Light had barely peaked past the horizon in the distance by the time Sam woke up.
He was awakened by a sound that come from above him. Sam slowly opened his eyes, aware it was still dawn outside from what he could make out from the window in his room, the noise continuing to ring. He noticed the peaceful expression of the early morning sky out from the window, everything still covered in the hazy light of the early morning sun. In the misty gaze of the newly born dawn’s early rays he gave himself the chance to sigh.
Sam turned over in his bed to face the ringing sound beside him. His alarm clock slowly shook him out of his sleepy stupor, quickly enough to realize his mother might hear it if it ran any longer. His body jerked forward in realization of what this morning was. He gave the small clock a good hit and the noise from it stopped.
“Today’s the day,” he muttered to himself.
He threw back the blanket off of him and sat up on the side of his bed. The morning air felt somewhat cold against his skin as Sam was only dressed in his boxers and white undershirt.
His bed let out a small squeak as Sam sat up and walked over to the table beside him, painfully aware of every creak his footsteps took. They were forced to build with old, rotting wood that had been discarded.
The house itself had been, for the most part, poorly constructed since their community had not been able to scrounge up much good lumber. He and his mother had taken what they could get and build as best they could without any construction experience, knowing that it would not last. That had been three years ago, when he was twelve.
His father had left to go serve Kanto in the army when Sam was barely four years of age, as was tradition for all able bodied males in every household in the country. Before all the men were taken away they had tilled the land of Pallet to be a prosperous, farming village. Sam could still remember the land within Pallet being a fresh-green garden wherever he walked. He could still picture the lush rows of vegetables that ran on forever that he witnessed when he was three.
Sam had always hated this rule, as not only did it force his dad away, but nearly every adult male the town had[CJ1] left for war. It turned Pallet from a quiet suburb to a village bordering on complete isolation. He could barely recall who his father was, not even what he looked or sounded like. It was said to be an honor to serve under the direction of their rulers, a tradition of which always enraged Sam. To think that leaving behind your family and fight to die in a war you have no part in was said to be a great cause. It felt only cruel and manipulative.
It was said to be a soldier’s blessing but secretly this only made Sam more resentful of the traditional government his country had. Taking away so many of the few people Pallet had only served to despise the cause of a war he hated. They had not heard anything from his father for more than eight years.
Sam had hoped in vain that some word would reach them about his[CJ2] father’s wellbeing[CJ3] , but gave up long ago.
Several creaking noises later, he stood in front of his wooden chair where a set of clothes lay. The chair sat beside a wood table, which had nothing more on it than a gray and yellow backpack, its strap hanging off the edge of his desk.
His green jacket lay on the tall back of chair[CJ4] with his yellow-green shirt laid on top of it, with a pair of baggy khaki pants below that laid on top some black cargo shorts with the only pair of black shoes he had for four years. Those were the only clothes he had to take with himself but given the circumstances, Sam felt lucky to even have those. [CJ5]
Ever since the war between Kanto and Johto started heating up, supplies were scarce, either sent to the soldiers fighting in war or taken by populations with greater wealth. The quiet meadow-side community of Pallet Town, now barely a village thanks to the two battles it had been caught, was not much more than a suburb not far from Viridian. No one really lived in Pallet by choice and Sam’s mother was no exception.
She had been scrounging up as much money as she could from multiple jobs that included selling the produce they grew from right out of their garden behind their house and doing laundry for people from both in Pallet and the city. His mother even started taking loans from different people she knew. Normally she would never ask for money on account of her pride. It was about two weeks ago she said she finally had just the right amount she needed. It was all so she could buy a house or apartment in Viridian for herself and she was leaving for the city today.[CJ6]
In a move that Sam felt almost crushed his heart, his mother told him that she would not be letting him come live with her. She was tired of having raised a child for eleven years as a single mother and now wanted a new beginning. It hurt Sam to hear that but more so to understand that she did not care how he would manage to survive. [CJ7]
He instinctively told the closest man he’d had to a father, Professor Oak. Oak said that he would let Sam obtain a Pokemon to use for a journey to help raise money to support himself. After he’d been told that he’d been scrounging up supplies like there was no tomorrow. He’d gotten quite a few items he thought might come in handy, even using some methods some might find a little underhanded…
Sam hurriedly fitted his cargo shorts on, all while looking back at the photograph of his family as he found his gaze caught on the image of his mother holding a two-year-old and the hand of his eight-year-old self, causing his mind to wander.
