Category Archives: Stories

Chapter 2: Fallacy of the Single Cause

“Okay, trainers: first step is to bring out your pokeballs.”

Red, Blue and Leaf all stand at the front of a long room made of grey stone. Speakers and cameras are set in the ceiling behind them so Professor Oak and others can watch and instruct them. Waist high dividers run the length of the room between the three as they face the far end, where target pokedolls of various shapes and sizes on mechanical tracks stand facing them. Empty lanes stretch out to their sides.

Red feels sweat collecting under his hat, and rubs his palm against his pants for the third time, shifting his pokeball around to get a better grip on it. He’s about to meet his pokemon for the first time, and he doesn’t want to make a fool of himself in front of the other two. He wonders how many of the staff from the lab are on break to watch, and has to dry his palms again.

“When you call out its name and give it one of the commands to come out, there will be a two second delay. Throw it forward in as straight a line as you can, red side up, white side down, with a forward spin: the pokeball will open to release onto the ground, and the energy will send the ball in the opposite direction. You can release your pokemon from your hand, but the recoil is rather strong, and you need adequate empty space around you for the ball to open. Begin.”

Silence reigns in the long, empty hall, the only sound Red’s heartbeat in his ears, and then-

“Bulbasaur! I choose you!”

Leaf’s voice thunders through the room without echoing, the walls and ceiling shaped to break up sound. Red watches the ball sail forward in a spinning blur, and then there’s a flash of light. The pokeball shoots back toward Leaf, who shifts her hand a split second too late to catch it: her fingers brush the smooth metal and send it up over her head to clatter against the wall behind her.

In front of her is a four legged, teal reptile with a dark green bulb on its back. It blinks, sniffs, and begins to explore its surroundings.

“Squirtle! Go!”

Blue’s ball flies in a slower, straighter arc, so that when the light flashes out, he’s able to catch it as it sails back toward him.

“Go, Charmander!” Red yells, and throws his ball, aiming for a slow, easy underhand.

A flash of light, and then his ball comes back, faster than he’d thrown it, and at a slight angle. He stretches out his arm, but the ball hits the wall behind him with a crack that makes him wince.

Then all his attention is on the two foot tall orange lizard in front of him, standing on its hind legs with a long tail held behind it for balance. A small flame burns steadily at its tip, barely noticeable under the strong lights.

“Charmander…”

The lizard turns at the sound of its name, and Red approaches it, kneeling down and letting it sniff his hands. He looks to the side to see Blue and Leaf doing the same with their Pokemon.

“When you and your pokemon feel comfortable with each other, feed them some berries.”

Red pulls out a plastic pouch and rolls some berries onto his palm. The charmander’s warm, rough tongue immediately snaps out and scoops them up, then it looks up at him as it chews, bright blue eyes meeting his while he runs his fingers over the soft scales of its head.

Red’s chest feels tight as he looks down at his first pokemon. As far back as he can remember he’d dreamed of forming a bond with his very own, a companion for life, something for him to take care of, that would defend him if needed. Together they’d be able to travel the world, like his father had…

Before he joined the Rangers, and his pokemon had been killed by a wild scyther.

Red gives the charmander one more scratch between its eyes, then stands. He knows the next part of the drill, and sure enough, the target pokedolls are sliding forward along their rails. The one in front of Red is shaped roughly like a Beedrill.

“Charmander, battle.”

His pokemon goes rigid, and then it spins around. When it catches sight of the pokedoll, it growls, stepping in front of Red. Red feels a bit absurd for a second, being protected by a creature that doesn’t even rise up past his knees, but one glance at the sharp claws extending from its hands does away with that. A closer glance also shows that the flame at the end of its tail is larger than it was a second ago.

By the time the foam-clad figure stops a few feet in front of his charmander, Red hears Blue and Leaf give their own pokemon the battle command. All three pokemon stand ready to defend their trainers. Red sees that the bulbasaur has two vines extended from under its bulb, held poised above it at the ready.

Oak’s voice breaks the silence. “Begin.”

“Charmander, scratch!”

“Squirtle, bite!”

“Bulbasaur, tackle!”

In a blink the charmander dashes forward and swipes at the pokedoll. Strips of foam fly off it, and the force of the blow spins it, an arm coming around to hit the charmander from the side.

Red’s pokemon hops back, dodging the counter attack and planting its feet in front at the ready.

Red grins. His pokemon is fast, and clearly well trained. Not that he had a hand in that of course, but it’s still good to know. Now to see what else it can do… He pulls out the sheet of paper Professor Oak had given him with his pokemon’s trained commands on it.

“Charmander, ember!”

The charmander’s flame doubles in size, and with a growl it spins, tail lashing out. Some of the fire detaches itself and sails onto the pokedoll. Its foam is clearly fire retardant, but the ember still melt into the material a bit before being snuffed out.

“Squirtle, watergun!”

“Bulbasaur, vinewhip!”

The blue turtle rears its head back, then spits a short jet of water at the pokedoll hard enough to spin it around. Leaf’s bulbasaur extends its vines far enough to whip the pokedoll with loud thuds.

“Good,” Oak says. “Most pokemon are smart enough to learn a number of commands. As yours grow and become stronger, their abilities will expand, and you will be able to teach them more powerful and complex attacks. Over time the old commands will be forgotten if they are not reinforced. For now, keep practicing until your pokemon begin to show signs of tiring. Physical attacks tend to be less tiring than their more unique abilities. As their trainers, you will need to learn how to judge your pokemon’s health and withdraw them if they are too hurt or weary. Continue.”

“Bulbasaur, tackle!”

“Squirtle, watergun!”

