A Sinnoh Journey
Far too early in the morning, her alarm went off. Milo groaned and pulled her pillow over her head, but the tinny beeping was already boring into her skull. She squinted at the glowing numbers: 6:15 A.M. She hadn’t needed to set it for so early, she grumbled to herself as she fumbled for the snooze button; school didn’t start until five of eight…
Oh. Right. Right.
Suddenly wide-awake, Milo rolled out of bed and immediately tripped over the very full backpack sitting on the floor. Scrabbling around in the dark and stuffing scattered articles of clothing and food back into the backpack helped distract herself from the sudden waves of excitement and terror, at least, even if it wasn’t the best way to start the morning. Muttering grumpily, she pulled her dark sweatshirt around her shoulders—the blue, peeling letters spelled out “Fuchsia City Safari Zone” across the chest—and looked around for her Pokétch only to find that she had fallen asleep with it still on her wrist.
“Way to take good care of the present,” she grumbled to herself as she trudged out of her room and down the short hallway to the kitchen. The door to her mother’s room was ajar, and her mom’s buzz-saw snoring reverberated throughout the apartment. Normally Liz Ellis was up with the sun, but last night had been some special event at the Canalave Library; she hadn’t gotten home until nearly midnight. The single window in the hallway showed a grey sky, wreathed with fog from the harbor.
Foraging in the fridge, Milo shoved aside containers of rather elderly leftovers displaying a impressive rainbow variety of molds. Eventually finding some relatively recent food, she prepared her breakfast while very carefully not looking at the small, brightly-wrapped package that had appeared on the table overnight.
A bowl of reheated spaghetti in one hand and a mug of tea in the other, she plopped down on the couch in front of the TV and flipped to a random channel. “…escaped from a maximum-security prison late last night,” a waxy-faced newscaster told the camera. “Professor Charon, who had been serving a life sentence for crimes committed as a member of Team Galactic—”
Too much seriousness, too early in the morning. Milo changed the channel. A couple of cutesy kids’ shows; more news; a rerun of Lucario and the Mystery of Mew—she’d loved that movie when she was about six; a photo slideshow of the Sevii islands; even more news… Sighing around a mouthful of greasy spaghetti, she punched the off button. The blinking red numerals on the microwave told her that it was 6:37.
“Stupid to set my alarm that early,” she muttered, and slurped another mouthful of tea. “Office won’t even open ‘til ten.” And then she could get her official Trainer’s license, and then… Another quiver of nervousness made her stomach queasy—although that could just have been the spaghetti.
The package on the table dragged at her attention like magnetic north pulling on a Nosepass. Milo stood up and shuffled over to the window, stared out at the foggy Canalave City morning. Don’t think about it, don’t wonder what species it is, don’t admit to yourself that you’ve already picked out a name… Damn.
“You need something to do,” she told herself. Like what? Everything was packed; she’d triple-checked it before going to bed. Nothing on TV, the paper wasn’t here yet, and it was too early to call Taylor. Her gaze drifted down to the shiny blue Pokétch on her wrist. 6:42. With a five-hour time difference, it wouldn’t quite be noon in Orre. She could call…
Back to her room. Milo unearthed her cell phone from one of the bulging side pockets of her backpack, flopped back onto her bed, and stared up at the peeling paint on her ceiling while the dial tone buzzed in her ear. Six rings, eight, ten… “Answer your phone,” she muttered. There was a patch of damp on the ceiling that looked like a Bronzong, if she squinted and held her head at the right angle.
And then came the clattering sound of a receiver being taken off the hook, and a static-roughened voice said brusquely, “Doctor James Wednesday.”
“Hi, Dad,” Milo replied.
A long pause, enough to make her wonder if he’d heard, and then, “Milo! How are you, kiddo?”
Don’t call me that. “Fine.”
“Today’s the big day, right?” He laughed. “You know, someday, when you’re the league champion, we’ll look back and say, remember the first day of your journey—”
“All right, all right.”
Another pause; she could hear her father breathing, faint echoes of static from half a world away. “Did you get your graduation present?”
“Yeah.” Milo glanced at her wrist again, studying the shiny Pokétch. “It’s great. I like it. Thanks.”
