The wait had been longer than two hours, and by the time Shaun and Alex got to the frazzled nurse to hand over their pokemon they were on the brink of falling down where they stood. This pokemon center, which was the second one in the city and at the opposite end, was a lot bigger and seemed to have two hotels worth of rooms and could actually put Shaun and Alex together in a room of four with two other boys.
The two others, along with apparently most able bodied trainers in the city, had been battling, and it seemed as if there had been literally hundreds of shuppet. The tiny television in their room was at a low volume as the four of them talked in subdued tones. The news was going with different screenshots of various buildings catching fire, the amass of people battling the army of shuppet and, finally, the part where the giant ice bird had fallen to the ground where a group of armed militants threw strange violet pokeballs until the giant bird was subdued.
"Those are special military pokeballs," Bryce muttered. He was a dirty reddish blond boy with a full beard and tattoo sleeves on both arms of various battling pokemon. "My brother was kicked out of boot camp," he continued after seeing the looks of the others. "But he learned enough that when the military takes out dangerous pokemon they sometimes need to capture them and are given pokeballs that are stronger than ultra balls."
"Must have a lot of power behind the mechanics, then," the last boy, Brett, said. He had long brown hair that was in desperate need of a trimming and a few jagged scars on his cheek that made half his face mismatched. He had three badges and had been at it for over a year, dimming Shaun's mood even further, because he knew the guy actually wanted to be a trainer, despite having a lot of nasty run-ins with dangerous pokemon.
"Those shuppet had been bred," Alex spoke up, gaze turned to the window and staring out, looking ragged.
As one the other three turned. "What's that supposed to mean?" Shaun demanded.
Alex didn't say anything at first. His knuckled were tightening and his jaw was twitching before he sighed tiredly. "Those shuppet were bred," he repeated dully. "They were weak and all gangs of shuppet are led by at least one banette, not to mention that a pokemon of a single breed do not just show up in that large of a number, even in swarms. And a legendary –"
"False legendary," Shaun muttered, drawing weird looks.
Bryce cleared his throat. "So, what, you saying this was a cover up or something? People actually released a bunch of insane ghosts to, what, keep the city busy?"
Alex shrugged, glancing at Shaun. "Maybe," he said slowly, "but I don't know for what or who."
"Funny how the army that showed up was a bunch of Kantoens," Shaun muttered, eyes at Alex.
The other boy scowled. "Like I told you," he hissed, "I don't always support them. Not everyone likes someone just because they're from the same region. You of all people should be able to comprehend that, what with your oh so loving attitude."
Shaun sneered. "Screw you."
"Alright, no fighting," Brett interrupted. "Not after tonight. Tomorrow you two can go at it if you really want to."
"What you two should be irritated about is that the government let those military bastards walk right through this town without at least a slap on the wrist," Bryce put in. "I'm not saying I hate people from Kanto, and no offense to you, Alex, but why the hell have they been going through our region so much lately whenever there just happens to be a disaster?"
Alex pursed his lips. "It's going to sound arrogant," he said slowly, not sure if he should continue but the others nodded for him to say it anyway. "But Kanto is the region that is most capable of true annexation. The Kanto League has literally helped created each league in the regions surrounding it. Johto was first, and then Hoenn and so-on. They've had their share of the south and are more interested in the north, especially since the upper lands seem to have pokemon that aren't common in the south. It's almost as if there's an invisible barrier between Lenore and Kanto that keeps pokemon that are, say, more commonly found in Unova. They're interested in that and want to be a part of it. The more your business expands the more money and power you get."
The others stared dully at the boy.
"What the hell?" Brett stared incredulously. "And you know all that how?"
Alex shrugged. "It's kind of common knowledge in Kanto in our schooling."
"What about that soldier?" Shaun muttered, adding into the conversation.
"He wasn't… human." He rolled over on his back and stared up at the ceiling, mind still processing the night's events.