“Charmander, ember!”

They continued drilling with their pokemon for another couple of minutes before Red begins noticing the signs of weariness. The squirtle’s shots of water are smaller and less powerful. Bulbasaur moves slower, and his vines strike with less force. And charmander…

Red kneels down and rubs the lizard’s head. It looks up at him, pupils dilated, chest rising and falling with its harsh breaths. Red feeds it some more berries, looking at its tail flame with some concern. It’s definitely smaller than it had been before.

Red gets up to approach the target pokedoll, and Charmander growls from behind him. Red looks back and smiles as the lizard moves to stand between him and the pokedoll again. “It’s okay Charmander.” Red goes and retrieves the pokeball from where it hit the wall, and points its lens at his pokemon. “You did great. Return.” A red beam hits the charmander, spreading over it in a flash of light that returns to the pokeball faster than a blink.

Red approaches the pokedoll, fingers feeling the pits and holes where his charmander’s fire had melted the foam. What had his pokemon done, exactly, to use its tail flame as an attack? Fire needs something to burn, like wood or a candle wick. When he and Blue had practiced wilderness survival, they had found some materials better than others for catching fire and burning longer, but while bits of flaming debris sometimes fell off the burning material, the fire itself always clung to what it was on.

Not being able to burn the foam, Charmander’s embers guttered out. But what sustained it in the air along the way?

Fire isn’t something that can be thrown…

Red walks away from the pokedoll and pulls the pokeball back out, pointing it at the floor in front of him. “Charmander, go.”

Too late he remembers Professor Oak’s caution about the recoil: the flash of light that brings Charmander out sends his arm snapping back with a wrenching pain. Red grimaces and rubs his elbow, which feels as though he’d pulled the muscle.

Note to self: work on upper body strength so I can summon pokemon without throwing the ball. Until then, brace arm.

Charmander stands waiting, exactly as he had before Red had withdrawn him, flame low and breathing hard. Red kneels beside it and feeds it more berries, then bends his head to examine the fire at the end of its tail.

No matter how hard he strains his eyes, he can’t make out what the fire is burning. It seems to simply flare from the end of its tail, blue at its base, then white and red above that. Red moves his hand above the fire until he feels its heat, then snatches it back.

“Bulbasaur, return.”

Red looks to the side to see Leaf smiling at her pokeball. He frowns, rubbing his elbow again. Why wasn’t there any recoil from withdrawing a pokemon like there is in releasing it?

Red looks back at the charmander’s tail flame. One mystery at a time. He pulls a pocket notebook out and detaches a sheet of it. He holds it over the flame.

“Rrrawwr.”

Red blinks and looks at the charmander, who’s watching over its shoulder as he burns the paper. Red smiles and rubs its head, and they watch together as he lifts the paper away so it can burn on its own. When it’s burned almost down to his fingers, he blows it out.

“Rawr?”

“Don’t worry, I’m not gonna do that to you.” Red feels along the burnt edge of the paper.

What else burns?

Wood, paper, cotton, cloth… none of which are at the end of the charmander’s tail. He knows some forms of gas are combustible, but you can’t throw burning gas either. Which leaves…

“Oil.” Red says. “You produce some kind of oil, don’t you Charmander? Maybe as a form of waste?”

Charmander just stares at him. Its breathing is lighter now, its pupils less dilated. It nuzzles his hand, and he scratches the soft scales under its jaw. Red laughs as its eyes slip half closed, and it begins to sway left and right, its tail bobbing in opposite directions.

“Squirtle, return.” A flash of light, and then Blue clips the pokeball to his belt and examines his own target pokedoll, a soaked nidorino.

“Professor Oak,” Leaf calls out. “What gender are our pokemon?”

“Bulbasaur and Charmander are males. Squirtle’s a female.”

“Professor,” Red says. “Is it okay if I perform a quick experiment?”

“You tell me, Red.”

Red runs through the checklist of guidelines for Safe and Ethical Pokemon Experimentation:

1) Will it cause harm to a human?

2) Will it cause permanent harm to a pokemon?

3) Will it damage potential relationships between the pokemon and humans?

4) Does it violate the trainer’s priority in deciding what is best for their pokemon?

As Red was the trainer in question, 4 was fine, and he had no intention of damaging his relationship with his charmander, so 3 was too. It wouldn’t harm the charmander either, so he was clear on 2, and as for 1…

“I might get burned a little, but I’ll be very careful,” Red says. “I’ve got a few burn remedies in my bag.”

“Then you may proceed with caution.”

Red smiles. “Thank you Professor.” It’s the first time he’s being trusted to perform an experiment on his own. He rethinks what he has in mind to ensure he doesn’t screw it up, aware that Professor Oak other researchers are watching him.

Finally, Red takes his notebook out of his pocket and tears out a handful of paper. He places them on the floor in a pile, then goes over to the pokedoll and digs his fingers into one of the slashed lines in the foam. With a pull that sends a warning pain through his elbow, he rips a section of foam off the pokedoll.

Judging it big enough, he walks a few feet from the paper pile. “Charmander,” he says, and the lizard looks at him. He points to the paper with one finger. “Ember.”

The charmander looks at the paper pile, then back to him. “Rawr?”

“Ember,” he says again, jabbing with his finger.

Charmander looks back at the paper, then spins without warning. Flames lash out onto the paper pile, and Red rushes to slam the foam down on the small blaze.

When he lifts it up, there’s little but charred paper under the foam. He examines them, but feels and sees nothing.

“That proved what, exactly?” Blue asks, leaning on the wall dividing him from Red.

