Blue wakes without opening his eyes, and wonders why someone is crying.
The smell is his first clue to where he is, that distinct blend that you only get in a hospital. The sounds are familiar too, beeping and hushed voices and the distant sound of a voice over a speaker system.
The crying is muffled and distant too, coming through the wall near his head. He slowly opens his eyes and stares up at the ceiling for a moment, wondering why he’s here…
“Hey,” Red says, and Blue turns to see his friend smiling at him. “Guess it was your turn, huh?”
Blue flashes back to Red, on a bed like this after the Viridian fire, and Leaf lying on one too, after…
“Leaf!” he gasps, looking around as it all comes crashing back; the casino, the earth shaking before it opened beneath them, the feeling of being crushed…
Pain lances through his body as he rises up, and Red’s hand grabs his shoulder to press him back to the bed. “Hey, relax! She’s fine, Blue, just lie still.”
Blue lets out a breath as he slumps back against the pillow, sweat beading his forehead from the pain. He lifts his right arm to pull back the blanket and sees three different IV lines dripping potion into his torso, waist, and thigh, his whole body wrapped tight to keep him from moving too much.
Shit. He tries to remember anything after they stopped falling and sliding, but can’t. Just darkness, and pain… lots of pain, too much to bear.
He turns to where Red’s hand still rests on his shoulder. The other boy follows his gaze and draws it away, and Blue’s hand snaps up to catch it.
“And you?” He looks Red over from top to bottom, noting his fresh set of clothes. “You’re okay?”
“I’m alright. Had some cuts and bruises, fractured my leg and a couple ribs.” He gestures, and Blue lifts his head slightly to see the white cast around Red’s left leg. “All mostly healed now.”
Blue frowns. Cuts and bruises can be healed in minutes with a potion, but fractures… “How long was I out?”
Red checks the time. “About thirty hours? You woke earlier, when we got you here. Do you remember it at all?”
Blue shakes his head, then realizes Red is looking at their hands. He’s still holding Red’s, and a pang of guilt goes through him. It had been hard, seeing Red again at the casino. Harder than he thought it would be… and easier, talking to him. Slipping back into a comfortable friendship that he’d let wither, all because he was so worried that it wasn’t as mutual as he thought it was.
But Red is here, at his bedside, waiting for him to wake up. Embarrassingly, Blue’s eyes fill, and thankfully Red doesn’t say anything as he swallows back his tears and takes deep breaths. Just squeezes his hand tight.
“Glad you’re okay,” he mutters, and clears his throat before letting Red’s hand go. His friend reaches out for a cup of water and hands it to him, and Blue downs the whole thing. “What the hell happened? There were others with us too, what about them?”
“They’re mostly okay. We all fell. Slid, more like. We stopped once, on the way down, then that floor broke too. Our pokemon kept anything heavy from falling onto us, but we got a bit crushed between them. Leaf dislocated her shoulder, one of the others broke a leg, his friend broke some fingers that he landed on the wrong way.” Red shakes his head. “It was dark, and cramped. We could tell you were badly injured, but not how much at first. Everyone was in a lot of pain, and confused, obviously. My first thought, once I got over that, was to worry that we’d run out of air.”
Blue can hear the tension in Red’s voice, the echo of fear, and feels angry. Not at Red, but at himself, for not being awake for such a dire circumstance. At sheer bad luck that almost killed him and his friends. “How did we make it out?”
“Nidoqueen dug us into a side passage. I used her senses to tell how stable the rubble around us was, and if she could move… it wasn’t a guarantee, but it was that or suffocate.” He shrugs.
Blue stares at his solemn face, and abruptly laughs. The sound is cut short by pain, but Blue is still left with half a smile along with his grimace. “Red… that’s amazing. You saved our lives!” His friend’s gaze meets his for a moment, then looks away, and Blue feels a shard of ice enter his chest, smile fading. “What is it? You said Leaf was okay…”
And then he remembers the others.
“Bretta?” he croaks, throat suddenly dry. “Lizzy?”
“They’re alright,” Red whispers. “It’s Glen. He’s alive, but in a coma.”
Blue’s breath comes short, heart beating wildly as his whole body breaks out in a cold sweat. “But… how…?” He feels like a fool as he realizes that an earthquake strong enough to crack the casino open like that probably affected the whole city… “What happened? Something fall on him?”
“No. Nothing from the quake. It was a renegade.”
“What? Glen was at the gym, there’s no way a renegade would dare to—”
“He came to the casino, actually, and it wasn’t the only one. Leaf and Lizzy fought some too—”
The door opens, and a nurse pokes her head in, then walks in as she sees Blue is awake. “Welcome back, Mr. Oak. How are you feeling?” She checks the monitor beside his bed, and taps some buttons on the screen.
“Is my friend okay?” Blue asks her, heart in his throat. “Glen Benton?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know who that is.”
“He was transferred to another hospital, Blue.”
“Mr. Verres, your friend needs rest. Please refrain from anything that might excite or stress him.”
“Yes Ma’am, I’m sorry.”
Blue is still staring at Red incredulously, trying to register what he said as his heart pounds, making the monitor beside his bed beep incessantly. Glen, in a coma, from renegades… How could this have happened? And while he wasn’t even there for it…
He takes deep breaths to calm himself so the nurse won’t kick Red out, though it’s hard with all the questions spinning through his head. Once his heart rate normalizes a little, he forces his tone to be quiet and even as he asks, “Why were renegades at the casino? Were they the ones that caused the quakes?”
“Oh, no, that was Groudon from Hoenn—”
Blue sends Red a message once the nurse is gone so he can sneak back into the room. A doctor came in the interim to tell Blue his prognosis is good, but that he would likely be here for a couple weeks and would need some physical therapy afterward; apparently he broke multiple bones along his left side and tore some ligaments in his knee.
Normally hearing something like that might be incredibly frustrating, even worrying, but with everything else going on it barely registered. Blue spent the time around the doctor’s visit reassuring Gramps and Daisy that he’s okay (and being reassured in return by hearing their voices, and that they would come as soon as they could), then reading as many news articles as he could as quickly as he could, catching up on everything that happened in Hoenn and occasionally wondering if all this is a dream.
“So Hoenn has titans now,” Blue says as Red sits beside his bed again, voice low. The pictures on the net are just hours old, but they show the massive, towering creatures of ice and stone and steel at various parts of the Hoenn countryside. Regice… or the regice, now? Is on an island, and has already turned it cold enough to kill most of the plant life around it. “Two regions at opposite ends of the island have the same legendary pokemon. You’re a numbers guy, Red—”
“I’m really not.”
“—what are the odds those things are hidden under Kanto too?”
He’s glad his voice comes out calm, because his heart is thumping so hard it sends small vibrations through his body. It’s a familiar feeling, as is the heat in his chest, and when he imagines the inner arcanine it’s as scarred as the one he caught. Someone hurt his friends, and he couldn’t do anything to help them… and at the same time, hundreds of people across the islands were killed by legendary pokemon more powerful than any in living memory.
