Saffron City, 1928. My name is Robert Venton. I am a detective.
It had been a rainy week in Saffron City, the kind that made you wish you’d stayed out in the country. I’m sitting in my office on the third floor of the Snorlax Building, smoking a cigarette and watching the rain fall by the light of the street lamp below. That’s when she walks in.
She’s a leggy blond with a figure that makes you think you’ve died and gone to heaven, but they always are, aren’t they? I see her reflection in the window, but I don’t turn. I know this is going to be trouble and I’m starting to wonder why I don’t leave this god-forsaken city.
“Mr. Venton, I need your help.” Her voice could put a Jigglypuff to shame. I keep looking out the window.
“Of course you do. Women as beautiful as you don’t come to see me for any other reason. What is it, doll face? Hubby catch you makin’ friendly with the wrong man?”
“It’s my brother. He disappeared two days ago. I just know something has happened to him.”
“Missing brother, huh?” I finally turn around. I figure, homesick or not, being rude isn’t going to get me paid. And by the look of this broad, I stand to be paid quite a bit. Over her black silk dress, she wears a thick fur coat and more diamonds around her neck than I’ve ever seen. She has plenty of money, but she came to me, which means that she is obviously hiding something. No worries, I’ll find out soon enough. “It’s 300 a day, plus expenses. You want him found, you’re going to have to tell me everything you know.”
“His name’s Jack. He’s a file clerk for Metro Chemicals. We both moved to Saffron City from Pewter five years ago. We have lunch everyday at a nearby diner called Joe’s, but last Thursday, he just didn’t show up. He has a flat in Nidoran Towers, but when I went there, it looked like it had been ransacked. They tell me you’re the best at this sort of thing.”
She is a great actress, I have to give her that, but she sounds so rehearsed. Still, money is money, and it’s not like I haven’t been in deeper messes.
“I’m going to need addresses and the key to his rooms. Give me a number I can reach you at and I’ll contact you when I find something. I’m assuming your brother’s not as well-off as you are, miss…”
“Chelter. Francine Chelter. And no, he isn’t.”
“Miss Chelter, he couldn’t have gotten far. If he’s in this city, I’ll find him.”
She thanks me and leaves, writing down the addresses and handing over the flat key. Trouble, I know it, but maybe I can finally go home after this case. I pour myself a bourbon and start watching the rain again.
“What’s the word, Morty?”
She’s lying, obviously. This Jack fellow isn’t her brother, and her name isn’t Chelter. Other than that, though, I can’t say. She’s good, Robert, real good.
This case is dangerous, but you already know that. As for her personally? Yeah, I think so.
A reptile-like creature crawls from the ceiling and onto the window just above where I’m watching. One eye watches as a limo carries our Miss Chelter away, and the other focuses on me. He’s Morty, a Kecleon with a gift for reading thoughts and my partner from before I ever came to this hell-hole of a city. It’s incredibly rare for a non-psychic pokemon, especially normal-types, to exhibit psychic abilities. But for Morty, it just seems natural. Besides, having a partner that can hide in the open and read minds is a huge advantage in my line of work.
So, what now, Robert?
“Now we start looking for this Jack fellow. Sooner we start, sooner we get paid. Let’s head over to his pad, see if we can’t find anything interesting.”
The Nidoran Towers were SilphCo.’s attempt at providing affordable housing to the less fortunate. It wasn’t a bad idea, but it has attracted a lot of not-so-respectable citizens. Which is why I wasn’t surprised to see the police there when I got there, but I was surprised to see that they were there for the same reason I was.
“Can’t let you in, Venton. This is a crime scene.” Officer Jenny is the type of woman you just have to respect. She has eyes that bore right through you and is a damn good cop. It’s a shame she’s married.
“Cut me a break, Jenny. I’m lookin’ for this guy, too. Why don’t we help each other out?”
“You mean I tell you what I know and you run off and screw up my case? I don’t think so, Venton. Not this time.”
This was a professional job, Robert. Organized, but also a bit desperate. I’d say, whatever these guys were looking for, it’s big.
“Any trace of where this guy has gotten to?”
“You know I couldn’t tell you that even if we did know. Come on, get out of here, okay?”
I’ve got a strong sense of him from this place. I might be able to find him if we’re close enough.