“That I didn’t do it fast enough, I think.” Red takes his notebook out again and this time leaves the entire thing on the floor. Red points at it again. “Ember!”

This time Red slams the foam down within a second after the fire hits it. When he lifts it up, the notebook sticks to the foam. He peels it off and sees it still smoldering, the acrid fumes making his nose wrinkle. He dabs at the small flames with the edge of the foam until they go out, but when he runs his finger through the hole, it comes out dry.

“Dammit,” Red mutters.

“What’s the problem?” Leaf asks from beside Blue, folded arms hanging down the wall.

Red frowns at the fire on Charmander’s tail. “Are you aware of the scientific method?”

“Sure, grandpa and mom taught me. Ask a question, guess an answer, predict a relationship, test your prediction, analyze the results.”

Red smiles. “I was taught it a bit differently, but that’s the gist, yeah.”

“How did you learn it?”

“First comes the question: how does the charmander sustain the fire at the end of its tail? By asking that question, I’m committed to acquiring data to answer it.

“So that’s step two, which I did earlier: research. The pokedex is no help in this case, but I can observe to gain information too, and what I observed is how it does its ember attack.” Red points to the pokedoll. “The fire went through the air to hit that. Well, fire needs fuel to be sustained: it’s not a physical thing, like a piece of wood.

“Which leads to step three, my hypothesis: the fire is fueled by the steady release of some kind of oil, which it slings forward to hit whatever it wants to burn. But how to prove it without hurting the charmander? The hypothesis needs something I can test, a prediction: I thought if I can put out the fire fast enough, it’ll leave behind some of the oil that it uses to fuel it. This foam will put it out, and the notebook was there to give it something else to burn besides the oil.”

In the silence that follows, Blue, who seemed to have spaced out somewhere around step two, looks at Red. “And?”

Red sighs. “Step four was the test. Step five is to analyze the data and see if it supports the hypothesis…”

“And does it?”

Red looks mournfully at his ruined notebook. “Inconclusive.”

“That means no, right?” Blue smirks.

Leaf smiles. “Well maybe the test wasn’t good enough. What if you don’t use the notebook? Have him ember onto the ground. Without something else to burn, the fire might not go through the oil as quickly.”

Red scratches his hair beneath his cap. “Does that make sense?”

Leaf shrugs. “Maybe not, but if the fire jumps to the paper, then there’s more fire, which needs more fuel, right? And the best fuel is the oil. Or maybe the paper is absorbing the oil, so you can’t see it.”

Red nods. “Okay. I’ll try that then.” Red stuffs the notebook in his pocket and points to the ground. “Charmander.” The lizard looks at him. “Em-”

“Wait,” Blue says. Red and the lizard both look at him. “You should tell him to throw it farther.”

Red is about to ask why, then he gets it. “You think more oil will be produced?”

Blue shrugs. “It has to be, to go farther.”

Leaf looks thoughtful. “So Charmander knows how much oil to throw when its target is farther away?”

“Maybe not as a calculated measurement, but on an instinctual level or as a learned behavior, sure.” When Blue notices Red staring at him, he looks defensive. “What? You think only people who spend all day reading can know big words?”

“No, I just… well, you don’t use them normally.” And Red’s a bit impressed that Blue had thought of that. It’s so easy to recognize when Blue’s ignorance of science leads him to bad conclusions that Red often forgets that ignorant doesn’t mean dumb.

Blue rolls his eyes. “When you live with a professor you tend to pick some things up.”

“Right. Well, it’s a good idea.”

“Unfortunately it brings up another problem,” Leaf says. “If Charmander knows just how much oil to release to send his fire as far as he wants it to go, how would there be any substantial amount left where it lands?”

They’re all silent for a moment, then Red grimaces. “Ok, let’s hope I’m better at this than I am catching pokeballs.” He takes a few steps back from his charmander, then points at the pokedoll. “Charmander! Ember!”

The lizard stares at him, then looks at the pokedoll, then back to him. “Rawr!”

“I’ll be fine.” He takes a step to the side, moving farther out of the line of sight. “Go on. Ember!”

Charmander spins, and Red jumps at the flame, trying to hit it with the foam. It flies past him, and his charmander growls.

“Dammit.” Red steps to the side again. “Ember,” he says, pointing at the pokedoll.

His charmander doesn’t move, merely growling again. “Charmander, ember!”

Instead, the lizard walks in front of him, and only then flicks fire at the pokedoll.

“Aww, he doesn’t want to hurt you!” Leaf says. “That’s so sweet.”

Red frowns. “Yeah, great, only now I can’t test my prediction.”

“Oh, move aside.” Blue hoists himself over the divider and takes the foam from him. “At this rate we’ll be as old as gramps by the time we get out of here.”

Red steps back, and Charmander comes with him. Blue, standing to the side, lifts the foam, and Red points at the pokedoll from safely behind his pokemon. “Ember!”

Charmander flicks fire, and Blue slaps the foam down on it, quenching it against the cold ground. “Ha!”

Red rushes forward, and when Blue lifts the foam, he kneels down and sees something glisten on the stone for the space of a heartbeat: then it suddenly ignites. Red pumps his uninjured arm in the air with a whoop, and Blue crouches down to look too.

“What happened?” Leaf asks, joining them. The fire burns down to nothing, leaving a small scorch mark on the rock. “You see some oil?”

“Not anymore,” Red says with a grin. “I saw it though, just before it burned away. It must catch fire when it gets air. Let’s do it again, I’ll show you.”

“Hey!” Blue says. “I thought we were leaving Pallet sometime today?”

Professor Oak’s voice comes from behind them rather than the loudspeaker, making everyone jump. “Don’t worry, repeated experiments won’t be necessary.”

