POKÉMON: CHILD OF FIRE
THE INDIGO LEAGUE
By Andrew Shepard
All characters and likenesses within are (C) Nintendo, GAME FREAK, and The Pokémon Company International
Hello there! Welcome to the world of Pokémon! My name is Oak! People affectionately refer to me as the Pokémon Professor! This world is inhabited far and wide by incredible and mysterious creatures that we call “Pokémon”. We humans live alongside Pokémon as friends. At times we play together, and at other times we work together. Some people use their Pokémon to battle and develop closer bonds with them. As for myself, I study Pokémon as a profession.
A woman on the screen spoke frantically over the sound of pounding rain. She holds on tightly to her microphone - a fierce wind threatening to take it away.
A massive storm has swelled up south of the Johto region. This hurricane, which meteorologists are already labeling as one of the worst of the century, is creating 50 foot swells and gale force winds up to 230 miles per hour in some areas. Many ships and planes in the area have already begun losing contact with their ports and control towers, and both residents and travelers in the area are strongly advised to stay in their homes and head to their cellars if they have them. If you can safely reach a local storm shelter, please head there straight away.
A young woman looks away from the television and stares at a small, framed photo sitting on a nightstand. Tears fall down her face as she clutches a glowing, prism, orb-shaped pendant hanging around her neck.
CHAPTER ONE – Mirage
Large, lush green fern leaves were pushed aside amidst pouring rain as Samuel, a middle-aged, but aging well, man in his thirties carefully made his way into a small clearing surrounded by dense jungle on all sides. He shielded his eyes from the rain with his hand as best he could and looked over his shoulder. Moments later, another man who looked around the same age, if not a slightly older, as Samuel, entered the clearing, swatting the foliage away from his face. “This weather is unbelievable, Samuel. Can you believe how fast this storm is coming up? How are we supposed to find a safe place for base camp now?”
Samuel looked down, his hair and clothes completely soaked, with an exasperated sigh. “The only conceivable way for us to camp safely is to quickly find somewhere we can be sheltered from the raging elements. With how quickly this storm is growing, we may have to settle for whatever we can find - be it ideal or not. What’s worse Rowan is that if this storm continues to escalate we aren’t even going to find a place in time. Nevermind the rain, if it keeps up like this the wind is going to blow us away! Please ensure that the others are still safely behind us, my friend.”
With a nod Rowan quickly went back through the leafy wall, returning moments later along with three other individuals, wearing heavy coats, who set down their large packs. All of them looked soaked to the bone and exhausted.
“These younger researchers are proving to be very eager to continue on our quest, despite these harsh conditions. Perhaps it's following their inspiring leader? After all, not everyone gets an opportunity to observe the great Professor Oak in his natural habitat!” The man jestingly nudged his elbow into the Samuel’s side.
“It shouldn't be about me, Rowan, you know that”, Oak said with a light chuckle. He knew that Rowan was just trying to lighten the mood under the dreary weather “It’s about the pursuit of knowledge and greater insight into this amazing world we’ve been put on. There is still so much that we don't know about our world and the creatures in it. This region alone still has much unexplored territory harboring Maker-knows how many secrets. That means there could still be undiscovered species of Pokémon here as well!”
“Whoa there, Samuel! Calm your enthusiasm for a few minutes so we can all get some rest for a moment. It’s been a long hike here and now it’s quickly becoming a very precarious one. We still have at least another half day's journey to go, but with conditions as they are it’s going to take much longer and we can’t risk getting caught out in the open when things really go south.” Rowan said as he placed an easing hand on Samuel’s shoulder.
As Rowan spoke, Samuel thought he glimpsed something moving in the distance. Squinting hard through the downpour, he attempted to focus on the object through the dense foliage in the area around them. Of course there was something moving; he knew that this was a densely populated valley, full of Pokémon on the ground, in the trees, and even beneath their feet underground.
“What’s that you see?”, Rowan asked as he scratched at his beard that was beginning to fill in and showing early signs of grey. The others looked up as well when they saw the intense looks on their senior researchers' faces just a few short paces ahead of them.
