothes down and we're going to go shopping for at least three changes of street wear." She fixed me with a pitying look. "You need more underwear at least."
It hadn't seemed like a big deal. I rotated the clothes so I had one set on, one clean and one in the wash. Sleepwear was my previous clothes until I woke at 7am, changed into my next set and put the ones I'd worn in the wash. Underwear wasn't such a big deal because I kept myself clean and didn't yet produce the... excretions an adult did. Plus I hadn't started my period until I was almost fourteen the first time around- I was physically ten years old, now and had yet to revisit the joys of full-blown adolescence.
Jenny must have seen some sort of surrender in my eyes because she threw the bag of clean clothes to me (I caught them with a bit of a fumble) and gave me 'five minutes to get ready or I'm dragging you out as you are'. I rolled my eyes, feeling more like a pre-teen than ever.
Viridian City only had one shopping centre, and since I remembered this being one of the larger cities in the Kanto region, I wondered how this world's demographic looked in comparison to my own. Certainly the population was a lot smaller than Japan's and more scattered about. Maybe that's because the parents here send their children away on long journeys when they're only ten years old; I'm guessing a lot of them get eaten by wild pokémon or gain such complexes from the experience that they can never settle into healthy relationships themselves later on in life. It would explain the characterisation in this anime, not to mention the sheer number of clones that were kicking about.
In the clothes shop, I quickly vetoed anything pink, fluffy or overly impractical. Almost half the children's section may as well have withered in front of my eyes, the other half being the boy's department.
"No. No. That is hideous. Are they trying to get their underage customers propositioned by dirty old men? No." I went through the racks with a practised eye, on the look out for forest green or royal blue- my best colours. What I found was Barbie's wet dream and my eternal nightmare.
The jeans had rhinestones spelling 'princess' about the pockets, the skirts were frilled and the dresses were a sick parody of 'playing mummy'. I eyed the teen section with longing but that was a few years of growth spurts away. I'd grab some of the t-shirts from their later, once I found trousers the right length.
Some dark jeans which turned up at the bottom lacked embellishments past a sparkly button and a cat stitched onto a back pocket. I grabbed a few sizes and held them up to my legs, vaguely remembering that I had always been a few years behind the age-specifying sizes. Ah, age 8 it is. I grabbed a twin set of pyjamas as well (baby blue and pink unfortunately but at least I wouldn't wear them in public).
Diving back into the fray, Jenny blinked at me verbally desecrating the merchandise and no doubt keeping an eye out for shoplifters too.
A pair of green shorts (army khaki existed here?) and a pair of soft blue ¾ leggings with a detachable short skirt/sarong joined my basket and I grabbed some socks and underwear on my way to the teen section. Ten minutes later I rejoined Jenny with a top for every foreseeable forecast- long sleeved, short sleeved and no sleeves. The strap top was a charming shade of Scot's blue and the other two varying hues of green. I ignored the fact that the long sleeves would have to be rolled up and the clingy strap top would be baggy on me.
Less than twenty minutes after I stepped in the shop I began calculating the price of my purchases while walking to the pay desk. Jenny fell into step beside me. "Are you sure you have enough?"
I scoffed. "Three outfits is about all I could squeeze out of this place. I fear for my fellow redheads who have yet to master colour coordination. This place is a giant pink clash trap."
Jenny hadn't been sure what to expect when she took Aisling shopping. There was no hesitation, the child had literally dived into the task, but there was no self depreciation or narcissism: like one might expect from an abused child. There was a slight avoidance at spending money but that was just good sense, Aisling wasn't exuberant or despondent when it came to shopping. That meant she didn't have body issues and, although she hadn't been spoiled, was used to getting things bought for her, or rather... Jenny had observed the ginger head bobbing expertly through the clothes racks, she seemed used to shopping for herself.
Another strike for 'self-sufficient'.
That had been part of the reason Jenny left Aisling alone that week- letting her have space and see if the girl reached out, for comfort and conversation if nothing else. Aisling proved an elusive child, only coming upstairs to go to the bathroom, eat and sleep. She hadn't even asked if she could sleep somewhere else- just went to bed in the same cell she'd woken up in the night before!
