After having a small meal of lasagna, I walked out of the restaurant with a small smile on my face. Already the thought of seeing my family again made some small feeling that the hope of seeing my own world again had something to hold on to. Of course, Cress had said that Professor Juniper and Dr. Fennel were only going to explain things to me, but still, if they really are a professor and a doctor, they could find some space-time gadget to get me out of here. If a portal can get me in, it can get me out.
I held the letter and pin, or badge as it was called, in my hand. The badge shone in the sun, as if I was expected to celebrate by jumping in the air or something. Instead I just put it in my suit pocket. No need for more stuff to make people think I'm crazy.
"Is that the Trio Badge?" A voice said off sightly to my left.
I turned to the source. Standing there was a young man, probably in his late teens, wearing a white shirt, khaki pants, and a black and white baseball cap. His eyes were a weird gray color, and he had long and fluffy hair with an odd greenish shade. There was also a weird planet-like necklace and a Rubix Cube with the center punched out; I think I remember my co-workers at my job calling it a Void Cube. All in all, he looked somewhat like one of those counterculture people you would find in the 60's, given this world's version of a makeover. Judging from the look on his face, he must have noticed the pin before I put it away.
If the reaction of the host back in the restaurant was any sign, my looks and body language alone were enough to imply that I was not right in the head. The teen I was facing just said something about a Trio Badge, and not knowing what it was, I did not want to alienate myself any more than I already had been.
"...No it isn't." I replied. "You must be mistaken."
"You're lying. Any Trainer can recognize the Gym Badges of the Pokemon League. I just saw you with the badge of the very Gym we're standing in front of." His voice was unusually fast, as he formed words at a rapid fire pace.
"Gym? That's a restaurant, not a gym. What kind of person would work out at a restaurant? Who would eat to the smell of athlete sweat?"
"...There is more to that building than what it looks like. Do you know the leaders of that Gym?"
"I'm telling you, it's just a restaurant. I didn't see any leaders there. Only a host called Maxwell and three waiters named Cress, Chili, and Cilan." Though a feeling of tension was rising, neither one of us was shouting, thank goodness.
"Those three waiters are the Gym Leaders. So, tell me, what was the gym battle like?"
"We didn't fight. We just had a few words and they sent me somewhere on an errand."
"They don't just give Gym Badges for errands." He paused a bit. "Why am I not hearing the voices of your Pokemon?"
Before all of this, I had never even heard of the word Pokemon, let alone know what it meant. For once in this place, I thought that someone else was crazy, and not the other way around.
"Pokemon? What in the world do you mean? What do you mean they're talking?"
"I can hear the voices of Pokemon, but it looks like you can't hear them, either. How sad. But with you, I can't hear them at all-" He stopped. Apparently my last few questions had just went though his brain, as he was now giving me the weirdest looks. He started talking again.
"You haven't heard of Pokemon, and yet I saw you with the Trio Badge. Impossible. There can't be anyone who has never known about Pokemon. So where are yours? You may hide them under Poke Balls, but as a Trainer, I can't stop wondering... Are they really happy that way?"
I stuttered out something to keep the conversation going. "I'm sure they're perfectly happy in them. Otherwise, wouldn't they just try to get out of them?"
"Perhaps... Let me hear your Pokemon's voice. How about a battle?"
At this point I was weird-ed out by the man, how fast he was talking, his behavior, everything really. I wanted to leave as soon I could. I did not know half of what he was talking about and I had two people to meet.
"No, thank you. This conversation has been too awkward for me. Goodbye."
I hurriedly left the area as fast as I could without looking too rude about it, trying to follow Cress' directions as best as I could. Thankfully, even though I got lost several times, Cress talked about places of note in case I got lost in the directions, so I could just start from an earlier direction if I lost sight of where I was going. While I was hoping for a bus or other way to get to Fennel's place quickly, I saw that things like those were rare for the most part. Did everyone really just walk from place to place? For the moment though, I wrote it off as the short-term result of a grassroots environmentalist movement.