“Give my regards to Frank, Jenny.” I start to turn around, but Officer Jenny grabs my arm.
“Venton, wait. There are a lot of people looking for this guy. Watch yourself on this one.”
I walk down the hall and get into the elevator. Once Morty’s in, I shut the door. Jenny was worried. I didn’t need Morty to tell me that the cops knew something big was going down. And nothing big went down around here without Slowpoke Sam knowing something about it.
Slowpoke Sam is a bartender at a seedy little place called The Broken Bottle. He looks like a Slowpoke more than he acts like one, and is the contact for a lot of local thugs. How he gets off talking to me, I can’t say.
I pay a visit to The Broken Bottle the next day. Ordering a bourbon, I sit and wait until Sam comes and talks to me. I tell him everything that’s gone on so far and ask him if he knows anything.
“I don’t know anything about the Jack guy ‘cept that everyone an’ their mothers are looking for this guy. Now, as for Francine Chelter, I think you’re meaning Frankie Squire.” I take a drink as he looks around suspiciously. His big eyes focus on me, and he leans close. “She used to be a dealer at the Two-tailed Ratata, but it seems that the owner of the casino has taken a liking to her. Seems to be his new toy.”
“Alex Giovanni? What’s he got to do with Jack?” Almost everyone knows of Giovanni, but only because his brother had run for mayor. It’s not that anyone thinks he’s a legit casino owner, just that he’s too small-time to really matter.
Sam leans in closer. “Ever hear of Team Rocket?”
“Are you saying Giovanni runs Team Rocket?” Sam nods. “I still don’t see why that’s important. Team Rocket is a joke.”
“Don’t dismiss them so easily, Venton. Team Rocket is bigger than you’d think. They practically run this city. Casinos, extortion rings, they even have their hands in shit like machine development and chemical companies.”
“Chemical companies? Like Metro?”
“Metro Chemical? Probably. Team Rocket prides itself on being invisible, and they’re doing a damn good job. Everyone knows Team Rocket, knows Alex Giovanni, but no one suspects a god-damned thing. If they’re the ones looking for Jack, and they most likely are if they hired you, this guy’s in serious trouble. If I were you, Venton, I’d hide out for a while, maybe get out of town.”
We’re being followed, Robert. The man at the corner table’s been tailing us since this morning. I don’t know how I missed it.
“Looks like I picked up a friend.” I finish my drink and leave the money on the bar. “I’ll catch you later, Sam.”
“Take a trip out to the country, Venton. For your own good, stay out of this.”
Morty meets me outside, and I turn the collar of my trench coat up to block out some of the rain. We walk a while. Then I stop in a doorway and light a cigarette. I don’t see him, but Morty signals to me that he’s still there. If I can catch this guy off-guard, maybe I can shed some light on this whole thing. I step out into the rain, but Morty grabs my leg.
Robert, he’s here.
“I know that. I’m going to go say hi.”
No, not that man. I mean Jack. He’s in this building.
“We’ll have to lose this guy first, then come back.”
There’s some sort of struggle going on. He might be in trouble.
Great, I think and I pull my revolver. Surprisingly, I find the door unlocked and follow Morty through the abandoned building. When I kick open the door, though, what I see almost makes me drop my gun.
There’s a man inside, obviously Jack, trying to fight off a Mankey, who has crawled onto Jack’s back and has a grip on his head. I cry out and raise my revolver. The Mankey looks at me and there’s a snap and Jack falls in a heap on the ground. I fire two shots, which hit, but the pokemon doesn’t flinch.
It jumps past us, and I follow if through the building. I turn into another hall and slip on something slick on the floor. I end up face to face with the now cowering Mankey. Rolling back, I swing my gun around and start to squeeze the trigger.
He’s asking for help. Something’s wrong.
“It’s a trap.”
I don’t think so. He’s scared, really scared.
“It’s the same one? There aren’t fifty Mankeys running around here? This is the one that killed Jack?”
...yes, but something’s not right.
“Man! Mankey, man! Key-key!”
“What’s it saying?”
She’s Jack’s pokemon. She’s saying that she didn’t hurt anyone. This doesn’t make sense. Pokemon don’t kill their partners.
No psychic pokemon’s that strong, except Mew, and that’d never happen.
Never mind. The point is that this pokemon killed Jack, yet it doesn’t seem possible.