There wasn't much Jenny could do during her observation period, just made sure the officer's lounge was fully stocked with fruit, bread and juice, along with other things that seemed more accessible than, say, a ready meal. Something like that would carry the stigma or having been bought for one person, rather than the whole station. Jenny had been reading lots of her sister's psychology books and conversing with another Jenny who had actually studied the subject before entering the force.
But a week of this was too long- it was physically painful for Jenny to watch Aisling not only do the work load of an adult, but ask for so little in return. Clothes, food and board may not have been a part of their employment agreement but they were basic human rights!
Jenny blinked out of her daze when Aisling approached the counter. Jenny spotted exactly three outfits, underwear and sleepwear in the basket and almost sighed. No splurging or indulgences- was it normal for a little girl to colour code instead of just buying what she thought was pretty?
The policewoman got out her purse to pay for Aisling's choices, the dilemma she'd been toying with for some time now firmly rooted in her mind.
Two months later.
I rolled out of bed, now an actual bed, with a real mattress and sheets, set up in Jenny's spare room. Already I could hear my benefactor clacking about in her low heels as she got ready for work. It was a half day today, for me at least, and I planned to have a walk around the city once my shift was over.
I washed and dressed in my casual uniform, a white shirt and black leggings with a grey waistcoat, the product of my last pay cheque. After having breakfast with Jenny, we walked together in amicable silence. After more than two months staying together, Jenny had drawn the conclusion that I was better off where I was, at least she no longer asked probing questions about my past and we were comfortable enough with each other to be largely non-verbal.
Jenny's Arcanine, Courage barked happily when Jenny let him out of his pokéball to walk with us. The officer had slowly been introducing us to each other and although I still despised the whole slave-master structure of the pokémon world, I couldn't deny that Courage was well cared for.
"Hey, Courage." I scratched him behind the ears and he panted, tongue lolling. "Wanna go for a run when I get off work?" Playing catch seemed demeaning and fetch even more so, but I reckoned so long as I did everything that Courage did, we were on even ground.
"Arr!" Courage barked ecstatically and I couldn't help but smile, hugging him to my hip, where his shoulders easily reached.
"Okay, I get off at two o'clock, think you can wait until then?"
"Arca." Courage grumbled, bumping against me for more pettings.
It was the day everything started going to hell.
It was bright and sunny by the time I finished work. I had converted the backlog of case files weeks ago and now there were only a handful to add each week. My time was mostly spent manning the desk, answering the phone or directing traffic. On Mondays through Wednesdays I wore a miniature version of Jenny's uniform (without an insignia) and manned the main road to the local primary school during rush hour, helping kids cross the busy intersection.
But today was Friday. Glorious Friday, with birds singing and sun shining and half a day to stretch my limbs and do whatever I wanted. The Arcanine was eager to leave the station, where he'd been running the assault course like a broken record since that morning. I hoped he'd be run down enough that I could keep up this time.
"No drug busts or saving people from burning buildings today, Courage?"
Courage huffed despondently, he was the type to prefer something like that to a normal, peaceful day. "Ar."
"Where do you want to go for our run? The park?" I waited for his response but he just shrugged, nonchalantly. "I guess the kids aren't out from school yet, no one to get belly rubs from."
Courage puffed out his cheeks and I laughed, he has a real softie for the local children. "The woods then? Or the fields?"
"The second one?" I checked to make sure, I was getting better at interpreting but I needed to make sure.
"Arr!" Courage yipped happily and I remembered Jenny had said that was his natural habitat. I wondered at the logic at that, because unless his species burrowed underground, there was no protection from the rain on an open field and Courage hated getting wet. I shook my head, clearing my thoughts.
"Okay, the fields then... race you there!" I took off at a sprint, knowing I had no chance of getting there first even if I cheated. Courage barked his objections and soon overtook me. With only two thirds of the ground covered I bent over my knees, panting as my lungs burned in my chest. Courage had run three times as far, constantly backtracking for my short human legs and I mock-glowered at him. "Quick- attack," I panted, "I thought I- was the cheater."
"Niiine." Courage huffed, tongue lolling and breathing warm air on my face. I pouted before hugging him around the neck and falling to the ground with him. A short wrestle ended with him on top, looking smugly down on me. "Arr!"