“I’m not certain…,” Oak replied apprehensively, “but I could swear there’s something moving up ahead.”
Not one to discount the instincts of his friend and colleague, a man who had also once been widely known as one of the most talented Pokémon trainers in his nation, Rowan took a step forward and tried to get a look at whatever it was that had caught his friend’s attention. After several moments of staring through the rain and trees, he looked over at Oak to tell him that there wasn’t anything to be seen, or that whatever it had been was gone. But when he turned to face him, the expression on Samuel’s face was undeniable; he was indeed seeing something, but what exactly it was proved to be the real question. Professor Samuel Oak had already established himself as the world’s foremost authority on Pokémon, and Rowan had known him for many years, since before he had decided to become a researcher with a hunger for knowledge and discovery and no longer a trainer in pursuit of individual glory and status of legend. In all of that time and knowing all that Oak had already encountered, he had never seen such a look on his friend’s face; one that could almost be described as ghastly. Whatever it was that Oak had seen, it was real and it was something that completely shocked him out of focus, even from their current precarious situation in the growing storm.
“Rowan...," Oak whispered in a soft tone so as not to scare away whatever he saw, “Rowan, do you see it…?" The look on his face was a fierce one of shock, awe, and disbelief.
Rowan moved closer to his colleague and tried to pinpoint where exactly Oak was staring, because it was evident that he was still seeing something there.
“I don’t see…anything there, Samuel. Where are you look-" Cutting him off mid-sentence, Samuel grabbed his arm and pointed a straight line to where his gaze had been fixed for the last several moments. It took a few seconds, but Rowan’s eyes focused and then widened as finally he saw what Oak had been ghost-stricken by. In the distance, surrounded by a glowing sphere, floated a small creature that Rowan knew had to be a Pokémon. The creature was maybe 100 yards ahead of them, in a small glade surrounded by the dense rainforest. From their distance they had a difficult time making out all of its features at first, but the creature seemed to be floating a few feet above the ground and had a long curled tail that ran half again the full length of its body. Oak held out an open hand and Rowan made haste through one of the compartments of his research travel pack and pulled out a large pair of binoculars and quickly handed them to his focused friend. Oak carefully raised the magnifying tool to his eyes and gently adjusted their focus so as to more clearly see what was in front of him. Through the binoculars he could make out more of its features: it was a pale pinkish hue and had short - almost stubby, pointed ears that were very feline-like, on the top of its head. It kept whipping back and forth, almost as though it was dancing or playing a child’s game with itself.
The other researchers accompanying them just stood silent, unsure as to what was going on that had captivated their elders so. Professor Oak took a hesitant step forward as he felt something tugging at his heart and will. Rowan watched closely as his friend moved closer to the creature. It was definitely a Pokémon; he had no doubt of that, but not one that he had ever seen before. However, Rowan was familiar with the legends of a mythical Pokémon connected to the Kanto and Johto regions. Tales of a “Phantom Pokémon” were scattered throughout ancient literature and texts, thought by many to be nothing more than “a mirage”. There was never any concrete evidence regarding it, no solid facts to be found, just conjecture and old tribal myths passed down from one generation to the next, but what they were seeing right at this very moment was very real, that much was true. Whether they were truly in the presence of the mythical Pokémon known in those legends, that remained to be seen, but at this point that was all that was on their minds. As Oak drew closer to the creature, he could begin to hear its soft cry echo through the rain; at first it was only as audible as a whisper from a distance, but slowly he was able to make out its sound: a soft, but high-pitched “mew…” piercing through the wind and rain.
When he was finally able to make out its cry, he froze in place immediately, trying to imagine the gravity of what he was now witness to out in the dense rainforest of the Silver Mountain range. He turned to Rowan, who also heard the creature's soft cry and the two professors shared their moment of astonishment. Once he gathered the courage to move closer to what he was now positive was the ancient Pokémon, Mew, it slowly turned its head to look at him; and through the binoculars for a moment the creature’s gleaming sapphire eyes pierced through the deluge and were locked with his. Samuel didn’t know what to do; all he knew was the feeling of something pulling at him to keep going forward. That feeling soon turned into follow as Mew began to slowly float off. Oak was sure he was following it for a reason. Why else would it be moving at a pace with which he could keep up in the first place? He could hear the rest of the research team starting to slowly trail behind him at a distance, but he didn’t look back. He didn’t even blink; he just kept his eyes fixated on Mew, as it, seemingly, led him through the dense foliage of the valley.
