Chapter 1: Pokeball, Go!

Zakana was sitting in a familiar place when the first wave of bad news came. On the cliffs near the back of his house, he scanned the deep-blue ocean that stretched across a fire lit horizon. A sprightly mist floated before him as he watched the dumb, pink creatures below. They moved so slowly, so dopily. He couldn’t understand why anyone would want to obtain one.


The winter winds whipped at his half-covered face. His dark brown hair fell across his exposed head and ears. He pulled his scarf up higher and breathed into it, tasting a hint of fresh lavender in the cotton.


There weren’t many places that Zakana could think about nothing and forget everything around him, but his spot at the cliff was one such place. Maybe it was the dopey pink things glued to the rocks. Maybe it was that it was so peaceful and loud in a distant roaring sort of way that made Zakana forget. He always tried to find ways to forget, but it never lasted long.


The sound of hooves galloped toward him and pulled him from his trance. Jindo never ran that fast unless it needed to. Subconsciously, Zakana stood up and faced the oncoming noise, a dull pounding against the deadened earth. Zakana avoided Jindo and Jindo avoided Zakana. They knew where each other stood, always on opposite sides of the fence. A flash of orange-red fire pulsated toward Zakana, melted the frost in its path. Jindo kept its neck on a swivel, plowed onward, its chariot flames dancing around it like wildfire. Now, this yellow-white fire-maned beast bee lined for Zakana, which could only mean one thing.


“Where’s my mother?” Zakana asked, detecting the defensiveness in his own voice.


Jindo reared up, his mane and tail made of fire shimmering in the morning sun. He neighed loudly, and said the same thing he always said: “Ponyta,” before returning to all fours.

Jindo, Audria’s horse Pokemon, rarely went anywhere without her, which made Zakana suddenly nervous. All he could do was repeat his question, which made Jindo more jumpy and scattered, bucking up wildly. Zakana got the feeling that Jindo wanted Zakana to ride him, which was a great leap of faith by the horse on both their parts.

“Where is she?”

Zakana ran past Jindo, knowing that his mother had gone into Town Square. She was likely there to discuss safety issues with some of the more proactive adults in Pallet Town. Jindo kept pace with Zakana as they passed the house and the stable next to it. Jindo seemed to accept that the two could just run together.

But Zakana’s worry was over nearly before it began. Down the frosty trail, he could see his mother, her head down, as though it helped her run faster, her red boots stomping a footpath in front of her.

“Mom! Are you okay?” Zakana shouted ahead, looking at Jindo for reassurance.

Audria lifted her head, her expression changing from determination to fear. She had something to say, something important. She had sent Jindo to warn Zakana, and as she ran she shouted back, “Get in the house.”

Eyeing Jindo suspiciously, Zakana flung the door open and obeyed. In the next instant, Audria revealed a Pokeball before entering her house and said, “Jindo, return!”

The horse Pokemon morphed and shrunk, its white and yellow hellish fires disappearing into an amorphous ball of white light, vacuumed into the ball in Audria’s hand.

She slammed the door behind her, and sucked in a few heavy breaths before she was able to speak. Audria’s town meetings didn’t always end well, but they never ended like this. Zakana pulled a chair out from the kitchen table, thrust it in front of his mother.

“What’s up, mom? What happened?”

“Oh, Zakana,” she finally said. “We must be quick. Gather everything you’re going to need. We have to leave Pallet. Now.”

Her last word came demandingly. It wasn’t her usual tone with Zakana where she would passively suggest things for the somewhat reclusive 18 year old to do. There was a steely edge to her voice that asserted urgency. Neglecting the chair in front of her, she moved to the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and removed a black backpack.

“Get moving!”

“Can you tell me what’s going on first?” Zakana demanded just as firmly.

He had never seen his mother in such a huff, and it was beginning to unsettle him.

Badger-like, Audria rummaged through the refrigerator, sparing no expenses, casting things into her pack, severely, decisively. She spun around, a can of pickles in her left hand. “We’re not safe here. Your cousin is in immediate danger and so is my sister. And yours too for that matter. If we stay here, we may be killed.” Audria spun back around, badgered on and said, “I’ll explain everything when I have time, but we don’t have time now. Grab your stuff!”

At that moment, another one of Audria’s Pokemon bounced down the staircase like a diapered baby and bumbled into the room, And Audria spoke to it as such. “We’re going on a trip, Pips,” she said, not looking at the blue penguin Pokemon, Piplup. “I know it’s been a long time since momma went on a Pokemon journey, but duty calls sweets. Get the others, and make it snappy. And by Jirachi, if you’re still standing there when I turn around, Zakana—”

He flew up the stairs catlike, unable to process what was happening. He didn’t want to leave home. His cousin, aunt, sister . . . in danger? What was his mom talking about? Zakana hated moving quickly, and his mind wasn’t used to such rapid changes.