"Yeah, yeah." I rolled my eyes, trying not to smile. "Let me up and I'll rub your belly, 'kay?" I hadn't even finished talking before Courage rolled onto his back, paws waving triumphantly. "You are so spoiled." I rubbed his thick white belly fur down, working my fingers until Courage was a rumbling puddle of goo on the grass.
I laughed, tickling him under his chin and over his cheeks until he playfully snapped at my fingers.
"Still want to run? We have a ways to go yet." Courage rolled over with an air of put-upon responsibility, tongue still lolling. "Okay then." I stretched to my feet, popping strain in my shoulders and back from sitting at a desk all morning. "First one there... gets their belly rubbed?" Courage huffed a laugh. "Yeah, I know I'm never going to win, okay. No quick attack though, I'd like to pretend I have a chance."
"Arca-nine!" Courage barked, wriggling his rear end like a cat ready to ponce.
"Ready? Three, two, one... go!"
The sun was starting to sink by the time we (meaning me) exhausted ourselves and I lay panting on the grass, a sweaty mess as Courage rolled about like an overgrown puppy, waiting for me to recover.
"You're a one pokémon gym, Courage. You should have your own fitness video: 'get you fit like a drill sergeant, only furrier'.
"What, you don't like the slogan? I'm sorry-" The rumbled got deeper, and I actually started to feel the vibrations in the soil. "Courage?" I sat up to see the Arcanine snarling at something over one of the knolls in the distance. I could barely make out a figure wearing a baseball cap and hear an argument drifting up on the wind. "You want to check it out?" I was already on my feet and Courage darted forward, as if he had needed my permission to investigate. Cursing for the first time in weeks, I took off after him.
The source of the noise was a boy, about my own physical age, with pokéballs on his belt. My lip curled reflexively and I had to fight to keep it down at the sight of a trainer. Words, I reminded myself, use your words to tear this dickless cretin into bite sized pieces. Easier said than done.
"It's the easiest thing in the world!" The boy shouted at a large yellow pokémon, a Psyduck, my foggy memories of the cartoon series supplied- Misty had one. The was another pokémon there, standing nervously to the side, a fire pokémon who had flames sprouting from its crest and tail, but wasn't one of the Charmander triad.
"Mag. Mag-mar." It intoned sadly as its trainer continued to berate the Psyduck. I was about to step in, tell the kid to take a breather when he lashed out with his hand, striking the Psyduck in the face.
"Piece of crap!"
I heard the crack of palm meeting flesh and a desolate cry. "PSY!"
"HEY, ASSWIPE!" I shouted, shocking the attacker by grabbing his collar. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Get off me!" He struggled, trying to push me off, but I had taken self defence classes at university and the squad had refreshed some of my moves. I hyper-extended his right elbow, spun his around and slammed him into the grass. Then I sat on his back, my knees pinning his elbows. "GET OFF ME, YOU CRAZY BITCH!" He squirmed, trying to thrash me off but Courage growled threateningly in his face, causing him to freeze. The big softie, who like pettings and gave the local kids 'horsie' rides looked quite threatening right now. "Y-you have a Arcanine?" He stuttered.
I snorted derisively. "I don't 'have', I do not own Courage. He is a police officer, he has a rank and a badge and his authority supersedes mine. Or didn't you see the insignia, you moronic cretin?" I pointed at the badge attached to Courage's collar, the Viridian star shining proud. "And you," I spat, like the mere designation was a curse, "have committed a felony in front of an officer of the law and an intern who really doesn't take kindly to pokémon cruelty. I'm taking you down to the station."
"What- why!?" The boy struggled, thrashing his head side to side until his cap fell off, revealing blond curls and narrowed brown eyes. "I didn't do anything wrong!"
"Nothing wrong?" I intoned icily. "'Your' pokémon," I pointed to the side, "haven't even tried to help you. Wonder why?"
"Because they're weak and you're crazy!" He spat.
"No!" I thumped the ground by his head, wishing I could smash his face in instead. "It's because they don't care about you. Why? Because you treat them like shit! If you were a decent human being then they would fight tooth and nail for you, but they won't." Already the red pokémon -Magmar?- was helping the Psyduck to its feet, touching the bruised cheek gently in comfort.
