Part One Perspective: Richter The plains stretch out for miles, with a cool breeze sweeping through the summer heat. The sun is shining brightly, and the sky is blue. This place would be tranquil, if it weren't for the hundreds of creatures occupying the area, playing, fighting, and simply talking in their own language, which mankind will probably never understand, though experience seems to tell that the creatures understand human speech perfectly. It hardly seems fair. These creatures come in various shapes, sizes, varieties, powers, and temperaments, but they all share a collective title: Pokemon, or Pocket Monsters for short, but everyone strives to say 'creature,' or something nicer, because 'monster' seems to be a bit too derogatory a term to refer to the ones that have been the friends, protectors, and companions of humans, since time immemorial. The Pokemon are herded in enclosed areas spread across the plains, and it is my job to take care of them and make sure they are fed. This area is a Pokemon Ranch. Humans are only allowed to keep six Pokemon with them at a time, and any excess creatures they have caught are sent to here, or other Ranches across the world. I recall the day's schedule in my head, trying to remember what I am supposed to do next. I already brought some food to Fire Ranch #3, so... now I'm supposed to feed Flying Ranch #5. I head to the storage house, and I fill four large buckets with a special kind of birdseed that bird Pokemon are totally into eating. This ranch business is not bad, but about 20 years ago, I had other life ambitions. All people are required to have a Pokemon with them, so they can be protected by wild Pokemon, which can be quite vicious. Those who wander between towns without a creature to protect them are usually found bled to death, drowned, frozen solid, decapitated, or charred beyond recognition, if not eaten alive, so indeed having a Pokemon handy could very well make the difference between life and death. However, there are those who collect Pokemon and battle them against other creatures belonging to people who do the same. These people are called Pokemon Trainers. With the Pokemon they collect, they have them battle one another, until one side can not continue. It may sound cruel and inhumane thing to do, but all Pokemon are born fighters, constantly longing for worthy opponents, and becoming stronger. Besides, trainers are not allowed to have their Pokemon kill their opponents, only have them fight up to the point where their opponent loses the will to fight. A fatality results in the harsh penalty of losing one's Trainer's License. Until eight years ago, I was a trainer, aiming to challenge my region's Pokemon League, the overseers of all Pokemon Trainers and the competitions between their Pokemon, and also the organization where the most elite of all Trainers are gathered. To challenge them, and win, is the absolute proof of a Trainer's mastery in the art of Pokemon battles, and the immeasurable power of their Pokemon. Of course, there are rules: in every major city in a region, there is a Pokemon Gym, a place where powerful Trainers representing the Pokemon League, called Gym Leaders, reside. Defeating them earns an aspiring champion a badge, and collecting eight allows the Trainer to enter the Pokemon League HQ, where he or she then challenges that region's Elite Four, a small group of Trainers that are second only to the Champion in supremacy, and, after triumphing over them, the Champion is the final obstacle to becoming the best, and making a solid living as a Trainer. Every summer vacation, Trainers aspiring for the top travel the land, sometimes even the world, capturing Pokemon, challenging other trainers, making their Pokemon powerful, and battling Gym Leaders. It's a tough and slow process, which takes several years of dedication, and it's as much a test of a Trainer's patience, as it is his or her skill. However, I was patient. I took my time, gradually strengthened my handpicked team of six Pokemon, and over the years, won seven badges. I was confident about winning my eighth, battling the Elite Four, and becoming the Champion of my region of Sinnoh, but at that point, I was in for a rude awakening to the true power of the Pokemon League. Let's just leave it at that for the time being. I pick up the four large buckets filled to the brim with birdseed, and struggle to lift them. It's suggested I take two at a time, but I've accomplished this task the harder, but faster, way before. As I slowly endeavor my way to Flying Ranch #5, my mind wanders back to the moment my dream of becoming Champion was shattered. … “Listen, kid. This is the ninth time in a row over the past three years you've lost to me. You're determined, and I can respect that, but you gotta know your