Generation #1 · Generation #1 (1-10) · Stories

The Hitokage Detective Agency (A Charmander Story)

Story by Jack Bumby

The Hitokage Detective Agency (Charmander Story #1)
It was our first job – literally the very first, we’d barely even set up shop. Image credit: Thyfany Ron

The water splashed up at my torso.

“That’s just swell.”

“Char! Char!” Charmander scolded, from his position on my shoulder.

“It didn’t go anywhere near your tail flame, Charmander. Stop your whining.” I continued through the tunnel. It was getting deeper. We were just passing beneath the factory labs at this point. I made a quiet prayer to myself that it was only water splashing me and not chemical waste or runoff from some unpleasant experiment. The labyrinthian system beneath the factory had turned out to be a lot easier to navigate than I’d expected, thanks in no small part to my Charmander and his impeccable sense of direction. His tail flame also lit up the tunnels better than any torch could. He was a regular swiss-army Pokémon.

“Charmander, up ahead.” I pointed forward at the upcoming crossroads. Charmander raised his claw to his chin and scratched. The flame on his tail pulsed and wavered.

“Char! Char!” He pointed right.

“Thanks pal.” I turned right, deeper into that warren of confusion.

*

It was our first job – literally the very first, we’d barely even set up shop. We’d not even paid the first month of rent on the office. I was still moving my desk in when an old guy knocked on the glass of our door. Our first client.

“Are you the Hitokage Detective Agency?” his nasally voice whispered into the office.

Actually, forget about old. This guy was prehistoric. I remember almost jumping out of my skin when I saw his shrivelled face peering in, the huge spectacles magnifying his cloudy ancient eyes, his bald and liver-spotted head serrated by the shadow of the office blinds. My first thought was that it was a Pokémon I’d never seen before. I’d heard they were cloning ancient Pokémon in a lab somewhere, but no, this was just a man. I put on my business face, invited him in, and heard him out.

Like anyone else who still lived in that hellhole, he worked in a factory. In fact, he owned a handful of factories, he explained. And his top factory was in trouble, someone kept blocking the inflow pipe and it looked like corporate espionage. He wanted us to catch the criminals in the act. It wasn’t the romantic first case I’d imagined but he was paying in cash. The money was good. And besides, in Gringey city, romance was a foreign word.

“Sir, we’ll take the case.” I said once he’d explained his situation. He stuck out a cold and leathery hand – the texture and colour was the same as the hide of a Sandshrew – and I shook it with a wince. Once he’d left and Charmander had woken from his nap, we headed out into the haze and smokestacks of Gringey City.

*

“Char! Char!” He pointed forward. I could see it too. The tunnel was getting wider. It was getting shallower too. Which was good, because moments earlier it had almost reached my chest. I’d nearly had to carry Charmander above my head, which wouldn’t have gone down well. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the light of his tail flame reflect off of something on the wall. I moved closer. The brick here was dark and furry-looking, as it had been since we entered the tunnel. But in this section of the tunnel, the wall glistened with a shimmering film, like someone had sneezed all over it.

“What do you reckon Charmander?”

“Char…”

“Yeah, I’m not stupid. I wasn’t exactly going to stick my hand in it.” I saw his tail flame flicker. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap. This place is freaking me out.”

“Char!” I felt his hand grip my shirt.

“You too, huh?”

“Char! Char!”

His attention was no longer on the wall. I saw that he was pointing off further down the tunnel. Something was down there.

“Ok, calm down pal.” We began moving down the tunnel. I could feel him rumbling on my shoulder, getting ready to attack. His tail began to light up the remainder of the tunnel. A dead-end. The wall at the far end was covered in the same slime.

“Char!”

“I thought you were leading us to the inflow pipe?”

“CHAR!”

“Don’t shout at me, you’re the one who led us down a dead-end.”