Alex didn't speak for a moment. His face had darkened and his shoulders hunched that gave off an aura of discontent. "I don't really know," he said slowly. He let out a low breath. "There were rumors going around Kanto a few years back when a drowned body was discovered washed up on Cinnabar Island. A couple of locals had found it and video taped it before calling authorities. I have a friend who lives there and she said the Kanto Force had arrived within an hour of the call. They closed off the beach to everyone, even the gym leader, and twenty four hours later the beach had been completely overturned and the body, as well as the government, was gone. The video had of course leaked onto the internet as soon as the locals got home, despite various attempts to block or delete the videos, but you know how the internet is. Once it's on it never leaves."
"What was the body?" Bryce asked. He and Brett had stared at Shaun oddly when he had mentioned the soldier not being human, but the moment Alex talked in such a dark tone they turned their attention on him, eager.
Alex shrugged, looking uncomfortable and even a little sick. "It had the rough shape of a human," he muttered, and then promptly shuddered.
"But it looked like a mutated vaporeon. A bad one at that." He paused. "It was disgusting, really. Its features were hard to make out. Its skin was blue and the face looked like a cross between human and vaporeon before being blunted with a hammer, and its bones had protruded from its back like white, tiny spikes. It didn't have the vaporeon sea fin tail, though it did have nearly perfect webbed ears."
"What makes you think it wasn't just an overgrown, half eaten vaporeon?" Bryce questioned. "There's always random pokemon with mutation problems. Do you guys remember hearing about that pack of Houndoom located on Icy Plummet that lost their ability to breathe fire and can now control ice?"
Shaun personally hadn't heard of that, but that was because he had never really paid attention to anything pokemon related, but the other two nodded in agreement.
"That's what a lot of other people thought as well," Alex admitted, "but there was a distinctive feature that overruled that theory. It had breasts."
There was an uneasy silence.
"Like… actual boobs? Woman tits?" Brett asked, actually cupping his hands and squeezing the air as if he were groping invisible boobs.
Alex nodded. "Yea, and that's not the only thing. A year ago some older trainer entered into a low key competition in Johto with a pikachu." Alex paused, a look of pity briefly appearing on his features. "It had a raichu tail. The instant people saw it he and the pokemon were supposedly ushered away to get it checked out for legitimacy but he never returned to the battle. A month after that his family put up missing posters."
The others looked uneasy as they processed this.
"Are you saying your country is doing some weird experiments on people and pokemon and they're trying to keep in under wraps?" Brett asked.
"That's the conspiracy, anyway," Alex said with a bitter smile. "I believe it, and after what I saw tonight… well, yea."
Shaun still hadn't removed his gaze from the ceiling, and when he spoke his tone was gruff. "What's their point in doing something like that? Mixing pokemon with people? Super soldiers to take over?" He gave a condescending snort.
Alex turned on his side to look at the dark teen, eyes harsh. "They just might be." Hazel clashed with steel for a moment as the two glared.
"Alright, time for bed, kiddies," Bryce interrupted, turning off the television and lights. "Go at it in the morning, but for now just let the bed bugs bite your sh*ty little asses."
The set of glares turned on the other, though they went unseen in the dark.
Alexander was not the spoiled, naïve, prejudiced child that Shaun believed him to be. Well, at least not completely. His mother was in charge of Silph Company and his father had made a name for himself by creating several new technical machines that did not die out after one use. Two extremely smart and wealthy people came together through a simple conference and that was that. Alex had grown up in luxury but he was not spoiled.
With a mother that had a business to run and a father that looked at everything from a scientific standpoint he was treated to a very strict lifestyle of education and politics. While he could have been given anything he wanted with a simple plea to his overly busy parents it was just that he didn't have the time. Tutors rushed into his life like a blur; taking away his entire childhood and anytime he may have wished for himself.
Aside from typical classes like literature and history, he was given advance math, biology for both pokemon and humans, advance science, was trained pokemon battling by professionals and so much more that could help in the world if he desired to work with pokemon or for pokemon. That was to be his fate, given what his parents were.