limits. Hundreds of Trainers share your dream, but think about just how many members each region's Pokemon League has: Eight Gym Leaders, the Elite Four, and the Champion. That's just thirteen people, kid... out of hundreds of Trainers. Do you really think you have what it takes to count yourself among that? Besides, if you're having so much trouble defeating me, what chance do you think you'll have against the real pros? I understand how you feel, kid. The career of a Pokemon Trainer has a bright future, but where will you be in life if this is all you got? There comes a time when a Trainer must make an important decision: continue that path, or accept that he's done all he can, and move on.” … That memory plays in my mind repeatedly as I continue to toil with the four buckets, feeling like they're about to rip my arms off. I finally make it to Flying Ranch #5: A large dome with several trees inside. I enter, closing the door behind me, not that I'm really all that worried any Pokemon dedicated to their Trainers will try to escape. I leave the buckets in the middle of the area, in a large clearing, and then hightail it out of there before I get caught up in the incoming flock, consisting of countless Pidgey, Spearow, Starly, and even a couple Fearow and a Staraptor. When I'm out of the dome, one of my coworkers calls over to me, “Hey, Richter! A Trainer somewhere just deposited a Pokemon, and now, he's requesting a withdrawal. Can you find #S212 and send it to him? He's on line 3!” “Understood!” I call back! #S212... 'S' is 'Steel,' so it's a Steel-type, and the '2' would mean Steel Ranch #2. It took me a while to understand the use of serial numbers, but I can't think of a more effective method of organization in an industry with countless variables. I head to Steel Ranch #2, where several Steel-type Pokemon are roaming about, with a Steelix towering over everyone else. Next to the entrance, there is a computer, encased in weather-proof plastic. I enter the number, 12, and the picture of the Pokemon appears on monitor. I smile upon seeing what it is: a Scizor. That brings back fond memories. I see the Scizor among the Pokemon rounded up, and check a series of small shelves next to the computer. Each one has a small ball on it. Most of them are red and white, but there are others that are colored differently. These are Pokeballs. They are capsules that Trainers use to capture Pokemon and keep them inside until they are needed, and each one is only programmed for the Pokemon it captured. I check the shelf with '12' labeled on it, and it has a yellow and white ball, namely an Ultra Ball: a high-grade form of the Pokeball. It makes sense to use one to capture such a powerful Pokemon. I grab the Ultra Ball, and call out to the Scizor, “Scizor!” It doesn't respond, “Scizor!” Still no acknowledgment. I remember a likely reason for the Pokemon's failure to respond to my calls. I check the monitor again. Under the picture, the name, 'Mr. Razorclaws' is shown. What a ridiculous nickname. This is the reason I never bothered with calling my Pokemon as anything other than what they are. I call out again, “'Mr. Razorclaws!'” “Scizor?” The Scizor instantly stands at attention. “Your Trainer needs you!” I tell it, “Let's go!” The Scizor nods in understanding. I throw the Ultra Ball at it. Upon hitting Scizor, the ball opens and there's a flash of light. When the light clears, the ball is closed, and an invisible force throws the now-occupied capsule back into my hand. Don't ask me what it's supposed to be like inside one of those. Pokemon aren't human. I enter the Ranch's main building, and head to the terminal marked '3,' where there is an indentation big enough for a Pokeball, and a speaker next to it. I place the Ultra Ball in the spot, and it vanishes. I hear a voice from the speaker, no doubt a Trainer at a computer in a Pokemon Center somewhere, “Thank you so much! Alright, Mr. Razorclaws! Let's go find someone to battle! … And hope that whatever laughter that nickname might cause is distracting enough for your rivaling Trainer, I think to myself. --- The sun starts to set, and my shift for the day ends. I get paid my 2,000 for the day, and I head out. The place I currently live in is a village located between Sinnoh cities, Hearthome and Veilstone, called Solacean Town. A fairly laid-back place, where Trainers pass through on their travels. My hometown is actually Oreburge City, but ever since my employment at the Solacean Pokemon Ranch, I've been living in a small house (more like a shack, really) near the woods in these parts. I visit home annually, but for the most part, I keep to myself. On my way home, I have to pass through the town square. On my way through, I am approached by a lanky teenage boy, probably around sixteen, with a mohawk