If there was one thing Sam wouldn’t miss after leaving, it was, the cold chill he got whenever he stayed in this room, alone.
Sam tried to look away from it, while he absent mindedly tied his shoes, the picture only serving to further remind him of the emptiness he felt.
He finished pulling his green T-shirt over his head and pulled his arms into the short sleeves.
He walked over to retrieve his gray backpack by the strap while it lay hanging off of the edge of the table. He carefully unzipped the top part of the bag to reveal the interior. In it were the few resources that he had managed to gather over the past two weeks: a potion, a few tins that stored his rations, three empty canteens, various medical supplies, a rusty cigarette liter, a foldable fishing rod and various other things.
He double checked all of his supplies, terrified at the thought of being out in the middle of the wilderness and in emergency, completely unprepared while at the mercy of nature. Sam began to shake at the thought that he was really about to do this.
Sam slung the backpack strap over his left shoulder.
He began to slowly walk toward the door, opening it ever so reluctantly as he looked behind him into his room for what he knew in his heart to be the last time he would ever see the interior of his room[CJ8] . It may not have been much of one, but it was the only place he could call home.
He had never been anywhere but two cities in his entire life, Pallet and Viridian on every occasion. When you live having little, that which is closest to you are what you have had the longest. He felt himself nod to his room, almost as if the room were an old friend he was telling goodbye, [CJ9] before finally closing the door.
Sam shuffled down the rickety stairs to the first floor of their home to see a familiar sight.
His mother stood in the living room, right in front of the small kitchen in the household, finishing packing her belongings into a small box that sat on the couch where she slept. She was just beginning to tape it when she looked up from what she was doing to notice him.
He could almost see the years worn into her eyes as she looked up at him. When Sam was younger, her irises were such a much kinder shade of green, like his own, something he could always look into and be reminded of a promised safety in. Now, they had grown weary, gradually losing the sparkle they’d had over the years of detriment. Her long black hair—something Sam had also inherited, though his was coarser and messier—had lost its sheen and grown grey streaks. Her features had wrinkles etched into it, something else life had given her before its proper age.
“What do you want, son?” she asked abruptly.
Sam, slightly embarrassed, turned away. “I didn’t know you’d be leaving so early,” he replied. His mother’s gaze shifted downwards. “After all…this is goodbye,” Sam said.[CJ10]
Her gaze then shifted to the right, intentionally not meeting his eyes. “Yes, I know that too,” she frowned. “I just hope you’ll be safe.”[CJ11]
“I guess I’ll try,” he replied. “I had to prearrange a meeting with Professor Oak and he said that he would help explain everything he could to me. I hope that…that’s at least enough to keep me safe on this journey. He should be here[CJ12] seeing as how he wanted to see me early in the morning. I hear wild Pokemon are so much fiercer in other parts of Kanto than they are here, even with the League trying to control them…”
“Well you’re just going to have to tough it out, [CJ13] Sam,” she said rather bluntly. “Pokemon trainers don’t make any money unless they’re up and about battling, so if you don’t [CJ14] want to live on the dirt itself or starve to death in the future you better go after it. I know I sure as hell can’t pay for you anymore.”
“I’ll do what I can to make money from battles,” he replied, his voice shaking. “I have to fight the little monsters and save up for a place to live. There’s no place worth living in outside a town with a chance the wilds attacking you. I have to hold out for a home somewhere decent.”
