Chapter 25: Project Sakura
Fan Fiction inspired by Pokemon
Rating: Young Adult
After two semesters since Aizawa and I started Project Sakura, our third prototype was completed. The first two prototypes had a combination of problems, such as falling short of funds, research, or unsatisfactory results. The third product, however, sounded promising and we got it approved by the university. This third prototype was a band that attached to a pokémon’s appendage. There were several sizes for it so that different pokémon could use it. When a pokémon’s overall happiness for its trainer was high, the band stimulated strength by lowering energy consumption rates. At least, that’s what the prototype was supposed to do.
As we stood in a field outside of Saffron City, I lectured to the new trainer subjects, asked them to identify which pokémon they would use during my experimentation, and gave each of them a numerical identification. They, of course, did not have to use the numbers and I tried my best to refer to each of them by name. The number was specifically for organizing purposes only. We had about fifteen new subjects.
Meanwhile, Aizawa was about one hundred meters away, observing our advanced trainers who had been undergoing the experiment for at least six weeks. There were ten of them.
“Now that I have all of your names and pokémon registered, I will have the group on my left use the experimental band and the group on my right train normally,” I said. “You may stick around and observe your peers who have already gone through this experimental process.”
The new subjects decided to walk over to where Aizawa had been watching as the veteran trainers had been separated by those who used the band and those who did not. She randomly matched each member of the groups individually against one from the other group in a pokémon battle. After gathering results from battles where the band was used, Aizawa had the trainers take the band off from their pokémon.
The results from the band were flawless. Even though only five of the ten trainers used it, all five had shown significant improvement in the pokémon’s strength while using it. Even a pokémon with the same amount of experience going against another with a type disadvantage still had the upper hand. While this data was significant in showing the success of our product, I was not convinced it was fool-proof. This is why Aizawa decided to have them battle without our experimental prototype.
“Trainer zero-six, please come forth with your pokémon and remove its band,” she commanded. “You will be battling against trainer one-zero.”
For experimental purposes, Aizawa refered to our subjects by number. Trainers “zero-three” through “zero-seven” used the band. Trainers “zero-eight” through “one-two” did not use the band at all. Trainer “zero-one” was me, and I did not use a band. Trainer “zero-two” was Aizawa, and she used a band on her Porygon, the first known synthetic pokémon made entirely of metallic polyhedrons.
Trainer zero-six was Tommy. He was a young trainer from the Saffron City fighting dojo, where my childhood friend Nathan had went in his early years. Tommy’s pokémon during the experiment was Mankey, a fighting type pokémon with an ape-like appearance. He always took proper care of Mankey and it showed in our data. Mankey was perhaps our strongest test subject with the band.
In this round, he would be fighting trainer one-zero, Kira of neighboring Cerulean City. Her pokémon was a Goldeen, a fish pokémon with a horn on its head. She did not use the band in our experiment. Her training and care for Goldeen was decent, but average among regular trainers.
Tommy removed the band from Mankey. Mankey gave a confused look at its trainer, but appeared fine, as if the band had still been on its arm. The trainers faced each other from a distance.
Aizawa gave the signal to begin the battle.
“Goldeen, charge at him with horn attack!” commanded Kira.
Goldeen flopped up and down on the ground, but progressively got faster as it charged toward Mankey. As I watched this battle unfold, I heard some of our new test subjects whispering among themselves, saying that those with the experimental bands were much luckier than ones without them. This made the selection process for experimentation uneasy for me.
“Mankey, stop that Goldeen with your karate chop!” responded Tommy.
Mankey stood in a combat position, keeping its guard up. Goldeen made one final jump from the ground as hard as possible, aiming its horn at Mankey. Mankey executed its karate chop with perfect timing and reflexes in order to counter the Goldeen’s attack. However, this event would not come to pass.
While Mankey’s reflexes were on par, its movements to execute an attack were not only slow, but in bad form. Mankey was feeling some kind of fatigue. Goldeen smashed her horn into Mankey’s face, delivering a critical hit. Mankey fell to the ground, unable to battle. This was the first time I witnessed one of our test subjects with the band lose to a pokémon who did not use the band during our experiments.
Tommy cried as Mankey was critically injured. I gave Tommy a revival candy and a potion to help his pokémon. Aizawa, however, looked displeased.
“I don’t understand, Oda-kun,” said Aizawa. “Trainer zero-six’s pokémon was one of our strongest. What do you think happened?”
“Maybe Kira’s Goldeen got lucky and executed a horn drill attack. Either way, it was probably just a fluke.”
Aizawa looked at me angrily and burst into a rant.
“Are you kidding? Trainer one-zero is one of our worst subjects! I can catch a new pokémon and defeat her with it!”
Kira started to cry too. She must have heard Aizawa insult her.
“Ai-san, you need to be a little more sensitive to our trainers,” I said.