and ratty clothes, definitely trying to look tougher than he really does, “Hey! Old guy!” “Yes?” I say, trying to hide my annoyance at being called 'old guy.' I'm 29 years old and I've never been married. I don't think I exactly qualify as 'old,' though I do understand that some younger people tend to classify anyone above the age of nineteen as being old. I suppose my ash-blonde hair might also be mistaken as being white. “I noticed ya have three Pokemon with you...” His eyes are trained on my right hip, where three Pokeballs are dangling from my belt. Little does he know, however, that one of those Pokeballs is empty. Knowing this, I look at his hips: Six Pokeballs, three dangling on each side. He must be a career Trainer, like I was once (for the record, Trainers that actively capture and battle Pokemon, and collect Gym badges are referred to as 'career Trainers,' and people who have just one or two Pokemon on them for protection are called 'casual Trainers') “... so I was thinkin' ya wouldn't mind a little match.” There's a reason he chose me out of everyone else present: it's because I have three Pokeballs with me, instead of just one, like most 'casuals.' People need Pokemon for protection, and if a rival Trainer knocks a person's single Pokemon out, the losing Trainer no longer has a Pokemon capable of protecting him or her, thus the winning Trainer is responsible to escorting that person to a Pokemon Center, where the incapacitated Pokemon can be healed. It's considered a nuisance by most people, so they usually challenge people with more than one Pokemon with them, so they'll have a spare to protect them. I think about the teenager's (and I'm going to nickname him 'Mohawk,' unless I know his true name) challenge for a second. I hardly ever have battles anymore; not since eight years ago, and I can't really be considered a career Trainer in the traditional sense of the term. The Pokemon I had in the past, I handed down to Trainers who needed them more, and as for the ones I had in a Ranch, I ordered them to be returned to the wild. No point in keeping them if they are only going to stay in a ranch forever. The three corresponding Pokeballs have the only Pokemon I have left, and they've been out of practice for a long time. Trainers can always decline a challenge, but in the case of careers, turning one down doesn't reflect well on their track record, so a battle request is usually mandatory as far as they're concerned. I'm a casual now, so no one would blame me for refusing... however, a part of me is constantly urging me to accept. Even though I quit my days of actively seeking battles, it's something my Pokemon enjoy very much. Since I still keep them with me, I feel I owe them a taste of the good old days. “Sure,” I respond, “but I had a hard day of work, and I am tired, so can we make this match a one-on-one?” “Deal!” says Mohawk, “Since yer a casual, I'll give ya a handicap! I'll send out mine first, and you can decide what you wanna use.” This annoys me a little. It's normal for a career to give a casual such a handicap (normally, Trainers send out their Pokemon at the same time, so how the matchup looks isn't clear until the battle actually starts), but I feel like I'm being underestimated. Still, I'm sure he'll find me strong for a casual. As Mohawk is thinking about which one is best to be sent out, passersby, who have no doubt overheard us, come to watch the battle that's about to unfold. My fingers probe the three Pokeballs at my hip. One is a regular red-and-white Pokeball with, in permanent marker, an 'E' that was scratched out, and replaced with a 'J.' The Pokemon it that I keep in this capsule used to have 'E' as an initial, but when it evolved into a new Pokemon, its name in that new form began with 'J,' hence the scratching out. This one is empty, as I keep the Pokemon this ball is meant for at home. My second Pokeball, also the standard red-and-white, has a scratched-out 'R,' a scratched-out 'K,' and a solid 'G.' My last Pokeball, a blue-and-white Great Ball, has just a solid 'S' on it. The Pokemon it contains did evolve from when I first got it, but its initial remained the same. Mohawk makes his decision, “Awright! Let's do this!” He pulls an Ultra Ball from his belt, “Go, Machamp!” He tosses it into the space between us. The ball opens, releasing a bright flash, and when the light clears, there is a large gray muscle-bound creature with four arms. The crowd lets out an impressed exclamation. Machamp, the Superpower Pokemon, and Fighting-type I fought a few times back in the day... It's a very strong creature, but fortunately, I do have one Pokemon that has a good chance against it! I pull the Pokeball with 'R,' 'K,' and 'G' on it from my belt and toss it, “Okay! Let us begin, Gallade!” A white humanoid