The Game of Champions
“Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names.”
-Ancient proverb, unknown origin
A white room with one door.
A wall of clouded glass.
Three warriors around a table, two to a side, one to the other.
Only one of them spoke true.
I’m well and tired of this.
All of it, I mean. The games, the machinations. The torture. I’ll talk.
I’ll tell you a story. My story. The answers you seek won’t have the weight they deserve without it. Answers are much like gemstones: their real worth is found when they are cut, polished and set. I’m no shoddy jeweler. You’ll have my answers through this story or not at all.
Let’s begin with an introduction. I already know you two, but you most assuredly don’t know me.
Call me Red. You may have heard of me.
Red is not my name. It’s a nickname, the homegrown kind that takes root in childhood, latches on and grows on through adulthood until it is an inseparable part of one’s identity. Everyone now makes a big deal of it, but it’s really quite a simple story, simple start and simple end.
I have red eyes. It’s technically genetic and I’m not albino, as you can tell from my hair, which has never lightened a single shade from charcoal black no matter how many hot afternoons I spent in the sun on the Professor’s research ranch. I know ‘technically’ has perked your interest, but I’ll get to the story behind that in due time.
As you grow up these things tend to matter less, but when you’re a child, it’s more than enough to separate you from the herd. Perhaps in another time and place it might have been considered attractive, but not in this world of pokemon. Red eyes are distinctive of a number of species, some not particularly docile or friendly. Looking back, I have to admit there is a twisted veracity in that childish logic which served to ostracize me from my peers.
It was an excuse, though. My mother and I had never been a central part of the Pallet Town community to begin with. For one, we were new to town. My mother had moved to Pallet Town alone carrying me, notably absent of any partner save her pokemon. My mother knew no crafts but the keeping of our home and garden, and never made any effort to integrate into the rural town despite more than enthusiastic encouragement from the settlement’s population of single men. And finally, we were, put bluntly, poor. Thanks to the various jobs my mother jumped through around town, we did not starve, yet paying tuition to the single schoolhouse in town strained our finances to the limit. I learned quickly to give thanks for the patched clothing on my back, lest I cause my mother undue guilt or sorrow.
I have no idea how much any individual parent let slip in the home, but my reputation as the scion of the family on the other side of the proverbial tracks became common knowledge among the children my age. They were not at fault. They only learned it from their parents. The red eyes gave them justification.
I do not mean to paint Pallet in anything resembling a bad light. Pallet Town was a sleepy valley town with mild people who, though as flawed as anyone else, for the most part kept their problems to themselves. I was not bullied or discriminated against or picked on. I was simply alone.
Well, almost. Let me tell you about Blue.
Blue is not his name either, obviously. It’s the nickname I gave him in return. It’ll make sense in a second.
Blue was the golden boy of the valley. You may think you know him, from his celebrity biography and soft-ball interviews, but I will set the matter to rest here. It was no exaggeration to say there was no child more beloved in all of Pallet Town. He was an Oak, the venerable Professor’s grandson. He could not run through his own town without a gaggle of children following. He did not as much thrive in the attention as live in it, as he does today. Blue was born to be the center of attention. He was a vain, prancing braggadocio then and will still declare it louder than any other man until the day he dies.
I’ve heard those who have met him sometimes call him a bully. How utterly droll and unrefined, not to mention childish. Blue is a bully the same way politicians are liars; bully is nothing more than a term coined by a whiny child lacking both power and the knowledge of how to apply it. Blue knows what he wants and knows how to get it. It is no one’s right to complain that he has the guts to seek it without shame.
That is not to say he does not pack the bite to back up his bark. Blue was nothing less than a genius. He could name every pokemon in Kanto and most of Johto by his ninth birthday. He could command a growlithe or pidgey as well as a town militiaman by eleven, and always came in first in faux pokeball throwing contests. Blue had been working towards a trainer’s license since he first started walking. He’d wanted to leave at five years earlier, following the whole Youngster craze that came with the legal age being lowered from sixteen to eleven, but his grandfather wouldn’t hear of it. It was a point of much conflict between them. Blue had ideas even then, you see. He didn’t just meander into where he stands now. He always was the sort to change the world rather than let it change him.
Graceful fighter, dashing champion, quiet revolutionary. That is Blue.
