AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hello and welcome to any brave soul who happens to stop by. This story aims to follow the typical Kanto pokemon adventure, catching pokemon and gathering gym badges but in a darker, more realistic way than the anime while still covering many of the same themes nonetheless. The protagonist is an original character of my own creation but many favourites such as Oak, gym leaders etc will make appearances. This is my first ever fanfic (or attempt at writing anything for that matter) so reviews with feedback telling me what you enjoyed/ didn't enjoy/ hope to see would be more than welcome. I will most certainly try to reply either privately or publicly in the next chapter to anyone good enough to review. Thanks once again for stopping by and I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1 – Smoke and Flame

The last of the light faded across Pallet town, somewhere a Growlithe howled and a flock of pidgeys circled the forest returning to the nest for the night. Towards the edge of town was a small guesthouse, a window of which was illuminated with the flickering light of a television. Within the small but comfortable room sat a teenager currently embroiled in the Pokemon league match on the television where a fast Wartortle was making a Sandslash look very foolish. The teenager's name was Ignis. He had just turned fifteen, tall with sandy blonde hair and was about to embark upon his pokemon journey. Ignis was originally from Cinnabar but he had taken the boat to Pallet town as was the custom of new trainers so that he could receive his pokemon licence, and more importantly his starter pokemon from the fabled Professor Oak.

Ignis was no stranger to pokemon, he had been raised around them. His mother was a pokemon researcher at the Cinnabar research institute and his father was a very good trainer in his own right who had competed in the pokemon league in his heyday and was currently serving abroad in the Kanto army. Ignis had even worked for the famous Blaine's fire gym for a few months when he was younger, making coffee, cleaning up, feeding pokemon and running errands. That was of course before Blaine had decided one day with no warning to up and close the gym. Ignis found out later that the gym still existed high up in the volcano but the sharp falloff in challengers since then had meant that his little, part-time job summer job disappeared with the closing of the town's once famous gym.

However, the few short months that he had spent in the gym had convinced Ignis of what he'd long suspected, that there was no other calling he'd rather pursue than that of a pokemon trainer. Ignis had only met Blaine a handful of times, usually taking his orders from a supervisor or some other middle ranking trainer. The old man had seemed eccentric, if not unkind, and had a strange aura about him, the kind that one probably only attains by being a previous member of the Elite Four. His experience had meant that he soon started planning to start his own adventure, journeying around Kanto challenging the various gyms and ultimately qualifying for the Pokemon League. Although he could have undertook his journey earlier it was unusual for trainers to still go from a very young age. The dangers that journeying in the wild posed to the young and inexperienced was not to be underestimated. Sure, the few trainers that managed to make the Indigo league at a very young age garnered a lot of media attention but far less was heard of the young trainers who were killed or maimed by wild pokemon often in the first few weeks of their journeys when their teams were still very unexperienced and young. Ignis's parents had made him promise to wait until he was sixteen, a number which he'd eventually bargained down to fifteen. He could see the logic of his parent's arguments though, looking back on the last three years he accepted that twelve was far too young to undertake such a journey, indeed even the Pokemon League was making efforts to pass legislation to raise the starting trainer age.

Ignis rose from his seat at the end of the bed as the Wartortle finished the match blasting the Sandslash into a boulder with a powerful water gun. He walked over to the locker and poured himself some soda, rubbing his eyes as he did. He had arrived in Pallet earlier that morning, and finding that there wasn't much to do to kill time in Pallet, had spent the day binge watching the group stages of the Pokemon League. Not that he would have done anything else, no matter the amount of distractions Pallet had provided. The last match of the night was starting in a half an hour on the ice field so for now he settled in to watch the analysis of the previous match by the pundits.

He woke sometime early that morning with a jolt, afraid that he'd overslept but the darkness that the room was still plunged in soon allayed those fears. He looked down at his watch illuminated by the glow of the television's standby setting. The hands showed 05:38, Ignis rose out of the bed, fully awake now and berated himself for falling asleep during the end of what had actually been a very good match on the Ice field coming down to each players last pokemon, he resolved to look up the result later.

