Death. War. Destruction. The world of the future lies in ruins. I got the chance to go back and stop it from ever happening, only to discover that I was the cause. This is how I destroyed the world.


4. Starting Anew

Compassion alone

stands apart from the continuous traffic

between good and evil proceeding within us. ~ Eric Hoffer

It took me a while longer to actually remember the strange contraption in my hand. I stared at it for a moment longer, somehow managing to forget it was there even while I was looking at it. The Poké Ball seemed alien... so foreign. In my time, they were covered in a camouflage pattern, or in warning labels, threatening of impending doom if used incorrectly.

"The sooner you open it, the sooner you'll see what's inside," Jennifer advised me with the slight hints of humour in her voice. I glanced upwards briefly at her, feeling a slight pink tinge begin to attack my cheeks. Right, the whole reason I was here was to stop something from happening, and to do so I had to blend in as a trainer.

Suffice to say, staring blankly at a Poké Ball wasn't exactly something everyone did.

"Right." I nodded once and lobbed the ball forwards, watching as it simply rebounded off a cupboard opposite, bounced across the floor and rolled into the hallway, whereupon Whiskers decided it was simply a game and chased after the object. "It didn't work," I stated simply.

"You're using it wrongly," Jennifer said in a somewhat tired voice. She whistled once and Whiskers bounded back in, Poké Ball in her mouth. The creature dropped it into Jennifer's waiting hands and made the strange humming sound again as it was scratched behind it's ears.

"Press the button in the middle to enlarge it," she began to explain, giving me a demonstration at the same time. "And then again to shrink it. But when you want to release the creature inside, you actually have to call it out – quite literally."

I considered her words for a moment, and thought back to the times I'd seen the trainers of my time use Pokémon. They would scream out silly phrases as they lobbed the balls forwards, causing the creatures to explode out from the spheres. I looked back up to Jennifer and felt disbelief fill me completely. "You've got to be kidding me..." I groaned, having a rough idea what she meant. "I actually have to be one of those stupid goons who scream 'Pokémon X come out!'?"

"I suppose that's one way of putting it." Jennifer shrugged innocently, her hair bouncing behind an ear. "Each trainer gives a different spin on what they like to call their 'battle cry'." She pressed the button on the sphere absentmindedly, continuously increasing and decreasing it's size. Admittedly, I couldn't have actually cared less about what the Pokémon inside was thinking.

"It's something built into the technology they're made with," she was explaining with that smug look adults took on when they were teaching something. "There's voice-recognition software built into the devices. That way they know what you want to do; otherwise you could end up throwing an occupied ball at a wild Pokémon and end up with two Pokémon in one ball – and that's very messy, let me assure you." To my surprise, she didn't look the slightest bit queasy at the thought, she simply shrugged and petted her cat, as if she were talking about the sunrise that very morning.

"Some people can do it mentally instead," she continued, though sounded less sure of herself in such a topic. "It's something to do with human's natural abilities or something... it varies between each trainer, but supposedly those that work especially with psychic types can learn how to give commands to the Poké Balls without ever speaking." She pressed the ball into my hands again and another seemingly fake smile graced her face. "So unfortunately, you're going to have to be one of those 'screaming goons'."

I stared down at the ball in my hands again. It would have had to occur when I was just getting used to a new world, wouldn't it? Something hated me that much that it would make me think I could adjust normally, and then give me a complete curveball.

I took a deep breath and sucked up every ounce of pride and self-respect I had for myself. If I had to continually embarrass myself in this strange world, I guess I could start by making an ass of myself in front of this woman who was looking after me.

"Urm... come out, whoever you are!"

I don't think I'd ever felt so self-conscious and idiotic until I did that. Not even the hazing the older recruits would put the younger ones through back in training camp made me feel so ridiculous. And that hazing included many, many things that made it so I could never take myself seriously again.

The was a loud exploding sound and then a flash of bright light, and suddenly there was a strange Pokémon flying before me. It was a grey creature that originated from Sinnoh; a Starly. It fluttered around a moment before letting out a sudden war cry and dive-bombed me. I felt my instincts flood my senses and take over, and the next thing I knew, Jennifer was screaming, and I was holding a now-dead Starly's twisted neck in my hands.

I blinked a moment, staring at the dead bird. I didn't feel anything for it; it was just dead. Jennifer stopped screaming and swept the Pokémon away from me, muttering a few unintelligible phrases.

Needless to say, she was a bit weird around me for a while.

I was seemingly forgiven quickly, and Jennifer quickly impressed on me knowledge of how to travel round the world, how to look after myself in these day and ages, along with multiple explanations of what year it was, and what hadn't happened yet, and still needed to happen.