But all of a sudden it made sense. Charmander wasn’t shouting at me. He was shouting at the wall. The wall that was slick with a sticky substance. The wall that had begun to twist and writhe. Spots of moonlight shot through the wall as cracks began to appear. It seemed to be alive. Looking up, I realised that the ceiling of the tunnel was bending and snaking too, in the same eldritch way as the wall. Something fell from the top of the tunnel with a wet slap. It landed in the water at our feet, a large pile of purple goo. Charmander was urging me to move, but I couldn’t look away. Two eyes appeared out of the goo. Then a toothless, gaping maw.

“GRIIIIIME!” it croaked. Something inside of me snapped, the spell of fear that had been cast over me broke. I began to back away.

“Ok Charmander, not too quick. Let’s just-“ My sentence was cut short as a pile of the gunk hit me on the back, propelling Charmander from my shoulder. Another hit my other shoulder, sending me sprawling.

“Char! Char!” He stood on his tiptoes, holding his flame high above the dirty water.

“Hold on Charmander. Just keep your tail out of the water.” Another mound of sludge hit my belly as I tried to scramble to my feet, knocking the wind out of me. I went to scream, and a heap landed on my face. I felt it begin to seep down my throat. Some began clogging my nose. I couldn’t breathe. The smell of sulphur and mould was unbearable.

“GRIIIIIME!”

I felt more land on my arms and legs as they pushed me under the water. There were dull vibrations as more of the things landed around me. I began to black out.

“CHAAAAAAAAAAR!” There was a blast of heat overhead, above the water. I felt the muddy weights move off me in a flash, retreating from the flames. I could hear muted squeals. Desperate for air, I threw my head above the water as soon as the fire disappeared and took in a deep gasp. My mouth still tasted foul. Behind me, Charmander stood still holding his tail above the water. Smoke curled around his snout.

“Flamethrower, huh?” I croaked.

“Char!”

“Well done buddy, I think you just saved me from a whole heap of trouble.” I stood up and spat out the last of the grime. The Pokémon seemed to have fled, revealing the inflow pipe at the end of the tunnel, where the pulsating wall had been just moments earlier. I reached down and picked up Charmander, putting him on my shoulder.

“Char?”

“I don’t have a clue. But they were disgusting. At least they seem to have gone now. They must have been clogging up the inflow pipe.”

“Char! Char!”

“Yeah, I guess it was a success. Though when they make the movie adaptation of our life stories, they can leave out this case.” We began walking back out of the tunnel. Charmander’s tail was flickering and glowing.

“Char!”

“Of course you’d be the star of the film.”

“Char?”

“I don’t think you’d want him to play you.”

“Char!”

“Good point. C’mon, let’s go get paid.”

Generation #1 · Generation #1 (1-10) · Stories

The Horror – Part 3 (A Venusaur Story)

Story by Jack Bumby.

This is part 3 of this story. If you haven’t read parts, one or two, check them out first!

Venusaur Gravestone
The anger in its eyes was replaced by weariness. It was tired of the fight. Image credit: Laurie MacQueen

“SAUUUUUUUUUUR!”

The sound burst from the foliage, sending a flock of Pidgeys shooting above the canopy. It was coming from beyond the vast muddy tract to the side of the shanty village.

“Get somewhere safe, if you know what’s good for you,” I shouted to the men and women, in their black hoods. I noticed that a small red ‘R’ had been sewn into a few of them. Rebranding was right.

“Good luck,” the grunt I was talking to spat.

“Just stay down. You lot have done enough.” I gestured over my shoulder. “Growlithe, with me.” She jumped down from the boat and stood by my side. In that moment I thanked the stars I wouldn’t have to make my way over the crest of that dark hillock by myself. I walked forward, the Venusaur roared once more, urging me into a run. Growlithe stayed by my heels, keeping speed with my swift, heavy footsteps.

*

We were up the hill in seconds and, upon reaching the top, I realised the scale of the operation. In a semi-circle that reached about a mile in diameter, every tree had been decimated so not even a stump remained. In the middle of this, a huge ribbon of land had been cut out and filled with metal and concrete. Judging from what the guy at the dock had said, this was just the entrance too. No doubt there was an entire network of tunnels and pipes below me. For a moment, I thought I could feel the thrum of the machinery coursing through the ancient ground. Or perhaps it was the scarred, violated ground itself, screaming out. Before I could ponder this, that booming cry let out once more.