He had been thinking about this day for the longest time that now that it was finally here it felt surreal. It was unusual, if not unheard of for residents of Cinnabar to pursue pokemon training fulltime, as many of the youth quickly became involved in the thriving tourism industry that their family had been in before them, and their family before them and so on and so forth. That fact coupled with its small size meant that Cinnabar was usually the least represented region in the Pokemon league every year. However, the tourism industry lifestyle had never appealed to Ignis, perhaps due to his family's influence and certainly due to his short time in the gym where, in between his more mundane tasks he had watched countless challengers come and go and witnessed some epic matches.

Challengers usually came to Cinnabar quite late in their journey, when they had obtained at least 6 badges and as such Blaine was rarely required to hold back too much meaning the quality of those matches were generally excellent. The Pokemon League was run in such a way that the number of badges you held dictated how difficult your match would be meaning that prospective trainers always had increasingly difficult matches no matter the route they took. However, because of Pallet being the recommended starting area trainers usually proceeded north to Viridian and onto Pewter from there and continued the loop ending up in Cinnabar quite late in their journey. This at least was the system in theory, in practice some gym leaders were known for being far tougher than others with Blaine and Sabrina achieving a reputation for not bearing fools lightly whilst Giovanni had long since been accepted as the most ruthless of the gym leaders. Even so it was rare for a leader to use any of their main six pokemon, least of all their starter in a gym battle and these pokemon were usually reserved for defence of the city or for matches where the gym's honour was at stake.

Gym leaders were highly important figures and battling trainers for badges made up a very small amount of their actual work. As the most powerful trainers they were charged with the defence of their city and region at times of attack or disaster and others such as Koga even took the crime rates in the city quite personally. They also had a seat and a vote at the council which was made up of the eight official gym leaders and the elite four with the council headed by the champion Lance which made them highly influential figures. The experience Ignis had gotten from watching these high level matches in the Cinnabar gym had only cemented his view that pokemon training was in his future.

He quickly got dressed pulling on a pair of beige combat pants, a grey t-shirt and a black jacket. He laced up a pair of sturdy walking boots and headed downstairs. Despite it being only six in the morning the owner of the guesthouse, an elderly, kindly looking woman, was already up setting tables.

"Morning dear" the woman said without so much as looking up.

"Morning" Ignis replied, "You're up early".

"I always get up a little earlier when I have someone staying whose starting their journey as they rarely sleep at all and usually appreciate an early breakfast" smiled the old woman.

Ignis smiled and sat at the table as woman busied herself getting him coffee and fruit and then disappearing out to get him some eggs. Ignis forced himself to eat despite the borderline nausea he was feeling due to the building nerves in the pit of his stomach. He knew he had a long day ahead of him and would need his strength. The woman emerged from the kitchen and placed a plate of scrambled eggs in front of him.

"How are you feeling dear?" enquired the woman as she fussed around pouring more coffee.

"I'm ok I think" Ignis replied managing a wry smile.

"Of course you are!" exclaimed the woman, "enjoy the moment, this is one of the best days of your young life, make sure you live it! Have you decided on what starter pokemon you want?"

Ignis nodded forcing himself to swallow down some eggs. "I've decided on a Charmander".

"Of course you have" the woman said, still fussing around the room, "that'll be your Cinnabar roots, love your fire pokemon your lot do" she chuckled.

Ignis had never thought of it that way but now that it was pointed out to him he had to admit the woman was probably right. Fire pokemon had always held an attraction for him and his time in the gym watching Blaine's pokemon in action had only served to further the attraction that the fire type had for him.

"I suppose your right" he smiled

"Of course I am" the woman laughed, "Nonetheless Charmander is a very fine choice, very fine indeed. Have you met the Professor before?"

Ignis shook his head. He had seen the famous professor once when he came to Cinnabar on some research project or other but he hadn't had the courage to approach him and say hello, although many of his friends who had said the professor had been very friendly and encouraging.

