By the time I reached New Bark Town, the sun had set. I was out of breath and ready to collapse, but seeing Tiko’s boundless energy kept me moving. The laboratory was the first building I would reach anyhow, so if I could get that far, I’d be fine.
As I pushed open the door and stepped inside, I was accosted by several people. Professor Elm, his assistant, Ed, and a police officer. They were all asking different questions. Ed wanted to know how I liked the potions he gave me, Elm alternated between his stolen Pokemon panic and the mystery egg I carried, and the police officer was accusing me of stealing the Totodile.
“The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime!” he declared. “Therefore, you must be the culprit! Hand over the Totodile!” he demanded.
“Whoa, sir, calm down,” I said. “I didn’t steal anything.”
“A likely story!” He gulped down some hot coffee, some of it soaking into his bushy mustache.
I handed the egg to Professor Elm, who switched from panic mode to investigation mode like a light switch, and he disappeared to the back for a thorough investigation.
“Turn around and spread ’em!” the officer ordered. I rolled my eyes, which earned me a “helpful hand” in turning–that is, he reached out with his free hand and pulled on my sleeve, spinning me counterclockwise. Then he “helpfully” pushed me into the wall. Tiko barked and flared up.
“Filthy criminals,” he muttered. “Stealing Pokemon, of all things.”
“I didn’t steal any Pokemon. But I know who did.”
“Sure, pass the blame. How very responsible of you. I’m sure your mother would be proud.”
I shrugged, then heard him ratchet up some handcuffs.
“Wait a minute!” came a voice.
I turned to see Lyra storming into the lab. Milly was glaring at the officer and puffing herself up to be more intimidating.
“What is it, young lady?”
“Gold didn’t steal the Pokemon, but I saw who did.”
“Is that so?” he replied.
“It is,” Lyra continued. “He broke through the window, and when I heard the crash I looked out my bedroom window. I live across the street, so I had a good view. I saw a redheaded guy in a black getup leave with a Pokeball in his hands.”
“I battled him,” I added. “In Cherrygrove City.”
The officer put his cuffs back in a pouch on his belt, then gulped down more coffee.
“Did you catch his name, by chance?” he mumbled.
“Assmunch,” I said. “At least, that’s what it said on his Trainer Card.”
“Assmunch?! Now I know you’re lying. That’s the stupidest name I ever heard!”
“Well, with a name like that, who wouldn’t turn to a life of crime?” Lyra suggested.
“I suppose you have a point,” said the officer.
“Don’t you have a Trainer database?” I asked. “Maybe you can look him up and see his picture.”
The officer didn’t meet my eye, but he pulled his own PokeGear out of his pocket. No doubt it had more apps than mine, I thought, absently.
After a moment he turned it toward me.
“Is that the guy?” he asked.
Sure enough, it was. He looked a little better in his Trainer photo than in real life, as if his mental state had been spiraling out of control since then.
“Yes,” I said.
“Well then,” he grunted, putting his PokeGear away and readjusting his belt. “I’ll be off to make my report. If any of you see this man again, this… Assmunch, don’t hesitate to call the police. We’ll be back if we have any more questions.”
He nodded and said, “Ma’am,” to Lyra, then left without another word.
I brushed myself off.
“It’s okay now, Tiko,” I said. She sat down beside me, keeping watch.
“What a dick,” Lyra said.
“It’s been one of those days.”
“I’m sorry about all of that. I told the officer about the thief a few hours ago, but it’s like he forgot all about it when he pinned you for the suspect.”
I blushed, realizing who I was having a conversation with. Yes, brain. Act like a normal person around Lyra until you realize that Lyra is there, then act stupid. Great plan.
“Yeah, uh, he was pretty dumb.”
There was an awkward silence for a moment, punctuated only by the sounds of Tiko and Milly reacquainting themselves.
“So, glad to see that you and Tiko are back. I’m going to go home and get some sleep.”
“Yeah, that sounds like it would be good for, uh, your brain.”
Lyra giggled, waved, and left.
“I promise I’m not stupid.”
I walked to the back and met up with Professor Elm, who had a hand lens up to the eggshell. I cleared my throat.
“Ah! Gold, good to see you, circumstances notwithstanding.”
I nodded and forced a smile.
“Good to see you with Tiko there, too. Looks like you’re getting along.”
Tiko chirped, and Elm laughed. I smiled without realizing it.
“Yeah, we’re getting along all right,” I admitted. “It was a fun trip.”
“Great. How was Mr. Pokemon? Pretty weird, huh?”
“He wasn’t so bad,” I said, and meant it. “Professor Oak was there too. He gave me a PokeDex thingy.”
“Really? A PokeDex?” he exclaimed. “That’s incredible. He doesn’t just hand those out to anybody. He must have seen something special in you.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said. “Seemed like he just didn’t want to do his own field work.”
“I suppose that’s not entirely inaccurate. He’s a genius in some ways and absolutely abysmal in others.”
Elm went back to studying the egg.
“You know,” he said, tapping on the shell, “You should take the Pokemon Badge challenge. You’d meet lots of Pokemon to fill up that PokeDex, plus you’d get to spend more time with Tiko. Could have some research potential. If you do well, you could even challenge the Pokemon League.”
Now there was a thought. A silly thought, but… you know, it was a thought I may or may not have fantasized about at length.
“Your mom is probably pretty worried,” Elm said. “Maybe you should go say hi. Get some rest.”
“Yeah. Well, thanks for the errand and giving me some time with Tiko.”
“Don’t mention it. Just take care of her.”
When I arrived home, Mom greeted me with a hug. She had been drinking.
“Oh Gold, I’m so glad to see you,” she said.
“Good to be home,” I lied, though it didn’t occur to me for a few seconds. Was it really that good? No, it wasn’t. I didn’t like being home. I didn’t like the memories. I didn’t like the mess or the smell or the decor or how the TV was always on or how Mom’s boyfriend would suddenly show up to wreak havoc.
“What’s that?” she pointed to my hand. I had been carrying the PokeDex without realizing it. A sign from my subconscious?
“It’s… a PokeDex. From Professor Oak,” I said, absently. “He wants me to seek out as many Pokemon as I can. Professor Elm liked the thought too, and he suggested I do the Pokemon Badge challenge.”
“Oh, honey, that’s great,” she slurred. “You’d be good at it. You should do it.”
Two people insisting I travel in five minutes? Maybe there was something to the idea.
“You know he was a Pokemon League Champion once.”
I didn’t need her to specify who “he” was. When she was inebriated, it was always about “him” and how perfect he was and how he has done so much with his life and how much he’s gone through and what a hero he is. Blah blah blah. He didn’t do anything with his life but drink, grow old, and cause trouble. He lied and told stories to mess with people. He convinced my mom of his greatness, but he was pathetic.
“I’m going to bed. It’s been a long day,” I said.
“Goodnight, honey,” she replied, already lost in a daze of happy memories. Selective memories.
As I lay in bed that night, unable to sleep, I decided. I’d do it. I’d take the Badge challenge and go to the Pokemon League. I’d fill up my PokeDex, but more importantly, I’d train myself and my Pokemon to take on my long-term abuser. I’d show him what it’s like to suffer, and I’d rub it in his face.