Pokemon, standing at just a foot shorter than me, with long curved green blades extending from his elbows, appears. Gallade, the Blade Pokemon, a Fighting-type, like Machamp, but also a Psychic-type with a distinct advantage over 'Fighters' (a nickname people often give to Fighting-types), “This is our first battle in a while! Do your best!” Not only the onlooking crowd seems impressed to see a Gallade, but also Mohawk. Gallade is a very rare Pokemon, almost never seen in the wild, and is typically used in Pokemon League-level matches. "This is our first battle in a while," I say to my Pokemon, "Are you ready?" Gallade glances back at me and nods reassuringly, “Gallade.” With that, he assumes a fighting stance. “Nice,” says Mohawk, “You know some stuff!” You have no idea, I silently respond. “Get 'im, Machamp!” Machamp charges at Gallade. It's slow, but, considering its power precedes it, it's still easy to be intimidated... but not me and Gallade. We'd done this before... When Machamp gets going, it can be very hard to beat, so I decide to end it before it begins, “Gallade! Take it out with Psycho Cut!” “Gallade.” Gallade's blades start glowing with bright pink energy. He swings one of his blades, and releases a crescent-shaped blade of psychic energy, which flies at at Machamp. The Superpower Pokemon, however, sidesteps it in an unrefined, buts still successful maneuver. However, the momentum from that movement throws Machamp off balance. The opportunity is ours! Gallade swings his other arm, releasing another energy blade. In a desperate attempt to defend itself, however, Machamp raises two of its arms in the blade's path. It sinks halfway into the Superpower Pokemon's arm, and then vanishes. Blood trickles from its wound, but Machamp seems minimally fazed by it. “Shoot...” I mutter. This Machamp is something else if it can defend itself so effectively against Psycho Cut. The four-armed behemoth resumes its offensive. Gallade knows not to be discouraged, however. He dashes toward Machamp. “Close Combat!” I command. Gallade dashes in close to Machamp and delivers a flurry of swipes. Machamp blocks and dodges a fair amount of the attacks, but enough manage to connect. Machamp staggers back, but regains its stance faster than I was expecting. Still, the best tactic at this stage is to press my offensive, “Again, Gallade! Close Combat!” Gallade charges in to launch another series of powerful attacks. “He has to be weakened after using that attack once,” observes Mohawk with an astuteness I was not expecting from someone like him, “Counter with your own Close Combat attack!” Slashes and punches are exchanged between the two Pokemon. Even though Machamp has four arms to attack with, Gallade is fast and manages to defend himself reasonably well, but Mohawk was right: since Gallade already used Close Combat, he has wore himself down somewhat. Finally, Machamp delivers a low punch, which catches Gallade in the gut, causing an effective stun. Mohawk decides to take full advantage of that pause in the action, “Machamp! Focus Punch!” One of Machamp's fists glows bright red, and then it delivers a very powerful punch, which sends Gallade sailing through the air and landing on his back, spread-eagle. “Gallade!” I yell. “Ga...lade...” Gallade sits up, but blood is streaming from his lip, and those attacks no doubt inflicted a fracture somewhere in his body. I can even see some internal bleeding on Gallade's white torso. Most new Trainers would believe this is when their Pokemon is no longer able to battle, but they underestimate just what they can endure. Pokemon are only out when they are unconscious or weakened to the point where they lose the will to fight. “Finish him!” yells Mohawk, “Earthquake!” Machamp responds to Mohawk's command by leaping into the air, well above everyone's heads, and is poised to land on top of Gallade. I know this attack, Machamp will slam down on Gallade with a stomp powerful enough to cause an earthly tremor. However, it's an attack I've seen many times, and I know its weakness. “Quick, Gallade!” I yell, keeping in mind Machamp won't be able to defend itself as well in midair, “Psycho Cut!” Gallade sends a blade of psychic energy up at Machamp just as its on its way down. Machamp was completely undefended, and is knocked back and lands on its back. Smoke rises from the cut Gallade's attack inflicted, as sign of the type-advantage of the Blade Pokemon's attack over the Superpower Pokemon (or 'super effective,' as people put it.) Machamp and Gallade slowly rise to their feet, both of them obviously on their last legs. For both Mohawk and myself, victory or defeat will be determined by the next attack. “Machamp! Dynamic Punch!” “Gallade! Aerial Ace!” Both Pokemon charge straight at each other. One of Machamp's fists starts