"Well he's a lovely man, you'll have no problem at all with him, he'll get you off to a great start, the man's a great breeder aswell so you can be sure his starters will be in great condition, far better than anything you could catch around these parts".

The reality of the day he was about to embark on slowly began to sink in as the woman talked about the pokemon that was soon to be his. He eventually finished his food and rose from the table, thanking the woman for her hospitality telling her that he would return after he'd had been to Professor Oak's to fetch his backpack. He headed out of the guesthouse, painfully aware that he still had over two hours to kill before his 09:00 am meeting with Professor Oak but unable to just sit and wait he decided to go for a walk around pallet and maybe look at some of the pokemon on Oak's famous corral.

He headed up the deserted road that would bring him to the corral eventually getting to the brow of the hill where he would get his first glimpse of the ranch that he'd spent so many long afternoons dreaming of. He slowed his pace as he finally reached the top of the hill and found himself smiling despite his nerves. The smile was short-lived. There, about a mile in the distance was the corral he'd seen pictures of on so many websites, only unlike in all the pictures, several large plumes of dark smoke were rising, and one of the buildings towards the middle of the ranch was almost completely ablaze.

Ignis felt like all the air had been knocked out of him as he looked down upon the devastating scene like from something from a nightmare. One of the buildings was on fire, several others had no signs of flame coming from them but smoke billowed from yells and howls of various pokemon faintly filled the air and Ignis saw the outlines of several pokemon that appeared to be lying motionless on the ground near the building that was on fire.

Ignis stood motionless as he looked at the scene unfurling before him. Suddenly a loud bang snapped him out of his daze as a large orange blur shot by him in direction of the corral. The creature slowed down as it approached the corral and Ignis made out the outline of a large Dragonite with a man strapped to the saddle it wore on its back. He had never seen a Dragonite before, let alone witness the breath-taking speed he had just seen the Dragonite fly at. The creature was majestic with orange scales that glittered in the morning sun. The reflection of the fire in the scales served to make them look like they were fluid, constantly in motion. The small wings that Ignis could now make out on the Dragonite were completely unrepresentative of the speed that he had just witnessed. The Dragonite let its passenger off on the grass and then began to circle the fire hitting it with powerful water guns from all angles. The trainer on his back released two other pokemon that Ignis recognized as a Vaporeon and a Blastoise and they began adding their water guns to battle the massive blaze.

Ignis took off sprinting as fast as he could down the road in the direction of the buildings. He ran faster than he ever had ignoring the burning pain in his side from his non-stop sprint. He entered through the ranch's main gates, still about five minutes from the building that was ablaze. He turned sharply in the direction of the building putting on a fresh burst of speed but quickly stopped when he heard the cries of a pokemon from the field next to him. He looked across and saw a large orange and black ball of fur lying motionless in the field. Ignis started towards the pokemon cautiously breathing deeply from his run. He knew enough about pokemon to know to be cautious when approaching an injured or scared pokemon, even if that pokemon was not wild.

At first he thought that the pokemon was an Arcanine and he felt his trepidation grow but as he got closer he realised that it was actually three growlithes curled up close together. Ignis's heart dropped into his stomach as he realised that the grass around the pokemon was soaked in blood. As he approached closer one of the growlithes that was nuzzled into the others raised his head and growled. The pokemon was clearly in a bad state, a steady flow of blood coming from a long wound on his side and matting his fur but even so he raised himself as much as he could, eyes narrowed as he stood protectively over the other two.

Ignis came to a stop, raising his hands in a gesture to show he meant no harm. His eyes glanced to the other two growlithes and his stomach lurched as he realised they were clearly dead. He spoke gently but firmly as his father had taught him to do when dealing with scared or hostile pokemon. He also knew that if the pokemon had an owner it was often a good idea to call them by their nickname if they had one or to use their owner's name to show you at least knew their owner.

"I'm not going to hurt you" he started, "I'm here to help, I've come here to meet Professor Oak, you need to let me help you, I'll bring you to him, we need to stop your bleeding" he said softly.