The already darkened sky had only grown darker, and the rain was falling from the heavens with increasing intensity. The wind was reaching gale force, yet Professor Oak continued to follow for coming on two hours, by his estimate since he didn’t risk looking down at his watch for fear of losing sight of the Phantom Pokémon. It led him far deeper into the valley than he had initially planned to go, but he knew somehow that wherever Mew went, he must follow. As he followed Mew, Oak’s thoughts wandered through many of the things claimed of the Pokémon in the myths and legends which he had read: stories of its power, myths of it thought to be the ancestor of all Pokémon, and how it was said to appear only to those who were pure of heart. Oak didn’t know if his heart was ‘pure’, but he wasn’t going to complain today. Today he would follow. Today he would have faith that he was being led for reasons too great for him to understand right now.
This is either incredible or mad or both. Rowan thought to himself as he and the rest of the research team followed behind Samuel Oak just close enough to still see and keep track of him. He didn’t want to get any closer; or rather he did but he felt a pulling at his heart to keep his distance. Rowan glanced over his shoulder to see if the rest of the team was still in close proximity. He and Oak were the eldest of the team, with the rest being younger graduates from their respective institutes for Pokémon science and learning. They were some very promising young grads who he knew, someday soon, would become renowned professors in their own right. He himself hailed from the Sinnoh region, far from their current location on the map.
Two of the young men in their party were quietly talking as they walked; presumably trying to assess the situation and figure out just what exactly was going on: an understandable goal, as Rowan himself was still only grasping at straws. One of them, Elm, was a graduate from Johto, the region they were currently in the far northern ranges of, and was already becoming well-known throughout it for being one of the very first individuals to witness and document a Pokémon laying eggs and seeing them hatch. The larger man walking beside him, and scratching at the beginnings of a beard along his jawbone, was Birch of the Hoenn region. Rowan had never been to the region, but he had read that it has a plethora of tropical habitats and small island locales. The sole female in their party was a young girl by the name of Aurea Juniper. Her father, the nearly retired Cedric Juniper, was a renowned Pokémon professor the world over. They were from the far off Unova region. The girl couldn’t have been more than 18 years old, but already she showed signs of brilliance. The thought of the positive future that was in store with researchers like this group was a pleasant distraction from the current mystery, but just as quickly as he had allowed his mind wander to the team behind him, Rowan reset his sights on trailing Oak and the Phantom Pokémon yet again. He quickened his pace for several yards to make up for the lost ground from looking back, but dared not to get too close and slowed again so as to avoid complicating matters further. “I sure do pray that you know what you’re doing, old friend.” Rowan said softly aloud to himself as he gestured the rest of the team to come up more closely behind him.
Oak’s legs were starting to burn with lactic acid build-up from the long hike that Mew had been leading him on for what had now been over 24 hours. He had felt the ground begin to incline a mile back, and now it had started to be not quite so gradual and it was all he could do to just push through the pain and cramping muscles as the path began to grow steeper. Though he hadn’t dared divert his gaze away from his mythical guide, he had noticed that any Pokémon along the path had stopped whatever they were doing to just stare at Mew as it passed by, as though they too were in awe of its presence. The wind had begun to pick up too as Oak climbed ever higher up what he now believed to be Mt. Quena, the tallest mountain in the Johto region, rivaling even Mt. Silver which split the regions of Johto and his homeland of Kanto. This confirmed his theory that they had traveled far from their initial path, but he paid the revelation little mind as he was determined to continue to follow Mew wherever it would lead him. The weather clearly had other plans, as not only had the winds been blowing in strong gales, but the night sky had been dark with storm clouds, offering no light from the moon or stars. The near black nimbus overhead had been relentless in its deluge and Samuel was soaked from head to toe from the torrent. Behind him, the rest of his team had scrambled to don their heavier raincoats and pull up their hoods, but Oak pushed through the torrent as if it was just a light drizzle. He was too focused, too determined, and he felt he was too close now to let a ‘little’ rain slow him down. Through the storm he could still see his guide; Mew had generated a glowing sphere of light around itself, allowing the team to follow despite the reduced visibility around them. Oak’s mind wandered more as hunger began to set in; a few times he had reached out and plucked some edible berries that he had noticed ahead of him, but those were hardly enough to sustain him. He hoped the rest of his team had eaten something from their travel packs, though they hadn’t exactly planned on their trip taking such a turn of events.