“Professor!” Red points at the scorch mark. “They produce oil to make the fire, that’s why it goes out when they die! At least, I think it is,” Red says, suddenly doubtful. “I guess this doesn’t conclusively prove that they don’t also rely on keeping their tail lit, but…”

Professor Oak is smiling at him. “Yes, so I saw. Well done, all of you. That was a very, uh, innovative experiment you pulled off. It took me much longer to isolate the oil, though I didn’t risk immolation to do it.”

Red blinks, then his heart sinks. “You already knew. That entry in the pokedex… it was one of your tests!”

The professor nods. “I changed the pokedex’s data to match what the rumors about charmander had been when I was your age. I wanted to see if any of you would notice the problem, ask the right questions, and figure it out… though I didn’t expect it to happen quite this quickly. Go ahead and check.”

Red pulls his pokedex out and navigates to charmander’s page, which now begins:

Charmander: The Lizard Pokemon. Charmander prefer rocky, mountainous terrain, and hatch from their eggs when their tails ignite and crack the shell. They secrete an oil from the end of their tail that combusts when exposed to the air. The flame varies in strength and size based on their mood and health: when agitated, they produce more, but when their vitals are low, the oil trickles to a near stop.

Red’s chest feels empty. “So I didn’t discover anything new.” Professor Oak often gives Red incomplete scenarios or bits of data to solve hypothetical problems, but Red never suspected he would mess with the pokedex.

Blue elbows him. “You expected to get your Researcher license before even leaving the building?” he says, not unkindly. “At least give yourself a full twenty-four hours.”

“And it was still an original discovery,” Leaf says with a wry grin. “Just a few decades later than someone else made it.”

“She’s right, Red,” Professor Oak says. “You did a decent job of tackling your first problem scientifically.”

Red smiles. “Well, I had some help.”

“Remember, all of you, that no matter what the pokedex says, it might be wrong. Not a day goes by that we don’t learn something new, or learn that what we think we know is false. That’s why journeys like yours are so important: fresh eyes gathering new data will ensure we constantly update our knowledge and think in new ways. I have every confidence now that your journey will be one full of new discoveries.”

The three stand a bit taller, and Red feels his excited energy mirrored in the other’s expressions. He puts his pokedex away and heads for the door. “Come on, let’s get going. There are a ton of pokemon to study between here and Viridian City!”

Blue sighs. “As long as we get there sometime this century.”

Chapter 1: Unreliable Predictions

The Verres household’s second bedroom looks as though it belongs to two very different people. Or perhaps one person and one rampaging tauros.

The floor is littered with clothes. Used socks lie in unmatched pairs beside shoes, and half the chairs and bedposts have shirts or jackets hanging on them. The walls are completely obscured by maps, charts, and detailed pictures of pokemon biology and life cycles, most with writing scribbled on them in a tight, efficient script. The small cabinet beside the bed is overflowing with books and notepads, some spilled off onto the floor beside it.

Amidst this carnage, certain areas are pristine. Bookshelves line the walls, each filled with textbooks and novels that are all alphabetically organized. The work desk is completely clear of clutter, keyboard and mouse neatly placed an arm’s distance from each other. The wires and cables are carefully zip-tied and braced along the wall and desk. A can of sharpened pencils and capped pens sits against the wall, and a notebook rests beside it, open to a crisp, empty white page.

On the bed lies a boy, one leg and arm hanging over its side. On the wall above him there’s a calendar opened to June. Most of the boxes in the first half have notes written in them. One by one, X’s are drawn through each, right up to the highlighted square in the middle… afterward, the squares of the calendar are blank.

Today’s the day after which all earlier predictions cease.


As sunlight slowly fills the room through the drawn shades, a colorful alarm shaped like a chatot suddenly whirs to life. The lid over its round eyes slide open, it raises its head, and its beak yawns wide to emit-

Cacacacacacacacaacacaw!

The boy flails against the covers, sitting up and blinking through gummy eyes. He looks at the time and groans. It’s only seven…

Cacacacacacacacaacacaw!

He buries his face in his main pillow, right hand taking a second one to cover his head. His left swipes in the direction of the sound, seeking the snooze button on its head. It finds nothing.

Cacacacacacacacaacacaw!

The boy takes the pillow off his head and swings it down at the alarm. The tip of the pillow brushes the chatot’s beak, but the alarm is perched precariously on the end of the nightstand just out of reach. As if whoever decided where to place it had done so after measuring the length of the boy’s arm and a pillow.

Cacacacacacacacaacacaw!

He bolts back up with a scowl and staggers out of bed just long enough to hit the button and slump back onto the mattress. He sighs as his eyes slip closed-

“Hey Future Red, you awake?”

-and then snap open.

“Remember yet?” the chatot asks in a young boy’s voice. “You predicted having trouble sleeping last night, your last night that is, not mine, and set the alarm to be extra annoying just in case you’re unusually tired, since you can’t afford to oversleep today.”

That… does sound like something he would do, yes. Memories begin to seep through the cobwebs around his mind, and Red lowers the pillow and rubs at the gunk in his eyes so he could look at the calendar.

“Well if you’re listening to this you’re probably up now, but if not…”

Red scrambles for the alarm, too late-

CACACACACACACACACACACACACA-

Red slams the pillow down on the chatot with a muffled bang that knocks it to the floor, but he’s grinning. He remembers now.

Today’s the day.