“If he’s Jack’s pokemon, he may know why Team Rocket was after him. How do we not get killed in the process, though?”
“I may be able to help.” In the chaos, I had completely forgotten about the man that was following me. I jump up, nervous about being between the murderous pokemon and the stalking stranger. The man seems pretty normal-looking under his dark raincoat, tie and white dress shirt.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Forgive me, Mr. Venton, for not introducing myself sooner, but I didn’t want to alert the other man following you.”
“Dammit, what? Morty?”
I didn’t know, but he’s telling the truth.
“I didn’t catch his name. Still, he ran off when you came inside.”
“That doesn’t answer my question, though. Who the hell are you?”
“Again, forgive me. My name is Stanley Barker. I am a member of SilphCo.’s Special Development team. We need your help, Mr. Venton.”
“As you can see, I’m right in the middle of something. You said something about helping me?”
“Yes. I may have a way to safely transport that Mankey of yours.”
“And how would that be?”
“With this.” He pulls from his pocket a round object, which he throws at the Mankey. The ball opens, and for a moment, there’s a red light and the pokemon is sucked into it. It drops, moves a little, and than is still. “Hm, worked better than I expected.”
“Care to explain what the hell that thing is?”
“it’s still in development. This one’s just a prototype, you see. I’ll skip the technical details, but let’s say it’s a device for comfortably containing pokemon. We’re, uh… we’re calling it a pokeball.”
“Clever. And how long will this last?”
“Indefinitely. There’s always some fight at first, and 90% of the test subjects rejected it entirely, but the ones that do work seem fine after the initial shock.”
“Well, then, can you do me a favor? Take the Mankey back with you. I’m going to get some rest, let things cool down a little. Tomorrow, I’ll contact the woman that hired me and let her know that Jack’s dead. I’ll tell her I had to kill the Mankey. Day after that, I’ll pay you a visit. You said you wanted to hire me, so that’s cover enough.”
“I won’t pretend to understand what is going on.” He puts the pokeball back into his pocket. “But I’ll follow your lead. I’ll be waiting for you.”
“But where is the Mankey? Where’s the body?”
“It hadn’t been too important to me at the time, carrying a dead pokemon across town. It’s like I said, I saw the damn thing break Jack’s neck and I shot it. Then I left.”
She hadn’t seemed too distraught over the news of her brother’s death, but the dead pokemon seems to make her worry.
“Now, Miss Chelter, I know this may be a bad time, but about my bill…” Suddenly, a green shape flashes past me and hits the woman. For a moment, my mind blanks as I watch my best friend bite into her neck. “Morty? What the hell?”
I’m right here, Robert. Another Morty drops onto my desk. I don’t know what’s going on, but we need to leave. Now.
I don’t need to be told twice. Morty climbs onto my back and we both dash past the now limp form of the former Francine Chelter. The other Kecleon doesn’t seem to notice us leaving. But Kecleon are hard to find, impossible here in Kanto. If someone went through the trouble of finding one, they wanted to frame me bad.
It wasn’t another Kecleon. It was me.
It was me, Robert. An exact replica.
“Team Rocket is duplicating pokemon? But how?” suddenly, everything makes sense. Well, maybe not everything. For a second, I stop running. “Jack knew. He must have found out, and that’s why Team Rocket whacked him.”
That’s great, but Jack’s dead. How does that help?
“His pokemon. The Mankey that killed Jack must have been a duplicate as well. That would explain why the one we found was so scared. But why use his own partner against him? With me, they were trying to frame me. No one would think that Jack commanded his own Mankey to kill him. So, if they weren’t trying to frame Jack...?”
They were trying to frame his Mankey.
“Exactly. That Mankey must know everything Jack did. We find that pokemon and we solve this mystery once and for all. Look, Morty, you go to SilphCo. and get that Mankey. I’m going to get Officer Jenny.”
Morty jumps down, nods, and disappears into the shadows. I run down the street. It’s still raining. Police Headquarters isn’t too far away. I turn down Chestnut St. and almost run into a short man with the face of a Ratata. He smiles widely, exposing buck teeth that complete the illusion.
“Mr. Venton, we’ve been looking for you.” His voice is as greasy as his looks. I’m about to tell him off and shove him out of my way when I hear a sharp crack and I black out.