“Happy graduation—again. Well, not precisely graduation… Happy finishing ninth grade and running off to train Pokémon.” He laughed again.
“Hmm.” Don’t remind me. Her mom had insisted that she finish the school year, even though Taylor’s parents let him leave as soon as he turned fifteen. “How’s work, dad?”
“Any new projects?” If she tilted her head the other way, the patch on the ceiling looked like an Empoleon with a stomachache.
“Nothing that’d interest you. Very technical stuff.”
“The mysteries of bioengineering,” Milo said in her best spooky voice.
“Something like that.” The connection crackled with static as he sighed. “Have you gotten your Pokémon?”
“Oh. Fine, fine.” Silence. “I’d better go. It’s a busy day here.”
“Milo—” she rolled her eyes as she registered the new seriousness in her father’s voice— “When you’re on your journey, I just want you to remember that I’m very proud of you and I’ll always love you, no matter what. All right?”
She sighed. “Okay, dad.”
“Good. Have a great journey, kiddo—and good luck. I’m rooting for you.”
“Thanks.” Milo hung up and tossed the phone back into her backpack, then rolled onto her stomach and stared at the floor. One arm dangled over the edge of the bed; the screen of her Pokétch told her that it was 7:03. She fiddled with the buttons and it told her the time in analog instead, and then reverted to digital.
Footsteps in the hallway. Milo got up and poked her head out the door in time to see her mother walk into the kitchen. Swaddled in a floral printed bathrobe, she rubbed at her eyes as she slumped into a chair at the table.
“Hey, Mom,” Milo called, walking over to join her.
Her mother brushed a hank of pale brown hair out of her face. “Milo? Were you talking to someone?”
“I called Dad.”
Not daring to look at her mother, Milo made a careful study of the tabletop instead. Eight years since the divorce, and a careless sentence could make the sharp edges reappear in a heartbeat. “How was the event last night?” she asked. “That professor from Orre, right?”
She wished she could have that last sentence back—Orre was too close a subject to Dad—but her mom either didn’t notice or chose to let it pass. “It went well. I hadn’t the faintest idea what the guy was talking about, but then again, I’m just a librarian. All the scientists and geeks ate it up.”
“What was it about?”
Liz Ellis made a face. “The title was ‘Optimization of Purification: the Purify Chamber Versus the Agate Ritual’—” she bracketed the words with finger-quotes— “and it had to do with something called Shadow Pokémon, which I guess was a problem in Orre like ten years back. I understood maybe one word in ten. The guy who gave the talk—Krane, his name is—is a celebrity over there. Like our Professor Rowan.”
“‘Our’ Professor Rowan? Mom, the Pokémon Professor lives way over in Sandgem.” What she didn’t say was, So this Krane guy works with Pokémon? Maybe he knows Dad…
“Speaking of Pokémon…” her mom said, a sudden smile overtaking her sleepy face, “I think it’d be a good time to open your present now.”
Milo said nothing; her heart had stopped beating.
“R-right,” she squeaked. As she reached out to pull the little box towards her, she could see her hands shaking. Working with almost comical caution, she carefully peeled the tape off of the crisp blue wrapping paper.
Not a psychic, please—they creep me out. I know it can’t be something too special, like a dragon—way too expensive—but don’t let it be one of the generic starters, they’re boring… A water-type would be great—even a Piplup, I guess—then I could beat Taylor’s Monferno. Just not a psychic… The paper came away from the box. She lifted the lid and found herself looking at a flat rectangle of red plastic. “Huh? Oh, a Pokédex.” She took it out and set it to the side, noticing with a jolt the even smaller box that the Pokédex had concealed.
“Go ahead, Milo,” her mom said, indicating the small box. Barely breathing, Milo carefully picked it up. Inside, a minimized Pokéball rested on a layer of cotton. Please. A decent Pokémon, that’s all I ask. Something I can get along with, something I can trust to battle with—The Pokéball expanded in her hand; closing her eyes, she pressed the button in the center.
A flash of light, and then a quiet voice asked, “Vee?”
Milo opened her eyes. A blurry image of brown and cream resolved itself into a small, furry Pokémon, sitting daintily on the edge of the table. The Eevee stared up at her with eyes the color of chocolate, and Milo felt her heart melt.