The pokemon's ears visibly twitched with recognition at the mention of Oak's name and it stopped growling but he stayed positioned over his kin glancing towards them and then back to Ignis.

"You can't help them now, you need to let me look after you or you're going to faint" Ignis pleaded. "I'm going to come over to you now, please don't attack me" Ignis said in the same calm voice. He took off his jacket as he took slow steps towards the Growlithe who was clearly growing weaker by the second. "I'm going to use this to stop the bleeding, is it ok if I put this on your cut?" The dog pokemon continued to meet his eyes but the growling had ceased. Ignis knelt down and continued to look at the pokemon in the eye.

"This will probably hurt at first but I need to do it" said Ignis wishing he had a pokeball. This Growlithe was in urgent need of medical attention but the next best thing would be suspended animation which would ensure the pokemon's condition would not get worse until you could get it to a pokemon centre. However, Ignis didn't have one so basic first aid would have to do until he could get the Growlithe to Professor Oak. He held the jacket into the cut on the growlithes body; the pokemon yelped but made no move attack him. "I'm going to pick you up now and get you to the Professor, ok?"

The Growlithe gave him no affirmation but didn't object when Ignis scooped the dog up with both arms and headed towards the buildings as quickly as the weight of his newly acquired weight would allow. The pressure that Ignis was applying had stopped most of the bleeding but the Growlithe was clearly in a bad way. Even the weakest of pokemon can take a lot more punishment than a human and survive it so Ignis shuddered to think what had attacked the family of Growlithe to cause such injuries.

Ignis approached the building which had now been completely extinguished feeling exhausted from his run and carrying the injured pokemon. He could hear sirens in the distance as he walked the last few steps. Ignis could see the Dragonite's passenger as he now recognized as Professor Oak walking slowly towards him. He wore a lot travelling cloak in place of his usual white lab coat which was burned in several places and smoke stained. His face was covered with ash and his eyes were red from the smoke. Even so the Professor was an impressive sight; he had an aura that Ignis had only ever associated with Blaine. The Professor came to a stop a few metres from him and put his hand to his belt reaching for a pokeball.

"Stop now, identify yourself!" he shouted in a powerful voice, completely different from the usual calm soft voice that Ignis knew from watching interviews.

"Ignis of Cinnabar sir" he said startled by the hostile reception but he supposed he should have expected it, something awful had clearly happened at the corral and here he stood a stranger, two hours before the Professor had expected him.

The Professor eased the moment he heard the name and removed his hand from his belt. "Ignis, I'm sorry, I'm a bit jumpy after this morning". His gaze shifted to the pokemon in Ignis's arms. "Oh God, what's happened to you" he said with a sorrowful voice addressing the pokemon directly.

"He's bleeding badly Professor, we need to get him to a pokemon centre" Ignis offered, lifting his coat just enough to show the massive, deep gash in the Growlithes side.

The Professor stared at the wound for a second before regaining his composure and reaching back to his belt. "I'm going to have to return him Ignis" said the Professor calmly releasing the beam from a pokeball which withdrew the Growlithe into the ball. "He'll be safe in there until I can get him some further attention".

"Thank you for your help Ignis" said the Professor eyes glancing around constantly surveying the scene around him. "Wait here and I'll return to you as quickly as I can" and with that he turned and ran in the direction of the north side of the ranch showing remarkable speed for a man of his age.

Ignis couldn't believe what was happening. He had been looking forward to this day for years, slowly building up to the moment only for it to start in this way. The corral looked like something out of a disaster film, he couldn't begin to think what had happened. Fires smouldered in the ruins of the building, many pokemon were injured although thankfully most seemed to have escaped the fate of the other two growlithes he had seen at the entrance. They had seemed very young, no more than pups and Ignis tasted the bile rise in his throat as he thought about the sight of their bloodied, limp bodies. The sirens were loud now and Ignis turned around to see two fire engines pull into the compound escorted by a police motorbike.