The day we exchanged nicknames was the day of a particularly bad fight between him and his grandfather. It was late in the afternoon in the Pallet Town park and the rest of the children had already headed home for supper. I did not. I always stayed out later than them. My mother never complained. Be it out of trust in me or trust in the security of Pallet Town, she always gave me a long leash, something for which I owe her my habits of self-reliance and eternal gratitude. My reason for this wait was very simple. I wanted a turn at the Pokemon Wall.
The Pokemon Wall was the informal name the side wall of the park bathrooms had earned over years of chalk graffiti. Officially, you weren’t supposed to write on the side of the building, but it was such a popular pastime that the policemen almost always looked the other way. The Pokemon Wall, as named, was absolutely covered in puerile depictions of the wondrous, terrible monsters which dominated our land, with varying amounts of skill. Only the skill didn’t matter. It was the game.
Catch’Em All had very simple, easy to follow rules. You covered the wall in chalk pokemon, first. You had to buy the cheap, one idol*(1) chalk down at the general store, because it flaked when hit, which made line calls easier. Twenty, thirty, it depended on how many were playing. You made sure they were single types, fire or bug or water or flying. Dual types always ended in arguments. Typically, dragons were excluded too, as everyone agreed they were unfairly strong. Sometimes, in a hurry, they were just circles with their type written.
Then you took a tennis ball and tried to hit them. If you managed to wing one and catch the ball on the rebound before it hit, then you caught that pokemon. You write your name or initials on the drawing and continue. You could catch balls other people threw on the rebound and you’d get that pokemon. You didn’t want to do that until later though. If you touched it last and you didn’t catch it, the pokemon got released and ate you, unless you had ‘caught’ your own pokemon. If your pokemon had a weakness against the pokemon dropped, it ate you anyway. If there was no type advantage, you lost your pokemon but didn’t die. If your pokemon had the type advantage, you beat that pokemon and kept your own. The game progressed as people got eaten until there were only two left. The winner was then decided by type advantage, or, alternatively, loud shouting matches and imaginary battles.
I was a pro at this game. When I did manage to sneak into one of the larger games, it always came down to me and Blue. Blue always won, though, somehow always managing to get type advantage every time. This continued until I won one time and a girl roofed my ball in retaliation. I stopped playing around there.
I played alone, then. I used a discarded tennis ball I’d cored out and filled with sand until it was roughly the weight of a pokeball, which I’d gauged from my mother’s, which held our hapless family mistermime, a pokemon whose true importance I could not even begin fathom at that time and still have trouble believing now. I picked up one of the leftover bits of store chalk and dragged circles onto the wall at varying heights. I then stood a sporting distance and proceeded to catch the holy hell out of some faux pokemon. I don’t remember missing once.
After about twenty throws I became aware I had an audience.
He wasn’t Blue quite yet, then. He was the esteemed Gary Samuel Oak. I can’t remember exactly what I thought of him back then, only that it was considerable less charitable than what I do now. So maybe I still kind of blamed him for the roofing incident. Forgive me. I was young.
He grinned a devilish grin at me, as if he hadn’t been missing all afternoon. His denims were dusty from the way I would later learn he ran all the way down from the pokemon ranch in a tantrum. “Good arm there, Red.” He said. “Mind a partner, or are ya chicken? Buk buk buk!”
I ignored his teasing, and asked him what the whole ‘Red’ thing was about.
He shrugged and gave me a scrunchy-faced ‘well, duh’ look. “Your eyes.” He said.
I thought about that, and then told him in that case, he was Blue.
I told him it was because he was my opposite, what with his grandfather and my mother and everything.
I meant something along the lines him being the rich idol and me the dirty vagrant from the wrong side of town. He told me later he thought I meant something like because I had a mother and no father and limp dark hair while he had a father (sort of) and no mother and lighter spiky hair. Blue may be many things, but never an elitist. He has only ever discriminated against anyone with just cause. He also tells me that it bothered him at the time, mentioning his grandfather, but by the Legendaries if Blue showed it even a whit on his face that day. He cocked his head and shrugged again.
“Well all right then.” Blue said.
And that was that.
The game was brutal. We played full scale, all the known Kanto pokemon, including dual types and dragons. We had to stop to debate engagements several times, and it was heated. It was intense, it was tiring and we both argued ourselves hoarse and threw our arms lame. It was the greatest day of my life.