Now that I had my mind on people, I noticed that the streets of Straiton were for the most part empty. This was way different than when I first went in, as while the city wasn't really packed with people, it was still more busy than it was now. There were no signs of mass disappearances, just emptiness. Where did everyone go? I found the answer a few minutes later.
If Cress' directions were right I was not far from Dr. Fennel's lab, and it was only a few more turns until I reached it. When I turned a corner, I saw a large crowd assembled in a public square. It did not take a genius to figure out that this was why there wasn't many people in the city when I had left the restaurant. Judging by how everyone was acting, I guessed that this wasn't something that happened normally.
Looking up to see what all of the fuss was all about, I saw a large stage propped up at the center, impressive looking for the fact that it seemed to be temporary. On it were eight figures, all of them in what looked to be a uniform.
The first seven, seemingly the lower members, were standing in a line trying to look impressive, and wore something resembling a gray-blue hoodie jacket, with an X stitched on the top. The leggings and sleeves were dark blue, and they had oversized gloves and boots that were the same color as the hoodies. All of this was topped off with a white cloak like over-garment.
The eighth one, seemingly the leader, wore a large cloak that only ended at his ankles. The cloak's design had a pattern like butterfly eyespots as painted by someone mentally unsound, each side having the other's color inverted. While there didn't look to be any sleeves, the cloak's neckline had a resemblance to a castle tower. His hair had a deer-antler like style and was gray-green, not unlike that of the teen I had met with earlier. On his left eye he wore a dark red eyepiece. This combined with the cloak's pattern, only helped to convince my gut feeling that there was something deeply wrong with this man. Nobody would look like that back home in Pittsburgh and not have someone call you insane.
On top of all of this, both the stage's back wall and the figures were showing a symbol, most likely of an organization of some sort. It was in the shape of a shield, with the left side white and the other black. On the middle a blue P was shown, superimposed over a mirrored Z. The lower members wore the logo on their chests, while the other one had it at the center of his robe's neckline.
The cloaked man stepped up to speak.
"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I am Ghetsis, and we are here to represent Team Plasma. We would like to talk to you about Pokemon liberation."
Pokemon liberation? I had no clue as to what this man was talking about. I thought that this was something that everyone else knew something about, though the surprised reaction by everyone else said otherwise. After the shock the man, Ghetsis as he was calling himself, continued speaking.
"I know most of you believe that Pokemon and humans have, over the course of history, come to live together because it is thought that the two groups interacting with one another has made a better world. The Pokemon do most of the work alongside humans, and in return, we keep Pokemon fed, sheltered, and happy enough so that they want for nothing. Everyone wins and gets the most out of life as we share in our adventures and triumphs. Today, I am asking all of you this; Is that really the truth of our relationship with Pokemon?" He paused for a moment to let the question sink in.
While the rest of the audience was loudly thinking on the subject, I on the other hand didn't even know what he was talking about. Things called Pokemon doing work for humans, while they kept them feed? Don't we mostly use machines for heavy labor? Then why is he using Pokemon in the context of a living being?
"Let us follow through what life is as a Pokemon. When one is caught by a Trainer, it is accepted they they follow the Trainer's commands, and the Pokemon is told that it is a partner at work with the Trainer. This is true in Pokemon Battles, why Gym they challenge, almost everything they do. They follow them to the best of their ability, and they don't get any say in what to do. There is no thought in what the Pokemon wants when the Trainer decides to do something. There's even a good number of Trainers who selfishly put their own advancement above their Pokemon's well-being. In my experiences, I can say with confidence that there is truth in what I am saying. Right now I am asking you if you can say the same."