A firefighter jumped downed from the lead engine quickly followed by a team of squirtle and they set about dampening down any areas that were still smouldering. The police officer on the bike approached Ignis taking off his helmet as he walked over.

"What's happened here?" he asked looking around at the scene of devastation.

"I don't know, I only got it about twenty minutes before you" Ignis replied, still quite shell-shocked at the events. "It was burning quite badly when I got here but the Professor managed to use some of his pokemon to extinguish the worst of it".

"The professor is here?" asked the officer with surprise. "He rang us from Indigo Plateau to say his security and fire alarms were going off and that he was on his way back but I never thought he'd get here before us".

"He came on his Dragonite" Ignis offered.

"I see" the officer whispered with a look of understanding, "never seen anything fly like that dragon of his can, didn't know he had it with him, it usually remains on the ranch".

The officer left him and walked over to the other firefighter from the second truck and started talking to her, taking pictures as they walked around the ranch quietly conversing. The scene had become quite busy now that the emergency services had started arriving and Ignis noticed two ambulances, one a slightly bigger, specialised ambulance from the pokemon centre specifically designed for treating pokemon in the field pull into the compound with blue and red lights flashing. Ignis stood quietly in the middle of the organised chaos as the emergency services went about their work feeling helpless. He was still clutching his jacket, which was now destroyed and his hands were stained with the dark red blood of the young Growlithe. Now that the adrenaline had started the leave him he began to notice how cold he was standing in his t-shirt in the morning air.

After a few minutes had passed a paramedic approached him and led him to the back of the ambulance and put a blanket around him. He took it as a good sign that there didn't seem to be any other patients besides himself and a young researcher who was being treated behind him for smoke inhalation. He supposed there hadn't been many staff around in the early hours of the morning, or at least he hoped there hadn't been. He watched the goings on from his perch at the back of the ambulance. The firefighters were almost finished with their work, the professor's pokemon had done the most of it for them but the pokemon centre ambulance was certainly under pressure with two medics and a nurse Joy working tirelessly to heal injured pokemon.

Ignis wasn't sure how long he sat there, lost in the daze of the morning's events. He thought maybe for about a half an hour before his thoughts were interrupted by Professor Oak emerging back into his view speaking seriously with the police officer from earlier. The professor looked around and met Ignis's eyes. He smiled and made a beeline towards him.

"Ignis, my friend, I'm sorry I was so blunt with you earlier, it's been a hell of a morning" said the professor as he walked the last few steps towards him and shook Ignis's hand warmly. "I'm sure you'll be very pleased to know that the little Growlithe you saved is going to be just fine" he said smiling brightly. Ignis felt some of the weight that he didn't know he'd been carrying lift as he heard the professor's words.

"That's great news" Ignis said letting his relief visibly show.

"Yes, and all thanks to you Ignis m'boy, although I must say that I'm devastated by the loss of the other two Growlithe" said the professor heavily and suddenly the professor seemed to show his age, looking very weary indeed. Ignis winced as the picture of the two dead pokemon made its way to the forefront of his mind; it was an image he knew he would never forget until the day he died.

"It appears that my Arcanine chased after the people who did this and the Growlithe, young and all as they are, followed her and also entered the fray. They are a fiercely loyal pokemon and very protective of their territory but at their young age meant they didn't stand much of a chance" said the professor sadly.

Ignis let the weight of the professors words wash over him. Up to now he had assumed the fire had maybe been caused accidently by some kind of malfunctioning lab equipment. At worst he had thought that a powerful wild pokemon had attacked the lab but the fact that this had been an orchestrated attack that resulted in the burning down of one of Professor Oak's buildings and the death of two pokemon was incomprehensible to him.

"Professor, what exactly happened here?" said Ignis looking around the half burnt building and smouldering landscape.

"Were not completely sure ourselves yet if I'm being honest with you and what we do know, or what we're guessing at makes for quite a long story, however the short version is simple; Team Rocket".