“Eev,” the Eevee said, ducking its head in a way that seemed almost bashful. Its silky tail swished back and forth across the surface of the table, sweeping up crumbs; Milo’s mom frowned slightly.
“Why don’t you try out the Pokédex, Milo?”
“All right.” Unable to take her eyes off the Eevee, Milo picked up the Pokédex and aimed it unsteadily at the little Pokémon.
“EEVEE, THE EVOLUTION POKÉMON,” the device blared in a faintly-accented monotone. “A NORMAL-TYPE POKÉMON. BECAUSE ITS GENETIC CODE IS IRREGULAR, IT QUICKLY CHANGES ITS FORM—”
“Yes, yes, I get it,” Milo muttered, stabbing at the mute button with one finger. The Eevee’s vital statistics popped up on the screen; she squinted at them, not sure what half of the numbers and graphs meant. She’d slept through those classes in school.
A few of the facts were easy to read, though. “Well, she’s a girl.”
“Eevee.” The noise was so clearly a Well, duh! that Milo almost laughed.
“Well, that’ll make the name I picked sound a bit weird,” she said, typing it into the Pokédex, “but I can always call you Callie for short. Okay, Calvin?”
Her mom snorted. “You can’t name a female Pokémon Calvin.”
“Says the woman who named her daughter Milo,” Milo grumbled. “Besides, she doesn’t mind. Do you, Callie?”
“Vee!” Of course not!
“Put it back in the Pokéball, will you?” her mom asked. The Eevee—well, Milo could only describe the expression Callie made as a pout: her long ears drooped, and she hung her head and gazed up at Milo with mournful melted-chocolate eyes. And Milo had thought the little Pokémon couldn’t get any cuter…
“All right.” Milo raised the Pokéball—she’d seen Trainers do this on TV hundreds of times, practiced it in her daydreams. “Return, Callie.” A beam of red light shot from the small sphere and struck the Eevee, who vanished instantly. “Sorry,” Milo muttered to the Pokéball. “I’ll let you out soon, I promise.”
“So, do you like it?” her mom asked, rubbing at a spot on the table with the sleeve of her bathrobe. Callie had left a scattering of long hairs on the tabletop.
Milo smiled blissfully as she slipped the Pokéball into the pocket of her sweatshirt. “I love her. Thank you.”
Her mom shrugged. “Yeah.” The chair’s legs scraped across the floor as she stood up. “I need coffee. You want anything?”
“No, thanks,” Milo replied, and retreated to her room as her mom busied herself with the coffeepot.
For lack of anything better to do, she went through her backpack again. Nearly bursting at the seams, it was heavy enough that it would be slightly awkward to carry, but she definitely had everything that she would possibly need. She could always have a Pokémon carry it, if she caught one that had arms.
Now there was a thought—what other Pokémon should she catch? She’d spent so much time worrying about what her starter would be that she hadn’t considered the other five—five, she repeated to herself, incredulous—Pokémon she could have on her team. No psychics, though—they made her skin crawl, the way they could tell what people were thinking. And Eevee could evolve into so many different types; she had a lot of flexibility with what she needed…
Milo pulled out the Pokédex and switched it on. “HELLO,” the device announced at maximum volume. “I AM A MARK IV POKÉDEX, SINNOH REGIONAL EDITION, REGISTERED TO <INSERT NAME HERE>—”
“Shut up,” Milo growled, switching off the sound. She called up the entry on Eevee and reached for a sheet of paper and pencil.
Two hours later, she glanced at her watch and realized with a shock that it was nearly ten. Crumpling up the sheet of paper, now covered in her untidy scrawl, she stuffed it into the top of the backpack, then swung the bag over her shoulder and headed out the door.
Her mother, still in her bathrobe, sat at the table doing the Jubilife Herald crossword. “I’m leaving, Mom,” Milo said, and her mother nodded but didn’t look up from the paper. Milo bit her lip. “No, I mean really leaving. The office’s on the other side of the canal—I thought I’d head right to Route 218 after I pick up my license.”
Something caught in Milo’s throat, making it hard to breathe. “That’s—that’s it?”