The way Red looks at him makes him think that some of that anger is coming through, though with the damned heart monitor he couldn’t completely hide his feelings anyway. “In Kanto, pretty low. But Johto has unown ruins too, so… the possibility isn’t zero, at least. Not that it’s actually zero anywhere else, there’s always a chance that they could rise up out of other places, but if we assume they’re only buried somewhere in regions with those ruins, that still leaves a lot of unown ruins that never had titans come out of them, so we could further assume that Groudon and Kyogre woke them? Maybe the presence of legendary pokemon was the key, but Johto has the Beasts, so maybe them fighting is what matters, but it could be as simple as the earthquakes. The whole island chain felt those, so if they could rise somewhere else they probably would have by now, but of course the proximity probably matters…”
Red trails off and takes out his phone and notebook, then starts writing. Blue could have stopped his ramble at the first “maybe,” but was surprised to find that part of him missed it.
“…okay, so at its peak Groudon caused a magnitude 8.6 earthquake in Hoenn. It caused other quakes elsewhere too, but none in Johto that were that big. That’s, what, a quarter the strength of the 9.0 that occurred off the northeast coast a few decades ago? And it’s… uh… about a third the size. So taking the that one’s distance from Johto compared to Johto from Hoenn…” He writes a bit more, then sets his pencil down, rubbing his forehead. “If all our assumptions are right, and I didn’t mess anything up, I’d say Johto is safe.”
Blue takes a deep breath, then lets it out. “But it could have been something else.”
“Yeah. Black swannas are never easy to predict.”
“There aren’t any black swannas.”
Red smiles. It’s weak, just a slight curl of his lip, but still lets Blue know he stepped right into a trap. “How do you know?”
He considers changing the subject back to the titans, but can’t let it go. “Because we would have found one by now. In every region they’re white and blue and purple, but not a single black.”
“It’s a big world. What if there’s one somewhere in the wilds?”
“You could say that for anything, and never be sure…” Blue trails off, then sighs. “Right, that’s what you meant. Heh. Isn’t that usually my line?”
“What, you mean ‘Just because there’s no evidence, doesn’t mean it’s not true?'” Red chuckles without humor. “Glad I never bet you that the mythical Hoenn weather gods didn’t exist.”
“Yeah. I would have made bank.”
The room becomes quiet again, any humor leaking out through the gaping hole in Blue’s chest. He needs to know that Glen is going to be okay, but there’s nothing he can do to find out, or help. He’s stuck in limbo, hanging over a cliff and waiting for the drop, and all the while looking at all the bodies below.
And those that might yet fall. Sufficiently steep mountains, such as those that divide Kanto and Johto, would stop the Titans if they really are waiting under the unown ruins, it’s one of the few things that do, but being the Indigo Champion would mean Johto’s problems would become his as well. He’s already had to think about what to do against the Beasts, and now he has to worry about the chance, however tiny, that there’s more calamities waiting.
Problems for Future Blue, as Red would say. But it’s hard not to think about them all the same.
“It’s not fair,” he mutters, frustration finally leaking through as he covers his eyes with his good arm. “Like we didn’t have enough problems? What, the world just wasn’t shitty enough?“
Red is quiet, and Blue doesn’t look at him, just takes as deep of breaths as he can without making half his body hurt, which just reminds him that despite the doctor’s assurance he might have permanent damage from something he can barely even remember happening. This is a nightmare he thinks for the tenth time, at least, but he knows it’s not. In his real nightmares he always wakes as soon as he thinks that.
This is reality. Shitty, unfair reality.
“Leaf is on her way,” Red finally says. “With Maria and Lizzy.”
Blue rubs his eyes before turning to him, blinking. “Who’s Maria?”
Red blinks back, then looks concerned. “Your… friend? Dark hair, kind of pale? Speaks quietly?”
“Oh, MG.” Blue frowns. “Her name’s Maria? How do you know that?”
“She told me. How did you not know that?”
“She never told us,” he says, feeling defensive, and a bit annoyed that she told Red upon their first meeting. Still, he’s distracted from the despair that had been threatening to pull him under, which is probably why Red said it. He takes a deep breath and tries to focus on more positive things. Hell, the fact that none of his friends died is downright lucky. “Where are they coming fr—oh. Talking to the Rangers?”
Red nods. “And police. Not just about the renegade stuff, there’s a bit more I didn’t mention… when we fell into the casino floor, we actually ended up in an underground lab.”
Blue closes his eyes and sighs. “I’m listening,” he says, fighting off the wave of tiredness that hits him.
“I know, it’s a lot. They’ve just started investigating it, it would be the biggest story in the city, maybe the region, if not for everything else going on.”
“Is this related to the prize pokemon?”
“We’re not sure yet, but probably. Leaf also found the missing piece of Silph tech that the police were looking for.”
Blue stares at him a moment, then abruptly laughs without humor. “Of course she did. Well, shit, then the contest is probably cancelled anyway.” All that money and time he spent at the casino… ugh. Not important now. “Who the hell owns it, anyway?”
“They’re still trying to figure that out. The city isn’t wrecked or anything, but there’s a lot of damage, and pokemon have been rampaging all over the place, many of them setting off others before they’re stopped.”
“Fuuuuck,” Blue says, quietly but with feeling as he thinks again of how long this would all take to straighten out. His meeting with Erika when he arrived in Celadon feels like a lifetime ago. “I had all these goddamn plans, Red… and now I’m stuck in here while the world spends who knows how long recovering from shit no one saw coming!”
“I know. Sabrina and I—”
The door opens, and they turn to see Leaf, MG, and Lizzy walk in. All of them look exhausted, but they smile upon seeing him, and rush to his side to give him careful hugs.
“The others are with Glen,” Leaf explains as she perches on the edge of the bed. Lizzy joins Red at the bedside seat, while MG… Maria, leans against the wall. “We decided to see how you’re doing on the way to relieve them so they can come by.”
“I’m alright, just… trying to make sense of all this.” He looks between them. “Red says each of you fought a renegade… what happened?”
“No exciting story for me, Joy saved us,” Leaf says with a shrug. “Again. If it ain’t broke, right? Red could feel his pokemon coming, so I had her sing just as they opened a hole in the wall to reach us.”
Blue blinks, then glances at Red, who’s staring at the ground. “How did you know?”
“I could feel it moving from one survivor to the next, killing them,” Red murmurs without looking up. “It was… pretty bad.”
