POKÉMON WORLD LEAGUE DETECTIVE STORIES
People and Pokémon have been living and working together for millennia. Over time people have, through their Pokémon, learned to live together in peace. Although nations have had peaceful relations for a very long time there are still individuals, sometimes organizations, who prey on others.
Over the past three centuries law enforcement had become highly organized in the various regions. During this same period of time, governing bodies were created to regulate the capture of, and contests involving Pokémon. About one hundred and fifty years ago, a world governing body was formed to bring together the various regional Pokémon Leagues and ensure that the operating rules were fair and equitable across all regions.
Soon after, many governments found that it was convenient to have regional law enforcement grouped under these various Pokémon Leagues. The previously formed Pokémon World League (or simply “P. W. L.”) followed this decision by forming a Criminal Investigations Branch (“C. I. B.”) in order to aid the regional and local Law Enforcement agencies with crimes which were too big or complicated for them or that spanned multiple jurisdictions.
Some of these C. I. B. detectives would gain a measure of fame in their own right. Most of them operated in the background of an investigation, simply aiding their local counterparts in finding and interpreting the facts. These special men and women were trying to make a difference in the world, and all of them faced danger on a regular basis and suffered from the usual problems faced by cops the world over.
This is one case handled by one of those detectives.
THE COUNTERFEIT BADGE
Mike Kohler struggled out of sleep. There was a pounding in his head that he thought must be a residual affect from the large bottle he’d killed the previous night. His eyes felt like they’d been sand-blasted. He pinched the bridge of his nose to try to get his tear ducts working. It didn’t really help. His mouth tasted like he’d been French-kissing a swamp. He struggled to a sitting position, and the room lurched like a rickety carnival ride. Then the banging started again. Forcing an eye open his hand reached for a bottle next to his bed that still had a mouthful of whiskey. He swished the cheap booze around his mouth and swallowed it. The warmth started to spread from his empty stomach and it began to feel like his blood was moving again … a little bit.
When the banging came again, the mind-fog had cleared enough that he realized it was the door. He shouted at whoever was there; “go to hell!” The door opened and Mike looked up to see Deputy Director Pete Rawlson. He was short and stocky, wearing a rumpled gray suit, a white shirt that was unbuttoned at the neck, and a narrow black tie with the knot loosened. Now that he was in his late middle age, he’d gotten a little more soft-looking and had put on some padding around the middle, but you could still see the hardness underneath if you looked for it. His head had been shaved more recently than his chin. There had been a few hoods over the years that had seen the padding, or his short stature, or age and figured they could take him. They’d always been wrong.
Rawlson stepped in, kicking an empty bottle out of the way. He glanced around the dingy interior of the one-room apartment, which wasn’t much more than a good-sized motel room, pointedly ignoring the sour odors of sweat, spilled liquor and aging take-out. He flipped open the curtain covering the window above the sink, then sat down on a wooden chair by the small table, resting his arms across the back.
The sudden glare of sunlight stabbed Mike like ice-picks piercing through his eyes into what was left of his throbbing brain. Still grasping the bottle, he covered his aching eyes and grumbled “what the fuck are you doing here?”
Rawlson looked around the room. On one side was a counter with a sink and a few cabinets, a refrigerator, a built-in range, and the table he was sitting at. The other half of the room was taken up by a large, sagging bed that probably hadn’t been made up for a few weeks. There was a standing wardrobe in the corner and a TV at the end of the counter. The TV screen looked like someone had thrown something hard and heavy at it. The table had empty and half-empty take-out containers covering it. There were several empty whisky bottles scattered amidst the clothes and shoes around the room. “I’m looking at a train wreck. Damn Mike, you look like hell” said Rawlson.
“Feel like hell too. I’d be better if you’d leave.”
“Huh. I suppose you would. I guess you’ll just have to suffer for a bit. Want some coffee?”
Looking around, Mike commented; “whiskey’s gone, so I guess coffee will have to do. Which brings me back to my original question, what the fuck are you doing here?”
As Pete started rummaging for the coffee, he said “well, you probably already suspect that I’ve got a job for you. Where’s your coffee?”
“It’s in the corner cabinet. And the answer is no. I’m retired, remember? I don’t do investigations anymore. Not after that last job in Hoenn. I’m through.”
Pete was silent while he got a pot of coffee started and rinsed out a couple of not quite disgusting mugs. He sat at the small table and watched the coffee brew. Mike glared at him as he poured coffee into the mugs. Handing one to Mike, he took a sip of his own. Mike held the mug to his face, breathing in the steam and the aroma for a moment before taking a gulp.
“Like I said, I’m retired. So, I think you can take that investigation and …”
“There was a problem with your paperwork, Mike.”
Mike Kohler never did like paperwork. He worked with his feet, his hands, his eyes … his mind. And he worked with his Pokémon. At least, he used to. But he was never good with paperwork. The Criminal Investigations Branch of the Pokémon World League had finally assigned a secretary to him to compile the information from his investigations and write the reports for him. Even when he was a rookie back in Ecruteak City in Johto, Sgt. Jenny was constantly kicking back his reports to be rewritten. He’d lost a couple of his bigger, early cases because of his crappy paperwork. Still, he couldn’t help being suspicious.
