Note: This takes place in a semi-alternate Pokemon world. I've taken some creative liberties for my own enjoyment, such as with Feraligatr, which happens to be a fun fact about real alligators if you're curious.
Critique is always welcome.
Chapter 1: Self-titled
The roar of the crowd filled the stadium as the final match of Viridian City's Summer Opening Tournament raged on. The two trainers at either end of the flooded battlefield formed a familiar archetype with a deeply entwined future no red-faced spectator could predict; a promising underdog from Lavendar town by the name of Michael Briggs, and a popular favorite to win out of Saffron referred to as Adrian Ace by his adoring fans.
Below them the water churned white as the three remaining Pokemon duked it out: Michael's Cubone Fallow stranded on a slowly fading patch of dry earth, and his Wartortle Lotus frantically dodging the blows of Adrian's Feraligatr. Adrian's Golbat had been K.O.'d several minutes ago. A bout of "amateur's luck" as its trainer had scathingly called it.
"Why don't you just give up and save yourself an embarrassing K.O.? Wartortle's obviously tiring, and you're running on borrowed time now." Adrian smirked from across the field, his expression complacent beneath his dark bangs. Feraligatr chortled below.
Michael's knuckles were clenched so tightly on the rail in front of him that they were turning white. He wracked his brain for a plan as he scanned the field. Fallow was hopping up and down on his tiny patch of land, clearly frustrated and shouting what were presumably crude insults across the water, knowing him. Lotus was dodging to and fro between Feraligatr's outstretched claws and its snapping jaws, the faster of the two swimmers if nothing else.
Can I even get a good shot at Feraligatr like this?
He thought frantically. What if I'm just giving him an opportunity to strike by turning around and attacking? I need something else... I've made it too far now to lose... I have to stop him somehow.
"Fallow!" The tiny Pokemon paused his fuming to look up. "Jump on Lotus' back the next time she comes by you!"
Confused but compliant, Fallow hopped nimbly onto her shell as she sped by with Feraligatr in hot pursuit.
"Lotus, use Whirlpool! Ride the currents and try to trap Feraligatr in the middle! And Fallow, just hang on tight!" Down below, Fallow saw his partner's fanged smirk as she presumably picked up on his trainer's strategy. Lotus was beautiful yet fierce, but a little too trusting of Michael's often questionable battle plans. Fallow was lost.
Trap Feraligatr...? That brute's one big mass of muscle and tenacity, he's not going to be caught in Lotus' whirlpool for long. What could he possibly be thinking this time?
Nonetheless, he ducked low to the shell and grasped the edge with his one free hand as the water around them churned, frothed, and slowly began to rotate. At least hitching a ride might prove useful.
The Wartortle chuckled with glee as she swam straight into the currents and Fallow was nearly jerked off his feet by the sudden force of the pull that swept them away. Feraligatr roared with frustration behind them, and Adrian could be heard shouting for him to dive in and overtake them.
Fallow wondered as he glanced behind them at the--not surprisingly--gaining Feraligatr, That we're to try and lure him into the center so one of us can get a clear shot? Mike's right that Feraligatr are much faster in the water, but....
Michael was quiet up above, and seemed to be waiting for just the right moment.
Glancing inward at the ever-growing whirlpool, Fallow thought he could see the still center. It was an area of perhaps a few feet at the very bottom of the funnel where the water was still, the eye of the storm so to speak. If he guessed correctly (and he reminded himself that he often did), the whirlpool wasn't nearly strong enough to trap a swimmer like Feraligatr in there.
He sighed. Well now, that's just plain dumb.
He glanced behind him again. Feraligatr was powering through the current straight towards them faster than before, jaws opening wide in anticipation. They had only moments before they closed with immense force, but...
But their jaws are only particularly powerful when they're closing.
Fallow smirked. Guess I'll just have to take matters into my own hands.
He rapped on the side of Lotus' shell with his club for attention, and pointed back at Feraligatr. She shook her head furiously, but relented after a sharp tap on the back of the head.
"Ow! You don't have to be a jerk about it... Mike's gonna be pissed, though."
"Just do it. I know what I'm doing. The moment his jaws shut, seal them with ice beam."
As she spun in the water to motor back towards Feraligatr, Fallow lifted his club. The pair drew closer... closer... and everything seemed to slow. Feraligatr opened his jaws as they approached, long white fangs gleaming cruelly in the sunlight that sparkled in the sunlight, and Fallow was aware of the roar of the stadium, the crashing of the waves in his ears, a low snarl sounding in the back of his foe's throat, and then the jaws came crashing down--
--with the Cubone's club wedged firmly between them. Feraligar's eyes gleamed, and with a loud snap his jaws closed and crunched it in half.
Fallow shouted, ducking down as he readied himself for a Skull Bash.
There was a flash of blue light as Lotus' ice beam arced through the air to strike Feraligatr's muzzle. The beast's eyes widened and his claws scrabbled at the ice quickly spreading over his face, sealing his jaws shut and numbing his flesh. With a muffled roar, he began to flail about in the water. His trainer could be heard shouting from his booth, but in his fury he ignored him.