“And you need to take these experiments more seriously! Calling your test subjects by name personalizes your feelings for them, clouding your judgment when we analyze the results. Trainer zero-four, get ready to battle zero-eight, no bands!”
As the afternoon went on, Aizawa and I observed five battles. They all showed the same result: once the band came off, the pokémon was easily defeated by the normal pokémon that had been training without it. The fifteen new test subjects started whispering to each other and walked away once the battles were over. I was not expecting them to return after seeing those results.
“No!” Aizawa said, denying the results. “There must be at least one pokémon with the band that gives us the results we need!”
As our veteran test subjects were preparing to leave, Aizawa challenged me to a pokémon battle.
“I will take the band off of my Porygon, just as the others did,” she said. “Trainer zero-two against zero-one, Oda-kun! Now release your pokémon!”
I released my Muk, the pokémon I used for this experiment. Muk generally had a clear disadvantage against Porygon anyway, considering that Ai-san’s pokémon can convert to any type in order to counter Muk’s attacks; not to mention use psybeam, an attack that has incredible power against Muk.
“Make your move, Ai-san!”
“Porygon, finish off your opponent with a psybeam, one shot as always!”
Porygon used a lot of energy to release a the attack from its snout.
“Muk, minimize yourself to avoid direct damage!”
Muk shrunk himself and slithered closer to Porygon. As Porygon fired the psybeam, Muk dodged it immediately.
“Good, now use sludge,” I said
Muk emerged from behind the Porygon and grabbed the opponent.
“No, Porygon!” cried Ai-san. “Convert to a ground type!”
The Porygon slowly changed its shape and color to match a certain pokémon type, but turned green rather than brown. Green was the color associated with grass pokémon, and were no match for poison attacks. Muk covered Porygon in sludge, forcing Aizawa’s pokémon to faint. Once again, the experiment proved that a banded pokémon had lost without the device.
Ai-san and I returned our pokémon. The veteran trainers were not surprised, but still stood by to watch. I could not let this matter go.
“You are all dismissed from this experiment,” I said. “Please return the bands to me by tomorrow morning. If you decide to quit being part of Project Sakura in the future, I will not stop you.”
The five trainers with the bands on their pokémon returned them to me immediately without hesitation. I did not see any of them at all since.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“But Oda-kun, why are we giving up so quickly?” asked my assistant. “We’ve come so far in our experimentation. We’ve already proven that the band works.”
“Yes, we have,” I responded. “But you saw for yourself, once the band came off, the pokémon lost all of their strength to fight, as if none of the training with the band mattered at all. This does not prove anything about a pokémon’s loyalty for their trainers.”
“So let’s go ahead and make a fourth prototype then. We’ll start over from scratch.”
“We’ve lost all of our test subjects in one day, Ai-san. We can’t get those relationships and our reputation back.”
“Then we’ll just recruit new trainers who don’t know what Project Sakura is yet.”
I slammed my hands on the desk in the lab.
“It’s over, Ai-san! Project Sakura is a failure!”
I handed my assistant a letter I received from Prof. Sycamore, our adviser. She glanced over it in shock.
“He’s removing our funds for the project? But we worked so hard on this! Oda-kun, you’re not going to try and protest?”
“Ai-san, you’ve been at the university for almost two years now as a doctoral student, as I approach four years myself. You should know by now that projects can’t be done without the financial support of the university. We don’t have the sufficient results from Project Sakura anyway. Let’s work on something else now.”
Ai-san crumpled up the letter and threw it at my face. She had tears in her eyes under her glasses.
“What would your Sakura think if you told her you let go of her project? You’re a spineless bastard, Oda-kun!”
Ai-san stormed out of the lab early that day. I finished brainstorming my next project on my own.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After that meeting, Kanon Aizawa resigned as my assistant at the university and began doing her own project. About a year later, I started compiling all of my research for my final dissertation: The Psychological Compatibility of Pokémon and Their Trainers. I made a brief reference to Project Sakura in my presentation, but it was not intended to be part of my main thesis.
Around this time, Prof. Ebon in the Special Investigations Department had been looking into the activities of a certain doctoral student at our university, Kanon Aizawa. Apparently she had been experimenting on wild pokémon, killing many of them, without reporting it to her supervisors. Of course, I was not directly involved with these reports, because I no longer worked in the Special Investigations Department.
Aizawa was held at a hearing among the Board of Professors in Pokémon Studies, a joint authority of the executive pokémon professors from various schools worldwide who controlled the activities of pokémon academia. She was found guilty of her charges and was forced to leave the school immediately. After that, Aizawa went into hiding and I would not see her again for quite some time.
I graduated from the University of Pokémon Studies in Saffron City with a PhD about a year ago, when all these events unfolded. Since then, I have been working on my own research as an adjunct professor in Celadon City. I left on an expedition to the Unova region for collecting some more research about four months ago.
And in that time, I met Kanon Aizawa once again, to see the monster she has become.