“SAUUUUUUUUUUR!”

About a quarter of the way around the vast semicircle, the trees shook. It reminded me of the supportive groups of Dugtrio we’d seen on our descent into this wretched place. Though I knew that the thing coming out of the trees was something permeated with uncompromising anger, not the kind, cooperative spirits of the burrowing Pokémon we’d seen the day before.

“SAUUUUUUUUUUR!”

And could I blame it for being angry? This was its home, had no doubt been its home for decades, and it was being devastated. Not only that, but it had been forced to stand by and watch as other Pokémon were subjected to the cruellest kinds of servitude. Of course it would intervene, how could ‘Team Rocket’ have expected anything less?

“SAUUUUUUUUUUR!”

I’d spent so long battling and training Pokémon, focusing on my next big win and the next big pay out, that it had long slipped my mind that Pokémon were living creatures with their own spirits and ways of life.

“SAUUUUUUUUUUR!” This final cry was the closest yet. And as that fact occurred to me, and my hat was blown from my head, the Venusaur burst through the treeline. The Venusaur I’d trekked into hell to capture, the Pokémon I was being paid to subdue. Only now I realised that either the forgettable man in his minimalist office had been mistaken or, more likely, he had lied. This was no ordinary Venusaur. I’d done my research, and I’d seen more than my share of Venusaur in my time – battled a few too. They usually stood at around six foot, this one was over eight. It was also the oldest Pokémon I’d ever seen. It almost looked like it was part of the forest, moss and leaves clung to its hide, small flowers bloomed to accompany the gigantic tree on its back. It stood now, just out of the canopy, observing the latest damage. I gestured for Growlithe to remain where she was. She obliged, but looked at me as if to say I hope you know what you’re doing. I took a gulp, crouched down a little lower, steeled myself, and approached it.

*

It let out another blistering roar as I approached, but this one seemed more for show. It didn’t seem to see me as a threat. Though, I realised when I was in spitting distance, things might be a heck of a lot different if I was in a Team Rocket get-up. Moving my hand upwards, the Venusaur bent down to receive it. I stroked its muzzle. It rumbled contently.

“I’m not like the others. I was sent here to capture you,” I began. In its eyes I saw brief panic, or anger, but I continued as quickly as I could. “But I won’t be doing that. I’ve seen what they’ve done to your home, and I can’t bring it back. I’m sorry, but we’re fighting forces beyond our comprehension.” It looked dismayed at this, and turned to go back into the forest. I called after it, “But I know where you can exist peacefully. A place where you can live your last few years in quiet serenity.”

“Sauuuuur?” Its voice was gentler now. It turned back around. The anger in its eyes was replaced by weariness. It was tired of the fight. I knew that a warrior like that could never back down from a battle. But this particular battle was close to killing it.

“And,” I smiled at it, “There’s no reason we can’t tear this place down on our way out.”

*

Venusaur made short work of the construction site. Once I’d identified the weak spots and pointed them out, its vines made the laboratory into a pit of nothing more than rubble. It wouldn’t stop the construction, but it would slow it down. Though, if we were lucky, the cost implications would be too great for Team Rocket and the whole operation might be written off.

“Let’s go,” I said, to Growlithe and Venusaur, “There’s a boat waiting and an army between us and it.”

I soon found that my warning was premature. Once down the hill, Venusaur obliterated any resistance. In a flurry of vines it dispatched all the grunts, sending them flying into the water downriver. One lucky grunt managed to throw a Pokémon before being thrown screaming into the murky eddy. It was a Houndoom, and it may have even been a Mega Houndoom. I never got chance to find out. Growlithe and I looked on, stunned, as Venusaur sent out a scorching Solar Beam which sent the dark Pokémon fleeing into the underbrush.

*

The battle was nothing compared to getting that great, lumbering creature onto the S.S. Cactus. The Captain mimed a dramatic fainting motion when I began leading the mossy giant on board. But we managed it, with the help of the First Mate and about a dozen, freed Machamp, Machoke, and Machop. Once accomplished, Growlithe rubbed against my leg.

