The path towards Vermillion City lied a little further than expected for James. Stretching out towards a city by the sea, was Route 6 which involved a winding pathway through thick grass and a small lake, where several more trainers awaited challenging. Some of the more serious hard-stanced trainers James managed to avoid eye contact with, swiftly skirting around more to just not waste time rather than out of fear of losing. The ones he did end up fighting were still not particular a match, ranging from bug catchers to bird trainers.
One girl had a rather interesting creature that James immediately became nervous about, a yellow mouse that while was incredibly adorable, sparked hot shocks of electricity from its cheeks. Thankfully neither Spike nor Red were weak to the power of electricity like James was, and he managed to survive through the route unscathed amongst the various bugs and birds the other trainers had brought out. Red however still refused to evolve willingly, and pleaded always to James to keep him the same way.
A few scraps and potions later, they finally found themselves in Vermillion City. The sea expanded far beyond the horizon, eternally stretching towards the middling afternoon sky that began to turn that little shade more of off-colour blue to signify the evening coming in. The port laid at the very shoreline, now refurbished into stone walls and metal foundations. A building under construction, halfway built up was to James' left upon entering the city, with all the larger buildings spanning out before him.
The gym was like a large warehouse at the pier, but designed more as a place of stature to mark its significance amongst all the other warehouses further down to port. The port itself was a long bridge stretching out to sea, where a gateway stood for security checks before the boats themselves. The streets were more well-paved in this city than in the other inland regions, as the raptor even saw some delivery vehicles towing crates back and forth through the tarmac roads. He still did not consider it a city, but it at least felt like one.
The only other place of interest was a Pokemon Fan Club, which he avoided at the very mention of the words "Fan Club" with a shudder at what people laid within. Kirie smirked at such a reaction, not saying a word as he wandered through the streets towards the Pokemon Center. He also found the Poke Mart in order to restock his supplies plentifully, mainly some potions and various healing sprays for different ailments, from paralysis to burns to poison antidotes.
But instead of immediately looking for a new ally to join them, the raptor took his time in sitting by the docks and watching the sea go by. The ships came to and fro, one particular ship coming into port to release a small throng of people coming into Kanto. Out of the multitude of people however, James noticed one nervous-looking young man looking incredibly lost, trying to ask people passing by.
"Hah, poor kid."
"That guy over there, lost like hell. Come on, let's help him out Koopi-...Kirie."
He wandered over towards the lost-looking person, hearing a giggle from Kirie at his slip-up as he had a brief flashback to Dusty Dunes, the lost koopa who was an assistant to Kolorado. He almost felt that to have become the beginning of everything, even if he knew it wasn't. Shaking his head clear, he walked up to the young man who had shoddy brown hair, glasses, a green T-shirt of a red-winged dragon, jeans and a sandy carpet bag.
"Hey, you lost man?"
"U-um yeah," said the nervous one, "I just got off the boat and um, do you know the way to Fuchsia City?"
"Uhhhh...not really I-OH wait I got a map."
The raptor in disguise pulled out his map and found Fuchsia City, to the south of Vermillion City which was only accessible by two roads. One curved east and south of Vermillion City, the other curving west and south from Saffron City, which James tried to explain before saying:
"Yanno the Pokemon Center has maps you can use."
"Really?" said the newcomer. "You know where it is?!"
"Sure it's up over that way, just follow the shoreline from that way and you'll be fine."
"Oh that's great, thanks. Take care!"
Smiling as the newcomer headed off in the direction indicated, James started to feel the day turn towards the evening at last, which made him want to rest and take in the sun's final rays before the night soon came. Releasing Spike and Red from their mobile travel homes, the four of them sat together, watching the sea turn dark as the sunset came in.
"Man this is a nice place," said the raptor still in disguise.
"...you bored Spike?"
"Heh...trust me, when you've been fighting long as I have, you'll start missing moments like this. If you don't take the time to relax once a while in your journey then...things start to turn real bad for you, you know?"
He asks "what do you mean?"
"Well...I've been on the road for about...eight years now, away from home? And...there's a lotta times when I regretted not just forgetting about everything and just letting things be...when I had everything good and perfect...like a week ago.......or maybe a year ago. Point is, when you get into this kind of lifestyle like we're doing now, you'll start to appreciate the boring moments more and more. Alright?"