“What the hell did you do with it, Pete?”
“Honestly Mike, it wasn’t me. H.R. said there were problems with dates and you forgot to sign a couple of the pages.”
“Then where have my deposits been coming from? Sure as hell weren’t coming outta your pocket.”
“With all the overtime you’ve put in over the years and the fact that you took so little time off, you’ve been living off of vacation and comp time for the past couple of months. But that’s starting to run a little low.”
“Fine, I’ll fill out new paperwork. I’ll be in tomorrow. Thanks for the heads-up ‘buddy’. You can leave now.”
“Sure Mike. Sure. But you know how H.R. is. Even after it’s re-filed, it’ll take at least a few weeks for everything to go through. Help me out with this case and I’ll expedite the process.”
“Up yours. I can wait.”
Pete sighed. “Yeah, I suppose you can. But just let me run a few facts by you and get your thoughts. It’s kind of an odd one. It won’t kill you and I could use your perspective. If you do, I’ll ramrod that paperwork for you.”
“Fine! If it’ll get you out of here. What’s the case?”
Pete tossed over a pin made of metal with what appeared to be gemstones. “That was sent down from Sinnoh.”
“A gym badge? So?”
“It’s a fake. It’s cheap plated metal; glass instead of gemstones and no microchip.”
Mike thought that over as he examined the badge. Gym badges weren’t cheap. They were made from solid precious metals, gold or silver usually, sometimes platinum, with real gemstones set in them. Most importantly, they had an embedded chip that was programmed with the information from the gym as well as the name and ID info of the winning trainer and what Pokémon they had used in the battle. There was also a system generated, encrypted, security code, so each badge was unique. This way, the local Pokémon League could verify the badges when the trainer challenged the Elite Four in each region. This one was silver-colored, but you could see where the plating had flaked away. The three stones were blue colored, but he couldn’t say what they actually were – he guessed glass, from what Rawlson had said.
“There’ve always been counterfeits around, Pete. People buy them, display them, try to look like winners when they’re not. What’s so special about this one?”
“It was clenched in the fist of a corpse up in Sinnoh. Pretty badly burned, but the Coroner said he was dead before he was charred. There were two bullet holes in his chest.”
Mike looked up in surprise. Guns were extremely rare, most examples were in museums, relics of old wars and rendered inoperable. “Okay, now you’ve got my interest.”
“The coroner wasn’t sure what kind of gun. It appears that the only reason he figured it out at all was he’d done an X-ray and saw the bullets. Here’s one of the crime scene pics.”
Mike examined the photo of the body. It showed, in appalling full color, a body lying on the ground with the upper torso and face horribly burned. The skin was charred and cracked with red muscle showing through the gaps and bone visible in some places. “Like you said, burned. It’s gruesome enough, anyway. Was it from a ‘mon? And, were any empty cartridges from the gun found?”
“The local cops didn’t report finding any cartridges. The report indicated there just wasn’t much evidence around the body. The ground was scuffed, but it hadn’t rained in a while, so they didn’t find any footprints. Initially they wanted to blame it on a ‘mon, but when the bullets were found, I guess they had to rethink that hypothesis.”
“So, who was the stiff, anyway?”
“I think that will interest you as well. He was a senior apprentice at the Hearthome City gym, one of Fantina’s top assistants, a Jimmy Peterson. Apparently a good kid, never been in any trouble as far as the report says. He was found about a half mile outside of Hearthome City. The report said Fantina didn’t know what he was doing outside of town. It looks like the locals there are stumped. I’d guess the majority of their officers haven’t handled or even seen a gun of any kind. Maybe a couple of their old-timers might have some experience with them. I guess they’re asking for help.”
“You ‘guess’? What the hell does that mean?”
“Well, the file was delivered to the C. I. B. by a big Staraptor, just the report; no note or letter asking for our help.”
“Odd. Do you think they forgot to put a letter in with the file?”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t seem likely.”
“Someone could have sent it unofficially. And if that’s the case, we could be stepping on some toes up in Sinnoh.”
“We could be. That’s where you come in. You’re the best we’ve got, you won’t back down and you won’t let go. I’d really appreciate it if you’d go up to Sinnoh and look into the situation.”
“What else have you got on it? What about ‘Rocket’?”
Rawlson had a grim smile. “I thought you’d be interested. I doubt it’s Team Rocket. You know they’ve never worked Sinnoh before, besides Giovanni is still safely locked away. Though, we did lose track of a few of their middle-ranked members and some of their grunts when you broke them up, but there’s been no sign of any big goings on from them.”
“That’s the report from Hearthome Police?”
“Yep, and the rest of the pics. Take a look through it and I’ll pour us another cup of coffee.”
Mike picked up the packet of papers and sat back on his bed, flipping through the pictures and reading the preliminary report. He sipped the coffee and said, “This damned case is already over a week old. Why did they wait so long to ask for help?”
“That’s part of the question. They were pretty surprised when I called and asked about the case. As we said, they may not have known it was sent to us. I finally got their chief to say there was a ‘delay’ in getting the autopsy results, but he seemed confused that we had it at all.”