"Arca!" Courage barked when I got off the boy, still clasping his hands firmly behind him. For a moment he managed to make a break for it, my sweaty hands didn't help, but Courage blocked his path.
"You can come with me quietly or Courage can drag you to the station by your ankles, it's your choice."
He huffed, crossing his arms so I couldn't grab them again, I hauled him by the scruff of his hoodie instead.
"You should come too, we'll get something sorted out for you." I offered the pokémon, "unless you'd rather go free here?" They stared at me like I'd told them the sky was green.
"What!?" The brat squawked. "No, they won't!"
"Shut it, you abusive dickwad." I snapped, "you're lucky they don't blast and fry you for what you did. What the hell were you screaming about anyway?" I was too far gone to try and relate to him but maybe I could still get some answers, for my own peace of mind if nothing else. I couldn't imagine why anyone would even consider being like that, not that there was a reason for it, but I wanted to understand- to pinpoint the blight on this boy's character that made him do it. Some event or psychological reason for him being like this. I hoped, beyond hope that this wasn't merely a product of upbringing, that he was a psychopath or something and not every young trainer was like this.
"I wasn't screaming," he huffed defensively, putting one foot in front of another under Courage's careful gaze. "I was training them, that's all."
"Funny way of doing it."
"It's not my fault! Psyduck's useless and Magmar wouldn't attack him when I told her to!"
"Oh, I see, so you just pit them against each other and, when they refused to fight for some reason or another, you lost your temper?"
"You-" I breathed deeply, then exhaled. "As Deputy Courage cannot vocalise this arrest in a manner you will understand he shall be overseeing. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law..."
Jenny clasped her hands tightly behind her back when she told her intern the news.
"He got off?" Aisling went pale before quickly matching her hair in hue. "What do you mean, he got off?!"
David took a step backward but Jenny held her ground, pinching the bridge of her nose as the other officers shuffled about, Bill taking the statement of one 'Gavin Harris'.
"He has a mark against his trainer record-"
"Oh great, a warning! That's like handing a wife-beater a baseball bat and telling him to 'keep the noise down'. He's going to keep doing it, the only difference is a battered partner would be able to run away! What's happening to his pokémon?"
"They're going to the pokécentre. Nurse Joy will patch them up and release them in the morning, if their injuries aren't too serious."
Aisling actually rocked back on her heels, as if physically struck. "I see."
"Aisling, my hands are tied. I'm sorry-"
"What if... what if we got statements from the pokémon?"
David shook his head in disbelief. "How could we do that? Even if the courts allowed it..."
Aisling continued to argue. "Pokémon are intelligent. We could give them a multiple choice questionnaire, or just ask them a series of yes of no questions. Isn't there protocol for this sort of thing- ask easily verifiable questions like 'is the sky blue' and 'is the grass green'? That way we could discern the ability to answer questions correctly and build a case on their answers-"
"There's no precedent, no court in the land would take the case." Jenny said sadly, David nodding to her side.
"There's a first time for everything! And- and what if there was a translator? There are some pokémon that are capable of human speech, I heard about a Meowth that is perfectly articulate-"
Jenny shook her head, taking Aisling by the shoulders as she crouched down to eye-level. "I'm sorry, but we've done all we can." The girl shuddered, fighting tears.
Just then, Gavin entered the entrance hall, Bill following closely behind to make sure he didn't wander off. "You!" He zeroed in on Aisling, despite the restraining hand on his shoulder, "you crazy girl, I'm going to sue you for everything you have! When my dad finds out about this-"
"What? He and everyone else will know that you're a fourth-rate trainer who isn't worth the air you breathe? How about that you're a bully and a coward? Oh believe me," she grinned, like an Arbok with a meal in sight, "I can't wait for all your sordid deeds to come to light."
"You're as stupid as a Magikarp, I oughta-"
"Let it go, son." Bill steered him firmly in the direction of the door.
As soon as he was gone, Aisling turned back to Jenny. A few tears had escaped but she either didn't notice or didn't care. "Jenny, all of his pokémon are at the centre now, right?"
"Yesss..." Jenny eyed the girl suspiciously. "And as much as we all hate this situation, I cannot allow you to do anything illegal. That includes unlawful re-appropriation of pokémon... even his."