Blue winces in sympathy, then turns back to Leaf with a wary respect. She put a lot of trust in Red, using her pokemon on a stranger because he told her it was a Renegade. That’s even less clear cut a justification than the last time she did it, but luckily they could check this one’s pokemon to verify…
“I need to get a jigglypuff, because I had a much harder time with mine,” Lizzy says, voice fervent and grim. “Red warned me too, though at the time I had no idea it was him, of course, I didn’t even know he was in the casino. It was just a vague series of feelings that seemed to come out of nowhere. He let me know when danger was just about to turn the corner, and I used a Flash to blind whatever it was, then ran for it. Turned out to be a sandslash, which chased after me soon after. I nearly went through my whole belt just slowing it down as I ran around the halls… until suddenly it turned on its trainer.” She shudders. “It was horrible. I ran to get the generator working again after that, then Red sent me down to the lab where I found Glen and MG, who’d already beaten theirs.”
“I didn’t do much,” the third girl says, gaze on the floor. “Couldn’t even take down his golem. Glen tried to throw sleep powder at him, but it didn’t work… he summoned a magmar, and his golem knocked Glen out. Thought I was going to die.”
“But you didn’t,” Blue says, hiding his horror at how close he was to losing so many friends at once so he can project how impressed he is. “Which is pretty amazing.”
Her gaze rises a moment, first to him, then the others, then back down. “No, it was just… luck. Like Lizzy’s. His magmar attacked him.”
“You still acted quickly in capturing his pokemon after,” Lizzy says. “That was really brave! I was so shocked by what happened I didn’t even think of it, just ran away. I got doubly lucky my renegade’s sandslash didn’t chase after me, or kill someone else while I was busy with the generator, and just stood around her body until Leaf was able to put it to sleep.”
“I was eventually able to dig us a way out with the hole the renegade made,” Leaf explains. “Though not until after Lizzy had already found Maria and Glen. Red stayed with you while I took the others out, then led some medics to you. By then the digging up top was a massive operation, and they got enough rubble cleared for you and Glen to get safely lifted out along with everyone else who was pulled free.”
“It was scary, seeing how hurt you both were, and thinking the hospitals would have their hands full,” Lizzy says. “But Celadon got lucky with pokemon rampages mostly missing it. It also got spared the damage of coastal cities and towns.”
“Pallet?” Blue asks, turning to Red. He hadn’t even thought to check…
“The docks are gone.” His friend’s voice is bleak. “Big waves smashed it all to pieces after the pylons got cracked.”
“The Sevii Islands also got pretty badly wrecked,” Leaf murmurs. “Knot Island is basically three different ones now, everything between the town and Mt. Ember sank into the ocean, along with most of Treasure Beach.” She looks at Red, who sighs. “The others didn’t fare much better.”
“Shit,” Blue mutters, closing his eyes as his anger suffocates in the wave of despair that crashes back over him. The hits just keep coming…
It’s not just the lost lives and the damaged buildings, but the blow to people’s will. Grief from lost loved ones, disorientation from ruined homes or jobs… Fully recovering from this will take years in some places, and they still have months to go before the relative safety of spring; if Moltres or Articuno bring a storm before each city has a chance to get its feet back under it, the results could be disastrous.
Ultimately what people are going to remember from all this is how vulnerable they are. How fragile their lives and way of life. It’s going to make people less willing to take risks, and that’s the direct opposite of what he wants to do.
The conversation continues without him, and he only half listens as people catch each other up on things they might have missed. Blue tries to pay attention through the feeling of uselessness that hangs over him like a cloud. Worse, irrelevance. What do all his accomplishments over the past year matter, now? In the face of this, of power so great that the combined might of Leaders and Champions from across the islands could only delay their destruction, what could he do even if he united everyone in Kanto and Johto?
On top of that, despite Red mostly reassuring him that a trio of Titans isn’t about to come rising up in Johto, he can’t help but think of their appearance, and the “return” of Groudon and Kyogre and Rayquaza, as preludes to a broader trend. Who knows if these were really even the same pokemon as those in the mythical weather-altering gods? Doesn’t it make more sense to think that there’s just more of them that were in hibernation until someone found and woke them up? Couldn’t the same be true of the Stormbringers?
The dark thoughts persist until Red brings up the way Champion Stone’s pokemon supposedly evolved into entirely new forms during the battle, only to de-evolve (?!) back afterward.
“I probably wouldn’t believe it actually happened if Professor Oak hadn’t been one of the witnesses,” Red says.
“You mean no one got it on video?” Blue asks, incredulous.
“No one thought it would be temporary, apparently,” Leaf reasonably points out, and shrugs. “Can’t blame them for having other things on their mind.”
“At least we have plenty of video evidence for the Eon Duo,” Lizzy says. “How do you think a pair of teenagers managed to tame legendary pokemon?”
Blue feels an odd lurch in his stomach as he’s reminded of that. He saw it mentioned online while he read up on what happened, along with the fourth evolutions, but he hardly paid either much attention given all the other crazy stuff he’d been reading up on.
The girls leave soon after to reach Glen before visiting hours close, and it’s just Red and Blue again. He turns the TV on the wall across from him on and listlessly scans through the channels until he hits a news report, but he doesn’t turn the sound on, just staring at the monitor. It takes him a minute to realize Red is watching him. “You okay?”
“Sure,” Blue mutters, his tiredness returning. “Okay as I can be I guess.”
“I know, it’s a stupid question. Just seems like you’re in your head a lot, and I get it, but it’s also not like you. If you’re tired I can—”
“No.” It’s the first time Blue has felt like Red’s really seen through him, and it’s a bit disconcerting. Red is oblivious enough that if Blue wasn’t Dark he’d suspect that all the psychic training has paid off, but maybe his friend has grown in other ways. “I’m just… it’s a lot.”
Red nods, and doesn’t pry, instead following his gaze to the monitor. The screen is showing a photo of Brendan and May riding the Eon Duo, which he recognizes from the pictures in a book of myths he obsessively read over and over as a kid. For these two it was a tile mosaic found in some Hoenn ruins.
After a minute Brendan and May’s trainer ID photos are on the screen, and Blue finds himself talking again. “I haven’t really followed anyone outside of Indigo much, but I remember hearing about them back when they started their journeys…” He tries to put what he’s feeling into words. “Every other amazing trainer I ever heard about or admired, it was always like… fuel for the fire, you know? A push to work harder, do more. But this… it’s so crazy, so new, and it changes so much…”
“You feel, what, demoralized?”
Blue snorts, recognizing the irony. Amy warned him, back in Cerulean. “Worse.”
“How much worse?”
The feeling solidifies, suddenly, and Blue feels embarrassment creeping up his neck with hot fingers as he realizes how it would sound. “You won’t laugh?”
“One sec,” Red says, and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath before he opens them again and nods. “I promise.”
Blue doesn’t ask. “It’s like finding out… I feel like, I look at those videos, those pictures of them riding those pokemon… and it’s like realizing I’m not the main character.”
Red is silent, as per his promise, and when Blue glances over, his friend’s face is placid, eyes understanding. “Yeah,” he says, and looks back at the monitor again. “I know that feeling.”