“Zakana! Hurry up!” his mom bellowed from below. She was a petite woman, but wiry as hell when she needed to be.

What kind of trip were they taking? Zakana was such a minimalist that all of his clothes fit into two drawers, all of his shoes into two boxes. Before long, he was packed, and with backpack slung across his shoulder he quickly descended the staircase. Removing the mess of brown hair out of his eyes, he gave his mother a cold, unblinking stare. She did not return it, but merely said, “Oh, Zakana, I’m sorry. I knew this would happen. How much money do you have?”

“Why? Aren’t we coming back?”

“Pack your bag as though we are not,” she said, rummaging through more cabinets and closets in the kitchen and connecting living room. “Zakana, there are too many things you need to know right now. And sadly there isn’t enough time.” Suddenly, Audria stopped reaching for the top shelf of the cabinet, rested on both feet and shouted, “MISSY!”

The ghost Pokemon, Misdreavus appeared behind Audria, making a hissing sound as she did. Of all his mother’s Pokemon, Zakana disliked Missy the most. He despised how she could appear and reappear at will, remain invisible, and listen to conversations. Well, all Pokemon could listen to conversations, but most Pokemon were stupid. Zakana felt that Missy had some senses about her, and he shivered when she looked at him, the dark on dark purple ringlets underneath her beady neon-pink eyes.

“Find everything you can that belongs to my husband that might be useful, Missy. Check the attic for anything. Grab my husband’s papers. Bring down Pokeballs, Pokedexes, medicines, TMs, HMs, and anything else you can find. Be quick about it!”

Zakana couldn’t help thinking how crazy his mother now looked, her auburn red hair sticking out from under her lopsided snowcap. He felt sorry for her, how alone she must feel, father never coming home except twice a year at best. Zakana was lonely too, but he was young. He was confident he would find a path for himself. But his mother . . . what was she but a glorified town council member, and a stay-at-home ex-Pokemon trainer?

“Mom,” Zakana said, this time knowing that he would not accept diversions. “What . . . is . . . happening? Why is Kirish in danger?”

“In danger, Zakana, but not so much as us. They’re coming here. They’ve already hit your aunt and uncle’s home.” Speaking about her sister seemed to snap Audria back to reality—this time warped reality that was taking place too quickly for Zakana to process. Audria’s obsidian eyes flashed underneath her fluttering eyelashes. “Yumin has been kidnapped, Zakana.”


“They’re asking for 10,000 Pokedollars for your cousin’s ransom.” Audria moved to the chair Zakana had pulled out and collapsed onto it. She puffed out her chest once before saying; “your Aunt Lydia was able to get the news to me today.”

“There’s no way we can afford that! And who is they?”

Audria’s eyes averted, and for some unknown reason, Zakana thought suddenly of his father. “What about dad? Yumin and dad were working together, traveling together . . .”

Darkness overcame Audria as Missy reappeared in front of her, dropping a knapsack to the floor. “I don’t know,” she trailed off.

Zakana thought about the last time he saw his father, about how frayed and wrinkled he looked. It was like he had had aged 10 years in the span of one. His father’s smile looked as though it had been stitched in place the last time he had said goodbye.

Suddenly, Audria shot out of the chair, began sifting through the knapsack. “Good, they’re in here. Your fathers papers,” she added. Presently she looked up, into her son’s eyes, like she had realized something for the first time. “Come outside with me, Zakana. We’re going have to part ways soon. I want to tell you as much as I can before it’s too late.” Audria grabbed her own pack and the one Missy had just delivered and flew to the door.

“Mom. You’re actually scaring me. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to go out there.”

Audria turned on a pin, her heel rotating all the way around before squaring up with her son. She gripped his arms and dragged him outside. The frost on the ground crunched beneath them. It was eerily quiet as Missy slinked out into the open air. Pips danced around Audria’s ankles, repeating his own name over and over.

A crimson flame flashed across Audria’s eyes. There was an insatiable passion behind them now, waking the sleeping dragon within. At that moment, Zakana feared his mother. He felt her insistence, her nails that dug into his forearms.

“I know you want to go to school to be an astronaut, Zakana. I know you love your workouts. I know how you feel about what happened all those years ago. It hasn’t been easy for any of us!” Audria’s grip tightened and she pulled her son closer, his neck on hers. She hugged him aggressively then flung him away. Hot tears formed behind her eyes. She bit them back and said, “It’s time to forget about all of that and make a new path.” Thrusting the knapsack into Zakana’s hands she said, “You need to meet up with your sister first, Zakana. You remember how to get there from here?” Get the papers inside of this bag to Kirish as soon as you can. I would take them but they’re looking for me too. They’ll never suspect you. In fact, they probably don’t even know you exist.”