With a rush of energy, Red stumbles to the bathroom to shower, the initial blast of cold water waking him the rest of the way. He brushes his teeth with one hand while washing his hair with the other, then dries up and opens his closet, where his traveling clothes are laid out carefully separate from the rest. Stain resistant, reinforced thread with protective mesh underwire, form fitting but light enough not to hamper movement. He pulls on the black shirt, red and white jacket, and denim pants, then opens the box of new, but broken-in, hiking shoes.

Only after he’s fully clothed does he permit himself to look at the clock, which reads…

7:32 AM.

Red slumps. The lab doesn’t open until eight. He checks his phone and sees no messages or missed calls.

Foot tapping with impatient energy, he decides to make breakfast to burn a half hour. He goes downstairs to the kitchen and begins preparing food. Whem the eggs start sizzling he hears his mom’s door open upstairs, and then feet treading down to join him.

“Morning Red.”

“Morning mom!”

She kisses his head and goes to the fridge. “Your alarm was unusually insistent this morning.”

Red grins. “Yeah, sorry. I set some failsafes.”

“Mhmm.” She pulls some milk out of the fridge, a winking cartoon miltank on the cover. “Any word from Blue or Professor Oak?”

“No.” Red slides some bread into the toaster, then turns the stove off and lifts the eggs onto a plate. When he asked his mother to teach him how to cook last year it was harder to reach the stove without standing on a stepping stool, but now he feels comfortable in the kitchen. He and Blue agreed that they should be ready for anything on their journey, which includes knowing how to cook their own food in the wild if needed. They worked their way there by learning to cook in a kitchen first, usually this one, with his mom as their teacher. “He said he would call when it’s ready.”

“Good then, at least we’ll have the morning together.” She smiles.

Red was actually thinking of bolting down his breakfast and heading to Blue’s for last minute coordination, but he shoves down his impatience and smiles back at her. His mother did her best to hide her worry over the past year, but he saw it all the same. Overly affectionate words, prolonged hugs, and above all, a haunted gaze he only ever picked up in his periphery, when she thought he was too absorbed in his work to notice.

He knew at those moments she was thinking of his father, and worrying that she would lose him too.

So he sets the table and puts out their breakfast, then eats with deliberate slowness. They make small talk, while under the table Red’s foot bounces, bounces, bounces, and his gaze flicks to the clock again and again to track the glacial sweep of its hands.

He’s buttering his third piece of toast when the house phone rings, and he surges out of his chair with a shout of “I’llgetit!” as he runs to the wall mount. His heart leaps as he sees the lab’s public number on the ID.

“Hello!”

“Er… hi?” The man on phone seems startled, and Red takes a deep breath to calm himself. “Is this the Verres residence?”

“Yes.” Red says, speaking slowly as iron bands tighten around his chest. “This—is—Red. How—may—I—help—you?”

“Oh, good morning Red, I didn’t recognize you there. Professor Oak would like you to come down at your earliest conven-”

“I’monmyway!” Red slams the phone onto its cradle. “It’s ready!” he yells to his mom as he runs upstairs, food forgotten.

On top of his dresser sits a large backpack, stuffed with everything from clothing to snackbars, carefully weighed to ensure he could jog with it at length without tiring. He had packed and repacked it the night before in preparation, but after having trouble sleeping he pulled the Kanto map out to study by lamp light, then a list of species types, then a half a dozen other things, until inevitably half the bag’s smaller side pockets were spread over his nightstand.

He quickly repacks everything, then slings it over his shoulder and goes to the door. He stops halfway out and looks back.

Red examines his books, his video games, his old toys, knowing it might be months at least before he sees any of it again. His gaze falls on his calendar, with all its empty squares ahead.

Red smiles and closes the door firmly behind him.

His mom is standing by the front door when he goes downstairs. He slows and stands before her, only having to lift his chin a little to meet her gaze.

“Got everything?”

There’s a slight hitch to her throat, there then gone, and suddenly Red’s throat feels clogged. Don’t cry…

“I-I think so.”

“You’ll call when you get to Viridian?”

“Of course.”

“And every night after!”

Red shifts his weight. “Yeah.”

“If you need anymore underwear-”

“Mom!” He puts his hand on the doorknob, and she covers it with hers.

“Forgetting something?” She pulls his hat off the wall hook behind her and fits it snug over his dark hair. “There. Now you look ready for anything.”

Red tugs the cap’s crimson bill a bit lower. “Thanks, I thought it was in my bag.”

He reaches for the door again, pauses, and then he hugs her nearly as tight as she hugs him.

“Be careful, Red,” she whispers.

“I will, mom.”


By the time he reaches Pallet Town’s main street, Red’s eyes are mostly dry, and he’s walking with eager anticipation. The Pallet Lab becomes visible soon after, and upon turning onto its avenue he sees a familiar figure in a dark blue shirt and khakis on the other side of the street.

“Blue!” He waits for a car to pass and jogs across to join his childhood friend, whose own backpack bulges with its contents. “What are you doing here? I thought you’d already be inside with your grandpa.”

“I just woke up when they called,” Blue grumbles, rubbing one eye. “Couldn’t sleep last night, so I ended up working on my type chart for a couple hours.”

Red suppresses a sigh. A major differences that became clear between the two of them over the past year is that while Red’s interests in pokemon span multiple different levels, Blue is mostly just obsessed with battling.

Red once explained for five minutes to Blue how a researcher in Johto discovered that, after breeding a slowbro and a bayleef, the baby chikorita that hatched was able to heal those around it: a power no other chikorita had ever displayed, but that the slowbro father had learned. Blue’s only reaction had been to begin feverishly mapping out potential ability combinations to try for breeding competitive pokemon. He wasn’t the least bit interested in the implication that pokemon retained some intuitive, genetic grasp of how to use abilities they didn’t normally have. They argued about things like that all the time, and all Blue ever seems to care about is what makes pokemon stronger or changes to the type charts.