Knowing he had but seconds before Feraligatr got ahold of himself, Fallow leapt off his friend's shell and delivered a point-blank skull-bash to the center of his opponent's chest as as writhed and coiled in the water. He landed nimbly back down as she sped to catch him.
Feraligatr made a strange gurgling noise as his eyes clenched shut. His great clawed hands briefly touched the spot where he'd been struck, and then he sunk beneath the waves.
For a moment, there was only silence. Then, like thunder, the stadium erupted. Shouting could be heard from the contestants on both sides of the stadium. Michael was doing some sort of bizarre victory dance in his trainer's booth, hat off and shamelessly showboating as usual.
The announcer's voice rang over the cheers and hollers as the scoreboard lit up with flashing lights, but Fallow just looked up at his trainer and friend of six years and shook his head. "As usual, I'm saving your ass."'
Unknown to all, a figure hunched in the dark skulked away, having seen all he needed to see.
The sun was setting on the horizon as Michael walked down from the tournament stadium towards the Pokemon center. The last rays fell across Viridian City's architecture, splashing warm, fiery hues across the verdant city and the bubbling marble fountain in the city square. The towering buildings gleamed brilliantly in the light, and he had to shield his eyes or risk stumbling.
A family sped past him on their bikes, nearly running over the toes of his Arcanine, and the kids around the fountain gabbed about the latest new piece of tech.
It was one of the most modern cities in Kanto, in a time when uncultured land and wild Pokemon were scarce. To the north, the famed Viridian Forest had shrunk considerably in the last few decades as civilization rapidly expanded and technological advancements boomed. Michael had only turned 18 that summer despite the faint blonde stubble on his chin, but even he vaguely remembered a childhood where the world was wilder. His hometown of Lavender was still a small, superstitious place where the townsfolk were tight-knit and focused on tradition, belligerent youth excluded.
It had been a stroke of luck to find his first Pokemon, Cubone, outside the looming Pokemon Tower, where the mist hung heavy and clung wetly to your clothes and skin. A few friends had convinced him to go in there on a dare when he was barely twelve years old, and so he had, armed with only a flashlight. The tombstones towered above him like ghouls and the floor creaked ominously in places, but when he left with more than just the respect of his peers, it had all been worth it. Thankfully, they were all too interested in the strange little creature he'd brought back out with him to notice the wet spot on the front of his jeans.
And until the day he had applied for his trainer's license and gone on this pipe dream of his to make it big in tournaments, they'd grown up together like family. Michael, his father, his sister, and Fallow.
Now, Fallow looked to be asleep, resting with his chin on his stomach atop the shoulders of another of Michael's Pokemon companions, an Arcanine dubbed Marley.The large but fleet-footed striped canine was in a mellow mood, his majestic white mane at rest and his tongue hanging out between his fangs in a silly grin that Michael had come to characterize as just part of his personality.
"Mike, I smell... dumplings?"
He licked his lips, practically drooling.
"We'll eat when we get there, and..." Michael gave his shoulder--nearly level with his own--a pat, "Keep it cool. I'd be labeled a freak if anyone knew I heard more than just 'bark bark.'"
Marley rolled his eyes at him. Nonetheless, Michael couldn't help but feel a little smug with his coveted status as an official Pokemon trainer, and of his companions, as he noticed the people around him.
Small, manageable Pokemon like the mischievous Meowth or the docile Pidgey mingled with humans. Civilians were restricted from keeping most Pokemon in this day and age, and even buying Pokeballs for catching Pokemon required a valid and up-to-date trainer's ID. Something that wasn't exactly easy to get, though he'd had little trouble passing his own exams.
What was available to them were Pokemon from breeders, pets. A specifically domestic strain for the people not considered capable of handling the destructive powers some Pokemon possessed, in addition to the garden-variety rules and regulations that were often zealously enforced upon all citizens of Kanto. It kept the towns and cities calmer. Less fighting broke out and less damage resulted when it did, the authorities said. Deep down, Michael doubted a lot of the laws he'd seen passed concerning Pokemon in his own lifetime, but then again he also doubted he’d like to see a Pokemon like the aggressive Scyther or poisonous Nidorino in the hands of a child, or some batty old lady treating it like a baby.
He had a brief mental image of a little old woman trying to tie a bonnet on a rather livid Scyther, and snickered.
He passed a young woman with a Vaporeon by her side, affixing a bright magenta bow to its neck. Although restrictions were still tough, coordinators were more commonplace than trainers and contests drew vast crowds of fans--as many as battles, in some places. Sometimes more. Various TV stations would broadcast the contests live with much fanfare, and there were plenty of shows and magazines dedicated to this popular pastime. It certainly looked like the cushy choice if you wanted to work with Pokemon and try to bypass all the bull.