“You didn’t do so bad yourself girl,” I said, before retiring to our cabin.

*

The sun had come up. The sound of the Vermilion City port drifted closer.

“What happened then?” Jaime asked. I was surprised she’d stayed awake.

“Well I never heard from Team Rocket again. Though soon after returning home, I found that I was no longer welcome to participate in the Pokémon League, which was surely their doing. But I discovered on that journey back up the river, as the sounds of Pokémon conversing and playing drifted into my cabin, that battling was no longer the life for me. I’d find my purpose doing something to benefit all Pokémon, something worthwhile. Even now, decades later, I don’t know if I’ve found it yet. But Growlithe (now Arcanine) and I have had one heck of a time searching.”

The group sat around me smiled. I looked at Arcanine as she dozed. She’d heard all this before.

“As for that Venusaur, she lived out her final years in complete peacful harmony, surrounded by younger Pokémon who would often sit around in a circle and listen to her stories. I never told anyone where I’d taken her, but I still visit now and then to pay my respects to the Pokémon that changed my life.”

Generation #1 · Generation #1 (1-10) · Stories

The Horror – Part 2 (A Venusaur Story)

Story by Jack Bumby
This is part 2 of a story. If you’ve not yet read part 1, click here.

Fishing Village png
I’ll never forget what I saw in that dismal place, so far from the rest of humanity. Image Credit: @fdjrt

The journey down the river was short, but it had its moments of beauty. I’ve seen lots of very memorable sights in my lifetime, but nothing compares to the two days I spent heading into that dark place.

On the first day, I saw very little aside from the usual small fishing villages you see dotted all around Kanto. But once we moved out of the region, and further up river, it was unforgettable. On my first night I saw a school of Horsea and Seadra, all following a lone Kingdra. I don’t think those proud creatures even knew we were there, despite Growlithe’s continued attempts to bite and roar at them from the side of the boat. She was loyal, and well-trained, but was still a slave to her animal instincts.

I also witnessed the ship’s (albeit minimalist) crew in the heat of an argument. I’d never even imagined what a quarrel between a Mr Mime and a Machamp would look like, but it was as surreal as you’d expect. After a few minutes, and more than a few heated shouts, the First Mate retired below decks to continue shovelling coal. From what I could tell, he was suggesting they turn back. The Captain had managed to mime that it was “their job”, and that had shut the First Mate up. But I don’t think it was anger that started that argument. As First Mate Machamp retreated to the engine room, it looked like fear.

*

On the second day, the boat ran aground. The river had gotten very shallow around the edges, and despite the best efforts of the Captain, she ended up on the bank. The relief in First Mate’s Machamp’s eyes was easy to miss, but I saw it as he poked his head from inside the bowels of the ship. But it was to be short-lived. I’d stepped off to assess the damage, which appeared minimal, but we were well and truly stuck. I considered my next move. Should I walk? Surely the forest would be far too perilous for just Growlithe and myself. As if in agreement, a deep rumbling sound emerged from the forest. Having read up on the dangers in this part of the world, I swiftly re-boarded the boat. But Growlithe stood her ground.

“Get on the boat, girl!” I shouted but she paid me no mind. The rumble was close now, and I could see the trees in front of her wobbling and swaying. There was a dry crack as one collapsed. Growlithe assumed an attack stance. I ran to her. Out of the treeline, a Dugtrio emerged. They were followed by another, and then another, and then another. The line continued until it disappeared into the depths of the forest. They descended on the boat.

“There girl, take it easy.” I stroked her fur. It was easy to forget, but she was still a pup. The Dugtrio got to the boat and began moving it back into the river. I saw Mr Mime grab the wheel to keep himself steady as the ship jerked and bounced back into the water. They surrounded it until they were underneath the entire hull. With this many, the ship was soon back into the water, bobbing on a gentle current – seemingly unaware of how close the journey came to disaster. The Dugtrio then headed back into the forest. Growlithe calmed.

“C’mon girl. Back on the ship.”