Making matters worse is the suspicion Red has gained over the years that the entire concept of pokemon “types” is majorly flawed…

“Let me see?”

Blue pulls out a square of folded paper and hands it to him. Red opens it and examines the hand-made grid.

On the top, from left to right, are seventeen color coded “types.” The same types are listed on the left from top to bottom, and where the various types intersect with eachother are X’s or checks, though most spaces are empty, and many have the smudges of erased marks. Most of them seem right, though Red doesn’t follow the competitive scene enough to tell what changes to the meta are new or outdated.

One change makes him curious. “What’s this?” Red points to the erased checkmark where Poison meets Grass. “You removed Plant’s weakness to Poison?”

“Yeah. I was watching matchups in the Indigo regionals, and started going back over a lot of the high profile matches. In most cases, Grass pokemon were able to hold their own.”

“Huh. Were you just looking at just Indigo matches?”

“That’s where I’ll be competing, so yeah.”

Red scratches his hair beneath his cap. “Then your sample size might not have been big enough. Most of the Plant pokemon in Kanto have adapted to become poisonous. It helps them survive better.”

“Well, that’s good enough for me.”

Red frowns. “What if you come across a non-poisonous Plant type from another region?”

Blue shakes his head. “Theory versus practice, my friend. Doesn’t matter if a thousand Grass pokemon would lose to a thousand Poison, if the ones I’m going to be fighting with are exceptions. Besides, I can recognize all the natives anyway. This is just for quick reference.”

“Well if it’s for quick reference it should be accurate to the rule, not the exceptions.” Red takes a pencil from his pocket. “Here, just put the checkmark back with an asterisk-”

Blue grabs the paper from him and stuffs it back in his pocket. “Look, you do things your way, I’ll do things mine, alright?”

Red rolls his eyes. Thankfully Blue is smart enough to know the difference between anecdotal evidence and evidence from rigorous experimentation, but he still puts too much stock in observation vs theory. Sometimes all it takes is one carefully constructed and repeatable experiment to understand the truth behind a thousand different disputing observations. They’ve argued about it often, but Red doesn’t want to ruin this special day with it.

A couple years ago Professor Oak took note of Red’s grades at school, and gave him some books to read that were a bit more advanced than the standard curriculum. When Red returned to Oak’s lab within a week with all of them read and asking for more, the Professor contacted his school and mother and informed them that he would be engaging Red in an apprenticeship.

Ever since then, Blue and he began to grow a bit more distant. At first Red thought Blue was jealous, but his friend showed little interest in the scientific pursuits his grandfather and Red shared.

Instead, the more Red learned at the lab, the more he and Blue argued. It got worse a year ago when they began preparing for their journey, and came to a head last month, when Blue declared that he’d rather learn from experience than trust what’s in books, and that Red would waste his life reading rather than doing anything worth writing about. Red responded that maybe Blue was just too stupid to learn something until he had it beaten into him, and shortly after that one of them had thrown the first punch.

After Red’s mom pulled them apart, they hadn’t spoken to each other for two weeks, which was about how long it took for Red’s black eye to fade. It was only their coming adventure that put their fight behind them by unspoken consent.

They’re a few streets away from the lab when Red decides the silence has gone on long enough. “So, do you know what we’ll get yet?”

“No, he still wouldn’t tell me. Said it would be a surprise. Personally I think he just got them at the last minute.”

“Any ideas though?”

“You’d know better than me, with all the time you spend at the lab.”

Red shakes his head. “I really only deal with papers and reports… once in awhile I see some pokemon we’re experimenting with, but no record of all the ones there, and I rarely go to the ranch.”

They reach the plaza in front of the multistory lab. The building is white and silver and glass, easily the biggest in Pallet Town, and it never fails to impress upon Red how lucky he is to be working at the hub of Pokemon research in Kanto. When Professor Oak moved to Pallet Town to set the lab up, it almost literally put the place on the map. Red’s mother told him that by the time he and Blue were born, the town had grown twice as large as it was originally, and in the eleven years since then Red has seen it grow twice as large again.

They enter the air conditioned lab and walk together through the entrance hall, where sketches and diagrams of pokemon physiology are displayed along the walls. Red spots his favorite, a drawing of a dissected bulbasaur that’s hundreds of years old. The frail, carefully sealed parchment details how the plant material is rooted and merged with the reptilian body. It’s the first historical evidence of someone attempting a naturalistic study of pokemon, rather than the ubiquitous regard of them as supernatural and mythic creatures. It took generations for the rest of civilization to catch up with the unknown researcher’s perspective: that pokemon could be studied and understood. A perspective most honored by those like Samuel Oak, from the first generation of trainers dubbed “Pokemon Professor.”

Red and Blue enter the office space and begin to pass a number of scientists that they wave to. Most of them are in their twenties or thirties, and smile at the sight of the youngsters, knowing what they’re here for.

“Good luck, Blue!”

“Have fun you two!”

“Red! Come see me after, I’ve got something for you-”

The two adolescents grin and wave as they walk through the labs, mutually picking up the pace as each other’s excitement reignites their own. They’re practically jogging by the time they reach the main lab, an open, round room filled with desks and computers, with various scientists scattered around it in groups, and many doors leading off to the smaller areas.

“Good morning!” booms a voice at the center of the room.

Professor Oak stands beside a table, pokedex in one hand and a pokeball in the other. While he spends most of his days indoors now, the old man’s skin still holds a hint of the tan he carried most of his life, and though his hair is more silver than gray, his eyes sparkle with undiminished vitality and curiosity. His open white lab coat is heavy with various tools and electronic devices sticking out of its pockets.

