Story by Jack Bumby.
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.
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.
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?
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.”