“Yeah, well that’s life,” his mother said, downcast. She then started wrapping up the box in front of her. “It’s hard, [CJ15] Sam…try living more than fifteen years of it.”
“I just don’t want to go,” Sam continued. “It’s such a big place, and I don’t know it. They say there are Pokemon just outside towns out there that just wait for humans to walk into their land. Honestly, [CJ16] I don’t feel I can even go on this journey-”
“Sam,” she interrupted. “I don’t care.”
Sam abruptly stopped his stammering to look into his mother’s cold eyes.
“As soon as I got the money to leave this small trash shell of a town I knew I wouldn’t be taking you with me,” his mother announced. “I doubt I could afford to raise you to live with me anyway but I just don’t care.”
Sam stopped, completely dumbfound. He’d known his mother to share harsh truths before[CJ17] , but this…he felt like he could barely stand.
His mother could clearly see his shock and didn’t look the least bit worried. [CJ18] “There’s nothing here for me and I just want a new life. Everyone I knew and loved…” her voice quivered and he immediately knew[CJ19] she was speaking of Grace. “…never stayed around much. Sam, [CJ20] I’m tired…you act as though I’m worried.”
Sam resisted the feeling to hang his head low, instead waiting for his mother to finish.
“So you can go become a trainer if you want or stay here,” she finished. “I don’t care.”
Sam resisted the urge to feel ashamed of himself, but it was harder than he was telling himself it was. He could see she meant every word of it in her face. He slowly turned to walk away and headed for the door.
“I’ll be going now.”
“You do that,” she replied.
He sighed and opened the door [CJ21] to the scent of fresh morning air before him. Sam looked upon what had once been a town as [CJ22] the door shut behind him.
Ruins of wood and stone covered the landscape in front of him. Broken and charred remains of brick and lumber lay strewn in circular piles before him where houses once stood. Debris and large boulders were strewn about the ground almost as commonly as sawdust. Houses still stood with only one erect wall, debris covering the inside, some still containing skeletons underneath all of it…
Sam tried to put the memory to the back of his mind as he walked toward the southern edge of the town, trying to avoid getting in the debris by stepping in the grass. Substitute houses [CJ23] formed a ruined village of small buildings that were either graying, poorly constructed stone work or rotting and collapsing wood.
Sam finally found himself staring at the lab of Professor Oak.
While the lab was much better off than most other houses-as it actually survived the destruction, being more wide than tall with only one story and built mostly of strong stone-it still showed scars. The wall on the right side had been broken down and the wall adjacent to it crumbled in. Dents the size of bowling balls covered what parts of the original wall still remained. The missing parts had cardboard duct taped [CJ24] on it from the interior and exterior. The missing part of the roof was now covered with tar paper from the inner ceiling. [CJ25]
The boy cowered in remembrance of the memories. Sam went i[CJ26] n through where a door would have been had it not been unhinged.
Inside were shelves stacked with more than a hundred books that covered subjects from medicine to Pokemon biology. There were different technologies in the room that the professor had used for his research, but many were in disrepair and had constant glitches and malfunctions, such as his communication technology. Electrical shortages were common occurrences.
When Sam was younger and Pallet had a larger population, he and other kids would sit here in the morning and here the elderly professor teach them all about the outside world of Kanto. He actually remembered a surprising amount of it, from the names of distant Pokemon and much about how to battle them. He was glad he at least did remember.
Sam walked past a row of books that could have constituted as its own library into a[CJ27] nother room to see a boy his age leaning back in a chair in front of a wood desk. The boy had spiky brown hair and blue eyes that seemed like they had formed a permanent melancholy glare. He leered when he saw Sam, causing Sam to almost immediately to cringe in hatred.
“Alex?” he asked politely. “Where’s your grandpa?”
Alex coldly shifted his eyes away to Sam.