Blue is surprised, but only for a moment. “Right. I guess none of us dream small.” It’s hard to remember sometimes that just because his friend doesn’t seek fame the same way as him, or even Leaf, doesn’t mean he’s not ambitious.
“I’d bet most trainers feel that way, at least at first. But this… really has a way of making even my ambition feel small.” Red leans back in his chair, hands behind his head as he stares up at the ceiling. “I’ve got so many new questions about… well, basically everything. But I’m not qualified to help study any of it. I can start now, abandon everything I’ve been working on and try to catch up on mythological studies, or evolution, or unown ruins, and hope I learn enough to be helpful to someone at some point before everything important is discovered… or I can go back to focusing on what I’ve been doing, even if it feels less important than it did a few days ago.”
Blue nods, letting out a breath. Red does understand, in his own way. Why did he let things stay so bad between them, for so long?
There’s an ache in his chest as he remembers how he felt that day, in a different hospital room, fresh after learning that Aiko was gone… and he has to swallow back the sudden lump in his throat. He wonders how she would react to myths come to life. She’d probably be all the more eager to get to hunting for more of them…
“Thanks, by the way,” Blue forces himself to say. “For… everything. It sounds like you saved a lot of lives, including mine.”
Red shrugs, looking away. “Thank Leaf, next time you see her. If she hadn’t pushed me to come, I wouldn’t have even been there.”
Cold creeps through Blue as he realizes how true that is. Hell, if Leaf hadn’t pushed him to reach out to Red… how many of them would have died?
The thought reminds him of Glen again, lying unconscious in another building somewhere, and he feels impatient to get out of bed again. He’s been awake for just a few hours and already feels trapped by his bed… even knowing there’s nothing he can do for Glen, the helplessness makes him feel a need to do something.
Instead he tries to just focus on what he can do from here, which includes rebuilding his relationship with Red. “You were going to say something about Sabrina and you. What was it? Things going well?”
“Yeah, they are. Were. I don’t know how this is going to change things, but she was talking about letting me in on some inner circle stuff, some research with psychics that have unusual abilities.”
“Damn.” It’s not hard to sympathize with the frustration he hears in Red’s voice. “You were probably ecstatic.”
“Yeah, well. Still could happen, right? Just… not for a bit.”
Red smiles. It’s slight, but there. “Fucking myths. Though I guess we should start calling them legendaries.”
“I wonder if anything new was discovered about them yet…” Blue reaches for his phone again, fighting back his tiredness.
“Yeah, I’ve been checking pretty constantly,” Red admits as he reaches for his own phone. “I think a lot of people are, and all the speculation makes it hard to find anything meaningful.”
Blue nods, and the two fall into silence as they search through forums and news sites. A lot of experts from various fields are doing open Q&A sessions to address people’s worries or curiosities, though of course most of them can’t answer the really pressing questions, only give more information that helps show Blue how little he really knows about all the things he doesn’t know.
“Hey,” Red says after about ten minutes, and Blue looks over to see him staring at his phone. “You see this new video from Giovanni?”
“No, not yet. What’s it about?”
“The title is, ‘Our Failure.'”
Blue raises a brow. “Put it on the monitor?”
Red nods, and takes the remote to navigate to the same page. He plays the video, and Giovanni appears on the screen at a desk, hands clasped before him. He stares at the surface for nearly half a minute, his occasional blink the only sign that the video is playing.
When he looks up, the look in his eyes is one Blue has never seen before.
“First and foremost, I want to apologize. To you, whoever is watching this video. Not just those in Kanto, or Indigo. Not just those who watch it now, later this week, this month, this year. Not just your children, not your grandchildren. To every thinking being I share this planet with. If you are watching this, now or thousands of years from now, in a world we living now can scarcely imagine, I am apologizing to you just as much. Perhaps especially to you… because I failed you all.”
Blue’s eyes are wide, and he sits up, barely noticing the pain. Before he can ask Red is already raising the volume.
“Generations ago, this land was inhabited by people who fought every day to survive. It was a brutal society, one that most today would not even recognize as civil, and the people of that society were brutal as well. That’s what survival required of them. Our species is near the weakest on the planet, but through our ingenuity and determination, we carved a place for ourselves in the world. And little by little, though it was hard at times, we’ve let that brutality go, like an ekans shedding skin it has outgrown, because it made life more pleasant… and we thought ourselves safer.”
Blue feels his heart pounding, every scrap of attention focused on the slightest changes in Giovanni’s features and tone.
“I will not say that we were wrong,” Giovanni says, each word measured. “But it’s clear now that safety has made us complacent.”
Another silence, this one heavier. The accusation, the presumptive admission, strikes a chord in Blue, not because he hasn’t already believed this, but to hear someone like Giovanni say it… say it in public… A spark of hope warms Blue’s chest for the first time since waking.
“We believed it was enough, to grow our villages into towns, our towns into cities. To connect our cities into regions, and mark clear routes through the wilderness to allow civilization a foothold. Mutual defensive pacts, redundant supply lines, resource stockpiles, coordination networks… all valuable, all necessary, and all completely ineffective against the true threats to our survival.
“The story I’ve told you is a story of progress. A story of humanity rising from frightened mammals cowering in hovels to beings who can harness the powers around us for our own needs. We’ve not just turned monster against monster, we’ve made them into pets and livestock. We became complacent, confident, that these gains were permanent. That our species would continue to increase in population, expand in territory, grow in technological power… even as certain other powers continued to stay above our grasp. Continued to make us cower in our high-tech hovels, hoping for our Leaders and Champions to save us.”
Giovanni presses a button, and on the corner of the screen there’s some brief footage that was taken of the battle against Groudon, before the helicopter that had dared get close enough to record it had to leave.
Blue watches as the combined might of the islands fails to so much as faze the beast.
“We were fools.”
Blue has to remind himself to breathe. He wonders suddenly if Lance was told about this broadcast ahead of time.
“I do not mean this as a slight against our Champions and the other brave trainers who stood against such power, and did not waver. They are the best of us, and they did all they could, more than any could have expected. And yet… do you feel saved?”
The video continues to flick through images of the destruction across the islands, and Blue’s earlier despair returns over the sheer magnitude of it… but under it all there’s still the ember of anger, and the spark of hope.
“We have grown complacent, which makes the truth we now face all the harsher. We are not safe. That belief was a shared delusion, a story of human progress weaved by the anthropic principle and optimism. We have filled our stories with existential risks, we write children’s television shows and thrilling action movies where the threat of annihilation is so common it becomes predictable, and yet so easily conquered that it seems inevitable. Pure wish fulfillment has been so inspiring, so entertaining, that we’ve tricked ourselves into believing it is reality.
“It is not. This… this is reality.” The screen is still showing various images of destruction. In one of them Blue recognizes Celadon’s skyline, with a couple of collapsed buildings marring the even lines of the streets; “Not two days ago humanity stood upon a precipice, and barely survived it. You know the names of the fallen, by now. Four gym leaders and three Elites were killed, our Champions each lost prized and powerful pokemon that took them years to grow and train, and each may yet have lost their life if not for a stroke of luck.”