“Pete, you’re an asshole. You knew I wouldn’t be able to say ‘no’ to something like this. I should tell you to cram it up your ass just for spite.” He stepped over to the wardrobe and pulled out a battered old seabag that was equipped with shoulder straps. “I’ll go take a look. When’s the next boat to Sinnoh?”
Mike stepped onto the dock at Sunnyshore City. Physically, he was rather unimposing. A little over middle height, he was thin and craggy featured. His brown hair was shot with gray at the temples. A long gray trench coat covered a cheap blue suit. The suit was rather loose-fitting and looked like it had been rolled up in a sea bag for 2 days … mostly because it had. His equally battered fedora was tilted back on his head.
As he looked around, Mike considered the fact that he was going up against criminals who were willing to use old-fashioned firearms to kill. The C.I. Branch wouldn’t issue a gun to him, they just didn’t use them except in the most extreme cases and then only certain personnel would have them. So, he’d have to go a different route. He’d have to get a partner, someone to watch his back. He’d have to get a ‘mon. He didn’t really want to go there, but he had little choice. At least he could trust a Pokémon … that wasn’t always true with people.
The Sunyshore waterfront looked like most such places. There were a few fishing boats unloading their catch. Further down were the cargo-handling areas and warehouses. It wasn’t huge, he’d been in bigger ports of course, but the smells were the same; fish and seaweed, tar, oil and smoke. And it was noisy at this time of day, shouts of men and Pokémon and the clamor of machines mixed with the cries of Wingulls and Pelippers. The day was bright and cheerful. He preferred gray and dreary.
“Gah! I need a drink!” He walked away from the sunny, bustling docks and into the town.
Just up a narrow street, he found a battered sign in the shape of a lighthouse with a glowing neon Ampharos at the top; “The Lighthouse Bar & Grille”. He stepped in. It was a local joint, the kind of place that the working stiffs hang out in. It was old; much older than the neon sign. It wasn’t big, but it wasn’t a hole in the wall either. There was a bar at the back, with a dozen or so cheap but sturdy wooden tables scattered around the middle of the room with cheap chairs – cheap so they could be more easily replaced after the occasional brawl. Booths made of dark, battered wood with tables made of thick planks lined both walls. The walls used to be white, but were rather dingy now. It wasn’t exactly gloomy inside, but the annoyingly bright daylight was held at bay. There was a billiards room off to the right. It was a place to relax after a hard work-day, a place to socialize, a comfortable place. It felt like his kind of place. It was not a place where travelers were likely to stop. That suited Mike just fine.
It was early afternoon, so there weren’t too many customers. There were a couple of guys in pea-coats who were drinking dark beer at the bar and talking quietly. Three men and a woman, who appeared to be longshoremen, were at a table laughing, drinking their beer and eating. Everyone had looked up when he walked in, then pretty much ignored him. Most of the time, he’d be okay with that. But he needed to get them to talk and that was easy. He bought a round for everyone and gave a nice tip to the bar-girl. While this alone didn’t make them instant friends, it did make him more welcome. More importantly, it made people relax and accept him a little more. And it meant that as more of the locals came in, he found they also accepted him. And they were all too glad to talk with the generous stranger buying the beer.
All of this elicited the information that, although there is crime around, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of violence. Anyway, homicides were very unusual. Folks had heard talk of a murder in Hearthome and were pretty shocked by it. Any crime they knew about was mostly run-of-the-mill; the odd theft here and there, drunken brawls, an occasional robbery. Local crimes committed by local hoods and handled well enough by the local police and courts.
Like most laborers, they did use Pokémon in their work, Machokes & Machamps were favored by the longshoremen and several water-types helped with fishing. More importantly, he learned that, though a stranger such as himself could probably buy a ‘mon, he’d probably end up spending more than he should for even a sub-standard one. The general consensus was that the Pokémon Lab over in Sandgem Town would be the place to go. He had, of course, heard of Professor Rowan of Sandgem, so he planned to pay him a visit. He also learned that, lately, some Trainers travelling by boat had been heard to complain about fake gym badges floating around, but the sailors didn’t pay much attention to them. These folks weren’t much interested in Gym battles and badges. They had work to do and their Pokémon were there to work as well.
He ended up drinking more of the local stout than he ought to have, but didn’t learn much else. The owner had a room available, so Mike stayed the night.
The next morning he walked back down to the docks. Spotting a boat that appeared to be getting ready to shove off he recognized one of his drinking buddies from last night. More importantly, the Captain remembered him. They were sailing towards Twinleaf Town and the captain was agreeable to putting in at Sandgem. So, Mike got aboard and they set sail. They dropped anchor off Sandgem early that evening.
He found the local tavern which fortunately had a room for him, as well food and drink. No name, just a weathered sign out front that pictured a mug of beer and proclaimed “Tavern”. Mike liked old places like this and the bar back in Sunnyshore. They were real. There was little or no plastic, things were made of wood darkened by years of furniture oil and tobacco smoke. Things weren’t shiny and new. There was real history here. The dreams and disappointments of the people who had come through over the decades could almost be felt seeping from the beams and walls. Sometimes happy, often seedy, it now carried its own life and story. He found his room, dropped his duffle by the bed and headed back downstairs.