For instance, I was apparently meant to let some idiotic creep built dreams of starting a new organisation of criminals, only to be beaten down by a ten year old trainer in the next few months. Supposedly, it would teach the criminal world a few things, and there would be no more major threats as such for a few years until there was another in a far away region. Admittedly, I missed some of her explanation, and could only recall that it began with an 'I'. There was only so much new information I could take in, after all.

Later that day I found myself sat on the grass in her garden, my feet dipping in her pond as I contemplated what had happened to me. A foreign world, a different time. Given Jennifer's reaction, I understood that it was socially unacceptable to harm a Pokémon... though in a few years time, it would be common place.

I didn't have the heart to tell her just how many people and Pokémon I'd killed, and she didn't want to know.

Her pet was happy though; he feasted on the remains of the Starly. Apparently that made him like me very much, and suddenly I had the creepy creature skulking around my body, looking for another meal. I glared at it, waiting until I crept away. It was a hunter, it could find it's own. Me however, I needed to find my place in this world.

Or rather what would have been Alex's.

I remained there for a while, wondering just how different things may have been if he'd successfully been taken. I'd have been reprimanded after he'd have disappeared in front of my vision, and he'd have possibly taken that Starly, and exposed it to the 'modern day' system of battling.

When I pointed out to Jennifer that it was a feral competition; getting these beasts to rip and tear into each other, she reassured me it was not. They supposedly grew and learnt by battling; 'experiential evolution' she called it. When the Pokémon was injured, it would heal and learn from the injuries; being able to recover better and defend itself the next time. Those traits would then be passed down to their children, and so on.

It again brought the eternal philosophical question; were humans really right in claiming ownership over such creatures? Sure we had technology on our side, but they could adapt and evolve in a matter of year, as opposed to ours of at least decades.

Then again, it also brought me to a realisation at the time. I didn't actually care. Sure, I'd wanted out of having to kill on a day-to-day basis, but that didn't mean I was a bleeding heart. The first thing warfare taught you was to leave compassion behind. If you stopped to give someone a burial, or to pay respect to the dead, you'd soon find yourself with them. The same with philosophy; it sewed seeds of doubt, and doubt could lead to your downfall.

I sighed and kicked my feet distantly in the pond, recoiling as my toes brushed against something slimy. I jumped up and distantly heard Jennifer come into the garden as I tensed, waiting for the creature to attack.

It waddled slowly out of the water, and I felt my guard begin to drop. It was a little blue tadpole-like creature with a large green leaf growing from its back. It blinked as a few gnats swarmed around it before it spat small globules of water at them, watching with a strange sort of hollow interest as the creatures drowned.

And through such actions, I found myself intrigued by the creature. It looked up at me and blinked again before it waddled over and began to eat the tiny flies it had just killed.

I knew that this world was different then; that these Pokémon were not as feral as the ones I had grown up with. Home for me was when even the likes of Magikarp and Hoppip were fearsome creatures. Here, I was crouched next to a Lotad, who it seemed was indifferent about my presence.

It took me a while to realise the sound buzzing around me was a laugh. Or to be more precise; it was my laugh. I reached over and scratched the Pokémon's head, causing it to roll over and expose its stomach, making me laugh again as I began to scratch the exposed area.

Behind me, I heard Jennifer approach and place a Poké Ball beside me.

"I would think he's who you're start with," she stated in a meaningful voice, crouching down beside me. "So it all works out well."

I looked back to her and smiled before glancing back at the creature. Lotad were a strange species; I could identify at least sixteen fatal points on the creature that could be hit with something the size of a pinprick for best effect by an expert. Small sacs that seemed swollen around its cloacae positively identified it as male; it would fertilise the eggs females laid from there.

Such thoughts made me truly appreciate what a strange education I had; where alongside being taught the best ways to kill, we were taught how to identify gender as best as possible. After all, some Pokémon had key differences between genders that could be used to ensure a quicker death.

My heavy musings were cut short when I saw Jennifer's lips moving, and I registered that I'd missed everything she'd said.

"Sorry," I offered the apology half-way through her words. "I zoned out."

She gave me an understanding smile and shook her head slightly. "I was asking if you've thought about catching him. And if so, what you're going to name him?"

I glanced back at the Pokémon, and only just realised I was still scratching his stomach. He looked like he'd fallen asleep there, and I couldn't help but wonder how I'd blanked out the slimy feel of his skin on mine.

I had to be a trainer, and I supposed there were worse creatures I could have started with. I looked at the Pokémon and smiled, for the first time in a long time, I felt the slightest ebbs of compassion return to myself. I closed my eyes and smiled, thinking of how my journey started, and again to the person who should have been here.

And I knew what I should name this creature.

"Xander," I breathed, noting the Pokémon's eyes open to look at me as I said the name. "I'll call him Xander."

I named him after the dead kid that led to me being here. Lack of compassion be damned. If I was going to start a new life, journey and change the future, I'd do it on my own terms.

At least, that was what I'd originally planned. Only, how often did plans work out perfectly?

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