to glow with intense white energy, and it rears back, intending to throw all its weight into the attack. At the same time, Gallade jumps up from the ground, and rockets head-first in Machamp's direction. The crowd excitedly watches in anticipation on how the next few seconds will turn out. Machamp throws a high-powered punch, with every ounce of its immeasurable power behind it, but at the same time, Gallade twists in midair, avoiding it. The Blade Pokemon passes Machamp, and he delivers an aerial slash from the Superpower Pokemon's shoulder to its mid-back. Gallade lands and whirls around to face Machamp's back. Machamp stands stunned. I thought for sure that attack would end the battle, but this Machamp seems fairly exceptional. I'm prepared to give Gallade another Psycho Cut command if his opponent insists on continuing... … However, that doesn't happen. After a long pause, Machamp slumps to its knees, defeated. This battle's as over as it's going to be. With a slight grin, Mohawk says, “Nice try, Machamp. You deserve a rest.” He tosses his Pokeball, and Machamp vanishes. “Well fought, Gallade.” I send Gallade back to its Pokeball. I notice that I'm smiling and I have a good feeling that I hadn't felt in a long time. After a loud cheer for such a close and exciting battle, the crowd gradually disperses. “That was some battle,” says Mohawk, mystified, “I thought I was gonna make some easy cash by defeatin' a casual, but no casual could defeat my Machamp, or own a Gallade...” With a shrug, I say, “What can I say? 'Old guys' have stories to tell.” “Totally!” says Mohawk, “Hey, man! Instead of giving ya money, how 'bout we get some dinner at the Pokemon Center while our guys recover? It's on me!” A free dinner? Well, it's a welcome change from the canned food I usually eat, “Yes, certainly.” “Awright!” says Mohawk, “Let's go!” “Hold on,” I say, “This 'old guy,' may be behind the times, so is it safe to assume that people don't introduce themselves when they are about to eat together?” Mohawk responds, with a grin, “That was a good one, man! Yer funny!” “I try.” “Anyway, my name's Billy. Should I keep callin' ya old guy?” “Richter will suffice.” “Well, awright! Let's go, Richter!” --- Billy and I head to one of Solacean Town's Pokemon Centers. Pokemon Centers are places where Trainers bring their Pokemon to be recovered from injuries they sustained in battle. While they are technically hospitals, they don't come off as such in a traditional sense, as they are also places where people go to eat, meet up, and generally have a good time. Billy and I hand in our Pokemon to be healed, and then we go to a small restaurant on one of the Center's upper floors. Billy orders a triple-deck hamburger, while I order my favorite: Caesar salad. We sit at a table and begin our meal. “So, Richter...” begins Billy, after taking a big bite out of his burger, “Ya said that 'old guys' have stories,' right?” “I'm fairly certain.” I say with good-natured sarcasm. “So... um... What's yer story? You can't just casually train Pokemon and become as strong as you are. You musta been a great Trainer.” I smile, “If you were to talk to me when I was your age, I would readily admit to such a boast, however, it turned out I wasn't as 'great' as I thought...” “What happened?” “Well... I won seven Gym badges...” “Ya did? Awesome!” “As I said, Billy, seven. I was confident of victory over the eighth Gym, but that was my first taste to how powerful the Pokemon League truly was, and I simply couldn't measure up, even over the course of three years. Eventually, I just felt defeated and quit. I just lost my will to continue being a serious Trainer...” “Wow, man! That's rough! So you were aimin' to be Champ, huh? Hardcore!” “I was. Back then, you could say I was a perfectionist. I just couldn't settle for becoming a Gym Leader or a member of a region's Elite Four. It was either all or nothing...” “Ya ever think of gettin' back in the game?” “I haven't thought much about it. Though, being a casual Trainer is nice, as you had shown me. Back then, I was so focused on becoming Champion, that I forgot how fun battling can be. If I do get serious again, I won't be fighting for badges. So, Billy, that's my tale. Do you have any exciting adventures of your own you'd like to share?” “Well, I was thinkin' of bein' Champ at first, but I set my sights lower when I knew how hard that would be, so I decided ta go for bein' a Gym Leader.” “Interesting,” I say, “You just might have the right idea, as opposed to my days as a Trainer. Which type are you going to specialize in? Fighting-types, perhaps, judging by your Machamp?” It wouldn't surprise me, seeing how much he knew about Close Combat's drawbacks during our battle. “That's right! I love Fighters, so I decided I'm gonna train