As he pulled out a stool at the bar, he noticed three Pokémon Trainers at a table off to the side; “I’m telling you, you’ve got to be careful,” Said the boy with the tousled black hair. “I got screwed. I followed signs to a gym, it was outside of Oreburg. The guy said he’d battle me, but it would cost. Charged me 500 Poké-bucks. I won easily. Thinking back, I guess it was too easy. It wasn’t till later on, when I got to the Pokémon League that I found out the badge was a fake! Of course, the ‘gym’ and the guy were long gone by the time I got back there. I had to go back and battle Roark for real then. After he’d heard what happened, he pulled out some of his toughest Pokémon to really test me! That was a battle.”
A brown-haired girl with him said “same thing happened to me, but it was at Veilstone City. There was a sign just outside of town saying the gym was undergoing repairs, and a temporary gym was set up southwest of town. I think word is starting to get around though. When I got to Hearthome City, my badges were checked before they’d let me battle Fantina. They sent me back to Veilstone to get a real one. Maylene said she pulled out tougher Pokes for me too since I’d already trained more.”
Mike walked over to the table and pulled out the fourth chair. “Mind if I join you guys?”
The trainers looked at each other, then shrugged. The first boy said “not at all sir …”
“Not ‘sir’, you can just call me ‘Mike’. Sorry, but I overheard you talking. I wanted to ask you about those fake gym badges.”
“Hi Mike, I’m Adam” the black-haired boy grinned. “This is Donna, and that guy with the red hair and freckles is Stewart, but we just call him ‘Rusty’, he’s just starting out on his journey. We’re all from Twinleaf, the town southwest of here.”
“Hi guys. So, Adam, do you still have that fake gym badge?”
“No, they took it from me at the Pokémon League before they sent me back to Oreburgh.”
Mike looked over at Donna. “How about you?”
“No, they took mine at the Hearthome gym. Why?”
Mike shrugged. “I just wanted to get a look at one of the fakes in the hopes that I wouldn’t get stuck with one too.”
Donna bluntly asked, “Aren’t you a little old to be just starting a journey?”
Rusty piped up at that point saving him from having to make up an answer. “Uhm. M- Mike. I think it’s pretty easy to avoid the fakes. J-just make sure you go to the real gyms. I, uh, I can give you a ‘Sinnoh Trainer’s Handbook’ if you’d like, it’s a spare copy. It tells you where each of the League sanctioned gyms are. The word from other Trainers is that the fakes all came from temporary setups like Donna and Adam found. Of course, sometimes a gym is temporarily closed while the gym leader is performing other duties, but I don’t think they’d ever set up a gym in a tent.”
Taking the small, pocket-sized book the boy handed him he said; “Thanks Rusty! Have you guys heard anything about what Sinnoh Law Enforcement is doing about all of this?”
“No, and that’s kind of odd,” said Adam. “All we’ve heard has been talk among some of the other trainers hanging out at the Pokémon Centers, or ones we meet on the road. There’s been nothing on Jubilife T.V. either, which I don’t understand since so much of their programming is about Pokémon and trainers and the gyms.”
Then Donna said “I find that strange too. I mean there hasn’t been any kind of ‘official’ word put out to help people avoid these things. Not even at the Pokémon Centers. The fake gyms always charge varying amounts of money for ‘administrative fees’ or something like that. And every one that we’ve heard about has been a temporary setup, in a tent or a forest clearing. I wonder why nobody is warning kids who’re starting on their journeys?”
“Oh, they m-m-mentioned it at the Lab when I got my starter Pokémon, the Professor told me to check the guidebook for the gym locations.”
“So, Adam, how did you do when you got back to the League?”
“Oh, it was a tough battle, but I won. See, here’s my pin and certificate, signed by Cynthia herself. It took me two tries against her though. The first time, nothing seemed to go right for me, my team was … I don’t know. I guess we weren’t quite ready, they seemed weak and their reactions were slow. So we did some extra training then went back and won. But man, it was close.”
“It was the same for me, but took me three tries” Donna said. “There was another odd thing. Jubilife T.V. had been televising the last several of my gym battles. They said I was doing really well and a lot of people were following my progress. Then when I came back the third time, I overheard a couple of the cameramen talking; they were saying that the betting was still in favor of the Elite Four, but they had heard that I was probably going to win and they’d do well with the longer odds on me.” She looked down and blushed. “It was pretty neat. I have to admit to liking the attention.”
Mike stood up, “Thanks kids. Looks like your food is coming, so I’ll let you be.” He stepped back over to the bar and walked around to the far end where he could be by himself to think. It sounded as though the local police were covering up this badge thing. He thought that was a little unusual, since it seemed to be putting young Trainers in some danger or, at the least, opening them up to fraud. Those workers back in Sunnyshore hadn’t heard anything about it, other than rumors. It seemed obvious that the Sinnoh Police knew it was going on, and knew of the murder. Yet there had been no word in the press or on T.V. And, according to the three Trainers he’d just spoken with, even the Pokémon Centers were silent on the matter. There’s a guy that’s been shot and killed. And it looked like someone used a Pokémon to try to destroy the evidence of it. Now it sounds like it’s being covered up, but why? Though someone was obviously making some money with these phony gym badges, it didn’t seem like it was that big.