Chewing on a part of a sandwich he had rationed for himself, Rowan wondered how much farther this would go on. It couldn’t be much more now, as he too had assessed that they were nearing Mt. Quena’s peak, or as close to it as could be ascended by normal means. His legs were tired, his body was tired, and so were his eyes from straining to make out the figure of Oak in this darkness using little more than their travel flashlights and the heavy rain was not doing him any favors either. He made a quick head count to ensure everyone was still with him, as they were. Trailing just a few paces behind him, Birch and Elm exchanged some fruit in their packs; each of which was unique to their respective regions. He was glad to see that they were still in relatively good spirits but could see the visible signs of fatigue on their faces even in the night. Then Aurea came jogging up beside him. She was wearing a heavy, water-resistant coat with a large, fur-tipped hood. The young girl looked at him with a questioning expression and seemed like she was ready for some answers. Rowan couldn’t blame her; they had all been mindlessly following behind Professor Oak for over a full day now. They hadn’t slept, and had been rationing what food stores they had brought with them for their, what had intended to be, relaxing expedition.
After several moments of walking beside him and studying his face, she finally spoke up, “Professor Rowan, what exactly are we doing right now? I get that we’re following Professor Oak, but to where? And why is he so far ahead of us?” Her bright, young mind was full of curiosity, but this was more than that and Rowan knew it. Had he not seen the Mirage Pokémon himself, he too would likely believe this to be some wild chase through the wilderness. He smiled at her, rain dripping from his beard, and put a hand reassuringly on her shoulder and gave her the quick version of why they were on this hunt. When he was through he wasn’t certain if she understood, but she at least pretended to and they pressed on, as Rowan also felt this journey coming to its peak.
The rain had become more unbearable by the minute. With each passing moment, Oak felt his strength slipping away as the cold, hard deluge ceaselessly and mercilessly rained down - his only remaining strength coming from the feeling that he was nearly there - wherever ‘there’ was. He had climbed higher than he had intended to on this expedition and far further west as well, but when he saw that Mew had come to a stop just a hundred or so yards ahead of him, he felt a surge of energy. Finally, he thought, this is it. He was so excited that he lost his footing on the muddy earth, falling end–over-end several feet backwards. He got up as soon as he stopped rolling, just as the rest of his team came up behind him. Oak rose to his feet, not looking back, and sprinted up the remainder of the distance to where his guide awaited him. He could hear the research team slowly making their way up behind him, but they were taking their time.
Probably safer that way… He thought to himself, noting his own misstep just moments ago. When he was finally no more than 10 or 20 yards from the mythical Pokémon that had been his mysterious guide for the better part of the last 48 hours, it floated into a small cave imbedded into the mountainside. Oak took a quick glance around; he wasn’t at the peak of Mt. Quena, but he was close enough for one trip. He raised his head and hands to the sky in thanks, allowing the fierce rain to wash away the mud that was caked all over his face and palms. Taking a deep breath, unsure of what he was going to find inside, he stepped forward into the darkness of the cave. The cave opening had been small, but beyond that it was wide, having a ceiling more than high enough for him to comfortably press forward without worry of hitting his head, and went back several more yards than he had expected. It began to curve at a sharp 90 degrees, and he noticed a faint, flickering light coming from around the bend. As he turned the corner, Oak involuntarily held his breath, not knowing what he would find, but even with all he had witnessed these last couple of days, what he saw was probably the absolute last thing he could have expected to find.