Title: Bucket List
Plot, or Lack Thereof: Novelization of a Pokemon Red randomizer challenge run
Reason for Banishment: I’m not even sure I want to finish a run, much less write a story about it.
Sometimes, Blue would catch himself hating Red, just a little. He knew it was irrational. After all, it wasn’t Red’s fault that things turned out the way they did. Neither of them could’ve expected that the little book they co-authored more for themselves than anyone else would become a best seller in every market imaginable, or that it would be adapted into every medium imaginable. Never a people person to begin with, Red wanted nothing of the spotlight. At first, he wouldn’t even take any royalty checks until Blue sat him down and explained how it would fund pretty much everything he wanted to accomplish; true to those goals, Red saved and invested a little for himself and his mother, set up a trust to donate the rest to a variety of causes, and then disappeared from the public eye.
Without the actual person around to provide any sort of reality check, Ace Trainer Red became the stuff of myth and legend; as his rival, Blue’s reputation went in the opposite direction no matter how he tried to improve it. At first, everyone who teased him about being Blue Motherfucking Oak was also in on the joke. But then the government decided it wanted a slice of the pie that more and more locals got by selling ersatz mementos. By the time Blue was eighteen, all of Kanto had been turned into a tourist trap whose economy revolved around reenacting Red’s journey over and over again with the tourists treated as if they were Red—his story was the ultimate feel-good coming-of-age adventure, after all—and being Blue Motherfucking Oak wasn’t so funny anymore, not when Blue was expected to impersonate the Saturday Morning Cartoon Villain version of himself for those willing to shell out a pretty penny over and over again.
Blue couldn’t blame Red for his continued refusal to live in the public eye—Blue would’ve bailed, too, had Lance not promised to blacklist him from any position in the Pokémon league if he didn’t agree to uphold the farce. Red might not have cared about titles or positions, but Blue did–the Oaks tried their best to make sure Blue didn’t suffocate under the shadow of The Pokemon Professor, but Blue took the insane accomplishments of his predecessors as a challenge to match, if not exceed them, and without outside acknowledgement of his exploits, Blue would have nothing to his name except a handful of badges that meant less than nothing. In exchange for his cooperation, Blue got to be the Gym Leader he always dreamed of being, and even stepped into the shoes of an ersatz Pokemon Professor whenever the situation called for it. Blue tried to be good-natured about all of this, but as the years passed, the job began to wear on him. Each time tourists thinned, another gimmick was added to the journey and the experience was watered down to such an extent that, unless someone requested otherwise, there was always the thrill of victory without the sting of defeat. On top of that, everyone thought it hilarious to parrot his lines back at him and make mocking remarks at his expense, even more so once the latest adaptations came out and the catchphrases that became memetic sold like hotcakes in every gift shop. On the few occasions he went out in public while not as part of a tour, people would mob him with requests—not for his attention, of course, but to get any news of Red, to beg him to ask Red to make appearances or at the very least sign things for them—and he would always refuse, much to their ire. Then he lost contact with Red altogether and, soon after that, rumors started to swirl that he murdered Red out of jealousy. He started getting genuine death threats, not just from idiot fans who didn’t realize that the Blue to whom they were writing hate mail was little more than a fictional construct, but from those who thought he’d go as far as kill his best friend just to get more of the limelight.
When Blue was cool, calm, and collected, he could talk himself out of his darker emotions, but today he was not any of those things. He just discovered that another impersonator quit, unable to take the pressure that came with the job, and unless he found a replacement soon he’d have to cancel a large portion of his scheduled Gym battles to host some yuppie couple who’d purchased the Deluxe VIP Package. Blue searched through his contact list for people for anyone he could call favors from, his mood getting worse as he eliminated more and more candidates for one reason or another—
—this train of thought was interrupted as Blue heard the doors of the laboratory open behind him, and he put on his best face to greet whoever had just come in. “Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, I presume? Welcome—”
“Skip it,” was the irritated answer from the woman in the wheelchair, before she amended herself with a forced smile as she gestured to the breathing tube attached to her face: “Please. According to every doctor that’s seen me, I’ve already outlived even their most optimistic prognosis and I’d really be bummed out if I dropped dead before I could actually accomplish any of my last wish.”
“Don’t frighten the professor, dear,” said the man attending to her, who was making less of an attempt to hide his exasperation. Then he turned to Blue. “Not that I don’t agree with her: we are in a hurry. Just give us our things and we’ll leave.”
“Sure, but you’ll have to sign another release form first.” Behind him, Blue could hear his assistants doing the legwork of finding said form and bringing it forward. “Oh, and I’ll need to see identification.”
Adam and Nora Anderson were thus proving themselves to be who they were by way of driver’s license when the unmistakable sound of an approaching helicopter could be heard overhead.
“He’s caught up to us already,” Nora remarked, equal parts amused and annoyed. “What do you think, sweetheart? Should we give him a proper dramatic entrance or the slip?”
Before Adam—or anyone else—could say anything, the phone rang, causing all present to jump. A moment later the assistant who had gone off to answer returned, looking pale as a sheet. “It’s Lance,” he whispered to Blue. “He wants to speak to you.”
Blue bit back the urge to cuss. What now? Brushing that thought aside, he forced a smile. “Excuse me, but something’s come up. I’ll be right back.”
Lance didn’t even wait for Blue to finish greeting him before cutting in with his usual authoritative lack of diplomacy: “The Andersons should be on the way to your lab, if they aren’t there already; they are not to leave. Do everything in your power to detain. Don’t go overboard, but I’m willing to overlook some—” he paused. “—discretionary use of questionable methods.”
Blue felt his nose curdle at Lance’s tone and choice of words. “What? No! You’re kidding!” he answered, pretending to be scandalized by salacious gossip. Lance, ever the petty dictator, had a habit of calling in while Blue was entertaining clients, and as much as he rankled at this childish imitation of spy speak even he realized how dangerous it would be to have anyone overhear something they shouldn’t. “You have to tell me more!”
Lance thought about it for a moment. “It’s better if you had some level of plausible deniability just in case,” he decided.
Of what? Blue had to stop himself from asking. “Well, all right, if you say so.” It wasn’t until after he’d hung up that he realized he could have stalled for time by continuing the pretend conversation, leaving the actual customer wrangling to his assistants, but looking at the harried, helpless expressions on their faces as he rejoined them in the main waiting area, he felt overcome with pity for the poor sods and once again took charge of the situation. “Sorry about that, folks, but there’s been a bit of an emergency.”
Adam turned his gaze back to Blue, who got the unmistakable vibe of the other man treating him like an uncooperative suspect. “Let me guess,” despite his otherwise amicable tone, Adam was in full Bad Cop mode and giving Blue the Third Degree. “You’ve been told to keep us here, come hell or high water.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the lie slipped out with such ease that Blue caught himself wondering if he was indeed becoming the sociopath everyone was accusing him of being.
“I told you the boy was a bad influence,” Adam stage-whispered to Nora.