Aisling nodded. "I know. I just- I want to go to the pokécentre."
"The pokécentre, really?" Jenny raised one dark brow as Aisling fixed her with the most innocent look she could muster.
"Yes. It is my day off after all, and I think Courage could do with a check-up, right?"
Courage, upon hearing that dreaded phrase, hid under the table and whimpered.
"Chansey! Chansey!" A large pink pokémon with an egg in its kangaroo-like pouch greeted us at the door.
"Arc. Arcanine!" Courage barked back and Chansey nodded in understanding, shepherding us to the reception. I figured Courage had already told him/her why we were here, but we ended up in front of the Viridian Nurse Joy anyway. Pokémon were far too cowed for my liking.
"Hello, we're here to see the pokémon assaulted by Gavin Harris." I refused to say 'owned by'.
The pink haired nurse (shouldn't she be a doctor, or was the designation a sign of this world's prevalent misogyny?) frowned as she looked up from her computer.
"I'm afraid the Psyduck and Magmar in question aren't receiving any guests. Are you friends of Mr. Harris?"
I scowled. "We arrested the little-" I bit down on the curse and took a deep breath before continuing. "I want to see how they are and talk to them about pressing charges. Can you tell me a little more about their physical and emotional condition?"
Nurse Joy blinked, surprised, then leaned over the desk and spoke in hushed tones. "Completely off the record, both pokémon have have been mistreated and have stunted growth caused by malnutrition. The Psyduck has brittle bones and multiple old fractures that haven't healed properly. The Magmar is in better shape, but is just as emotionally damaged."
"Does Harris have any other pokémon in his custody?"
"Thankfully no, he traded his started pokémon, a Squirtle, some months ago for the Magmar and caught the Psyduck with the hope of a quick evolution." Her crinkled brow told me exactly how little she approved of this attitude.
I nodded, worrying my lip. "What is the medical protocol for a situation like this? I already know that the courts would toss this case out if I brought it to them."
"Unless a pokémon's life is in danger through negligence, or the pokémon is wilfully abandoned I'm afraid my hands are tied. Medically I can keep them here for observation, I've already set the Psyduck's fractures and set them on a healthy diet to combat the neglect but... these are young pokémon, it's impossible to say whether their health has been negatively influenced in the long-term."
"So it's possible they will bounce back? That's why you can't legally give cause for say... revoking Harris' pokémon licence?"
Nurse Joy nodded. "There is a mark on his record now, but I would need three strikes to revoke it entirely. This only counts as one incident as he claims he was unaware of his pokémon's injuries and health problems." She sighed. "If he doesn't keep to their diet regime and monthly health check-ups I can add another strike."
"I understand." At least there was some sort of system in place, though it was less than optimal. "Could I talk to them anyway? One of my workmates at the police station mentioned that a pokémon can leave a trainer of their own free will, is that true?"
"It is, the Free Will Clause. If a pokémon has been in the trainers custody for the duration of three months or more and still wishes to abandon their owner, then they will be released into the wild or the custody of another trainer. This has caused problems in the past with pokémon being passed between two unsuitable trainers so the legislation still needs some work."
I nodded, my mind spinning with the possibilities and pitfalls. I wove my fingers into Courage's mane. "Could I see the Psyduck and Magmar now, please?"
Nurse Joy nodded. "Completely off the record. Chansey, could you go check on Ward Four? I'm going to turn around and when I look back I don't want to see anyone in reception."
Courage and I were led to room 404 and after the pink pokémon left I knocked on the door, peeking my head through the gap and smiling as best I could. "Hey, would you mind a couple of visitors?" For a moment they looked scared and I amended. "It's just Courage and me, Harris isn't getting in here." The red and yellow pokémon shared a look then nodded.
"Arca. Nine. Nine." Courage rumbled, walking past me and putting his paws up on the Psyduck's bed which the Magmar was perched on as well.
I sat on the empty bed facing them with neutral posture and tried once more to smile comfortingly though the effort seemed even weaker now. "My name's Aisling, I'm an intern at the local police station and this is Courage if he hasn't already told you." Courage barked, tongue lolling. "I'm so sorry I wasn't able to do more to help you before but you still have options. Would you like to discuss them?"
I received two nods and soft pokémon sounds.