He trudged up the narrow, wooden stairs to his room. As he opened the door, he found a small piece of paper on the floor. It had been carefully torn from a larger piece. On it was neatly written the message; “Detective, please drop it, these badges are not your affair.” He mumbled, “This is beginning to smell like a Magicarp that’s been in the sun too long.”
The next morning Mike asked for directions to the Lab and learned that Professor Rowan had apparently retired and that his top researcher, Professor Salvia, was now running the lab. He hoped she had at least one strong Pokémon that could help him. He didn’t have time to raise a new one.
He stepped out of the Tavern into a gloomy, overcast morning. A dense fog turned everything gray, reducing visibility to a few yards and muting the sounds around him. Perversely, this made him feel more chipper than the previous sunny day. Mike pulled his hat down onto his brow and stuck his hands in the pockets of his long coat and plunged into the mist. He walked up the cobbled street towards the Pokémon Lab. There were other folks about, hurrying to get where they were going and out of the damp morning. As he walked along the fog-shrouded street, he heard the crunch of footsteps following him. He turned a corner and, glancing back, saw a shadow huddled in a hooded sweat-shirt coming up the street. He stepped into the doorway of a shop and waited, the hooded figure came around the corner and Mike grabbed him by the arm and reared back a hard-knuckled fist. A frightened, freckled face gaped at him from the hood. “Rusty! What are you doing following me?”
“I – I – I – uhm – I’m sorry M – M – M – muh – Mike! P-p-Please d – d – d – d – don’t h – h – hit me!”
Mike lowered his fist and carefully let go of the red-haired boy. Rusty was shaking and could barely speak. He steadied him as he regained his balance. “I’m sorry, I’m not going to hit you. But why’re you following me?”
“Wuh – well, I was going up to Jubilife City and Oreburgh and, um, well, I th – thought maybe we could travel together? I – I think y – you are a c – c – cop, aren’t you?” He was gasping for breath, and still shaking enough that he was having trouble standing.
“First thing. Calm down, I’m not going to do anything to you and you’re not in trouble. Let’s sit down on that bench for a minute.” Mike waited while the boy caught his breath and his nervous trembling subsided. “So, what makes you think I’m a cop?”
“Both my old m – man and my grandfather are c – cops. You remind me of them and some of the people they work with. The way you walk, I guess. I’m not sure.”
“Okay. Did you tell anyone else?”
“I told Adam and Donna that I thought you were. They didn’t believe me.”
“Good. I’d just as soon that word did not get around. But, I’m afraid you can’t travel with me. I’m going to be going into some places where kids don’t really belong and I’ll be meeting up with some dangerous people. It just wouldn’t be safe for you.”
“Buh – but, on TV the bad guys never expect the kids to be there and so the kids always …” He trailed off, seeing the stern look on Mike’s face.
“Rusty, this isn’t TV. These people can and will really hurt you. They don’t care that you’re a kid, all they’d care about is that you’re in their way and they’d run you down. What would your dad tell you if you tried to go with him on a dangerous case?”
“He’d send me home and tell me I was too young.” He looked down at his feet, feeling embarrassed. “I just thought … well, I’m out on an adventure. I was just hoping to help, to do the right thing.”
“I can appreciate that, and it’s an admirable thought. But you’d better sit this one out. Go back down to the Pokémon Center and find a couple of other trainers you can travel with. You’ll find adventures enough and chances to help people just doing that. I think you’re going to find that even that much of an adventure is nothing like they show on TV.”
Mike stood up and Rusty did too. “You’re a good guy, Rusty. After you’ve travelled around some, if you still want to help folks out, talk to your dad about becoming a cop. I think you’ve got the heart for it.” He turned and headed up the foggy street towards the Rowan Pokémon Lab. Rusty turned and walked the other way. He felt better than he thought he would after being told he couldn’t help. That a seasoned Officer had told him he had the heart of a cop. He lifted his head and walked with a little more confidence.
The Lab was more rustic on the outside than he expected, looking more like a large mountain lodge than a sleek research facility. A double glass door at the front slid open as he approached, letting him into a modern-looking interior. The reception area was clean and brightly lit with comfortable seating around the walls, a low table with pamphlets and Pokémon-related magazines, and a counter that extended half-way across the back of the room. Although things were bright and clean, the linoleum floor showed the wear of many years of coming and going. There were a couple of computers and a telephone behind the counter. Nobody was in the waiting area and nobody was behind the counter. There was a sign next to a button on the wall which read “ring bell for service”. Mike ignored it and walked through the double swinging door behind the counter.
There were voices coming from a room at the end of a short hallway. As he quietly approached, he could hear a woman describing the attributes of starter Pokémon to a new trainer. He slipped in and leaned against the wall next to the door. The woman, with short black hair and wearing a white lab coat, and a boy about 10 or 12 years old, had their backs toward the door. The room was lined with stainless steel counters, glass and steel cabinets and several monitoring and treatment machines and computers. There were doors out of the room to both sides and a window at the back that looked out to a lawn and garden with a tall fence around it. The door to the left stood open revealing what appeared to be a nursery area. The other door was closed. The lab was set up to function as both a research facility and a treatment center, along with the function of giving new trainers their first partners. The lab was clean and fairly orderly, though papers, books and other items told Mike that this was a place where people actually worked. He noticed a photo on the wall opposite from where he stood. It was a photo of a gray-haired man with a mustache and long side-burns; Professor Rowan.