We played all the way past the setting sun and into the night, where the full moon was so bright that it was as if day had never left. Eventually my mother showed up. Instead of stopping us, she watched. After a few minutes she made a call on the street phone. Several minutes later, Professor Oak’s ponderous old pickup truck came rumbling down the street, and he got out and watched too. Neither of them said much. They just watched as Blue and I raced to catch’em all.
I can’t truly remember how the night petered out after that. We had worked our way through the Kanto pokemon and gone into the full Indigo League list. We had to keep playing, we knew – to stop would be to dispel the magic of the game. I remember the last engagement being between a dragonite and a salamence, which was basically an even match since they were both Dragon-type and we both knew the argument would never end…the details aren't important. The night was important. It was a magical night.
The next day, Professor Oak released the first pokedex.
But anyway, that’s how I got the name Red.
Oh, you’d like to know my real name, would you?
Like I’d tell you, Rocket scum.
Kanto Pokemon Encyclopedic Index Entry # 122 ( J. #*(2)158 ): Mistermime.
Basic Characteristics: Psychic-type, bipedal humanoid, avg. height 4’03, avg. weight120.1lbs, androgynous.
Description: Body and limbs are covered in tough, smooth white/off-white/tan exoskeleton. Limbs are connected to circular/oval torso section by large, bulbous red exoskeletal orbs designed to protect from dislocation of joints and to vibrate at high speeds, producing the ‘barrier’ effect. Similar orbs are observed at the tips of all fingers, capable of equally high vibration and barrier-creation abilities. Two short tufts of indigo/dark blue hair extrude from the skull. Two pink, round exoskeletal patches protrude from the cheeks. The feet assume shapes similar to the shoes of a jester, having the consistency and feel of thick leather, allowing mobility and balance without sacrificing defense. The face is humanoid, with features frozen in whatever expression the mistermime was wearing at birth when it’s exoskeleton hardened. Eyes are somewhere around 1.3 times the size of a normal human eye, and in all typical cases assume a crimson hue.
Nicknames: The Barrier Pokemon, The Clown Pokemon, The Silent Pokemon, mimey(s), Pokeclown(s).
“…The Mistermime is an interesting and unique specimen that stands out as strange even among the natural bizarreness associated with psychic types. It emits no distinguishable cry and displays no vocal capabilities whatsoever, despite possessing the biological ability, leaving it to researchers to name. It was assumed to be a Normal-type until it was realized that the mistermimes’ intentions were perfectly clear whenever it wished to communicate them. Looking into this, the researchers were able to discern that they communicated through sign language, though they were unable to establish an alphabet or pattern, as replicating the gestures effected no discernable response from other pokemon, once again pressing the dreams of decoding the universal pokemon language far beyond reach. They are not a popular household pokemon, as many find their humanoid appearance and fixed expressions unsettling, but they enjoy common use in military defense and are an essential part of the limiters in pokemon stadiums, though their exact purpose is kept secret to prevent attempts at sabotage and cheating. Mistermimes produce asexually, and are always harsh but protective parents…-“
1) Idol: Indigo Dollar, short for Indigo League Dollar, the official currency of the Indigo League. The Indigo penny always features the faces of Governor Satoshi of Kanto and Governor Hibiki of Johto side by side, who forged the Indigo Alliance, but the face of the dollar and quarter traditionally feature the Grand Champion of the Indigo League, and is reprinted every time a new one is crowned. The five, ten, twenty and fifty show the current Elite Four, and the hundred shows the current governors of both Kanto and Johto. The nickel and dime feature the Kanto and Johto Pokemon Professors, and the lobbying shadow wars over who gets which are the stuff of legends.
2) J # : Johto Pokedex number. As the Indigo League is held together by an unsteady and often contested alliance, neither of the two regions has seen fit to put together a collaborative Indigo League Pokedex, necessitating many such small footnotes in the Kanto and Johto Pokedex.
I've posted this in several places. I've got the first chapter, twelve thousand words, which I'll post when I get some feedback. I'm already into work on the second.
In case you haven't already realized, this is an AU fic. It's going to be a horrific mutation of the games, manga and anime, but it'll be my mutation. If there's some rule against AUs then it's my mistake.