them! Actually...” Billy tenses up, as if he's unsure about how he's going to proceed, “I... kinda want a Gallade, but... I could never find a Dawn Stone. I have a male Kirlia 'n stuff, but Dawn Stones are too hard to come by, so... um...” I take a guess at his intentions, “You want mine, is that correct?” “Y-yeah. I'll trade for it! How 'bout my Machamp for it? Is that fair?” Somehow, I have a feeling that's the real reason why Billy invited me to dinner, “Sorry...” “Not good enough? Um... my Infernape, then!” I shake my head, “Sorry, Billy. Gallade is important to me. He's not up for trade.” Billy looks disappointed, “Aw man! I hear ya, though... I wouldn't trade my Lucario for anything...” I give Billy the most reassuring smile I can muster, “Just stick with it. I'm sure you'll find a Dawn Stone eventually, and have a Gallade of your own.” “Yeah...” Billy and I continue eating. We talk about other things, like our starter Pokemon, our first captures, etc. We even exchange cell phone numbers so we can have a rematch someday. Finally, we finish our dinners and head back down to the front desk. We are told that Gallade and Machamp are fully recovered, but we release them from their Pokeballs, just to make absolutely sure. Sure enough, Gallade's internal bleeding is completely gone, as are the scars that were inflicted on Machamp. Pokemon Centers are amazing. No matter how bad the fractures, concussions, poisoning, paralysis, or hemorrhaging, Pokemon get so thoroughly healed, it's like those injuries weren't inflicted in the first place. I wish human medicine were as advanced. Billy leaves the Center saying, “Well, it's been fun, Richter! I'll give ya a call sometime! Next time we battle, I'm totally winning!” “Perhaps,” I say, “Take care, Billy.” An exciting battle, a free dinner, and a new friend... What a productive day it's been. At this point, the sun is very low in the sky. I'd best make it home before it gets dark... --- My house is a small, unpainted wooden structure on the edge of the forest surrounding Solacean Town. I recently put bars over the windows as a way to thwart intruders in my absence, ever since a thief stole, and almost got away with, one of my most precious treasures, next to my own life and my Pokemon, of course. As an added measure, I keep one of my Pokemon at home to attack intruders. I pull my key out of my pocket and put it in the lock, but something is strange. The key is not turning the way it should. I pull it out of the hole, and turn the doorknob. The door easily opens. It was unlocked? Did I forget to lock it. No, after the incident that occurred a month past, I've always double... even triple-checked. I open the door, and see a small brown creature at my feet, with large dark eyes, looking like a long-eared fox. “...vee?” “Ah!” I jump back, startled. It's not like this adorable little creature, Eevee by name, actually scares me, I just wasn't expecting to see it. I actually did own a Pokemon like this before... at least before I evolved it with a Thunderstone. I was expecting another Pokemon to answer the door, the one I left to counter intruders, actually: a not-so-cuddly spiny yellow dog-like creature that's one of seven known evolved forms of what I see. I stare at the Eevee for several seconds... I notice a subtle lightness in the color of its fur, indicating its gender: female. I definitely never owned this Eevee, not that I'd forget something so important. The only explanation is that she belongs to someone in the house. Another thief, trying to steal my most valued possession? “Who's there?” I yell, “Show yourself!” From deeper inside the house, I hear the voice of a young girl, probably in her early teens, yell, “Uncle Richter!” A fair-haired young girl, wearing a headband, t-shirt, and shorts, usual summer clothes, comes into sight. Next to her is the Pokemon I left to defend the house, Jolteon, cuddling up next to the girl. By deduction, I would presume she's the owner of the Eevee. It takes me a few seconds to recognize the girl, though I had a good idea as soon as she called me 'Uncle Richter.' I had seen last seen her last year, but kids sure grow fast, hense the reason I had trouble recognizing her right away, “... Natalie?” What on earth is my niece doing here? I hope the first-person perspective was alright, and that my present-tense didn't bother you (it's just how I roll, plus some of my favorite books use present-tense.) If there's something that worries me, I'm wondering if Richter might come across as a little too ideal, as he's an accomplished Trainer right off the bat, who I intend to come off as being intelligent and calm. Not all the main characters will be like this, but I hope his character turned out okay. At any rate, if you have any suggestions to help me improve, please tell me.