Lying back to enjoy the breeze, all four of James' group sighed to themselves with their own little dreams and hopes, the sky above turning evermore a faded orange. As the sea calmly lapped at the stone walls of the harbour, he almost fell asleep before reminding himself he was outside in a city, taking his pokemon to a hostel to rest up in a bed. Kirie hid herself within a lamp, possessing it as a way of remaining stationary to fall asleep beside James.
The next morning, James began to train up his team after scoping the Vermillion Gym out, hearing that it was owned by a former soldier who specialised in electric-type pokemon. The very notion made him incredibly nervous, but since it was not necessary for him to obtain a badge from there according to Kirie's mission, he decided not to. Kirie recommended at least a level around the early 20s for the most effective performance against Cerulean City's gym.
In doing so, Red learned a whole new move in the form of Smokescreen, which gave James some rather interesting ideas for future tactics. Spike in turn learnt a brutal double-stab move known as Twineedle, which was potentially more reliable than Fury Attack. This was also the first time James discovered that a pokemon could only retain four moves, while being forced to forget one when a new move was being learned. Kirie explained that this was a self-preservation technique amongst pokemon in order to stop themselves from becoming overpowered.
While wandering Vermillion City's harbour however, he watched the boats unload their cargo with a fond wistful memory for the day he left London. He spoke to the haunter about how he had run all the way down to the docks at the Thames, snuck aboard a crate that had been kept open and hid himself amongst clinically-wrapped foodstuffs for a week and a half. As he watched the crates move back and forth however, something stuck out to him in the noontide sun. A large blue flipper just barely seen amongst the marked crates.
"...what kind of food do people eat here that involve giant blue fish?"
What do you mean?
"Look...that's a weird-looking flipper, isn't it? Definitely not a fish."
...that better not be what I think it is.
"Is it suspicious?"
"Then I'm checking this out."
Kirie agreed and flew along beside him, the raptor scoping out the one specific crate as it was shipped with several others to a warehouse on the docks far away from the gym. The building was one of many within the small labyrinthine maze of containment facilities, various companies drifting back and forth with delivery vans for various purposes. James however saw one particular company called Swift Star Deliveries coming out of the one warehouse the mysterious crate was going into. He ducked inside the large iron door, as Kirie cloaked him in darkness.
The warehouse interior was deceptively larger than expected, the huge curved roof reaching high above his head as he hid himself within the darker corners. There was still light, and he could only rely on stealth so much before anyone would find him. James however kept his eye on the one crate, which was being moved with several others in a group specifically as he noticed there were airholes within them, as they moved slowly along large conveyor belts one at a time.
"What kind of food crate needs airholes?" he asked softly.
Maybe the fish are still alive to be kept fresh.
"Hmmm...I still don't think that's fish, I've seen plenty of fish over the years and that fin...that can't be one. Looked more like a flipper."
I see...what do you think this could be?
"I dunno...I just found this really suspicious. Those guys look decent though, pretty normal people."
The men and women wandering around the storage areas seemed to be perfectly normal, wearing worker's clothes of white and blue as they shipped things through. James kept following the one crate as it moved from room to room, Kirie aiding him by using the power of illusion to form some sort of camouflage that helped him blend in against the wall. Nothing seemed to happen as they swiftly moved beneath stairways and doorways, ducking past people and slipping through doors. At one point even FG was starting to doubt himself.
"...what the hell am I doing?"
"I just snuck into a fucking warehouse because of a stupid hunch."
Never disregard your gut instinct James.
"Maybe I'm being too suspicious, there's nothing about these guys that are suspicious at all. But I can't go back now, there must be an exit at the other side of the warehouse right?"
Hopefully, but I can still keep us hidden if need be. Tell me, do you dare to seek out trouble, or does trouble always seek you?
"I wanna say a bit of both, heh."
The startling shout of a woman nearby made him flinch against the wall, hiding desperately behind a crate as he heard footsteps walk further away towards the crate. The woman, who seemed like a supervisor, spoke to one of the workers passing the crates through.
"You seen Michael around?!"