This only baffled me further. Why would someone speak like that, just for the sake of liberating whatever Pokemon were? His speech implied that Pokemon were abused, and society turned a blind eye to it. But I saw no signs of anything being badly treated, not even of the animals in the restaurant. In fact, they seemed fairly happy to be with humans. Then it hit me: If the crowd is just as confused as I was about "Pokemon liberation", yet there was nothing to show that fact, and weird knight uniforms on top of all that... They're extremists. Ladies and gentlemen, PETA has just gone medieval.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Pokemon are different from human beings. They can live without the need for polluting the environment, frivolous things like money, or even the need for most human conveniences. They are living creatures that contain vast and unknown amounts of potential. We humans have much to learn from them if we really want to make the better world that was promised when we formed our relationship towards Pokemon. If we want to continue living with them, we have a certain responsibility towards these wonderful creatures. I am not a man that takes his audience for someone who is not bright, so can someone tell me what is that responsibility?"
At this point I was getting too confused to not say anything about the speech. Whatever Pokemon were, this man was implying that they were far better beings than humans. He was on the verge of spouting out nonsense, and his somewhat creepy apperance only added to the effect. I needed to ether make him clear up what he was saying, or I was going to make him look like someone who doesn't know what he's talking about, because I didn't. I stepped up to the front of the stage.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. What in the world are you talking about? Pokemon liberation? I have never heard of such a thing in my life." I said, somewhat loudly so I could be heard. The crowd turned to look at the source, some of them, even some of the uniformed people, had looks of surprise and the like, no doubt at my appearance. One person on the stage even pointed to the Steeler logo on my tie as if to single me out.
The speaker responded. "Well, of course people have never heard of Pokemon liberation. The subject has almost never been brought up, and of course Trainers would love to see a blind eye turned towards it."
"Then why haven't I seen any signs of this 'Pokemon abuse' anywhere I've been?"
"Because people would naturally want to hide such things. It is in our nature to say one thing but in reality do the exact opposite."
"Really?" I stopped for a moment as I realized that if I pressed this farther, I was going to go into an argument about humanity and all the other stuff that usually follows. I had no real experience in this type of conversation. The only thing I really did that might count was a few years back.
Jessie wanted to see 9 because she thought the Stitchpunks looked cute and that it was a standard fantasy movie. It wasn't R-rated, so I figured "why not?". After that, let's just say that any 9 year old who watches a movie about the wiping out of humanity by steampunk-esque robots will be having nightmares for a few weeks. I tried to help Jessie by consoling her that the world wasn't going to be like that and it was all a movie, especially trying to tell her that everyone wasn't a wretched stain on the earth after almost every line 1 had being a condemnation of humans and science. Of course, Jessie wasn't the only one scared; The Fabrication Machine still haunts me to this day.
Ghetsis, as the man was calling himself, seemed to think almost the same thing with what he was saying. In this strange world, I was about to challenge that in an attempt to ease my mind. I resumed talking.
"Then why are hypocrites treated like dirt? Why do people constantly think that things like progress are a good thing, and that helping to build a better world is good?"
"To help them of course. What you call 'progress' is really peoples delusions that by serving themselves, they better the world?"
"If it wasn't for progress, we'd still be hiding in caves from lions, bears, and God knows what. Life was horrible before we tried to fix it. We split the atom, we learned to fly, we put a man on the moon! We did a load of human achievements. History is loaded with them!" Ghetsis and a large amount of the audience winced at me, acting like they never heard of the things I told about, as if they never existed.
"And the things humans have been hiding from, they capture and use them for sport, claiming that it deepens the bond between them." Ghetsis responded. My mind suddenly jumped to a conclusion. Ghetsis had been talking about how humans had captured Pokemon, whatever the things were, for sport. When he said that humans had been caught them in response to my sentence about animals...
"Wait, if I'm right, you say that humans capture these 'Pokemon' and decide to use them for whatever. You're implying that it's perfectly OK for someone to just wake up one morning and randomly think 'I'm going to catch a creature today'... What kind of world do you live in?"
At this point the people on the stage were starting to get offended at what I was saying they were making somewhat angry faces and a giving off a small feeling of hostility. I decided it was not best to start an angry mob after me, so I backed off, and dashed off away from all this, continuing my trip to the place I was supposed to meet Dr. Fennel and Professor Juniper, whoever they were. Off the glimpse of my eye when I exited, I swore I caught a glimpse of that strange green haired teen I saw earlier...