The first thing I notice when I wake up is that my head hurts, which proves that I must have been hit over the head. I hadn’t even felt it when it happened. I open my eyes and try to look around. The only light is from a dirty window above, but I can see alright. I’m in some sort of large storage closet.
I try the window, but it doesn’t open. The only things in the room are a bunch of crates, but they are too heavy to lift and I can’t pry them open. The door’s locked, too, obviously, but I try anyway. Something is moving outside the door.
Robert, are you in there?
“Yeah, buddy. I’m right here. Where are we?”
Some warehouse run by Team Rocket. They got me right after you. They underestimated me, though. I had no problem escaping and finding the key to get you out. Hold on, let me open the door.
Morty never brags, so it couldn’t really have been him. It has to be a trap, but why? I don’t have time to figure it out, though. Going behind a stack of crates, I push them over once the fake Morty opens the door and steps inside. He tries to dodge out of the way, but isn’t quick enough.
But when I make my move to dash out of the room, I see that the fake Morty is changing. I was used to Kecleons changing color, but this one was melting into a purple blob. I’m stunned and I don’t know what to think. All of a sudden, I hear someone laughing, and three men in suits step into the room. The two on the sides point their tommy guns at me while the one in the middle, lean with white hair and a cigar in his mouth, keeps laughing. Alex Giovanni.
“Good job, Mr. Venton.” How does everyone know my name? “That was certainly unexpected, but I’m afraid that it will do you no good. I was hoping to have some fun with you. How do you like my new pet?”
“What the hell is it?”
“We call it Ditto, and it’s a new breed of pokemon of my own design. You see, it came become the exact duplicate of any pokemon it encounters. Rather useful, don’t you think?”
“I think you’re insane. Is this what Jack found out about, why you had him killed?”
“Would you like to see the lab? It’s really quite impressive, and since you’re just going to die anyway, you might as well.”
The two thugs escort me out of the room and down the hall. Giovanni leads the way, while the slimy pokemon follows at his feet. He unlocks a door at the end of the hall and we all step into an elevator. We go down for a while and emerge in a large room full of odd machinery and men in lab coats.
“The top scientists from all around the world,” Giovanni explains. “This is how Team Rocket will dominate. Not with money or brute strength, but with technology. This is but one of many hidden laboratories, each one discovering and developing new technologies everyday.”
“And this one devoted to creating the perfect little assassins.” I play to his ego, trying to buy more time. “I have to admit, you guys have the perfect front. Pretending to be small-time thugs to hide the fact that you’re taking over the world.”
“Clever, I know. Now, Mr. Venton, I have someone for you to meet.” A fat, bald scientist steps forward and studies me through his glasses. “This is Dr. Malkear. He is the best scientist Team Rocket has to offer.
“Now, I’m afraid that I have a confession to make. When I said that you were going to die, I wasn’t being totally honest.”
I start to say something, but I’m grabbed by the thugs and forced onto my knees. Dr. Malkear comes towards me, a syringe in his chubby hand. I cry out as he stabs my arm, and once again, my world becomes blackness.
Robert! Robert, wake up! Every part of me hurts, but I smile when I open my eyes to see Morty and Officer Jenny. They both seem relieved.
“What’s happening? Where am I?”
“You’re in Team Rocket’s lab,” Jenny tells me. Everything comes flooding back to me. The Dittos, the secret laboratories, Giovanni’s plots.
“The Dittos. They’re making pokemon that can copy other pokemon.”
“We know, Venton. We’ve shut down most of the labs, but there’s nothing we can do about the ones that got away. It doesn’t matter, though. Team Rocket’s all but shut down. Giovanni is dead.”
“Most of the labs?” My head is swimming again. “How long have I been out?”
“Robert, you don’t remember what’s happened?” Jenny’s face becomes serious. She’s never called me anything but Venton. I try to remember, to think of something I missed, but the last thing I can recall is Dr. Malkear’s sickening grin as I faded out.
“It’s been a month, Venton. Morty got to us after you didn’t show, and we raided the lab, but found no trace of you except for a document that said some new test subject had been shipped off somewhere. We’ve been finding and raiding Team Rocket labs for three weeks now. Venton, Robert, you’re on Cinnabar Island. Are you sure that you don’t remember anything?”