"No Mrs. Pearl, I think he's still at the trucks."
"Alright, keep this moving boys come on!"
She patted one crate, which suddenly began to rumble as a whimpering cry came from inside. The woman turned and snarled at the worker.
"I thought you said these things were knocked out!"
"I-i-i did, but...we had to lower the dose on one cuz it was young, we didn't wanna overdo it."
"You idiot. Come 'ere."
She grabbed some sort of cattle prod from another worker and jammed it into the crate, a powerful shock being sparked as the violent scream of a young animal came from within the box.
"Spare the rod and spoil the child, who the hell raised you you piece of shit?"
"I-i-i just didn' wanna overdo it!"
"If you can't learn discipline early in your life then you'll never be anything better than this. Now make sure this thing doesn't wake up until taken to processing, understand?!"
The worker sheepishly stood alongside the now-unmoving crate, as the woman walked off to the final processing area with cattle prod still in hand. James followed after her along with the crate, still sticking to the walls as the last section of the warehouse was where it would stop, beside its brethren. A huge area devoid of most machinery, apart from forklifts and other shipyard vehicles. The four crates were also being given special markings for various purposes, all of them seated together in one area to not be confused with any others.
The only thing James noted was that the labels marked it specifically as having come from the Sinnoh region.
I think I know what's in there. And I am quite sure this is all illegal.
"Whatever it is, we have to help it."
Tell me, if this was legal, would you still proceed?
"...I've always thought laws were made to be broken."
When the coast was clear, James hurried forwards to the four crates, looking into them to see the blue creatures within. They appeared to resemble plesiosaurs, large aquatic reptiles around 8 feet tall, with four large flippers and a grey shelled back in contrast to their smooth creamy front.
"What are these, some kind of dinosaur?"
A rare aquatic pokemon...rare to the point that they are facing extinction as a possibility.
"...I've seen enough. Kirie, tell them I'm gonna get them out of here."
She nodded as she spoke to each of the four Lapras, or at least tried to upon seeing they were rendered unconscious. Soon one of them croaked out a tired moan. One of the creatures awoke with bleary eyes, her face longer than the others with wrinkled eyes. She explained the situation as best she could, whilst James began to try and open up the crates. Fire was too dangerous without burning them all, and the boards were too sturdily set for him to be able to break them apart.
"Dammit I can't get them open, they're too strong! How we gonna get 'em out?"
This one has awoken, she understands that you are trying to help and she suggests that you capture them with your pokeballs.
Why not? They are too weak to resist, and it will get them out of the crates easily. We can take them to a Pokemon Center to be healed before setting them free.
"Awesome. Okay I think I got enough."
Seeing he indeed had enough to catch all four of them, he aimed a ball into each crate individually, capturing the lapras one at a time. They were far too weak to even struggle, and easily became caught within before he put them in his satchel.
"...wait, why didn't these guys carry them in pokeballs?"
Presumably because it's easier to disguise a crate to turn something into food or produce, rather than offer it within a pokeball.
"...fucking hell. Alright, just uh...just you left now miss."
The older female lapras nodded weakly, her eyes tired and filled with sorrow as she willingly accepted to be captured. As much as James hated this, the fact he would soon release them in healthier conditions made him feel better about seeing her in such a state. Just when he captured the last fourth lapras however, a violent electric shock blasted him in his back, making him scream violently before falling to the ground, convulsing while clutching the fourth pokeball.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
The stern female voice came from behind him, as he now got a closer look at the supervisor running this operation. Long black hair, somewhat in her late-50s with glasses as Mrs. Pearl shook her head fiercely.
"Are you a vandal or a thief? Or both?"
"G-guh...f-fuck you...f-fucking abusin' pokemon!"
"Abuse? These are animals, they're meant to serve man and provide him with life, that is their PURPOSE. Now return them to me or else I will punish you."
"GO TO HELL!"
James fired off a blast of fire from his fingers, striking the woman in the chest as she fell back with a shriek of surprise before trying to strike him once more with the cattle prod. He struggled to dodge, the electrical convulsions still running through him as he just barely stood up. Kirie was doing her best just to keep the illusion up and not make things worse, the raptor in disguise pushing himself up against one of the now-empty boxes and shooting a blast of water at the woman's feet.