"Well, first of all, are you aware of the pokémon Free Will Clause?"
They shook their heads.
"I just found out about it myself. It states that you can leave your trainer either for another or to freedom if you are unsatisfied with your conditions after three months or more. Have you been with Harris for that long?"
The Psyduck shook his/her head although the Magmar raised a hand and nodded. "You have, Magmar?" I hated calling them by their designations but I didn't know their names.
"Mag. Magma-rrr." The Magmar nodded vehemently.
"That's good. You can leave whenever you want then-"
"Mar! Mar-mag!" The fire pokémon hugged the drooping Psyduck and glared at me, the tail flame quivering angrily.
Courage growled and the two of them started a staring contest. "Stop that. Courage! Er, Magmar, you too. I don't want you to leave your friend but it does leave us with options. Give me a minute to think." I took a deep breath and exhaled it then examined the far wall as my fingers braided a strand of my hair. The two pokémon unfamiliar with this practice blinked at me but I saw Courage roll his eyes out the corner of my own and heard his explanatory growls.
"Right." I let my hair drop. "Harris is the sort that wants quick results and doesn't want to work for them. He's greedy and easy to anger, ruled by his emotions, yes?"
"Maaaag." They agreed.
"Okay, so we need to play to his vices. Buying pokémon is illegal, but if I offer him enough he isn't going to care. He's not a good trainer and judging by his treatment of you he isn't a good battler either, he won't be making much money from matches."
"Mag." Magmar nodded.
"Right. Well, I offer him a lump sum for you Psyduck, off the books, and when I've secured your freedom Magmar can walk away. Harris won't have any pokémon to start training again and after six weeks his licence will be revoked." I had read up on some of the basic pokémon legislation during my breaks.
"Duck! Psy!" Psyduck bounced in bed happily and I laughed at the enthusiasm.
"Until then, Harris won't be allowed in here and Nurse Joy won't make you leave any time soon, she wants to feed you up if nothing else." I licked my lips, wondering if I was breaking a taboo. "Can I ask, what gender are you? I'd ask your names but I'm afraid I don't speak pokémon..." They looked sad, then confused. I almost facepalmed, all this time around Courage and I still hadn't mastered simple questions. "Er... okay. If you're female raise your hand." The Magmar raised hers and the Pysduck kept his on the bed.
"That's good to know. Oh, I'm a girl by the way, in case it's hard to tell with humans." They all snorted at that, evidently it wasn't that hard. "Well, pokémon: one, humans: nil I guess." I stood up and went for the door, Courage trotting after me. "We'll be back soon, get some rest."
With Courage's nose it wasn't that hard to track the trainer down. I had dropped by Jenny's earlier, bringing my savings as well as a hastily typed contract and pen with me and confronted him in his little camp site not far from the field where I first saw him.
"What do you want?" He leapt to his feet, almost stumbling into the tiny fire he had made. I took some time to survey the camp as he stamped his foot in case they had caught fire; a thin green tent propped up lopsidedly and a battered backpack were the only items I could see. He had some survival skills but few resources. There was no evidence of anyone else's presence in the camp and I felt a pang of pity for him as I began to understand why he was angry and abusive. There was no excuse for the mistreatment of course and the pokécentre was free so again, no excuse for not getting them treated, but the malnourishment made more sense now. Harris looked like he could barely feed himself. "What are you doing here?" He snapped, now sure his feet weren't going to burn up.
"I..." I had had it all in mind before, scripted practically, but did the psychology fit now? No, it did, no matter how he had come to this point, the evidence was clear. He may not have had as smooth a transition as Ash but he was still selfish and aggressive, I had to play my cards this way and save the pokémon. Maybe he would be better off this way too. "I came to buy Psyduck from you."
He actually rocked back in surprise, looking between me and Courage who had his ears laid forward as if cowed and his eyes pointed downward in submission. "Huh?"
"I want to buy Psyduck from you, I know you think he's useless and you're taking your frustration out on him so I want to buy him. You-" I diverted from the script, "you must have had some bad luck lately, I understand why you're frustrated-"
"You don't understand anything!" Harris snarled, his fists curled. "My parents- my parents sent me away! My brothers aren't interested in me tagging along with them and my sister's too young for her journey! She- even Becky is going to have to leave home in a couple of years and for what?" He swept his arms out, gesturing at the camp. "I'm cold, I'm hungry and it isn't like the stories said it would be like!"