“Well, what else is there to say?” Her mom looked up from the crossword and gave Milo a weary smile. “Good luck on your journey, Milo.”
“Okay, then. Fine.” Milo crossed the kitchen and stepped through the door without looking back. A fleeting expression of misery crossed her face as she heard it click closed behind her, but as she headed down the grimy stairwell, she forced herself to smile. Off you go on your grand adventure. Ha.
Down three flights of stairs, and then out the side door of the building and into the foggy Canalave City morning. Clouds covered the sun; a strong smell of salt wafted up from the harbor. For almost ten o’clock on a Saturday morning in the summer, the city was very quiet; only a few pedestrians and no cars that she could see.
No danger in letting Callie out, then. Milo released the Pokéball, and her Eevee materialized in a flash of white light. “Vee!” Callie exclaimed, prancing from side to side and swishing her silky tail. That’s better! Milo translated in her head.
She grinned. “C’mon, Callie.” She started to walk, but had only gotten a few paces when she heard a sad “Eeev…” from behind her. Looking back, she saw Callie hurrying towards her, tiny legs moving in nearly a blur as she struggled over the cobblestones.
“You won’t be able to keep up, will you?” Milo realized.
Callie hung her head. “Ve.” Sorry.
“That’s okay, I’ll carry you for now.” She bent down and picked the Pokémon up, grunting slightly—Callie was heavier than she had expected. “Better?” she asked, snuggling the Eevee close to her chest.
“Much!” Callie replied happily.
“Good.” With the Eevee in her arms, Milo walked briskly down the sidewalk. I might not be back in Canalave for months, she realized, and quickly squashed the melancholic feeling that the thought had triggered. Still, as she passed certain buildings, she couldn’t help pointing them out to Callie. “That’s the high school, where I went to school…” She frowned at the tall, ugly structure. “Looks like a prison, doesn’t it? And up there’s the Gym. Byron’s the Gym Leader, he uses Steel-types… Don’t worry, we won’t be fighting him for a while.”
Callie sighed with relief.
Milo grinned. “And behind the Gym is the library; that’s where Mom works.” She turned to the right and headed across the tall bridge that spanned the central canal. A sea breeze, surprisingly cool for a June morning, ruffled her hair and Callie’s fur. Out over the harbor, Wingull wheeled and screeched.
“I want to walk,” the Eevee complained.
“Don’t worry, it’s not that much farther,” Milo replied, stroking Callie’s soft fur. Her shoulders were beginning to ache from the heavy backpack. “It’s just past the Pokémon Center, see? We’re almost there.”
Callie squirmed a little, and then subsided with a tired murmur. Milo’s steps slowed as she passed the Pokémon Center and approached the tiny building that contained the Sinnoh League office; a host of irrational fears arose to chew on her brain. What if they won’t give me a license? What if they say I’m not ready?
What if they say I’m too old? She frowned. After the Team Galactic incident five years ago, it had become more common for kids not to start their journeys until they were twelve or thirteen—like being two years older would protect them from criminals—but at fifteen she was almost unusually old. But then again, so’s Taylor. Adopting an expression of grim resolve, she pushed open the office door.
To Milo’s relief, the registration process went smoothly. There was a minor quibble over documentation—she’d been born in Kanto, and the region apparently filed their paperwork differently—and the usual poorly-concealed smiles when she confirmed that yes, her name actually was Milo Wednesday. At least no one asked, as the boys in her classes had been so fond of doing, what day of the week she’d been born on (the answer was Thursday, thank you very much).
Twenty minutes later, she walked out of the League office with a freshly-printed Trainer card in her wallet and Callie in her arms. From there, it was only a five-minute walk to the edge of Canalave City, where the cobblestones ended and the dirt road through Route 218 began. She stood at the very edge, looking out at the trees and tall grass in the distance, and carefully set Callie down. “I’m fighting against a whole childhood’s worth of warnings, you know,” she said lightly. “Don’t go into the grass or the Pokémon will eat you. That sort of thing.”
“I’ll protect you,” Callie told her, a confident glint in her eyes.
Milo smiled. “Yes, I know. C’mon, then.” And with the Eevee at her side, Milo Wednesday walked out into the unknown.