Thankfully she slipped, but she was quick enough to throw the cattle prod away before it hit the puddle with her, staring up at James venomously with a wet face. In his weakened state, he dropped the pokeball he was now holding as it rolled across the floor. The deadly shock had rendered him practically unable to fight, but he did try to at least blast her in the face once more with fire. She shrieked from being hit instead on the knee, limping away to grab the cattle prod nearby to attack the intruder.
"Whatever tricks you're trying to pull, you're NOT getting away! Who are you?! ANSWER ME!"
"S-someone who's sick of your shit, bitch."
"How DARE you disrespect me! This'll teach you!"
As she ran forwards with the cattle prod, James stumbled to his right, dodging as best as he could from her attacks before another violent strike made him shriek and collapse farther. His heart was pulsating viciously, desperate to keep him going as he turned scared from a numbness riding up his arm. The shock had sapped all the energy from his muscles, burning as if he had run a marathon and slowing him down immensely, which also made his nano-attacks slower to act.
She wasn't a particularly swift opponent due to being middle-aged, but Mrs. Pearl's fury more than made up for it. He did everything he could to dodge her, occasionally striking out a slash of water from his claws to make her trip more. But she was learning to be light on her feet, swinging the electric prod like fire to a beast, making James back off fearfully. As he slowly found himself backing up halfway towards a wall, a large blue mass suddenly slammed into the supervisor, knocking her across the floor.
"UNGH! Wh-what the hell-"
Staring up, she saw an old lapras staring down upon her, growling viciously within her grizzled throat as she slowly pushed her body in front of James, who struggled to recover himself. Mrs. Pearl however was not intimidated, wielding her cattle prod with indignation.
"I wasn't going to do this to you when you were awake, but you're dead either way. TAKE THIS!"
Swinging her neck away, the lapras groaned with retaliation as she slammed herself forwards the woman, a sudden thrust of her entire body knocking the supervisor down hard enough to bruise. Trying to attack the lapras once more, Mrs. Pearl received a shot of water to the chest, the lapras spewing it from her throat like a powerful hose to force her back even more. Forced to abandon the cattle prod while being splashed with water, she decided to sound the alarm as James roared hoarsely:
Swiftly releasing his charmander out from his pokeball, he immediately ordered:
Finally having a real test to use his new power, Red spewed forth a powerful black fog from his throat, covering the area in front of them as Mrs. Pearl cried out:
"GET THE GUARDS IN HERE NOW, BEFORE HE GETS AWAY!"
Guards rushed in from all over as a screeching siren cried out from all around the warehouse. The smokescreen continued to cover the whole area as a dozen men and women charged into the storage area armed with stun batons and pokeballs. All they could see however was pure smoke, their supervisor stumbling from it while coughing:
"CLEAR THIS SMOKE OUT, HHHH-HUK-KAGH! NOW!"
The guards who had bird pokemon on them swiftly threw out their charges, as a small flock of pidgeys and more evolved forms of such, began to flap away the consuming black fog. With a mighty gust of wind combined from all their wings, the smoke soon cleared as the alarm continued on. Not a single trace of the intruder was to be found. No lapras, no human, no haunter. Mrs. Pearl was infuriated, grabbing one senior guard before growling:
"Get the security footage and alter it until it only shows him stealing. THEN call the police."
"Wh-what?! B-but ma'am, I-"
"That PUNK committed a theft from MY company! As far as the cops know, we are just a delivery firm, and nothing more. You get that footage nice and looking good for them, and you MIGHT get a promotion in the next three months. Now GO!"
In the ensuing chaos of the smokescreen and alarm, the raptor in disguise had fled to the far northwest of Vermillion City, reaching the Pokemon Center in order to heal up the four wounded Lapras within his pokeballs. He was also desperate to heal himself too, needing to rest and recover with a clear sense of exhaustion upon his face. Kirie and him made certain to distract the nurse while the pokeballs were being screened and medicated, in order for her to not know what they were before taking them with gratitude.
