All in the Family
Any person who passed by a small clearing in the woods near Cerulean City that fine spring day would have been struck by the strangest site he ever saw. Sitting in the middle on patient Geodude was a young girl dressed like a traveler in robes and cloak, scribbling furiously onto a notepad, surrounded by an array of equipment that made it look as if she had just been in a recording studio and suddenly relocated and deposited in the middle of the forest. All around her fluttered an excited swarm of Spearow, calling loudly in their scratchy voices. Every so often the girl would stop to listen intently to one of the Spearow, holding her hand out to it so that it might perch nearer to her as it squawked.
That girl was Quethiril, researcher from Cerulean City, famed locally as a skilled helper in the pokécenter as well as an aide to Bill, the great pokémon scientist. She had dedicated her life to pokémon and her number one goal was to learn to understand their language, and make it so that others could as well. Today she was studying the language of the Spearows. Her equipment consisted of a shiny black console, stamped with a silver Q, a tape recorder, and her notebook. The console was her prototype translator, and as the Spearow cried out it monotonously prattled out a mess of garbled words. The tape recorder stoicly noted every sound that occurred, including Quethiril's occasional exclamations of surprise as one of the unruly Spearow tried to peck her.
Language study was frustrating work, even though Quethiril had started with the pokémon with which she was most familiar. She had learned the basics of the language while raising her own Spearow, long since evolved, and had programmed the vocabulary into her translator. Now, however, she was discovering that each Spearow seemed to have a dialect all its own. Although her ears could pick out the nuances enough to at least understand most of their screeches, the cold machine could not.
Part of the problem, Quethiril decided, was that she had chosen a bad time for this research. It was mid spring, when the Spearow were most active, flying far from their homes all over the land. Spearow from one area, she reasoned, should speak more similarly, but with so many foreigners it was all one big incoherent mess.
Gradually, Quethiril began to notice several Spearow whom she understood most clearly, and she began singling them out for more attention, trying to coax them nearer and make them stay. After an hour or so, most of the other Spearow had lost interest and flown off, especially after the girl stopped scattering seed for all of them and feeding only the Spearow she wanted to remain. About ten birds remained, and they seemed to be part of the same flock, getting along better than the melting pot of the creatures that had been around before.
As she listened longer to these Spearow, Quethiril discovered that the translator also had an easier time understanding them. Like returning to the place one was raised, there was something familiar about the speech of these Spearow. The young researcher wondered if perhaps these were local Spearow, and that's why she was so used to their dialect.
Suddenly a shadow fell across the group and in a frenzied, feathered whirlwind the birds departed. Moments later the large, graceful form of Gwaihir, Quethiril's Fearow, landed on a large branch at the edge of the clearing.
"Thank you," she told him drily, "for scaring them off." She turned off the translator and stood up, knowing that Spearow were quarrelsome creatures and they wouldn't return today. "I hope I can find them again tomorrow."
"Fear!" he glared in the direction they had taken flight. "Fearow fear row."
Her eyes widened in surprise. "You mean . . . those are . . . your--"
"Fearow!" Gwaihir pronounced emphatically. He then launched into the sky, defiantly crying to the slanting sun, and flew further over the forests, looking intently down at the treetops. His trainer didn't even notice that he had gone in the direction of the Spearow.
That night Quethiril sat at the edge of her bed, looking pensively out the window. Right by the second story room was a tall tree with great, sturdy branches extending at regular spaces along the trunk. As a child, she had dreamed of sitting on the top and stepping off the branch onto her roof. By the time she was tall enough and strong enough to try, however, Gwaihir was already a much better way to get to the roof or any part of the tree she wished. It became his tree, in that he roosted there at night in sleep. She had begun a habit of sleeping with her window open so that she was nearer to him.
Tonight he was absent, and the wind whistled through the opening coldly, as if it shared her loneliness. Gwaihir hadn't returned since disappearing that afternoon, after he had hatefully denounced the Spearow Quethiril had been concentrating on as disloyal cowards. Everything fell in place then. In horror, the girl realized that these were of the flock that had abandoned her Fearow in a storm years ago, leaving him half dead by a stream in the forest so that she might find him, nurse him to health, and raise him as her own. No wonder their speech had sounded so familiar!
"What would he do?" she asked helplessly. "What should I do? What did I do?"
"Jolt . . . eon," Mercury replied slowly. "Jolt?"
He walked over and nudged her leg, and she leaned down to stroke his spiky fur, which softened at her touch. For her alone would he let down his needle-sharp spines and restrain the deadly current that coursed through his body.
The girl sighed. "You're probably right... I don't own him after all, and--and he deserves his freedom as much as anyone. Oh, but what would he do all alone out there?"
"Jolteon," he declared confidently, he knew Gwaihir could take care of himself.
"I know that." She tried to smile. "I meant, what is he feeling? Why is he mad at me--or is he? I'm afraid he'll take revenge on those Spearow or something. Or he might even try to rejoin them, even if he is mad right now. What will they do? Wild pokémon don't usually like trained ones, even if they were once wild."
The electric pokémon shrugged. "Jolt jolteon jolt." He had never been wild.