“Mom!” Zakana snapped. “What are you talking about?” None of this makes any sense!”

Without giving a direct answer, Audria laid the back of her hand on Zakana’s cheek and smiled—that sweet, watermelon-stained smile. “It doesn’t make sense to you because you’ve chosen to remain blind, Zakana. And I understand why. I do. But I’m asking you to wake up now. There is no other choice.” Audria withdrew a Pokeball from her own belt and said, “Go! Sweltinator!”

Her Pokeball landed ten feet from them and the amorphous white light burst from its depths. Seconds later, a dark blue bird Pokemon with a red breast stood in their presence. It flapped its wings wide and squawked, “Swellow!”

“I’m not working with Pokemon, Mom!” Zakana pleaded. “I’m not getting on that thing.”

“Zakana!” Audria shouted, giving her son a sharp rap on the cheek. “Listen to yourself! You’re eighteen years old but you sound like a child!”

Pips dashed inside at this disturbance while Missy continued to watch Audria and Zakana. Audria held out two separate Pokeballs and called Pips and Missy back to them.

Zakana put his hand to his cheek, and tried to find words. He couldn’t believe she hit him. Slowly, he met her eyes, the fires still burning—like stars about to explode and die.

It was the first time his mom had hit him. He felt more than shocked. “Who are they, mom?” He demanded. “Who is looking for you?”

“The Viterals,” Audria whispered, the very utterance of their name slithering off her tongue. “They have finally emerged from the shadows of their tunnels. And they’re on the move.” She turned again, gripped Swellow by the neck and mounted her abnormally large bird Pokemon. “The transmissions at Pokemon Centers have been severed. I can’t get a hold of my Pokemon on reserve so I only have six. How many do you want and which ones?”

How many did he want? Zakana didn’t want any and he didn’t want to go see his sister.

“I’m going to need Sweltinator,” she said referring to her Swellow, “and also probably Jindo. I have a lot more ground to cover if I’m going to get to your aunt and uncle in time. I can survive with just two if you want the other four?”

Zakana didn’t want to be anywhere near Missy, and Pips was such a little wimp he wasn’t sure what use it would be anyway. What were his mothers last two? Some dumb tree that never did anything but change the position of its branches and an overly fat electric mouse called Raichu.

“Hurry up Zakana. Make your choice.”

“I don’t want any of them!” Zakana finally said. “I’m not a Pokemon trainer, mom. I don’t want anything to do with them!”

Audria shook her head. A single hot tear streaked down her freckled face, landed on the ice, froze. She wiped it away and took an honest look at her son. It wasn’t malicious or angry. She merely studied him, her son that she had raised almost singlehandedly. This is what he had become. Finally, she smiled weakly and said, “There’s an old Pokemon manual in there and some empty Pokeballs when you’re ready. I know it’s hard for you. I hope we see each other soon under safer circumstances. Then I’ll be able to tell you more.” Audria patted her Sweltinator on the neck as though she were talking to him more than her son and said, “I love you Zakana.”

Zakana stood there alone as Sweltinator took off into the shattered gray atmosphere above. His mother’s soft red hair whipped gracefully behind her as she flew away. The auburn hair, Sweltinator’s tail feathers, the darkened sky—they were nothing but blurring images set against each other, and all fleeting. Everything was fleeting and Zakana was truly alone.

He shouted as loud as he could, his head tilted backwards. He could feel the veins in his neck pulsate. He felt a surge of anger and confusion he could not explain.

“You think I’m no good, mom?” I can catch a Pokemon just as easily as you can! They’re stupid and ugly and I don’t understand why they have to live so closely with humans!” Zakana dug into his pack and felt for a ball the size of his forefinger. He withdrew it and darted for the cliffs behind his house.

“I can be just as good as Kirish!”

“I can be the son . . .” he trailed off and blinked away the tears. His throat tightened.

The waves crashed against the cliff side, bashed at it from all sides. Zakana stood at the edge and stared at the dopey pink things. “Why won’t you just move?” The waves just keep crashing on you, you dumb thing!” The pink things suctioned themselves to the rocks and stared in a single direction.

Zakana saw the way his mother had done it. He pressed the center button on the Pokeball to make it expand to the size of his hand. It was the first time he held one since he was a child. He looked at the incomprehensibly foolish Pokemon below and said the thing he had heard before. It was the thing he’d never ever believe he would say himself.

“Pokeball! Go!”

Then he let the red and white ball fly from his hand.

To be continued . . .