Team Rocket, Ignis had heard of the criminal organisation before but knew very little about them except for what he heard on the news which mostly consisted of reports of stealing rare pokemon and other acts of deviance and criminality. From what he knew they operated largely underground never doing enough to garner large amounts of attention from the league or other law enforcement, until now.

"I didn't think they'd try something like this" he said to the Professor. "I always thought of them as small time thugs".

"As did we Ignis, as did we. As it stands they've managed to steal several pokemon and lots of different equipment but I'm not sure if that was ultimately their goal. I think that their aim was to make something of a statement and they've certainly managed that. It also raises some serious concerns about where they are getting their information from. Bold and all as it seems they have become I seriously doubt they would try anything like this if either myself or Draco had been here" he said inclining his head towards his massive Dragonite which was sitting on the lawn watching everything carefully.

"Not a lot of people would have known that we were gone which means that Team Rocket's influence appears to reach quite high up in the League which is certainly very worrying indeed" he said sighing, his eyes suddenly flicked up to the sky over Ignis's shoulder. "Speaking of the League" he whispered to himself.

Ignis craned his neck to look around the side of the ambulance and into the sky where a large black and grey helicopter was fast approaching the compound. It came to a hover over the adjacent field and touched down. Ignis noticed the league emblem emblazoned on the side of the large helicopter. The rotors slowly came to a stop and a large motorising door open at the side producing a small staircase down to the field. A tall, good looking woman with dark red hair and glasses emerged from the helicopter. She wore knee-high leather boots, black pants, a white blouse and a long blue coat. Ignis recognized her straight away. How could he not, he'd watched her take on countless challengers and champions at the end of the annual Pokemon League competitions; Lorelei.

The Elite Four member and famous Ice-type specialist walked briskly over, vaulting a wooden fence with ease and heading directly to Professor Oak.

"I came as soon as I heard" she said in a serious but gentle voice.

"It is good to see you Lorelei, I'm not sure if there's anything you can do but you are still a most welcome sight".

"I know, I'm sorry this happened especially when you were away by my request, I feel very guilty, we have much to talk about, the implications of this attack are...unsettling".

"That is to say the least" said the Professor.

Ignis stood watching the two legends conversing infront of him in complete awe, this day just kept getting stranger and stranger. The Professor suddenly glanced at him and stopped mid-sentence.

"Ignis! I'm sorry, you must think me so rude, This is Elite Four Lorelei, Lorelei this is Ignis, he rescued one of my pokemon after the attack, his courage and quick-thinking undoubtedly saved its life". Ignis felt himself blush at the praise from the revered Professor.

"Please to meet you Elite Lorelei".

"Please, there's no need for titles" said Lorelei with a kind smile, "any friend of Oak is a friend of mine". "Are you a trainer Ignis?" she asked surveying him with interst.

"I…well, I was going to be..." Ignis trailed off looking at Professor Oak.

"Ignis was due to start his journey today but the morning's events have put quite a dampener on that to say the least" offered Professor Oak. "Not to worry though, we'll soon have you on your way if you're still willing, just give me a few hours to sort this mess out and I can get you a pokedex and a …well, we'll figure something out" said the Professor ending his sentence quite abruptly and looking quite awkward. Ignis was reminded for the second time today of the Professor's age as the elderly professor trailed off lost in thought. " I must discuss some matters with Lorelei now Ignis, I must ask you to be patient once more I'm afraid, go back to your guesthouse, freshen up, have soon food and a rest. Tell Mrs Falson to charge any extra expenses you incur to my account and return here at midday" said the Professor.

Ignis nodded and the Professor and Lorelei turned and headed towards the large building. that had been untouched in the morning's fire talking in hushed tones as the Professor pointed out various things as they walked . Lorelei turned and gave him a quick wave before she got too far, "I hope to see you again someday" she smiled, "best of luck with your journey, I remember starting mine like it was yesterday".

Ignis stood there a few moments longer trying to digest what had just happened. He smiled despite everything. First day as a pokemon trainer and he had already met a member of the Elite Four, that was something that not even some of the most experienced trainers could boast. He finally turned and headed back up to the guesthouse feeling at least a few years older than he had been when he arrived.