"Ah, I'm just talking to myself now. I should just go to sleep, or try to at least."
The latter proved to be closer to what Quethiril accomplished that night. At first she tried to close the window hoping that would take her mind off her missing friend, but the room felt stuffy and silent without the whispering breeze. Once the window was open every creak of a branch brought her awake, eyes fixed on the bright moon outside, shining on an empty tree. Sighing, she would roll over and try to sleep again.
Gwaihir had convinced himself that a tree was a tree, and so he sat perched on one north of Cerulean City in the cold night. The great Fearow clung to the branch stiffly, only craning his neck about to observe the noisy scene in the nearby treetops.
In front of him the flock of Spearow he had followed from his trainer's clearing had settled for the night. They squabbled amongst themselves still, as Spearow weren't the most agreeable of pokémon by any means. Any group of Spearow was characterized by constant shrieks and arguments held in their rasping voices.
Gwaihir could not remember being a wild Spearow. His life began when Quethiril found him injured in the rain and took him home. But he knew that right before him was the very flock that had deserted him, left him for dead in a storm. They had robbed him of such a "childhood", of having companions with whom to continuously bicker, of knowing life so uncluttered and free.
He didn't know what he wanted. He stared at the unfolding scene. Several of the younger birds were still hungry after flitting around Quethiril all afternoon, and they wanted to go hunt. The rest warned them against leaving in the darkness, instead suggesting that they find the girl the next morning. Gwaihir was startled at this manifestation of concern for members of their flock. Then his heart lurched in contempt for these creatures who hadn't considered him in the same way. At the same time he wanted to rejoin these birds, to be a part of the large collective again and fly with them, free but constrained by the rest of the flock.
Even were he wild, Gwaihir realized, there was no way he could experience what he had missed. Fearow were solitary birds, as if their childhood disputes had made them too disagreeable to associate with after final evolution. They ranged far and wide, alone and untiring, but never again did they even want to return, Gwaihir suspected, to the hostile-seeming atmosphere of social groups.
The controversy he was watching resolved itself when the youngsters, determined to sate their hunger, flew off in defiance of the others' commands. They spiraled upwards, clearly sihouetted against the sky, then dove towards the south and the sparkling lights of Cerulean. Then, showing more cleverness than any had expected, they circled back, winging silently through the trees while frustrated Spearow flew after in their supposed direction.
They were so stealthy that Gwaihir didn't see them until it was too late. There was a collision and a chorus of startled squawks, then other Spearow flew over to investigate the commotion. Before long, the Fearow found himself surrounded by hostile pokémon all around. Now standing on the ground, he gazed belligerently at the ring.
"He's just a trainer's pet," one of the Spearow spat.
One of the older Spearow stared hard at him, then said, "I think . . . I think he's one of us . . . or was..."
"No sheltered weakling is ever one of us," the first declared.
"Sheltered weakling..." Gwaihir repeated quietly, cold rage controlling his voice. "Sheltered enough to be abandoned in a storm. Weak enough to survive when no one else cared enough to help. Is that how you see it?"
A third chimed in, "Is that all? We left you to grow strong, on your own, and you turn to a human for supplication?! Then you are weak."
"A pretty interpretation," the elder broke in, "but he's right. We thought he was dead and left him there in a storm." He turned to Gwaihir. "There is no way now we can give you recompense. You are no longer one of us, even had you been wild. There is nothing we can do."
Gwaihir was silent for a long time, gazing stonily at the elder. Then he gave a short nod, cast a glare all around, then flew off.
* * *
Quethiril stared moodily out the window, Mercury still by her side. The tree outside was adorned with tender green leaves, but it felt empty without Gwaihir there. The day was blustery and the branches creaked as if they were occupied, but they were not. Everything felt wrong, the girl realized, and it was all because her best friend was not there. It was fortunate that her Jolteon was not one to try to dominate her affection, she mused briefly.
"I'm sorry, Mercury." She turned away from the window and knelt to stroke his yellow fur. "I shouldn't be such a busybody. Gwaihir has a right to his freedom, right?" She paused, then choked, "But why them over me?"
"Jolt jolteon jolteon," he declared vehemently. No one would ever choose deserters over Quethiril by a long shot.
"You say that, but..." She glanced at the window.
Mercury shook his head again, then leapt to the windowsill. In another blaze of speed he was on the floor at the base of the tree. Without turning back, he dashed off toward the north.
Gaping in surprise, Quethiril could only cry out meekly, "Wait!" far too softly and far too late compared to the Jolteon's speed. Moments later she caught a bright flash and then a thunderous noise and jumble of excited cries. She stuck her head through the window and saw a yellow blur and above it another. Before she had time to stand Mercury had hopped in through the window and walked past her to the far end of the room.
"Jolteon," he nodded with satisfaction.
Quethiril turned back to the window just in time to catch Gwaihir sweeping into her arms and they both tumbled backwards over the bed. The Fearow's momentum was enough to carry him to his usual perch, from which he gazed back at his trainer with loving eyes.
"Oh, Gwaihir! You didn't abandon us!" Quethiril exclaimed. She did not ask where he had been, nor anything else about his absence.
"Fearow," he shook his head. He already had a family.