The montage ends, and instead there’s a screenshot of Rayquaza. It’s just a blur, a streak of green and gold and black, taken from an angle that shows it rising up into the sky.
“Here is our savior. It alone did what the best of us could not… and so showed us that nothing, ultimately, has changed.”
The picture disappears, returning Giovanni’s features, his dark, direct gaze. “We are not, none of us, safe. For all our power, the monsters are still greater. And to stop them, we will need to change again.”
“Yes,” Blue whispers, and realizes his hand is closed around the sheets in a fist.
“Our species is still in its infancy. One day, future generations may truly conquer the dangers of this world, be able to live and flourish in peace. But that will not happen on its own, and while we continue to only think of survival, continue to slowly inch our way outward into the wilds to fit another town here, another route there, we roll the dice every year on another incident like this occurring… an incident that may not be contained or ended before it drives us back to our huts, or wipes us out completely.
“There are some who will call me a doomsayer. Who will insist that this was an incredibly unlikely event, that it hasn’t happened for at least a thousand years before, and so surely we have another, similar length of time before something like it happens again. My response to that is simply… perhaps.”
Giovanni pauses, taking a visible breath, letting it out. The Leader’s tone has stayed steady and even throughout, but with a note of steel beneath, and that softens now, ever so slightly. “I do not intend to incite panic. I understand that there is enough darkness in the world already, and do not claim to know this will happen in our lifetime, or even our children’s lifetimes. If that is the extent of your moral concern, the extent of what you can afford to care about, then you may safely ignore me, and go on with your lives, in all likelihood, without ever needing worry about this again.
“But if you care about what your children’s children will inherit, or theirs, or the countless billions of people who will live after us… the billions that may yet be born… if the very thought of so many lives in such a far future doesn’t cause your mind to cower and blink and hide in the comfort or needs of the now… this prediction I will stand behind. Sooner or later, another Tier 6 will occur, and at our current pace of progress, humanity will not be prepared for it. And perhaps that will not even be needed.”
The pictures return, this time of Registeel, its massive white and grey dome of a body casting a long shadow over a nearby pond. “More of these may yet rise, these and other legendary pokemon that we thought unique. Perhaps the awakening of these myths, their effect on our climate, began a chain reaction. How many more unstoppable threats need arise before the progress we have fought so hard for, slow as it already is, grinds to a halt? How many before it begins, slowly but surely, to reverse, without even another awakened myth?”
“I failed you, in not doing more to prevent this. I am Leader of a single city and its outlying areas, but that city resides in a region, that region resides on an island, that island resides on a planet, and each of these things must survive for my city to survive, and thus anything that threatens them is a threat to what I have taken oath to protect… and what I need no oath to feel protective of. I have failed you, and I can only prostrate myself and ask your forgiveness, for this.”
And as Blue watches in shock, Giovanni Sakaki stands from his desk. The camera pans outward to follow him around to the front, and the ex-Champion lowers himself to his knees, places his hands over each other, and bows until his forehead touches them.
“I will do better.”
Four simple words, a handful of heartbeats, and then he rises back up. Blue can’t recall the last time a Champion showed such humility, let alone one as proud as Giovanni.
Still kneeling, back ramrod straight and hands on his thighs, the Viridian leader’s gaze finds the camera again. “Before this warning fades entirely from the now, becomes just another note of worry in the back of your minds, an occasional cloud over the sun of what tomorrow brings… remember how impossible this incident would have been to fathom, before it occurred. Remember how many champions, presidents, professors, leaders, experts of every kind, wise and learned, were taken just as much by surprise. In this, there are no easy answers coming. Our ship charts unnavigated waters, and we have no captain, nor passengers; only crew.
“Let us attend to our wounded friends, our dead families, our broken homes, our ravaged lands. Let us heal as best we can. And then let us begin to prepare for what comes next.”
Leaf follows Laura Verres into Celadon’s central police department at a quick stride, trying not to look nervous. She was here just yesterday, before she went to visit Blue in the hospital, and even though that was to testify in the justified use of a pokemon to stop a renegade, even though Red’s mom wasn’t with her, it was still much less nerve-wracking defending herself against a potential Renegade charge than it is being called back in for something else.
It’s not hard to understand why, of course; in this case, she’s actually guilty of something else.
“We’re here to see the detective in charge of the casino investigation,” Laura says to the officer at the front desk. “Please tell them Leaf Juniper is here to comply with a summoning request.”
The man nods, gaze curiously taking her in, and Leaf feels her heart thumping in her chest as she continues trying to look as calm and composed as Laura, who walks to one of the chairs against the wall and sits. Leaf sits beside her and folds her hands over her lap to keep them from trembling.
“Just breathe, Leaf,” Laura murmurs, and puts one hand briefly over hers to squeeze. “Even in a worst case scenario, anything that happens in here would just be step one, do you understand?”
Leaf nods, the motion jerky. She’s starting to wish she’d taken the older woman’s advice and brought an attorney, but since she plans to just insist on total ignorance, it seemed like something a guilty person would do, and she has to consider the optics of this; her name is already bouncing around the net for taking out yet another renegade within a year, not to mention recovering the Silph tech, and though she feels like she doesn’t deserve the praise she’s getting, it’s far preferable to the suspicion that’s blooming in some quarters as well.
“Thanks again, for coming,” Leaf whispers.
“None needed, dear. I have plenty of reasons to be here.” She’d returned to her hometown to visit Blue and Red, and see how some of her old colleagues were doing after the quakes, but she means the police station specifically. As soon as Leaf told her about the summons and asked her for advice, she got a look in her eye that Leaf knows.
She’s not just here to protect Leaf; she smells a story.
Leaf might too, if she wasn’t so busy feeling guilty.
The wait barely lasts five minutes before they’re called into a back room, and the lead detective raises a brow as he spots Laura.
“Hello again, Miss Juniper… and you are?”
“Good afternoon, Detective Hirai. My name is Laura Verres.”
A frown twitches across the detective’s face for a moment. “Are you… her attorney?”
“No, I’m a reporter. But today I’m just here as a friend.”
Leaf can see from Detective Hirai’s reaction that he doesn’t buy that for a second. She can’t tell for sure, but she suspects he recognized her name from somewhere, and it clicked when she mentioned being a journalist.
“I hope that’s okay,” Leaf says, not disguising the uncertainty in her tone. “We’re on our way to visit my friend at the hospital, and I didn’t think I’d need an attorney…?”
“Of course,” the detective says, and then is silent, clearly off-balance. This is what Laura had hoped for; there’s always a chance, she explained, that the investigator would ask to speak to Leaf alone, but to do so would imply that this was more than a routine questioning, and that might signal to Leaf that she’s a suspect and should bring a lawyer. “Please, sit down.”