Alex shrugged at the question. “Hell if I know,” he said. “Old man’s run off somewhere. [CJ28] I don’t know where. But knowing him he’s probably out observing some Pokemon near the fields.”[CJ29]
Sam looked around, worried[CJ30] , and sighed. “Sorry,” he replied. “He just told me to meet him here early this morning.”[CJ31]
“Yeah, well,” Alex responded with a glare. “I don’t even know why he’d even let you’d come. By letting you come he’s just slowing me down.”
“I have nowhere else to go, [CJ32] Alex.”
“That still doesn’t change the fact you have to be strong to survive the wild, [CJ33] and you, who’s afraid of his own shadow…you’d just be eaten alive. It’s either dying here or dying out there.”
Sam should have expected as much from Alex.
“That’s enough,” a voice called from another hallway. “To both of you.”
Sam and Alex both turned to see a man with salt and pepper hair emerge from a doorway in front of them. The professor wore a lab coat over his strong, broad build with worn khakis to match his business shoes. While Oak, unlike his mother, still had a glimmer of warmth and amiability in his brown eyes, it was obvious to see the times of war had taken a toll on his disposition. While he had once looked a graceful fifty the creases in his face made him look almost eighty. The kinder face Sam had grown accustomed to when he was but a child had now been set in a stone cold mask of sorrow and…disappointment, perhaps?
Sam supposed no one was immune to the toll war brought to you but ever since he was little he’d thought Oak was special for never showing weakness in these times. Now he was just surprised he had not noticed it sooner.
“Sorry for being a little late you two,” he said almost like he was deciding whether to chuckle or frown. “I was conducting a little research up all night when an important phone call came in I got a little too…aggressive in.”
Sam nodded while Alex gave a low grunt of understanding.
“Just give us our Pokemon gramps,” his grandson remarked.
While Sam almost expected Oak to scold Alex for the remark he just snickered slightly.
“Eh, impatient are we?” he said. “Nothing ever seems to change really, so why should the impatience of youth?”
Sam almost wondered if the two were really related. While they had similarities in the looks he almost couldn’t believe that someone as nice as Oak, who let a comment his mother would have surely scolded him for get away with and he just let his grandson get away with, could be related to such a stern ass as Alex. His sister, Daisy, was also patient and kind as well, although she had her limits, almost as if Alex was just a bad seed.
“But enough talk, let’s give you youngsters what you wanted.”
Oak pulled out three Pokeballs from his lab coat pocket, all still miniaturized so as to allow him to hold each one in between his outstretched fingertips. The professor placed each one down onto the table, pressing each button so long as to enlarge each one. From the clear red tops of the capsule Sam could make out a different Pokemon within each one.
Alex stood up and walked over.
“Thanks gramps,” he said. “But I got run and so-”
“Oh no you don’t,” Oak replied.
“I overheard how you started heckling Sam about his choice to take on the League,” he answered. “Because of that, he gets to pick first.”
Alex glared at his grandfather as Oak gestured to Sam to come up to the table. He bent over to look down at the Pokeballs the professor laid out before them.
“However,” Professor Oak said with regret. “I can’t lie that I don’t see Alex’s point. Alex has been preparing for this journey for goodness knows how long, while you’ve just started. I don’t know how much you remember from my classes all that long ago but trust me when I say that every bit of it will prepare you, if it’s enough. I don’t have to say that to Alex for the aforementioned reason but Sam…I think I’ve told you all enough times how vicious those wilds are out there and I’ve hoped…you’ve considered the risks.”
Sam bowed his head slightly as Oak said this and proceeded to look through the clear red of the balls. Inside one he saw a tiny red figure with a bill-like snout and stubby limbs. In the next he saw a pink, child-shaped one with red lips, yellow cropping for hair and stubby arms. He also saw one that was yellow and had black stripes with two vertical prongs sticking out of its head. While Sam was looking at all of them, Oak was stroking his right index finger ever so slightly in front of the ball with the pink Pokemon in it.
He’s indicating which I should pick. Sam thought.
