[NOTE: This is a bit of fiction initially written for 1UP.com’s “Science in Games Week” back in 2012. I wrote it to outline how weird science is in the Pokemon universe. Since 1UP is no longer updating and its archives are dwindling, I thought I’d stable the piece here.]
I stared down the teenage boy in front of me. The dawn began to creep up from behind the barn and threw light and shadow over his features. I got my first good look at his red hair and the expression on his face. I was irritated; seething, if you want to get right down to it. He was simply nonplussed.
The teenager gestured to the barn behind him. “So—are you even going to come in and take a look?”
“Not until you apologize to me.”
“Lady, I don’t even know what I said to tick you off.”
A cat padded up to us and twined around my ankles, its little motor running full bore. It was difficult to tell in the tricky light, but it looked as if someone had glued—or stapled—a coin to its forehead. Now I was angry. I reached down to pluck the object off the cat’s head, but stopped short and pulled back my hand when I noticed that the animal had snakelike fangs jutting from its upper lip.
“You’re a doctor, ain’tchya?” the boy asked.
I looked up at him. “A veterinarian, yes,” I said, standing up straight again and yanking up my sleeves. “Five years of school. Ten years of experience. I drove an hour in the dark to get out here because you said one of your animals was in distress. So you’ll have to forgive me for not being especially responsive to your joke about your cow laying an egg.”
The teen looked blank. “You mean my Miltank?”
“Whatever nickname you have for her.”
“Are you sure you’re a doctor? I mean, do you really know what you’re doing?”
My temper blazed. “Listen—“
“I would have called in my grandfather, but he’d lecture me about how Milktank had trouble giving birth because my bond with her isn’t strong enough.” The boy pulled a sour face. “Look. I’m sorry I offended you. Milktank’s all right, anyway. She laid the egg—I mean, she had the baby while you were on your way here. If you want to go home, you can.”
The spring sun climbed higher in the sky, and I softened. “It’s all right. My sense of humor’s just shot. I’m far from home, I’m tired, and this is my first case in the Kanto region.”
“Oh! You’re new here?”
“Welcome to town, then.” The boy held out his hand. “I’m Blue.”
I accepted the handshake. “You seem happy enough.”
He stared at me hard. “That’s my name. Isn’t Blue a common name where you come from?”
“I can’t say I’ve ever heard it before.”
“That sounds pretty sweet. Growing up in school, the teacher would call out ‘Blue?’ and ten of us would answer. I’m glad I was allowed to get the heck out of there and go on my journey before I was much older. Some losers actually put up with school ‘til they’re thirteen years old. Can you imagine?” The boy—Blue—stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Would you do me a favor since you’re here anyway? Would you just look over Miltank? I want to make sure she’s okay.”
Almost every word out of Blue’s mouth was an enigma, but now the sun was well and truly awake and brought every dew-covered blade of grass to life. Birds tuned up, and even though I didn’t recognize any of the songs, the alien concert and the shimmering fields drove away my longing for my warm bed. “All right,” I said. I smiled gently. “It’ll give me a chance to say ‘I told you so.’”
Blue shrugged and led me to the barn. At least that short journey was familiar, and so was the destination: a walk through boot-sucking muck and into a high-ceilinged building that had been blasted to a dull reddish-grey by the wind and the rain years ago.
“Here she is,” Blue said.
The cow was parked in the stall closest to the door, which was handy because I needed to cling to the doorframe immediately after laying eyes on her. I felt the blood drain from my face, and even though the light in the barn was dim, Blue could see my reaction. “Are you okay?” he asked worriedly. “Is she okay?”
“Well, yeah. So you weren’t joking? You’ve never seen a Miltank egg before?”
“I’ve never seen an egg come from a mammal before.” I braced my shaking legs and stood up. I wiped my forehead, and my forehead felt clammy even through my sleeve. “I mean, the platypus lays eggs of course, but—“
“Platy Puss?” Blue parroted clumsily. “What type of Pokemon is that? Wait, let me guess. Normal-Ground type, right? ‘Plat’ sounds like ‘plateau,’ and most cat-like Pokemon are Normal. Nailed it! Right?”
I wasn’t listening. I wobbled into the barn and knelt beside the cow. I put my hand on her egg; it was about the size of an ostrich’s egg, and warm to the touch. The cow looked at me with large, agreeable eyes.
“Here’s the thing,” I said to Blue. “I can’t tell you if your cow is all right, because I have no idea what I’m looking at.”
“Shoot, really?” Blue returned. He dragged the toe of his boot against the hay-littered floor. “It’s just an ol’ Miltank. She’s not even shiny.”
“Well, she’s certainly pink.”
“She sure is.”
“Miltank,” the cow concurred.
“Your cow just spoke her name,” I said dully. By this point, my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton and my body was functioning automatically in the absence of a brain.
“Of course she did,” Blue said. “She’s a Miltank. Man, you’ve never seen a Pokemon egg? What kind of crazy region do you come from? No, what I really want to know is, how do things get born over there if nobody lays eggs?”
I told him and his eyes grew huge.
“Look,” I said after a long pause, “I need to go. There isn’t a whole lot I can do for you. I’m really sorry. I can’t even tell you when that egg is going to hatch.”
“It’s all right.” Blue knelt down beside us and rubbed the cow’s nose with his palm. “Soon as I have time, I’ll walk around with the egg ‘til it hatches. I figure about five thousand steps should do the trick. Come on, I’ll show you back to your car.”
The light outside the barn was bright, so I had to squint and shade my eyes to get a good look at the fields, which now appeared to be busy with the usual early morning animal traffic. “You have sheep?” I asked Blue.
Blue, who was walking ahead of me down the lane, stopped and looked at the same field through cupped hands. “Oh, Mareep? Yeah.”
The sheep were not fenced in, and seemed unperturbed that something feral and tiger-like bounded amongst the flock. “That’s Arcanine,” Blue said quickly, evidently noticing that my knees were going weak again. “He shows up now and again. I keep meaning to catch him. This one friend of mine has a stuck-up Pikachu that needs to get its butt nipped with Fire Fang.”
“You’re not worried that this ark-canine thing is going to eat your sheep?”
“Why would he?” Blue shrugged and continued down the lane. “Pokemon like berries.”
I followed Blue. “I can see that thing’s fangs from here,” I said. “They’re as long as my fingers.”
“So he uses those to ‘eat berries?’”
“No he doesn’t,” I said. I could see my car waiting in the shade of an oak tree, and I began fishing for my keys. “There’s no way. Mark my words, whenever your back is turned, he is snacking on those sheep like popcorn.”
“He wouldn’t risk it,” Blue laughed. “He’d be afflicted with Static if he even tried to bite one of those Mareep. Have you ever seen an Arcanine get all frizzed up? They look like orange tumbleweeds with sad eyes.”
Gorgeous morning or not, I decided the first thing I was going to go when I got home was sleep. My new home was still foreign to me and I typically had a hard time sleeping in strange places, but something had evidently gone very wrong with my sanity and I needed to try and sleep it off.
I opened my car door. “Well, nice to meet you Blue,” I said to the boy over my vehicle’s roof. “Sorry I couldn’t help you out.”
“It’s all right. It was nice to meet you, too.”
I scooted into my car, hesitated, then leaned over and rolled down the passenger seat window. “By the way,” I called, “There’s a unicorn behind you, and it’s on fire.”
The unicorn came up the path. It tossed its head and whipped its hellish mane and tail against Blue, but the boy didn’t even flinch as he gripped the animal’s snout from behind and invited it to place its head on his shoulder.
“Welcome to Kanto region, doctor,” he said.