Mike returned his gaze to the woman. She reminded him of a mountain road, tall with dangerous curves. He could see that she was a few inches taller than him. Her dark hair was cut short to the top of her neck and swept forward with a bright green streak on the right side. She exuded an aura of strength and confidence, she knew Pokémon and she knew trainers, especially new ones. She was enjoying this very important first step for the young man she was helping. She was also being serious with him, explaining the fundamental differences between the three Pokémon on the table and the basics of how to care for them, but putting it all in terms that a young trainer would understand.
The boy made his choice (the fire-type) and they turned towards the door, the woman gave a little gasp. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone else was here! You really should’ve rung the bell …”
“My apologies,” he gave her a half-bow. “You’re Professor Salvia, right? I need to speak to you about a Pokémon when you’re done with this young man.”
Professor Salvia eyed him somewhat dubiously. “Ohhh kay … I’ll be right back. Please, touch nothing till then.” She walked the boy to the front of the building and returned a few minutes later. She took note of the fact that Mike was still leaning against the wall in the same spot where she had left him. “You’re kind of old to be just starting your journey, aren’t you, Mr. … ?”
“Kohler. Mike, please just call me Mike. And yes, as has been observed before, I am a little old for starting a journey.” He pulled out a battered, black wallet and flipped it open showing her his shield and I.D.
Salvia took a step forward to look. “Pokémon World League? C.I. Branch, huh? Okay, I guess you’re not just starting out. You’re here about what happened up by Hearthome City?”
Mike was a little surprised that the Professor had heard about the murder. He continued as though he expected it; “That’s right. And I need several things from you. First, I need information. What have you heard about what happened?”
“Okay Mike. Let’s step into my office and sit down. I’ve got fresh coffee and we’ll talk.”
Professor Salvia handed Mike a steaming cup, then settled into the chair behind her desk, Mike sat across from her. “The first I heard about it was when an investigator from Hearthome City Police showed up here. They showed me a photo of a man who had been badly burned. They thought it might have been a wild Pokémon attack and wanted to know what kind. You know, which ones might have been capable of the damage that was done, that sort of thing. It took me a moment to get over the shock of what I was seeing, that’s for certain. I told them that no wild Pokémon was likely to have done that.”
“Why do you say that?”
“To begin with, in most cases, by the time a wild Pokémon gets to a level where it can do that kind of damage, it has matured … a lot. Pokémon are very intelligent creatures. They learn and mature in ways that are similar to humans. One which has evolved into its final form in the wild has experienced many years of living and battling. And one of the things they learn is to stay away from people. But they seem to also know that people, even with all of our strengths, knowledge and technology, are fairly fragile creatures. A fully evolved wild Pokémon has learned how to control its attacks so as to not kill, or even seriously injure other Pokémon, or a human. You see, wild Pokémon rarely battle each other to the point where one of them faints, you usually only see that when they’re battling for their trainers. You’re in Law Enforcement, how many times have you heard of a wild Pokémon killing a person? ‘A couple of times’? That’s because it is an extremely rare event. We have documentation here at the lab of three such cases in Sinnoh in the last hundred years. Two of those were Gyarados that had been injured and attacked the boats that had hit them, the third was a sick Rhydon that basically collapsed onto a trainer trying to catch it. It is such a rare event, that we can feel safe allowing ten year old kids to take Pokémon and journey around the region as part of their coming of age.”
“What did the investigator from Hearthome City think when you told him all of this?”
Mike watched as a wry smile crossed Salvia’s face. “She definitely did not like my answer. Not a bit. She kept trying to get me to say that it was possible. I told her that if a ‘mon did this to a person, it was most likely at the direction of another human. But she didn’t seem to want to hear my explanations. In the end, as a scientist, I had to admit that it was a slight possibility, though highly unlikely.” Professor Salvia looked up at him and asked, “I suppose that answer doesn’t please you either, does it? The Police are trying to pin this on some rogue, wild Pokémon, aren’t they?”
He looked down at his coffee for a moment, thinking over how much to tell her. “What did you think of the burn pattern in the grass around the body?”
Her blue eyes widened in surprise. “What burn patterns? The photo the Hearthome detective showed me was of a body on a table. It looked like it was in a hospital. I never saw the area where the body was found.”
Mike opened his satchel and pulled out two photographs of the body when it was still on the ground. “I’m sorry to ask you to look at it again, but here is what I’m talking about.”
Her hand trembled slightly as she took the photos, but she got control of herself as she examined them with a critical eye. He thought again about how strong she was. Some people might see her as cold, but he had seen that tremor in her hand and watched as she mastered it. The emotions were there, but she kept them in check when she needed to. His respect for this scientist went up several notches.
Salvia handed the photos back to him and quickly wiped her eyes as they brimmed up a little. “I’m sorry. Not very professional of me to cry, is it?”