“Hey gramps!”

“Morning Professor Oak!”

They run up to him as he puts the pokeball down and slips the pokedex into a pocket. Red can see three pokeballs on the table, each with a colored symbol above the button: a green leaf, an orange flame, and a blue water drop. His foot begins to tap in place again as excitement fills his chest and limbs with energy.

Professor Oak beams at them. “You guys look great. Filled with eagerness and prepared for anything. It almost makes me want to leave this all behind and come along. If I were ten years younger…” He sighs, and claps his hands together. “Well. Time to pass on the torch. But first, an introduction. Leaf?”

A foreign girl with long brown hair stands up from the computer she was sitting at. Red was so focused on the pokeballs he didn’t even notice her. She’s about his and Blue’s age, and seems similarly prepared for travel.

As she approaches, Red looks at the three pokeballs again and blinks. “You’re coming with us?”

She smiles. “Nice to meet you.”

“Leaf, this is my grandson Blue, and one of my students, Red. Boys, this is Leaf Juniper. She’s the granddaughter of an old friend of mine from Unova, and she recently came here to study Kanto pokemon.”

Red stares until Blue greets her, then mumbles his own after. He knows of Professor Juniper, of course, and that he has a daughter, Aurea, who also recently became a Professor, but he didn’t know he had a granddaughter. He never met someone from Unova before, and he hadn’t expected to be setting out with anyone but Blue…

“I thought you only finished making two new prototypes, professor?” Red asks. He knows it’s childish, but he doesn’t want to have to share his.

“I have. Leaf’s mother made her own pokedex based on my last design, so she’s trying to expand its listing for their international index.”

Professor Oak reaches into his white coat and pulled out two red, slim computers. Red takes his reverently and opens the cover. A pair of touch screens greet him, one a home screen with a bunch of apps, the other a white, blank index. The empty, numbered list calls to him, just begging to be filled with information.

“My latest design prototype, almost ready for mass production. I want you two to give it a field test by catching as many Pokemon as you can to add to our database. And here are the pokemon you’ll be using to start.” Oak gestures to the three red and white spheres. “It took me awhile, but I got a hold of a bulbasaur, squirtle, and charmander from the breeders.”

Yes! Red barely stops himself from pumping a fist into the air, and Blue cracks his knuckles in anticipation. Such rare and strong starting pokemon had been almost beyond his hopes.

“They’ve been bred and raised to be among the most intelligent and obedient of their species, which will make training them easier than most wild pokemon you catch.” Professor Oak says as he picks up the leaf-imprinted pokeball. “Treat them well, train them properly, and they’ll be your friends and protectors until their last breath.”

The professor holds the lens button on its front level with the lens on the front of Red’s pokedex, and to his delight a bulbasaur suddenly appears on the main screen, sleeping in the simulated environment the pokeball creates for him: a lush, grassy clearing in the middle of a forest. Its name pops up at the top of the screen, and after a second of loading, Red sees the Pokemon’s vital stats get listed: height, weight, type, and more.

Professor Oak moves the ball away from Red’s pokedex and does the same thing to Blue’s and Leaf’s. The video on Red’s pokedex freezes as soon as the lens is no longer aligned, and the image shrinks and becomes stored with the entry as the space listed #001 fills.

“When you catch a new Pokemon, just hold it up to the lens like this, and the pokedex will identify it and record whatever information it can. Your pokedexes all have access to the sum total of knowledge we currently have about the various species, so if you see one in the wild that it recognizes, you’ll be able to research it. But it will only be able to actually gather new information from the ones you capture. The more you catch, even among the same species, the more data we have on them, so each capture you make has the potential to teach us more. Do your best to try to catch them all!”

Heart in his throat, Red begins to look over all the information the pokedex has on bulbasaur:

Bulbasaur: Seed Pokemon. It exists in a symbiotic relationship with a seed embedded in its back at birth, which sprouts and grows as it ages. The plant absorbs nutrients from bulbasaur’s body, while bulbasaur can photosynthesize light through the plant’s leaves. It can go for days without eating as long as it has enough sunlight and water, and the plant can survive without sunlight as long as bulbasaur can find food.

It goes on for several pages to describe all that has been learned about bulbasaur’s growth, mating habits, preferred environments, and more. After the professor finishes scanning bulbasaur to each of their pokedex, he does the same thing with charmander and squirtle.

“So, I’m going to give you all time to examine these pokemon, then you’ll get to choose which one you want.”

Red exchanges a look with Blue and Leaf. The Unovan smiles and gestures to the two boys.

“After you: I’m a guest here, and they’re all new to me anyway. I have no preference.”

“What about you, Red?” Blue asked. “Got a favorite?”

Red can only remember a handful of details about the rare pokemon, and looks at the most recent entry, #007:

Squirtle: Turtle Pokemon. Its shell is hard and smooth, providing great defense and allowing swift swimming beneath the water. Its skin absorbs moisture from the air to fill its water pouches, and when threatened, it can withdraw into its shell and shoot foam or water from its mouth in a powerful spray. It also has strong jaws for biting anything that gets too near.

A pretty straightforward water type, then. He moves on to #004:

Charmander: Lizard Pokemon. Charmander prefer rocky, mountainous terrain, and hatch from their eggs when their tails ignite and crack the shell. The flame on the end of their tail varies in strength and size based on their mood and health. It is said that Charmander dies if its flame goes out.

Red frowns. It is said? “Professor, this entry on charmander… it says that it dies if the flame on the end of its tail goes out. That can’t be right, can it?”