"I'm sorry." I hated this world. "Can't you go home? Not everyone is a pokémon trainer, can you imagine if they were? We'd have no food, no healthcare or transport- just tournaments."
"If I go home now, I've failed." Harris insisted, shaking his head vehemently.
"Have you told your parents about how you feel?"
"What's the point?" He kicked the dirt. "They won't listen."
"You'd be surprised." I brushed hair behind my ear as the wind picked up. "Parents usually love their children, even if they don't always show it."
"You're lucky." I pressed. "You have parents."
He looked at me in shock. "You're an-"
"There's always someone worse off than you." I tried not to lie outright, when I did I went pink and everyone -who knew me- knew I was fibbing. Half truths were best. "Have you ever had a dream that wasn't pokémon related? Something you could do back home or on this journey instead of what you do now?"
"I... I don't know. I like music but I had to leave my guitar behind."
"I don't know how to play an instrument but I have friends who can. They always told me that their instruments needed to be used everyday, because you can start to forget how to play things."
"Most of my callouses have disappeared." He nodded.
"Let me buy Psyduck from you. That'll give you enough money to get home. You can tell your parents how you feel."
"I... how much?"
"How much is a pacifist pokémon worth to you?"
"I... um..." He named a sum which would clear out my savings and I hid a wince.
"On one condition." I pressed. "You pack up and leave, straight away. Leave town and don't stop 'till nightfall."
"But my Magmar-"
"You really think she wants to go with you? You'd be torturing her, Gavin."
He blinked back tears of frustration and anger. "I just wanted to be the best, like no one ever was before."
It reminded me of a song and the phantom of those lyrics sent a shiver down my spine. I held out the contract and a pen. "Sign here and you can have the money. You can play your guitar all you want then." He faltered and I drew the wad of notes from my pocket, holding it up to him. "Do we have a deal?"
It was late when we returned to the pokécentre but one look at my face and Nurse Joy lead us to the ward. I knelt by the bed that the pokémon were sharing and smiled. "It's all legal. You're free pokémon. As soon as you're better you can go where ever you want."
They both cocked their heads and Courage barked. "Ar! Ar!"
They all stared at me with large, almost googly eyes.
"What?" I took a step back. "Look, I got him to sign the papers. I even got him to leave town. That counts you as an abandoned pokémon, even without the Free Will Clause... what's the problem?"
"May I see that document, miss?" Nurse Joy held out her hand and I passed it over. Obviously the document stated that the Psyduck was a free exchange or gift rather than bought- that would have been illegal if I'd stated any sort of payment. "According to this you do indeed own Psyduck."
"Yes. And I'm letting him go."
"That's wilful abandonment." Nurse Joy chided. "I think you will find."
"What? No, it's not." I shook her head. "We both agree to part ways, no abandonment about it. Right?"
"Psy. Pysduck." The psyduck stared at me with imploring eyes.
"I don't think Psyduck wants to leave you."
I rocked back on her heels, the world spinning even as Courage steadied me from behind. I slumped into his fur. "No, I'm not a trainer, I can't be..."
AN: Aaaaand, that's all she wrote! Almost four year ago now, I'm shocked at how little editing I had to do to it before posting.
I doubt I will ever continue this one, Pokémon was never one of my fandoms, this is just something I wrote to try and make a weird world make sense. I didn't even really get into the whole 'is all the meat really pokémon' and 'how does the economy actually function' issues. Hopefully I fleshed out some of the clones and highlighted some of the pitfalls of this world. Honestly, if this weren't a kid's show it would be such a blatant dystopia...
When I first wrote this I had plans for Aisling to start a pokémon reserve, or an abused pokémon rehabilitation centre, or become a nature journalist/photographer who studied and made people aware of the delicate ecosystems and social structures that trainers were destroying. IDEK, I never wrote any notes for this and I wasn't entirely sure where to go from here. Needless to say that Aisling wasn't going to become a trainer in the traditional sense, although she would end up with a fair few pokémon.
Thoughts? Queries? How would you have continued this?