They take the seats across his desk, and his gaze lingers on Laura for a moment before he turns to Leaf. “Do you know why I called you back today, Miss Juniper?”
“I assumed to answer more questions about the renegades below the casino,” Leaf says, brow furrowed as she tries to maintain steady eye contact. “Have you learned anything about what they were doing there, or the owners?”
“That’s all still under investigation,” the detective says, gaze flicking to Laura again.
“I’m guessing all you’ve found so far is a shell company?” she asks, then catches Leaf’s questioning look. “Accountants and attorneys who are in charge of paying the people in the casino, while the owners only see the money after it’s been laundered through confidential foreign bank accounts.”
She knows what a shell company is, of course. “That’s legal?” she asks, eyes wide.
Laura wags her hand back and forth. “Sometimes. This probably won’t be one of them.”
“As I said,” the detective says. “Still under investigation. What concerns us right now is a recent leak that may affect that investigation.”
“A leak within the police?”
“No.” He places his elbows on the desk, chin resting on his folded hands. “We’re still recovering as much evidence as we can from the hidden portions of the casino. A lot of that evidence is digital, of course, and it’s been difficult to get through it given that we’re still sorting through and collecting the physical evidence. But it seems we’ve been scooped, so to speak.”
He turns his computer monitor toward them to show blueprints for something that looks like high tech goggles. “This was posted to various tech sites this morning, along with dozens of pages of notes and other data.”
Leaf leans forward, brow furrowed, and thankfully she doesn’t have to pretend to not know what she’s looking at, since she didn’t look over the data she grabbed while she was down there before she sent it all to Natural the next day.
It had been a spur of the moment decision; after the renegade was down and they’d done everything they could to ensure no one was dying, she began exploring the section of the lab they were stuck in, looking for a way out rather than waiting for rescue. That’s when she found the room where the goggles were being tinkered with… and the computers nearby, some of them still on. It took just a couple minutes to put one in a container ball.
“What is it?” Laura asks.
“It looks like the goggles I found,” Leaf says. “I can’t tell if it’s the original blueprints or not, though, and it doesn’t say what it’s for.”
“The documents released with this image say it’s a new type of technology that will let people observe Ghost pokemon without feeling any effects of Surreality.”
Leaf looks up at the detective in surprise to find his sharp gaze on her. “How do you know it’s from the Rocket Casino?” she asks, hoping he can’t see the way her pulse is jumping in her throat.
“Because it’s the technology that Silph Corporation believed was stolen,” he says, voice flat as he stares her down. “We’ve also confirmed that it’s on the computer we took as well. So far it’s still being treated as a curiosity, people aren’t sure what to make of it, but it’s the real thing.”
“And you found a match of the information in the lab’s computers?” Laura asks.
“We did, once we knew what to look for.”
Leaf leans back, still frowning as she tries to figure out why Natural would release this. It doesn’t have anything to do with pokemon well-being, as far as she can tell…
“That was fast.” Laura’s tone is skeptical.
“We got lucky,” the detective says, glancing at her. “The computers had a lot of security measures in place, all of them needed both a physical encryption key and a typed in password, but one of the computers buried in the rubble was being worked on when the roof collapsed and didn’t get destroyed. The key was still in it, and while we couldn’t log in, the RAM still held the rest of the encryption.”
Leaf feels herself relax, and has to fight the urge to smile. The computer she grabbed was on, but asleep, and there was nothing plugged into any of its ports, so Natural probably can’t get whatever’s on it at all… which, while normally frustrating, would be a relief if the alternative is that he spread the info on it around the net indiscriminately without telling her.
“What does any of this have to do with Leaf?”
He glances between them a moment. “Of all the people we’ve interviewed, she spent the most time alone and safe in the lab.”
“I hope you’re not considering her a suspect,” Laura says, voice cool. “It would be pretty embarrassing to accuse one of the few heroes of that awful day of something like this without good reason.”
The detective’s gaze is locked on Laura’s for a moment, and then he sighs. “Of course.” He leans back in his chair, eyes meeting Leaf’s. “I simply wanted to check if you saw anything that makes more sense, in light of this reveal.”
“If you mean someone messing with computers while down there, I’m afraid not,” Leaf says, rubbing her clammy palms against her knees beneath the table. “But I was stuck in one particular part of the lab. Do you know if the computers with this information were there?”
“Not exclusively, but yes.”
“Oh,” Leaf says, voice quiet. Could Natural have decrypted the computer without a key? In just a day? It doesn’t seem possible…
“A coincidence,” Laura dismisses. “Clearly these people have an agenda against Silph, and would have spread the information they learned beyond just a hard drive or two. Once their operation was exposed and halted, they must have decided to let the information out for Silph’s other competitors to take advantage of.”
“Yes, the thought had occurred to us,” the detective says, voice wry. He’s back to looking at Laura, thankfully. “But we still needed to check.”
“Of course, Detective. Is that all, then?”
Hirai is quiet a moment before looking at Leaf, lips pursed. “I was hoping Miss Juniper would be willing to let us search her containers.”
“Absolutely not,” Laura says before Leaf can even respond, and unlike her previous, cool tone, there’s heat to her words now. “And you wouldn’t be asking if you had a warrant.”
“I can acquire one if that’s necessary,” the detective asks, gaze staying on Leaf. She does her best not to wilt under it, or look at Laura. “We don’t suspect you, Miss Juniper, we’re just being thorough. If we can cross off the electronic devices that everyone who was in the lab had access to at the time, we can know for sure that it came from elsewhere.”
“That’s over two dozen people, many of whom were unconscious at the time, if not outright fighting for their lives,” Laura says. “Personally I doubt any judge in Celadon would sign off on that, which means you need a better reason to suspect Leaf, particularly when she has no motive to do something like this.”
“I believe she does, actually. She’s an outspoken advocate for better treatment of pokemon, and the Casino was advertising itself as having a completely new species.”
Leaf’s stomach does a flip, and even Laura seems momentarily knocked off balance. “You think she… what, purposefully nearly got herself killed to—”
“Of course not. But if the opportunity was there, I think it’s reasonable that anyone would be curious.”
“I didn’t,” Leaf says, the lie making her insides squirm. And she mocked Red for being a bad liar, back on the S.S. Anne… but it’s different, this sort of lying, lying to someone with power, lying to cover something you did that might have been wrong…
“You didn’t what?”
“I didn’t leak anything online,” she says, sticking to something true to firm her resolve. “That would be… I mean even if I was doing it for a story on pokemon rights… wouldn’t it be more valuable keeping it to myself until I could write an article about whatever I found? And why would I release the info about the goggles in that case?”
“As I said, you’re not a suspect. We just like to be thorough.”
“If you want to check my containers—”
“No, Leaf,” Laura says, voice firm. “You can hand him the containers to look through and all that would lead to is him asking about other containers you own, then checking your PCs to see what you might have transferred recently. You have rights for situations exactly like this.” She stands as she turns back to the detective. “Get a warrant if you can, or take her word for it. Either way, we’re expected at the hospital to relieve my son from a bedside vigil.”