Ignis found himself walking the stretch of road between the guesthouse and corral for the third time that day. He had returned to the guesthouse pokemonless, weary and blood-stained. To her eternal credit Mrs Falson didn't so much as question him despite the shocked look she'd given him when he walked back in. He had showered and laid down for a while pondering the morning events for a few hours, completely unable to sleep despite his early morning. The grim reality of pokemon training had been really brought home to him this morning. Pokemon could die. Pokemon would die. Granted it was unusual and a pokemon would have to take an awful amount of damage for their injuries to become life-threatening but his youthful thoughts about pokemon as invincible creatures of spectacular power and resilience had been eliminated. He felt a new weight of responsibility if he was to be a trainer. The advances in technology such as pokeballs keeping pokemon in complete suspended animation until their wounds could be tended to and in particular the massive advances in medicine in the last decade that had meant that even the most critical of injuries could be healed in a manner of hours had only furthered the illusion of invincibility. That illusion was completely shattered now as he thought back to the two young Growlithe lying motionless on the blood soaked grass.

He walked up to the entrance of the corral, the ambulances and fire engines were gone, as was the helicopter but the police officer remained and much of the corral had been cordoned off with police tape. Fortunately the officer recognized him from early and let him through without him having to validate who he was and he headed to the main building that the Professor and Lorelei had headed to earlier.

He went in through the front door which opened out into a reception area. A young man in a white lab coat was sitting behind a desk typing furiously while he read from a big black file. He had light brown hair and wore glasses that were too big for his face. He looked up when he heard the door close behind Ignis.

"Ignis I presume?" he said coming out from behind the desk and extended his hand.

"Yes I am" he replied shaking the man's hand.

"Very good were all here then, Ignis this is River" said the researcher turning to another boy about Ignis's age sitting on a chair in the room. The boy rose when he heard his name and extended a hand.

"Hey, howya doing Iggy" said the boy looking him up and down as if to size him up. Ignis scowled at the use of the nickname, only his mother called him Iggy but he let it go as at that moment the doors behind them opened and Professor Oak walked through the doors.

"Ah I see you've met each other already" said Oak beaming around the room. "Excellent, excellent, well come on through we have much to discuss".

He led them through to a laboratory room and sat them at a table.

"Now I know your aware of the situation we had here this morning and I know that my assistant has filled you in River. The bad news is that during this morning attack the three starter pokemon that I had arranged to be waiting in the lab across the compound for you were stolen". Ignis's heart dropped to his stomach as he heard the news, he noticed the professor seemed very upset by it and his voice had gone to almost a whisper almost as if he couldn't bear to hear himself say it.

"What the hell are we meant to do now!" River snapped, I've travelled from Fuchsia city to come here and receive my starter pokemon!"

"The good news however" said Professor Oak ignoring the outburst although his frown increased a little, "is that the lagoon that is part of this corral was unaffected by this morning's events and therefore I still have quite a few squirtles available. They're not quite as well trained as the one I had ready but they are still of very good breeding and will make excellent partners for budding trainers. Would this be satisfactory as a solution to the ugly situation we find ourselves faced with?"

"Hell yeah it will, I was gonna pick a Squirtle anyway, they're clearly the best choice" said River, all previous fury seemingly forgotten. This seemed to cheer Oak up a good bit but he turned and looked at Ignis.

"And you Ignis, would you be ok with that?" he said with a look of concern.

"Sure professor, a squirtle would be great" he said but failing to muster any real enthusiasm. He was very glad to be getting any pokemon after the news he'd just got and River was right, many people did rate Squirtle as the best of the three starters but he didn't realise how much he'd had his heart set up a Charmander until this very moment, now a Squirtle just didn't seem like a good fit for him.

Something about his expression must have given the game away as the Professor gave him a quizzical look and asked "What pokemon had you intended to choose?"

