As it turned out, there were only a few trainers in the valley before Violet City. I took care of them with ease. It didn’t bother me that I essentially murdered their pets; that was the name of the game.
I came across an apricorn tree, chuckling to myself over the bizarre experience I had with the apricorn addict. Little did I know that I would meet many addicts on my adventure.
The checkpoint to Violet City was empty, save for the one guard who stood watch at the counter.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Morning. You coming to Violet City to get your badge?”
“Sure am. I’ve been training for it.”
“Good luck to you,” he said. “You’re cleared to go.”
I thanked him and stepped through. Just as I was about to exit, someone tapped on my shoulder.
“Surprise!” Lyra cried. It about made me wet myself.
“Whoa! Lyra, what are you doing here?”
“I should ask you the same thing,” she said. “How in the world did you get ahead of me?”
I shrugged, unable to think of something clever to say.
“Oh well, it won’t happen again,” she declared. “The race isn’t over yet.”
“Race?” I started to say, but she was gone before I could get the word out. I watched her go, dazed by her beauty.
I was such a dork, standing there in my shorts, wearing my baseball cap backwards. We all dressed silly as kids–Lyra was no exception–but I still have trouble forgiving myself for the “lock of hair falling out of the back of the baseball cap” thing I had going on.
Snaps tugged at my leg, suggesting it was time to move on. He was right.
The exit from the checkpoint opened to reveal the city. The closest building was a Pokemon Center, painted in darker colors than the others. The city had lots of trees and a beautiful pond with lilies and a wooden walking path through it. At the end of the path, to the north, sat a looming tower.
Just before I got to the Pokemon Center, a man in clown makeup approached me.
“Hey man,” he said, voice barely audible.
“Yo, whatsup. You got any shards, man?”
“Shards?” I asked, brain recognizing the term but not sure what it meant.
“Yeah, man. Shards. Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, doesn’t matter.” He scratched at his arm and looked around nervously.
“I, uh, don’t have any. Sorry.”
“It’s cool man. It’s cool. Just come to me if you have some. I’ll make it worth your while. I got berries. I got a shit-ton of berries. Pokemon love that shit. You bring me shards, I’ll give you berries.”
“Uh, okay. Yeah. I’ll keep you in mind.” I started to step away.
“Remember,” he insisted, “Any color. You bring shards, I’ll give you the good shit. Think about it.”
“Yup. Will do. See you.” I turned and made straight for the Pokemon Center, not breathing until I was safely through the doors. I remembered what Shards were when he started scratching his arm.
Shards were the prime ingredient for crystal meth.
Still a little shaken, I approached the service counter and had the nurse check my Pokemon.
Then I sat down on a bench, waiting for the nurse and hoping to calm myself down.
“…that Team Rocket was gone for awhile,” I overheard. “Are you saying that they’re back?”
Two men were talking at the other end of the bench.
“It’s only rumors so far. That one kid took them all out years ago. I can’t see how they survived.”
“Stealing Pokemon from people and creating a mafia organization. Despicable.”
“No doubt. I hope they aren’t making a comeback. Those would be troubled times.”
Stealing Pokemon? I wondered. Was Assmunch a member of Team Rocket? Surely, just because you stole a Pokemon didn’t mean you were a member. That was a dumb conclusion to make, but it stuck in my head.
I listened in to some other conversations. People watching, if you will. It was educational, and helped distract me from the meth addict that I worried might be waiting outside for me.
“This computer is free for Pokemon Trainers!” a man declared, talking to what looked like his kids. “You can store your Pokemon in here for safekeeping, then pull them out whenever you like.”
“But how does it work?” asked one of the children.
“I’m not sure of the specifics,” he said. “I just know it’s the same idea that Pokeballs use. The Pokemon is digitized and transferred to a database somewhere in the world.”
“That’s so cool!”
And creepy, if you think about it. Pokemon are killed and cloned repeatedly, every time you take them out of the Pokeball or put them in the server.
I listened in to another couple. Two young trainers were trading Pokemon.
“Be careful when you raise it,” said one. “Cause if you don’t have a badge, the Pokemon might not obey you.”
“What?! That’s no good! I’m only trading cause I want to get an edge on my training.”
“I know. That’s the downside. Traded Pokemon develop faster than Pokemon caught in the wild. Something in their radioactive signatures, they say. But they don’t obey secondary trainers if they feel like they don’t have enough experience. That’s part of why the badge system was created, to help trainers actually train traded Pokemon.”
How arbitrary, I thought. Why do Pokemon care about an arbitrary little pin when they decide to obey or disobey?
“Mr. Gold?” asked the nurse. I retrieved my three Pokemon.
I decided to check out the computer. From there, I logged into my email account.
I had a message from Lyra:
“Dear Gold. I love Pokemon! They are so cool. –Lyra.”
How silly and weird and wonderful and I had such a crush on her. Damn my hormonal teenaged mind.