They weren't unloving; they gave him plenty of attention when they were at home and sometimes brought him to work, doted on him with certain smugness to their coworkers and gave him a large amount of freedom. He was loved as much could be allowed by two busy well accomplished businessmen and he was happy. He wasn't a needy child in the way children wanted items or toys. What he was needy for, however, was a rival.
The other children he was associated with were from the same sort as he – children of the rich and powerful. They had the same education and means of getting what they wanted, but they didn't have the same drive as he. He wanted more, and what it was he longed for he wasn't sure. What was there that he didn't have or couldn't obtain?
The answer came to him when he had wandered away from a luncheon with several of his mother's associates from Silph. He had been in desperate need of a breather and to be away from all the critical glances from coworkers all hoping to someday take the business for themselves rather then let it go to him, the heir. He had all but rushed out into the busy streets of Saffron, easing the choking tie to a more relaxed hold around his neck, and wandered blindly, not caring where he went as long as it was away from the overbearing building that housed more pokemon products than any other in the world.
Alex had come across a pokemon battle. Not that it was an uncommon sight for him to stumble upon given that pokemon battles in major cities were as common as pidgey. No, what had made him realize what he wanted in life was how he watched the trainers. He watched their expressions, body language, commands and, of course the jabs at one another. This was not just another battle between two strangers.
These two knew each other. They knew each other on such a deep level that they could easily par whatever command the other gave. The battle lasted longer than average and even the trainers looked as worn as the pokemon. It had ended in a tie, much to the displeasure of the crowd, but the two trainers had laughed and slapped each other like children, a familiarity in their actions Alex was suddenly envious of. It was obvious the two were driven by the other in an effort to grow and Alex wanted that. He had no one to compete against in his studies and the pokemon he used in battles weren't his own so wins didn't feel like that much of a victory.
Alex had walked back to the building with a feeling of euphoria, feeling as eager as ever, and suddenly wanting to rush out into the world like an overenthusiastic child. The feeling didn't go away even when he went back to the boring party, or when he got home after explaining what he saw to his parents and it didn't go away during the next few years of preparation for his journey once he decided to go the trainer route for a few years to see how he liked it.
And, of course, it didn't even go away when his parents died in a plane crash during a business trip.
Not even a full month after his sixteenth birthday and he was made an orphan. The reasoning behind the plane crash? A simple, unchecked wire that had worn down with age and water leakage. With electricity running through the wires combined with the occasional drip of water, it was only a matter of time did it burn away. The plane didn't catch fire but it did create a lot of smoke in the upper levels of ceiling where no one could see. It filtered into the air, and the machines that were supposed to pick up that kind of emergency went out, the auto pilot went from on to off like a flickering light bulb before finally going out. The whole engine had gone right in the middle of the ocean.
They were still trying to find all the pieces.
Alex's uncle, Jack Broderick, took over for his mother. Silph Co. had always been handed down to the eldest child and Alex knew that his uncle was absolutely thrilled that he would be able to run the multimillionaire company, despite the fact it was his mother's death that had led to his sudden boost in power. Not to say his uncle wasn't already in the business. He was head of Department and Regulations of Trainers United after all. Jack Broderick had made some interesting changes to training life before he even had Silph in the palm of his hands. The minute he had it all was when things that were only whispered about behind closed doors were suddenly out in the open like it was all ok. The military was suddenly far more active than it had ever been in decades, trades were being open with foreign regions that most tried to stay away from and laws were making pokemon training, a once fun thing even for children, a much more serious thing rather than a hobby or dream.
Pokemon that had once been close to extinction were suddenly skyrocketing in certain regions, overpowered pokemon that were once only challenged by the elite had disappeared and, perhaps the worst of all, convicts were suddenly out in the open training pokemon as if they had the right to escape the bars they so deserved.
Despite the fact that it was a new way of life for Kanto to suddenly have to compete with kids their age that could steal or even kill without a hint of remorse, it wasn't new to the rest of the world. Other regions had been doing trials like that for years. Trying to find a way to get kids who had made mistakes back on the right track by forcing them to care about now pokemon, but the thought of freedom pokemon could provide them. Like with all experiments there were failures, and that was why it had taken years before Kanto decided to test it themselves despite the fact that it was Kantoeons that spread the idea to other regions.