Detective Hirai’s gaze flicks between her and Leaf, who tries to match Laura’s confidence as she gets to her feet. Finally he nods and murmurs, “Thank you for your time.”
Laura opens the door, and Leaf suddenly says, “Wait.” Red’s mom looks at her curiously, but closes it, and Leaf turns back to the detective. “The renegade, I caught, has he been executed yet? I haven’t gotten any messages after the sentencing.”
“No, Erika has been too busy to do it so far, and we’re still hoping to get some information from him.”
Leaf nods, weighing her options. Giovanni told her not to write anything about Yuuta for six months; it hasn’t been quite that long, but she told Laura about it, so she shouldn’t hesitate from telling a police officer too, right? “Is he securely guarded?”
The detective studies her a moment before his gaze softens. “Very. I assure you, it would be impossible for him to escape.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. I’m sure he won’t, but I’m worried about someone killing him before his execution.”
Hirai stares at her. “And why would someone do that? Revenge?”
“No. Just… this organization that employed renegades might find out one was taken alive, right? Even though he’s dark, they might try to kill him before he can give anything away.”
“They would have to take on the entire police department to do so.”
Leaf shakes her head, feeling frustrated. “They wouldn’t do it like that, a frontal assault, they’d… sneak someone in, slip something in, maybe, or… bribe the guards or something…”
“Miss Juniper, if you know anything about this—”
“It’s happened before,” Laura says, and Leaf turns to see Red’s mom watching her. “You think it’s the same people?”
“I don’t know,” she says, folding her arms over her stomach to quell her nerves. She knows this is messing with her cover as an innocent girl who wouldn’t have any motive to steal from the casino lab, but it’s just too important to keep to herself. “But how many secret organizations hiring renegades can there be in Kanto?”
“What are you two talking about?”
Leaf turns back to Hirai. “The last renegade I ran into, on Mount Moon, was assassinated before he could be executed. I confirmed this through independent investigation, and if you want to ask Leader Giovanni about it, he might confirm it too. But he also might not, I was told not to publish a story on it for six months to give them time to capture the real killer.”
The detective looks like he’s trying to decide how seriously to take her, and she’s about to say forget it and walk out when he abruptly says, “I believe you.”
“I already know about what happened on Mt. Moon, in fact. Every organization that might apprehend a renegade was informed to ensure their safety before execution by none other than Leader Giovanni himself. If he could trust you with that info, and you haven’t reported it in all this time, then I’ll trust you at least enough to tell you both, off the record, that we’ve been aware of individuals and groups that hire from an interregional black market of renegades for some time. Part of why I’m telling you this is because I suspect it won’t stay secret for long, after word of what happened in Rocket Casino gets out.”
“And what happened in Hoenn,” Laura says, brow furrowed, and the detective nods.
Leaf hasn’t paid too much attention to that part of the story, there’s so much going on that it feels impossible to keep up with everything, but she does know that a bunch of alleged renegades helped fight Groudon and Kyogre, then fled the site of the battle in the confusion that followed Rayquaza’s attack.
“Interpol has known about such groups for a while now, but they’re nearly impossible to infiltrate or trace back to anyone important, and we never caught someone that was part of a group before… or at least we didn’t think we had. Now we suspect they operate in isolated cells… so rest assured, we’re going to do everything we can to keep this one alive until we can learn everything we can from him.”
The detective’s gaze is flat, voice grim, and Leaf feels an involuntary shiver at the thought of how they might try to learn things. She knows there’s no room for sympathy here, however; it’s out of her hands, even if she was the one to capture him, and besides, he and the other two killed half a dozen innocent people before they were stopped. The people in charge of them have to be stopped as well.
“Thank you for the trust, detective,” Leaf eventually says.
Hirai nods, gaze steady on hers. “I hope it will bear fruit, and be returned.”
Leaf hesitates, then simply nods and turns to the door. Laura lets her go out first, and they leave the police department together.
Leaf holds her composure until they leave the police department, then lets out a long breath, sticking her shaking hands in her pockets. She lets the sun warm her face as the breeze cools sweat on the back of her neck.
“That,” Laura remarks, “Was pretty bold of you.”
“Thanks,” Leaf murmurs, then hesitates. “It was also stupid though, right?”
“From a self-interested perspective, yes,” she says as they start walking toward the hospital Blue is staying in. “But if you’re determined to do the right thing, that kind of comes with the territory now and then. I can’t blame you for being altruistic.”
It wasn’t altruism, Leaf thinks, but doesn’t say. The guilt at taking the computer and not telling the police, at sending it to Natural, feels only slightly alleviated. She takes her phone out and messages him, knowing he’d be asleep by now. Hey, I know it’s super early, but just to check, you find anything good yet? She hopes he says no, hopes Natural isn’t the one that put all the info online, but the whole world has felt upside down since the floor of the casino collapsed, and she didn’t feel comfortable trusting him even before that happened.
Just thinking about it again makes her breath come short. It had been so tight in the rubble, pressed between Red and some chunks of concrete on one side and the nidoqueen’s broad, scaly thigh on the other. In any other situation it might have been hard to stay so close to the same nidoqueen that had nearly killed her in Vermilion, but in those circumstances she had more important things to worry about, like the lack of air, and the agony in her shoulder, and Blue’s cries of pain before he went terrifyingly silent…
Laura’s hand on her still-tender shoulder makes her jump, and she realizes they’re standing at an intersection that she’d been about to step into while cars passed through it. “Leaf!”
“Yeah,” Leaf gasps, looking up at Mrs. Verres’s concerned face. “Sorry, I’m fine!”
“I didn’t even ask if you were, yet. You didn’t hear anything I just said, did you?”
“Uh…” She wipes a hand across her sweaty forehead. “Sorry, no. What was the question? Or comment?”
“You don’t have to keep apologizing, and forget it. Are you alright, Leaf?”
“Y-no,” she admits after realizing how silly it would be to lie at this point. “Had a bad memory.”
“Oh, hon…” Laura pulls her into a brief hug, which actually helps her feel a bit calmer. “I think you should talk to someone. From what Red told me you guys went through hell down there, and there’s no shame in having it continue to affect you.”
Would the detective have accepted that as an excuse, if I’d admitted to taking the computer? Maybe, but probably not to sending it to a random person the next day, a decision that, in retrospect, feels very stupid. If Natural turns out to be untrustworthy, if he did release the computer’s contents without telling her, she’d stop speaking with him. Maybe even admit what she did and turn them both in.
Easy to say. She takes a breath. One thing at a time. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. I’ll see if Red’s therapist is open to taking me, or one of the therapists that comes to the ranch with the kids.”
“I’m glad.” Laura lets her go, and they start walking across the street. “And in case I forgot to say it before, thank you, for saving my son. Again.”