Mike took the pictures back, “if you weren’t moved by this, I would have serious doubts about you. You’re a good person, and good people don’t have to see things like this very often.”
She smiled over at him, “thanks.” She turned serious again. “Okay, those burns around the body look like they could be from a Pokémon’s fire attack. You probably already thought of a ‘flamethrower’ attack. It’s a pretty common one; almost all fire-types learn it at some point. But it’s also available as a TM. And it’s fairly powerful. A high-level Pokémon using flamethrower could do that. But another possibility is will-o-wisp. It could spread out in a pattern similar to this, and it would continue burning for a while, so it could do that kind of damage. Solar beam might cause burns similar to what he has, though I wouldn’t think we’d see the grass burned around the body as much, it’s more precise. But look Mike, the ground is burned around the body like this because he was already on the ground.”
Mike studied this Pokémon Professor for a moment, judging how far he could trust her. Her frank eyes looked into his, asking for explanations. She knew it wasn’t a wild ‘mon that did this and was hoping that the hardened detective sitting across from her would know it too. “Actually, he was already dead. I think someone was trying to make it look like a Pokémon had done this to try to cover up what had really happened.”
She nodded. “Now that makes much more sense than what your Hearthome colleague wanted me to believe.”
“What do you know about counterfeit gym badges being handed out to trainers?”
“Not a lot. I had started hearing about some fly-by-night gyms popping up here and there, with people claiming that the real gym was closed for one reason or another. They trick trainers into paying them money, give them a cursory battle and hand over a fake gym badge. I guess the badges look pretty good, but don’t hold up to close scrutiny and of course, they don’t have the electronics. Trainers get taken for several hundred or a few thousand PokéYen, and then are told to go back to the real gym once the fake is discovered. First I had heard of it was, oh, two or three months ago. Though, I’m only hearing it from trainers coming back through here.”
“So, neither the Sinnoh League, nor the police are saying anything about them? They’re not warning people, warning trainers?”
Salvia thought about that and said, “Well, now that you ask, no, they’re not. And that is a little strange. There hasn’t been any official word about it at all. I’ve been telling new trainers, like that boy that was here earlier. Basically telling them to make sure they go to legitimate League-sanctioned gyms. Oh, there have always been a handful of people, here and there, who think they can set up and run a new gym. Most of them are up-front about what they’re doing because they want to get sanctioned when they prove themselves. But, even if they give out badges, they’re honest about them not being fully sanctioned badges. The few like that which I’ve seen have been made out of copper or bronze, with no gemstones, just some nice etching or metal-work.”
She paused, thinking. “One other thing about the fake gyms that are giving out those fake badges … the Pokémon they use are usually pretty weak. At least that’s what it sounds like. Every trainer I’ve talked to that has been taken in by them has commented on how easy their battles were. Mike, I don’t think that any of the ones I’ve heard about have a ‘mon that could burn a man to a crisp. I don’t know, do you think the counterfeits are connected to this murder?”
Mike shrugged. “I’m not sure yet. You’ve confirmed my thoughts on these burns though. Thank you. Now, I need one more thing. I need a partner going into this.” He again saw surprise in her eyes as she started to shake her head and he quickly said “No, no. Not you! I’m sorry. I need to get a Pokémon.” Her surprise and denial were quickly replaced by relief.
“Ah! Yes, I can help with that!” Salvia thought for a few moments, then gave Mike a fetching smile and stood up. “I would think that, since you already know you’ll be facing a strong fire type, you’ll want to go with a water type, right?”
“That’s what I was thinking, yes. Also, unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll have a lot of time for raising one from the usual starter level. I’m going to travel from here to Hearthome by foot, and that gives me only a short time to work with it.”
“Do you care if it’s a female?”
Mike looked the Professor in the eye and said, “I care if it’s strong and smart and can move fast. That’s what I need. Gender, even looks won’t count.”
“Good. I’ve got one that is kind of a difficult case. It was a starter, a Piplup that Professor Rowan gave a young man a few years ago. The boy was badly injured in an accident, he was in a coma for a long time, and unable to continue as a trainer. His family wanted his Pokémon to be brought back here so they could go to other strong trainers. His Piplup had evolved into Prinplup by then. She’s strong and smart, but she’s also been pretty down about losing her trainer. The few other folks that have tried her are put off by her somber mood and go with something more cheery. I think you two might just get along. Go out back and I’ll bring her out.”
Mike stepped through the door that Professor Salvia had pointed to and found himself in the fenced in yard he’d seen before. The lawn was well kept, surrounded by various berry bushes and shrubs with a tall privacy fence around it. He only had to wait about five minutes and she came out followed by a blue Pokémon. It was about two feet tall, bird-like, had webbed feet and flipper-like wings. The wings ended in hard, sharp points. Two hard ridges extended from either side of her beak and went up over her head. She walked with her head down, looking at the ground, uninterested in being outside. Mike looked up at Salvia and asked, “Does she have a name?”
“Her name is Pearl.”
Mike sat on the ground in front of the Prinplup. “Okay Pearl, Professor Salvia tells me you’re smart, so let’s talk. She thinks that you and I might be able to work together. You seem to trust her, and I do to.” Pearl looked up at Mike, as though she were looking deeply into him, studying what kind of person he was. She nodded at him, waiting to see what he had to say.