The year they decided to test the Rehab Rejects project in Kanto was when Kanto had finally been able to get close to Lenore, a dangerous region that was everything Kanto was not. Pokemon of every level on every route making it difficult for a beginner to start out, despite the fact that this region only had people that truly wanted to be trainers and had been training for years. Lenore had battles that ended in death, something that was heavily frowned on by all the southern regions, but Alex felt intrigued by thought.
Alex would never want one of his pokemon to die. Of course not, he would never, but the thought of training so hard and having that sort of trust be put on the line was just too much for him not to become a bit curious about what it would be like.
The Rehab Rejects project was also brought to Lenore half a year after Kanto did, and within those six months two kids had already collected at least five badges. Considered a success Kanto all but forced the act on Lenore, despite the shaky alliance the two regions had. Alex wasn't a fool to think Lenore wouldn't dislike them, knowing that no one liked being told what to do by a different government, but he hadn't expected the pure hate and almost war that had erupted.
That was why he was here in Lenore with a few dozen others from Kanto and Johto a mere two years after the act had been put up. Rehab Reject itself had been ongoing for years prior, but never before had it become so strict to the point of ensuring that you had only one year to complete a set of eight badges. Even Alex found that unreasonable, but the thrill and drive was there, so he willing went when his uncle came to him and asked if he would be a part of the experiment with a few others.
There hadn't been much to make him rethink the offer, though he wasn't a fool to think his uncle wasn't hoping something might happen to him. He was rightful heir, after all, and even though he had no interest in the company at the moment, that didn't mean he couldn't take over in the future. Silph Company had been a family business that had somehow fought off all potential buyers and was able to hand the company down from one generation to another like some traditionalist family.
Somehow that thought didn't bother Alex as much as he thought it would, though when he truly dwelled on the subject it didn't seem so surprising. He lived in a lavish lifestyle of lies where even family would backstab one another to just take another step upward. It was despicable and unconceivable to the outside world and yet it was an everyday irritancy in his.
And so now Alex was in Lenore. Flown out with his cousin and uncle to spend a week with a few others from his region on the large island of the Lenore League to discuss their plans and hopes for this little experiment. If even one of them were capable of competing in with Lenore and gathering all eight badges then they would consider the experiment a success. The others grouped together immediately, each just as excited as the other for this chance, but once again Alex felt himself drift away, feeling once more the outcast.
How ironic he would find his intrigue spark like a cast off match in the form of such a ruffian.
Shaun was the most intriguing boy Alex had ever encountered. Anger rolled off with intensity of a groudon and was twice as loud and vocal as any roar the beast could procure. He snarled and snapped like a caught houndour as if the idea, not of training itself, but that he was to actually go at it himself, was a sin against man, but despite that fierce fight and anger, he still did it, and that took a stronger strength of will than anyone would ever know.
And all it had taken was a single battle for him to feel this way.
Dear Mew it made him sound like he was in love, which was completely ridiculous but Alex had been just so relieved to find someone he could actually compete against. The boy had no obvious training and seemed to have only the basic education all public schools were meant to give and he still managed to control an obnoxious riolu and figure out its attacks without the help of a pokedex.
He had wondered how the boy faired on the first route. The next time he even saw the other was during the chaos the night prior. The boy looked to be in a frenzy, ordering his pokemon with survival in his eyes only to be darkened with fear from the horrifying display. What sort of man ordered a pokemon to mutilate another human being like that?
Alex shuddered, trying to shake himself out of these thoughts. He didn't want to think about such things and grabbed hold of a pokeball, releasing the monster from within and out into the world. A small being slowly took shape in the form of burning red energy before becoming a solid creature made up of cream and orange feathers. His starter looked up at him with expressive blue eyes and chirped once in greeting.
Alexs' lip quirked upward. "Come on," he said softy, "I'm starting to remember why I hate the city."