“It was a team effort.” It had been nerve-wracking, waiting for the renegade to show up and then tying them up after they were asleep, so the others could watch him while she went for help, but she’d trusted Red implicitly when he told her what was happening.
He’d sounded so scared. So desperate. And then, so… determined.
They arrive at the hospital to find a crowd of people waiting in the lobby, as usual. Leaf messages Red to let him know they’re here, and they head to the roof to wait for him.
He teleports there a minute later, and is almost immediately enfolded in a tight hug by Laura.
“Hi mom,” he says, voice muffled. “It’s good to see you again.”
Laura just keeps silently hugging him, and Leaf stands by as Red gets visibly embarrassed. She tries not to smile as she waits for Laura to finally let him go, but it’s a losing battle. “Hey. Get enough sleep?”
“More or less,” he says, and smiles back at her. It’s a weak smile, there and gone, but it’s better than nothing; ever since everything that happened that night, he’s had a withdrawn, almost haunted look to him. She thought it might have been from just using his powers too much, and he’s looking a little better today. “You?”
“Joy is the best sleep aid around, even without singing. How are things in Saffron?”
“Not bad.” He returns his abra to its ball, and they start walking toward the roof access door. “The city wasn’t too badly hit, but Sabrina spent the days after the incident teleporting all around the islands to help detect and communicate with people in need, so she’s been too exhausted for any meetings or lessons or gym battles. Which is doubly bad because she had a bunch of them lined up from before, but… well, I guess no one’s really thinking about Challenge matches right now.”
Leaf nods. The full effects of the storms and earthquakes are still unfolding long after the last tremor and drop of rain. Even people on the other side of the planet were affected by tsunamis, and there’s been a lot of global discussion about what happened, including speculations over how bad it could have gotten and whether other similar events are likely to occur.
One of the major debates is whether it should be classified as a “Tier 6” event, a hypothetical world-affecting incident, or if it merely had the potential to be. In either case, many are reacting to a near-miss cataclysm as if one is still coming, either stocking up on survival supplies or fleeing the islands entirely, though some of that might just be foreigners who don’t want to stick around as the local regions recover.
Her mother, of course, re-suggested she come home, and it was harder than usual for Leaf to insist that she wants to stay, but she’s glad she did. The economy has tanked and there have been runs on supplies, but a lot of foreign aid has come in as well to help people as they grieve and try to rebuild, and she has too many people here she cares about to feel comfortable returning to Unova, even for a brief visit.
“Do you have any classes coming up?” she asks Red, wondering if his schedule is going to go back to normal anytime soon. They’ve been seeing each other a lot more lately, mostly in Celadon to visit Blue but at the ranch as well, and she’s reluctant to go back to seeing each other so infrequently.
“Still canceled for the foreseeable future. I’ve been meeting with some of the other students, but for now I can keep helping at the ranch.”
“How is Mr. Sakai handling everything?” Laura asks.
“Not bad, actually. All we lost from the quakes were a few picture frames and some fences that got trampled by wilds.” Leaf smiles briefly. “Thankfully all the non-aquatic pokemon were in their balls already because of the rain, so no one got hurt. He even said those fences needed replacing soon anyway, so I’d say he’s in good spirits. What’s going on in Lavender?”
“It was mostly undamaged too, though Lavender Tower gave everyone a scare by swaying like a tree in the wind.”
“And for your work?” Red asks.
“Business as usual.”
Which Leaf takes to mean that the investigation is still ongoing. “Speaking of Lavender Tower, Red, did you notice anything going around online about Silph goggles?”
“No? When, today?”
“Yeah, apparently it just hit the net this morning, will probably pick up steam by tomorrow. Those goggles I found in the basement are supposed to let people look at Ghosts without surreality.”
“Holy shit, are you serious?”
He shoots a guilty look at his mom, then looks back at her. “Do you know if they work?”
“No, apparently that was just a prototype. But it’s pretty exciting to think about, right?”
“Blue is going to flip out, it might help non-psychics use Ghosts more easily…”
They arrive at Blue’s room and hear voices coming from inside before they even open the door.
“…not saying you can’t, Blue, I just want to make sure you’re not committing to anything without more details.”
“What commitment, it’s not a commitment, it’s just building momentum. I have to do something while I’m here!”
Laura clears her throat and knocks, and there’s sudden silence until the door opens and Daisy lets out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, I was about to chuck one of them out the window.” She gives each of them a quick hug, then strides off down the hall, raising a hand over her head in a wave. “Glad you’re alive Red and Leaf, see you later, Auntie!”
“Bye Daisy,” Leaf calls, then wilts under a glare by a passing nurse and turns to look in the room to see a very tan Professor Oak looking down at Blue in exasperation while his grandson stares at his phone, typing as fast as he can with one hand.
“Hello Sam, Blue,” Laura says as she steps in, and Red and Leaf follow, closing the door behind them.
“Hi Aunt Laura,” Blue says, still staring at his phone as his thumb taps away. “Guys, come help me with this would you?”
“Give them a second to put their things down at least, Blue,” Professor Oak sighs, though his smile seems genuine as he returns Laura’s hug, then turns to Leaf and Red and lowers himself to one knee to draw them both into a hug.
Leaf is surprised, but pleased, and sees a similar expression on Red’s face. “Hi, Professor…”
“Sam, Red. It was proper in the lab, but I’ve known you since you were in diapers, and you’re family. Call me Sam.” He pulls back and turns to her. “You too, Leaf. I can never repay either of you for what you did, and I’ve never been so glad to have put my trust in you. You’ve more than repaid it.”
Leaf feels her cheeks burning. “It was nothing, Pr… Sam. We’ve all helped each other, at one point or another,” she says. Red nods, gaze down.
“Be that as it may, this is the closest I’ve come to losing my boy. I was off on the other side of the islands, and if you weren’t there for him… I don’t want to think about it. Just know that I’m in your debt, both of you.”
“Gramps, you’re embarrassing them.”
“I’m entitled to, now and then. One of the few perks of age.” But he lets them go, and stands, wincing slightly as he shifts the weight from his knee.
“Are you okay, Profess-Sam?” Red asks.
“Fine, fine, other than the ringing in my ears. Overdid things a bit, in Hoenn, but I’ll take that and sore joints over Pressure any day.”
“Profe-Sam, I have so many questions about that—”
“Later, Red,” Laura says. “Give him time to go shower and eat and whatever else, he’ll be back.”
“Yeah, and come help me with this already, do you have any idea how hard it is to start a social movement with one thumb?”
“Social movement?” Leaf asks as the professor sighs. She follows Red to his bedside. “About what?”
“The thing Giovanni said, I’m guessing?”
“Yep.” Blue finishes typing something out, then grins as he shows them what he’s written so far. “Get online and help spread the word, would you? I’ve already got it trending locally, but with all of us working together #WhatComesNext is going global.”