And it suddenly clicked. The reason the professor let Sam pick his Pokemon before Alex and doing his best to let him pick the “right” one was because he was giving him a handicap. He really was, after all, caring for him above his own grandson in this moment. Sam might have felt touched if he wasn’t going over in his head how practical this all was for the professor.
It also shows this world is more dangerous than I thought. And it also shows Alex truly is more prepared than I am for this.
“I choose this one,” he said.
Sam walked away, staring at the Pokemon through the Pokeball before turning to mouth “thank you” to the professor.
“Any time,” he replied as if giving you the advantage against everyone else was something he did every day.
“Your turn, Alex,” the professor said.
Alex briskly made his way to the table. He held up the two remaining Pokeballs in each hand.
“Let’s see,” he said. “Fire and Electric-types are both fairly uncommon in the wild. However, Fire super-effects more types…Electric only has one weakness…”
Alex seemed to think it over before putting the yellow Pokemon back onto the table.
“Magby will make a good starter,” he said.
Oak took up the remaining ball back into his coat pocket.
“I hope Elekid won’t feel too lonely,” he said, genuinely concerned.
The professor put his arms behind his back as he prepared to speak again.
“I’ve already gone over how dangerous it is out there,” Oak said. “The untamed Pokemon are truly territorial and will not hesitate to attempt to kill any one of you. Any human who so much as steps outside an urban area will have wilds attacking them left and right. As you may have guessed, Sam, trainers do offer reward money for being defeated, especially gym leaders, but mark my words…they know that just as well as you do and the ones that are sent to control the populous of Pokemon often gang up on trainers to do battle with them.
More like mug them. Sam thought to himself.
Trainers that Oak was speaking of don’t just stop with battling other Pokemon trainers. It’s a well-known fact that many civilians have to bribe to get through one occupied route unscathed. The groups of trainers usually formed battling cliques that move in rotation to scope out anyone who they could get some money or goods from, trainer or otherwise. Other trainers may fair a chance without having to spend money, but that’s if they could win when they all circled you like fresh meat. However, they’re not without their purpose.
From what Sam had heard, trainers usually patrol the routes to systematically guard against wild Pokemon, otherwise they would just run into the nearest urban residence and swarm the place. While they do usually form gangs it’s usually to help fight against wild Pokemon on the routes they protect. They’re usually under command by local gym leaders, if they’re not already disciples of that particular gym.
“And as you also know that the League only permits one Pokemon to be caught per route,” Oak explained. “Anyone caught disobeying that law will be reprimanded immediately, either their new catch taken as well as another of their Pokemon. Also, and most importantly, remember…”
Oak almost bowed his head in preparation for what he was about to say as his expression became more solemn.
“Official Pokemon battles, i.e. battles that officially count…” he said as he looked toward Alex. “…and ones that award prize money…” he looked at me. “End with death. Please, be careful.” His words made Sam literally shake in fear as he continued.
“Battles that have any kind of reward, especially gym battles, require one trainer to make another opponent’s Pokemon die. This is not optional. Remember this…contradictory to most people’s opinions and even the League’s opinions, Pokemon have just as much sentience as humans do. According to mine and several other scientist’s findings they may have even more due to their sensitivity to bonding and social interaction. Mark my words…you will lose Pokemon along the way. This is a guarantee. And you will feel guilty for it and pity them as the technology within the balls allows Pokemon to understand human language and speak it, so long as they have spent a minute inside.”
Sam looked down as this completely unknown dimension to his future life had just now unraveled. It was almost like being told your job included murdering other employees, sort of like a soldier’s duties.
I guess that’s the point. Sam thought. The League and gyms have always been interconnected with the war effort by tradition.
He took a glance over at Alex who, while he still looked stern as he most definitely still knew this, still looked upset.
“Alright,” Oak said quietly. “Would either of you like to see a close up version of the Pokemon you chose?”
They both nodded.
Sam gripped the Pokeball and flung it in front of him.