Professor Oak shrugs. “Based on what’s been observed, that’s the inference many have drawn.”

Hmm. The Professor had worded that rather oddly. “But if the flame varies based on their health, wouldn’t it be more logical to say that when they die, the fire goes out?”

“More logical?” Blue says. “Who cares if it sounds more logical? He just said that it’s been observed.”

“But that’s a fallacy of correlation and causation,” Red says. “Just because the two things happen at the same time, doesn’t mean one causes the other, or that we can tell which one causes which.”

Leaf surprises Red by nodding. “It’s like saying ‘Pidove flock in city parks because people there feed them.’ But pidove might be there anyway even if no one feeds them, because the parks are where the insects and berries they would normally eat are. So maybe people feed pidove in the parks because they like feeding pidove, and that’s where pidove happen to be because of the environment.”

Professor Oak examines the image of the charmander sleeping in its artificial cave, tail flame lighting its surroundings. “Well, charmander won’t go anywhere near water in quantities larger than a puddle, so short of forcing one to submerge, there’s just no way to tell for sure… and since that might kill the charmander, we obviously wouldn’t try that experiment.”

“Of course not, but… there has to be some other way of determining it.” Red picks up the charmander’s pokeball. Here’s a worthy first mystery to take on: he would find a way to prove one way or the other how charmander’s fire relates to their vitality, and begin earning his Pokemon Researcher license. “I’ve decided. If it’s okay with the other two, I want to study charmander.”

As Red suspected, Blue immediately picks up the Water type. “I choose squirtle.” He grins and spins the pokeball around on the tip of his finger before tossing it up a bit and catching it. Red wonders how long Blue practiced that. Either way it looks cool, and he has to stop himself from attempting it himself. He’ll try later in private.

“Well, I guess that leaves me with bulbasaur,” Leaf says happily as she picks it up. “I was lying earlier when I said I had no favorite. It has a certain symmetry, don’t you think?”

“It does indeed,” Professor Oak says with a smile. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a velvet bag, then carefully pours a handful of shrunken pokeballs into his palm and hands them out. “Press the button to expand or shrink its size. When you catch a new Pokemon, it will be atomized and compressed inside it, but you won’t be able to shrink it again. If you have too many to carry around comfortably, you can store them at any computer connected to the network, and withdraw them from a different one later.”

“Is the pokemon’s data kept in the ball?” Red asks.

“No, it transfers with the pokemon to the network.” Professor Oak points to the computer hard drive at the nearest PC. “That pokeball will still be programmed for it though, so best to hold onto it.” He hands out pamphlets that detail the pokeball’s functions, and another for the pokedex. “The balls are capable of basic verbal commands to release, withdraw, and nickname your pokemon, but the pokedex is how you interface with the pokemon themselves for virtual training while they’re in their balls.”

“So if we lose these balls or something happens to them, our pokemon are safe.” Leaf says.

“For the ones you have stored, yes, though it’s a hassle to get it rekeyed to another pokeball: you essentially have to release it and catch it again.”

Red examines his pokeball. He learned all this in bits and pieces over the months of working here, but it still fascinates him how amazing technology has become. He remembers seeing a picture of pokeball technology back when Professor Oak was his age, before there was an internet to rapidly transmit the pokemon from one place to another, let alone allow the balls to change their size. It looked like a big metal coconut.

“I know how eager you all are to get on your way, so let’s get your accounts set up,” Professor Oak says.

They walk to the nearest PC, and Blue smiles at Red. “So, care to try a battle when we leave? You know, as an ‘experiment,’ to see if the type charts are accurate.”

Red sighs. “I never said they’re all wrong… I know Water types are strong against Fire.”

Leaf looks at them curiously. “Was that ever in doubt?”

Blue puts his hand on Red’s shoulder. “Our Red thinks he knows better than everyone else how pokemon really work.”

Red shrugs off Blue’s hand. “I think the ‘typing’ method that all the battle trainers are obsessed over has problems, that’s all.”

“And he thinks this based on his many years of first-hand training and battling experience,” Blue confides to Leaf, who giggles.

Red feels his cheeks flush, but Professor Oak speaks up from the front of the group. “Red may very well be right about some of his ideas: no Professor I’ve met has claimed to be a hundred percent sure they understand how pokemon work. They’re mysterious creatures, and we’ve only recently had the technology to really study them thoroughly and scientifically.”

Leaf nods. “Mom is always talking about how often she gets something wrong before she gets it right. So are you journeying to become a Professor, Red?”

“For now I’d be satisfied with getting my Researcher license and filling the Kanto pokedex.” They arrive at the PC, and Professor Oak begins setting up their accounts. “But yeah, I’m going to become a Professor eventually and get my own lab.”

“Really?” Leaf looks interested rather than skeptical, which is a nice change of pace. Most people outside the lab don’t tend to take him seriously. But then, she is the granddaughter anddaughter of Professors herself. “What will your lab focus on?”

“I want to study the origin of pokemon species.”

“Which ones?”

“All of them.”

Now she looks skeptical. “All of them? You mean…”

Red tries to ignore Blue’s smirk. “Yeah. I want to know where they all came from. What makes them so different from each other, and what makes us so different from them.”

The girl gives a low whistle. “You and the rest of the world. You don’t dream small, do you?”

Red smiles. “Where’s the fun in that?”

“None at all,” Professor Oak says as he registers Blue’s Trainer ID to the network.

Leaf smiles back. “Well, I’ll be happy to hear about your theories on pokemon types sometime.”

“And I’ll be happy to help prove them wrong,” Blue says with a grin, and spins his pokeball on a finger again. “Through battles.”