Luckily the nurse, who also looked exactly like the other nurses of the other centers, was a very chatty character and as such did not notice. After leaving the Pokemon Center, he hid himself in hiding to rest, whilst Kirie watched over him and used her illusions to make him blend in with the trees north of the city. By the time he woke up, still rather sore and wounded with aching muscles, it was starting to turn dark in the evening. The cool orange sky had returned once more, and with the coming cover of darkness, things would be easier for him now.
Seeing that Vermillion City had a sea wall in the form of a line of rocks stretching all around it, the raptor was forced to swim out to the very edge of it in order to properly free the former captives. Once he had reached the city's limits, he desperately grasped upon a sturdy rock the farthest point from the city itself. Kirie floated above him, still keeping the disguise on him for now as he breathed heavily from the exertion.
"I gotta...thank...Koopin...when I get back."
"Swimming...lessons. Ffffff...fuck I feel sore."
You pushed yourself too hard after those electric shocks. Perhaps you are either a water-type or a flying-type James.
"Not...funny. Alright...let's free these guys."
Taking the four pokeballs from his satchel, he hurled them out to sea or at least over the wall of rocks to make sure they could roam free, the lapras soon reviving themselves out of the pokeballs. With a triumphant cry, three of them squealed with joy at being free, looking over each other with amazement at their healed and rejuvenated bodies. Two adult ones and a smaller child nuzzled happily with tears in their eyes. The oldest one however was not so jubilant, and simply stared down upon James.
"...what? You're free now, go."
Still she did not move, the other three creatures still wrapped within each other's joy. Kirie eventually spoke to her, the old lapras moaning her own words back to her.
She says that she thanks you for releasing her, but now she is lost once again.
She is not with that family of lapras over there, of mother, father and child. She is all alone in this world for her own family have perished, lost to the icy regions far north of here. In truth, she was ready to accept her fate to join them. But then you came...letting her live in this world longer.
"...I...I'm sorry. I...no, you know what, I'm sorry you're alone in the world but I'm not sorry for freeing you. Why don't you go with them instead, be part of their family?"
The older lapras looked towards the happy family before turning back bitterly towards James, replying through Kirie who translated:
She does not want to be with them, for they are happy amongst themselves. They remind her too much of her own family, of her own children that she no longer has. She feels lost with no purpose in life, for she is old and mateless. Too old to mate again.
"Heh, tell me about it, I know exactly how you feel sometimes about being...lost...with no...purpose. ...hey, listen. If you don't wanna go anywhere, why not come with me?"
"You don't wanna go with them, and you just said you're alone in the world, why not hang with us? I mean, I'm an orphan, I got a ghost, a lizard and a giant wasp with me, we're all pretty much loners and freaks so you can't do worse than us right?"
The lapras pondered on this with a slow bow of the head, thinking over the other possibilities she could choose in the world. To roam free amongst the waves at the risk of being hunted whilst forever alone, or to live with a trainer confined to his movements, but not being alone in the process. Eventually, after several minutes, she swam over towards the family, speaking to them as they spoke back. All four of them floated back towards James, cooing softly down onto him. The youngest one even nuzzled him happily, licking his face with a large tongue.
"H-hahaha, hey come on, wh-what are they saying?"
They are thanking you for freeing them. The oldest lapras is saying farewell and good luck to them, for she has decided instead to go with you. They wish you the best with her in turn.
"Hah...wow, um...a-alright then, you take care guys. Don't get caught again alright?!"
The family of three called out with glee before swimming off towards the southwest, to warmer waters and better times as they stuck closely together with smiles of bliss upon their faces. The oldest lapras however stared down upon James, still somewhat neutral in her expression, but eager to come with him.
What shall you call her?
"Huh? ...oh right, I gotta give her a name too huh...hmmm..."
The look in her eyes combined with her aquatic nature sparked something in James. A silent sorrow he saw as she wistfully gazed off towards the family, knowing it was something she could never have again. He knew only one other creature that was like that, his heart tightening in such bitter remembrance.
"...can I call you Sarah?"
The lapras looked back to him with a curious sound, but eventually she nodded seeing she had no other reason not to.
"Heh, alright then, I'm James and this is Kirie. We got a lot to talk about, Sarah."
Indeed, especially now that we have a most useful ally.
James...I believe we have our solution for badge number two.