All the same, Michael thought that if he couldn't finish college and get his degree, being a Pokemon trainer wasn't such a bad way to live either. There was adventure out on the open road where the rules were rarely enforced with much efficiency, good companionship, and his winnings were helping keep things together back home. Plus, he was allowed to capture and keep wild Pokemon, which had allowed him to add Marley and Lotus to his team.
Michael felt eyes on him, and looked up to meet the gaze of an officer in blue. His companion was an enormous Arcanine, panting softly in the late afternoon heat.
Still other Pokemon belonged to public service workers. The Pokemon centers had Chanseys, he'd seen one fire department with several Squirtle, and the officers of the law… Well, they had some of the biggest, toughest beasts he’d ever seen, bred for this kind of work. The Arcanine watching them lazily with one golden eye could probably chew up Marley in a heartbeat. Michael made a point of hurrying past with his eyes fixed firmly on the road ahead.
The streetlights had come on and the sights and sounds of Viridian's nightlife--whoops and laughter, traffic, music thumping--had started by the time they reached the front doors of the Pokemon center.
"Nah... Pass... Maybe if I was desperate... Are you kidding me?"
Michael was scanning the bulletin board by the doorway in the Pokemon center. He'd handed off his Pokemon (except Marley, dozing by his bags) to the attendant, who'd whisked them away with a cheery smile and an assurance that they'd be fine. Stapled and pinned all over this bulletin board were notices of temp work and assistance needed throughout Viridian City, something the citizens of every town and city would leave for passing Pokemon trainers in need of a bit of extra cash. Someone might want an escort, or some wild Pokemon cleared out of their garden.
He plucked a couple numbers listed for later and went back to the couch against the wall to add up his earnings. Personally, he sort of hated taking these jobs, but most of his tournaments hadn't gone as well as he'd hoped and he desperately needed the pay. This was his first win after placing poorly in the last two and second in his first, and while it had a nice payout, the bills back home were still piling up with his father too ill to work. He almost wondered if he shouldn't have just settled for commuting to regular work in Saffron.
He'd often been told he was a natural with Pokemon, keeping wild Rattata away from old man Elliott's garden and vagrants--both human and Pokemon alike--from the Tower back in Lavender. It had seemed the obvious choice to try his hand at being a Pokemon trainer and competing in tournaments, what with the wild payouts known to make the best on the scene both rich and renowned. He'd had to drop out, either way.
He frowned as he peered at his calculations, then sighed. Glancing up at the night sky out of the slightly ajar window, he watched as a couple of Noctowl circled just below the churning clouds, hooting softly. He was managing to scrap a living off of one-on-one matches against other trainers between tournaments, but he still didn't have quite enough for this month.
Setting his papers aside, he walked over to the courtesy phone in the Pokemon center. They all had one, a rather fancy piece of technology capable of, among other things, video chat. He dialed home, and felt his stomach dropping as it rang a third, a fourth, a fifth time...
"Hello?" A young girl answered.
"Maria!" He forced a smile for his sister.
"Mikey!" She cried, dropping her twittering videogame and turning her full attention on him. "Did you win? Tell me you won!"
"I did, Maria. Fallow's turning out to be the one with all the bright ideas, though." He felt his stomach ease a little. "But..."
"But it's not as much as I thought it would be. We might be in trouble."
"Hm..." Her dark eyes were filled with worry.
"O-only for a little while!" Michael fumbled. "Just until I can figure something out. Get old man Elliott to help you out if those guys come knocking again, okay?"
Maria's next words were drowned out by a snarl from Marley.
Michael craned his neck to see what was bothering him. As far as he could see, the Pokemon Center was empty. The attendant was gone from sight, presumably tending to Pokemon in back. One window was slightly ajar, the curtains flapping in the breeze of a gathering storm.
"Marley, what's bugging ya?"
"Something's coming. Turn that thing off!"
"Something? A Pokemon? What?" Michael took a step away from the phone.
It was then that the lights flickered, dimmed, and went out. The entire Pokemon Center was plunged into darkness without power.
The silence hung heavy, with only the sound of his companion's low growls and the pattering of rain beginning to fall against the glass windows. Michael tried to stumble over to his Arcanine, one hand instinctively going down to the pocket knife he always kept just in case. He felt his free hand bury itself in Marley's bristling mane, and he steadied himself.
"Stay by me..."
For a moment, nothing happened, though he fancied he saw something dart past the window once. Then, painstakingly slowly, the front door began to creak open. A thick smoke, slightly acrid when it reached the nose, began to seep in, and in the midst of it he could see the tall, broad-shouldered silhouette of a man, surrounded by a dozen pairs of menacing red eyes.
"Now, now, there's no need for violence."
The voice was deep, somber, and somehow cruel. Marley's fangs glittered in the faint light as he took a step forward to place himself in front of his trainer, and Michael thought he could make out some kind of uniform the strange man was wearing. Sleek black with a red R emblazoned across the front. Memory stirred in the back of his mind, there was something unsettlingly familiar about it...
"I have quite a generous offer for you."