Reflecting on the events of the day, I lay awake that evening. The Dugtrio didn’t attack, they weren’t crossing the river, and they came out of their safety to help us – even risking their lives in the water. We were in their home, and they aided our journey. This led me back to the Venusaur. Who was I to capture it? With this dreaded thought circling my mind, I fell into a sporadic and unpleasant sleep.

*

There were four hard knocks at my door, each from a different muscled fist. The First Mate was telling me it was time. I could see from the small window that it was barely dawn. The light outside was grey and thick with the petrichor of a wet night. I put my hat on and swung the door open. The First Mate was stood outside and it appeared he’d been crying.

“Are we here?” I asked. He looked at the ground, nodded, and pointed his finger to the front of the boat. I beckoned for Growlithe to follow me and I headed to the bow of the ship. I’ll never forget what I saw in that dismal place, so far from the rest of humanity. We’d pulled into a small port. Down the jetty was a rudimentary town. There were a few buildings that might pass for living quarters, and a makeshift Pokémon Center. There was a despondent-looking Pokémon Nurse stationed there. Stood around were men and women dressed in black, holding lanterns like out-of-focus extras in a gothic horror film. Besides the town was a steep and muddy hill. Slowly trudging their way down this was the gloomiest group of Pokémon I’d ever laid my eyes on. It was mainly made up of Machamp, with a few Machoke, and even a small number of Machop. Tired was an understatement for these poor creatures, they looked on the verge of fainting. They began heading into the small living quarters, until the last of them closed the doors. Appalled, I approached one of the men at the end of the jetty.

“What’s going on?” I demanded. “What in the devil are you doing with those Pokémon?”

“Those?” He sneered. “They’re building.”

“What on earth would you want to build all the way out here?” I lifted my arms, gesturing to the wet trees around us, the air ripe with the putrid petrichor of the previous night.

“Our new digs,” he smiled. “You’re looking at the future site of Team Rocket’s newest underground laboratory.”

“Team Rocket?”

“We’ve rebranded.” He looked me up and down. “Say, are you the guy they sent down from head office? The one who’s supposed to catch our Venusaur?”

“Yes, but-“

“Well watch out. He’s been destroying our buildings, freeing the Pokémon. He’s no ordinary Venusaur.”

“He’s freeing them?” I spluttered.

“Yeah. Big guy too. Must be as old as the forest.” As if the forest had overheard the conversation, and I was beginning to think that place had an impeccable sense of timing, the floor shook beneath us.

“Is that him?” I asked, readying myself. But there was no time for the man to respond. From the depths of the labyrinth around us I heard a cry that froze my blood in its veins.

“SAUUUUUUUUUUR!”

Go to Part 3!

Generation #1 (1-10) · Stories

The Horror – Part 1 (Venusaur Story)

Story by Jack Bumby. Part 1 of 3.

The Horror
We began our journey into that enigmatic place of mystery and malice. Image Credit: @fdjrt

The PA system buzzed and a tired voice crackled out. “Sorry folks, looks like we’re here all night. The water’s too choppy to cross, but we’ll have you in Vermilion City by daybreak tomorrow.”

The others groaned. Arcanine let out a low whine and covered his head with his paw. I leant back into her fur and lowered the brim of my hat over my eyes. The giant living pillow beneath my head rumbled.

*

I’m not sure how long I slept before their discussion woke me. I opened my eyes and surveyed the cabin. Flames bounced from the low ceiling, down the walls, and lit up the sleeping Pokémon around the space. In the centre, the other trainers were huddled around a small fire – talking about their glory days. It took a few moments for me to gather my senses, but I realised they were talking about the biggest Pokémon they’d ever encountered, or perhaps the most dangerous. In my experience, the two went hand-in-hand. Jamie’s laughter had awoken me. It was a sudden, distressing sound, like a Haunter with a sore throat. I closed my eyes, hoping to catch up with the last few tendrils of the dream I was having before they vanished forever.

“Hey Robert!” It was Jamie. I briefly wondered about keeping my eyes closed, pretending I was still sound asleep and hadn’t heard her. But there wasn’t much chance of me falling back asleep anyway. I sat up and stretched my arms with a dull pop.