Professor Salvia watched Mike talking with the little Prinplup. She was surprised at how Mike spoke with the Pokémon as if she were his equal. He was talking with a potential partner, rather than a pet or a tool. She had rarely seen people interact in this way with Pokémon, at the moment she couldn’t remember any other regular trainer that did. Maybe some champion-level trainers. Most trainers talked at their Pokémon, giving orders, perhaps asking if they were okay to continue a battle, but not reasoning with them in this way. She was also rather amazed at herself for the feelings she suddenly seemed to be having towards this hard-bitten angular man. He was so very different from anyone else she knew.
“So, here’s the deal,” Mike continued. ”I’m a detective and I have a job to do here in Sinnoh. I’ve got to try to find someone who did something very bad. They are dangerous and I need someone with me to help watch my back. I need a partner. And, unfortunately, we won’t have a lot of time for training, because we need to get to Hearthome City, so we’ll only have a couple of days or so to get to know one another. It will be dangerous and difficult, but you’ll have a chance to help me stop a very bad person. What do you say; do you want to take a chance on me? And, afterwards, if you and I don’t really click, I’ll bring you back here. It will be up to you.”
Pearl studied Mike again. She certainly appeared to be smart, he thought. She was carefully weighing what Mike had said and was, again, looking into his heart. She stood there for perhaps a full minute, then reaching out her wing in a very human-like gesture, gave him a curt nod. Mike took the proffered wing and shook it once. Neither knew for certain how things would work out between them in the long run, but both of them felt they had made the right choice for now.
Mike, Pearl and Professor Salvia walked back inside. “I’ve got to get going,” said Mike. “We still have over half of the day to do a little training against some wild Pokémon. With luck we’ll be getting into Hearthome in two or three days.”
Professor Salvia told him about some areas of grassland and forest where there were higher-level wild Pokémon, along the routes from Sandgem, through Jubilife City, Oreburgh and to Hearthome, so they could get in some good training. Then she reached into her lab coat pocket and pulled out a red and white colored ball and handed it to Mike, “This is Pearl’s Pokéball.” She looked over at Pearl and said “you don’t really like being in it much, do you?” Pearl shook her head.
She asked Mike, “Do you have a Pokédex? I can update it with the data for Sinnoh.”
He pulled out a battered, red-colored electronic device and showed it to her.
“Geeze Mike, that thing is older than me … er. Well, you need a new one. Here, let me take that for a minute and I’ll transfer all your data into a new ‘dex. This one will have the information that the lab has gathered about the Sinnoh region Pokémon as well as your existing data which I’ll transfer.” She plugged Mike’s beat-up old Pokédex into one of the lab’s computers. She took a key ring out of her pocket and unlocked a cabinet under the counter and pulled out a new Pokédex. She plugged the new ‘dex into a second slot. The computer lit up and Professor Salvia typed a few commands, she hesitated a moment then with a little bit of a devious smile, typed a short line of text. After a few moments, there was a soft “ding” and she pulled out the new, bright orange Pokédex. She flipped it open and held it out to Mike; “here, press your thumb on this gray pad …” He did and the screen lit up with his photo and an electronic voice said; “This Pokedex belongs to Detective Mike Kohler. Attempted use by any unauthorized person may result in this unit self-destructing.”
She grinned at Mike’s expression, “Don’t worry … there’s no actual explosives in the unit. Basically, if someone other than you activates it, it’ll give a 10-second countdown and then shut off. The ‘self-destruct’ thing is just something I’ve always wanted to put on one of these. Your old unit has been wiped, it’s junk now. The gray pad here on the new one is a DNA coder – you just touch it to unlock the unit. Now, here, enter a password on this screen; something you’ll remember. That’s just added security to keep someone from just holding your hand on it if you’re unconscious. This ‘dex is a little more sophisticated than your old one … I hope it helps.”
She stepped over to a cabinet and pulled out a plastic bag. “Here’s some food for Pearl, my own recipe for water-type Pokémon. This should last you till you get to Hearthome City. The food they carry at the Poké Marts is good too, but I think mine is a bit better.”
Mike took Pearl’s Pokéball and dropped it in a coat pocket, put the Pokédex in an inside pocket and took the bag. He looked over at Pearl and said, “Okay, we’ll only use the Pokéball when we really need to. And thank you again, Professor Salvia … for all of your help. And the coffee … you make good coffee.”
She smiled at him, “My friends call me ‘Div’.” Seeing Mike’s slightly puzzled look, she added “It’s short for ‘Divinorum’. My mom was a mystic. She named me after a plant she favored for help with visions … she may have used it just a little too much.”
Mike Grinned at her. “Thanks Div. I really do appreciate your help …”
She stepped close to him and rested her hand on his chest. “Please be careful Mike. Obviously, whoever these people are, they are frighteningly twisted. I’d kind of like to have you come back for a visit … in one piece. I don’t know why, but I really like you.”
Mike pulled her to him and held her for a moment, looking into her eyes. He was rather pleased with having to look up at her. Then he stepped back and said, “I’ll see you later Div,” then he and Pearl walked out the door.