"Well I was going to pick a Charmander but really professor, a Squirtle would be just great, thank you so much" he reiterated trying not to come across as ungrateful.

"Hmm..a Charmander, that'll be the Cinnabar in you" said the professor quietly.

"So I've been told" said Ignis with a wry smile remembering the guesthouse owner's remarks from earlier.

"Hmm well I'm afraid I won't be able to get my hands on a Charmander for at least a few weeks and then by the time its adequately trained to be a starter it may be another month" said the professor. "I assume that would be too long a wait?...I'll take that as a yes" he said quickly with a laugh noting Ignis's crestfallen expression. "Well there is perhaps one final solution" he said with a glint in his eye. "Let me just set River up with his pokedex and see him on his way and we can take a short walk" said the Professor mysteriously.

Ignis just nodded at the Professor's vagueness and sat there while the Professor showed River through his pokedex and then left with him to go fetch his new squirtle from the lagoon.

He returned a short time later alone and looked at Ignis with a smile. "Let's take a walk Ignis, I want to show you something" said the Professor beckoning Ignis to follow him. They walked out a side door and onto the ranch where some Ponyta were feeding. Ignis stood looking at the flames dance on the back of the horse pokemon before following the professor across the field. They eventually got to a large wooden building near the edge of the corral which was backed onto the forest which made up the boundary of the corral. They entered the building which had quite a high ceiling and straw all over the floor.

"These are the kennels" said Professor Oak with the same glint in his eye. He walked over to one of the pens and opened it and there, lying on some bedding with its ears perked up and its tongue wagging was the same Growlithe that Ignis had saved hours earlier. "I thought ye should meet under more pleasant circumstances said the professor with a laugh, his youth seemed to return to his face when he laughed and Ignis found it hard to distinguish him from the worried old man he'd witnessed earlier. The Growlithe rose up from the bedding and bounded over in their direction before jumping up to Ignis and placing its two front paws on the teenagers chest and licking him madly.

"I think he remembers me" said Ignis laughing and rubbing the Growlithe behind the ears. He couldn't believe the difference between the pokemon he'd carried earlier and the one that was infront of him now. Modern medicine could achieve nearly anything it seemed.

"He most certainly does" the professor said. "Growlithe are an incredibly loyal pokemon, it can take a while to earn their trust and friendship but once you've done that they'll be a friend for life"

Ignis laughed as the pokemon continued to jump up and down pawing and licking him "Well I seem to have gotten that much it seems".

"Yes indeed and now it's up to you to decide if you'd like it for life" said the professor looking Ignis in the eyes and smiling.

Ignis stopped laughing, the implications of what the professor had just said coming through.

"You mean…."

"Yes, I would like you to have this Growlithe as your starter. I normally would never recommend a Growlithe as a starter because it can take so long to earn their loyalty but in your case that doesn't appear to be an issue".

"Wow, really?" Ignis replied completely in awe.

"Absolutely, if you want him" laughed the professor. "If you'd prefer a Squirtle we can go straight over to the lagoon and get one but I know you had your heart set on a fire pokemon and you'd be hard pressed to start your journey with a stronger bond between trainer and pokemon so if you want him he's yours, you've most certainly earned it" said the professor.

Ignis couldn't believe his ears. This fitted in exactly the way that the Squirtle hadn't, it felt right. Growlithe were incredibly rare in the wild and were extremely expensive even if you could find a breeder willing to sell.

"Whatcha reckon Growlithe? Wanna come on my journey with me" said Ignis looking the Growlithe straight in its big brown eyes in the same way he had during those few tense moments a few hours earlier. The Growlithe barked wildly and jumped around the compound and back up on Ignis's chest slobbering all over him.

"I think that's a yes" said the professor, "lets head back to the lab, I can set you up with pokeballs and a pokedex and you can finally be on your way"

Together they walked back to the lab, Growlithe bounding out infront of them and running back and forth at tremendous speed. For the first time all day Ignis felt the knot in his stomach loosen and he felt the sense of nerves and trepidation turn to excitement.