“Yes, Jamie?” Irritation had seeped into my voice. I tried to hide it. “Are you guys alright?”

“We were wondering,” she broke eye contact, shifting her gaze to the straw-ridden floor, “What’s the most dangerous Pokémon you’ve ever seen? Face-to-face I mean.”

The others looked around at me. Their voracious eyes flickered orange in the fire-light.

“Guys, you don’t want to hear an old man’s stories.”

“Of course we do!” Jamie burst in.

“It’s not very nice. I don’t like to talk about it.” Arcanine shifted under me, nudging me with her head. “But, if you guys want to hear it.”

Jamie looked back at the others, as if to say I told you he would. Whatever anyone says, deep down everyone enjoys telling stories.

“Ok, shift a bit closer. And put that fire out. The sun’s coming up soon and we’ll be on the move again.”

I began.

*

When I was a young man, I made a bit of a name for myself as a trainer. Nothing fancy, but enough to attract the attention of a few particular organisations. They liked my efficiency, and the fact that I’d never lost a battle didn’t hurt things either. I’d also managed to catch a troublesome Onix, one people said could never be caught – let alone trained. (But that, as they say, is another story for another day). There was one up-and-coming organisation in particular that took an interest after that moment. You’ve probably heard of them as Team Rocket, but back then they were called something different. I can’t recall.

I took the meeting with the head honcho. You have to remember, I was popular back then, and that meant I made a lot of Pokédollars. But being that popular, I spent most of it as I made it. Usually on things I’d regret. So I took the meeting. What harm was there? He was offering me some sort of opportunity, said it would raise my profile even more and it’d be easy money. And, as I said, my pockets were tapped. I was more than willing to ride that potential gravy train.

The meeting was odd. I was lead, or escorted, to the penthouse office of the biggest building I’d seen in my life. In that office was one table, and a chair on either side. The man across from me during that meeting made next to no impression in my mind. It’s as if he could have been any number of people.

“We want you to catch a Pokémon, a Venusaur,” he said. His voice was perhaps the least memorable thing about this already forgettable man. Looking back, I think he wanted me to forget every detail about him.

“Of course.” I was happy to do it, this was firmly in my wheelhouse. But I knew the old idiom, if something’s too good to be true, blah, blah. “What’s the catch?” I asked.

“No catch. Having this Venusaur out of the equation is in this business’ best interest. It’s been causing quite a lot of environmental havoc. Not to mention quite a bit of pandemonium with the local populace.”

It was an altruistic view, but it mattered little to me. I only needed to know one thing, “What’s the pay?”

He went into more detail after that. Apparently, a Venusaur was running rampant in a rural area just outside the Kanto region. It was a desolate, depressing place. Only reachable by boat. It was this more than the money that hooked me. As a boy I’d always been fascinated by the dark places on the map, the undiscovered areas of the world. Of course, by the time I’d grown up, the majority had been discovered and someone had built a Pokémart and a gym. After we’d agreed on pay, the only question I wanted answering was when I could get started.

*

The boat they gave me should have been my first clue that things weren’t exactly on the level. It was named the S.S. Cactus, and it looked like a wreck that had been left as a bizarre floating mausoleum. The captain didn’t instil much confidence in me either. An ancient Mr Mime, he looked older than even the ship. The moth-eaten peaked cap atop his head appeared older than the two combined. He showed me to my quarters. It was a small cabin at the rear of the ship, barely large enough for myself and Growlithe. But we’d spent a few tough nights in Viridian Forest, and compared to that with its incessant buzzing of Beedrils and the constant hooting of Noctowls, the cramped accommodation was practically the S.S. Anne.

I soon found out that, apart from the Captain and the Machamp acting as First Mate, we were the only ones on that vast ship. But, through a tricky exchange, the Captain assured us that it wasn’t a long journey. I asked the First Mate and the Captain just before we set off if either of them had heard talk of the Venusaur at the end of the river. The Captain pretended not to have heard, and First Mate Machamp all of a sudden made himself very busy moving my luggage aboard.

Soon after that, we began our journey into that enigmatic place of mystery and malice.

Go to Part 2!