Oct 16th, 2012
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  1. Coward
  2. A story by Spiffy
  4. When I was younger, the thought of difficulty in games terrified me. I wasn’t scared of the monster under the bed, that could never happen, but something could actually be too hard for an 8-year-old to handle. So when I made it through Victory Road in my copy of Pokemon Blue and saved in front of the Pokemon League, with warnings of the incredibly strong Pokemon ringing in my ears, I was eager for anything to soothe my nerves.
  6. Nintendo loved to tease people with the supposedly unobtainable Mew - powerful and cute. Since I wanted to catch ‘em all like the games challenged me to, I bought a Gameshark shortly after getting Blue. After I used it to catch the adorable kitty, I also fell in love with its ability to make the game do as I please. With the specters of Elite 4 looming on the horizon, I did what panicking Gameshark users do best - I looked for codes. One was right up my alley. Here’s what it said:
  9. Really easy time beating the elite four:
  10. 0124d8cf
  11. 01017ccf This will cause the elite four’s pokemon disappear and each one will be only a wild oddish at level zero and you can either catch it or you can run and it will appear as if you beat that person.
  14. I copied the code into my Gameshark and loaded my game, eager to get rid of the burden called the Elite 4.
  16. The game started up normally. I directed my player character to Indigo Plateau with a song in my heart, and within a few seconds, I was staring down Lorelei. I tapped A, hands shaking from anticipation as the battle animation began.
  18. “Wild PIDGEY appeared!”
  20. First of all, the poster of that code was either lying or stupid. Second, its sprite was a glitchy box, like when using Gameshark codes to encounter any Pokemon (how did I not notice?!). I wasn’t complaining, though. It was at level 0, and that was what I cared about. I dispatched the bird with my Blastoise, who gained 0 experience points for his effort. When I went back to the overworld, that’s when the problems started.
  22. Lorelei wasn’t reciting her congratulatory speech. Strange. Thanks to reading Pokemon: Pathways To Adventure, I knew she was supposed to warn the player that they were only getting their feet wet. Since I was holding down the up direction on the D-pad, I almost went into Bruno’s room before I noticed something else odd: she wasn’t there. Apathetic kid that I was, I continued on.
  24. I beat 4 more glitchy Pidgeys, making Bruno, Agatha, Lance, and Gary disappear. Professor Oak came and gushed about how good I was, without mentioning his vanished grandson, the elephant in the room.
  26. The credits rolled without anything strange happening, but the nonstandard behavior made me feel unnerved instead of relieved. Regardless, it was bedtime, so I went to sleep.
  28. —-
  30. I dreamed that I snuck out of bed at midnight and picked up my Gameboy for some after-hours gaming, which wasn’t something I did every day. Maybe go catch another Mew for my friends? However, when I switched it on, instead of the little “ding” it plays when it boots up, I heard, in a quiet but icy female voice,
  32. “Coward!”
  34. I dropped the Gameboy and squeaked as loud as my throat allowed me to, not willing to wake up anyone else in the house. After running in the corner and listening for any intruders, I was convinced of my safety and picked up the Gameboy again.
  36. It was at the title screen, with Ash showing off his Pokemon, one by one. Nothing out of the ordinary. I pressed A three times to rush into my save file.
  38. Instead of seeing my player character sitting in front of the door of his house in Pallet Town, the screen was black. At the bottom, there was a white text box with an ellipsis in it. I rapidly tapped both the A and B buttons, but nothing worked, at least, until it started moving on its own.
  40. COWARD…
  50. I looked behind me, and saw the pixellated ghosts of the Elite 4 and Gary, faces burning with anger. I couldn’t scream due to my throat muscles tightening, but my teeth began to chatter.
  52. Gary was the first to accuse me, his yin-yang necklace replaced by a small skull necklace.
  54. “We beat you fair and square, before you even stepped into Lorelei’s room. You were too scared to challenge us, and your victory was a hollow and immoral one!”
  56. My throat loosened up enough for me to sob, “I DIDN’T KNOW!” Fear was sucking at me like a Golbat sucking my blood.
  58. Cape billowing around him like a vampire’s and righteous fury in his eyes, Lance spoke next.
  60. “Your cowardice killed us. Dishonor at its finest. You are not the champion! You are but an usurper!”
  62. “I SAID I DIDN’T KNOW!” They were talking more like Hamlet than Pokemon characters. It was just a game, for Mew’s sake!
  64. Agatha seethed her own accusation, looking just like the mythological Baba Yaga with her gnarled staff and hateful grimace.
  66. “Pokemon is not supposed to be like that! Gary was cold to his Pokemon, but at least he respected the rules!”
  68. “I DIDN’T KNOW!” Did they mean that those annoying people on the internet who got mad at anyone who cheated actually had to be obeyed? But I hadn’t heard of this happening to a fellow cheater before! Why was I so special?
  70. Bruno, with a tattered black belt, didn’t say much. He seemed more sad than angry.
  72. “Cheating may get you to the top, but it will never keep you there. Guilt is its own punishment, and will drag you down no matter what you do.”
  74. “I DIDN’T KNOW!” I knew damn well that I cheated, but not that it would kill people!
  76. Lorelei was the last, looking normal, but with the harshest words.
  78. “I cannot believe you killed us just to make a game easier for yourself! Would you do that to a sibling?”
  80. “I DIDN’T KNOW! I DIDN’T KNOW! I DIDN’T KNOW!” Her hypothetical just made me feel worse. I was not a bad girl. I wouldn’t harm anyone, even if they harmed me! I was told two wrongs didn’t make a right. But why was my honesty not being met with forgiveness?
  82. “You mean, you didn’t think!” said Lance. “You should’ve considered what cheating could do!”
  84. I hugged my Gameboy to my chest as if it was a lifesaver. “But it’s just a game! And even if it wasn’t, it’s not like anyone told me there were real people in it! I didn’t know!”
  86. For a few minutes, they just floated there. Then as they faded away, Gary scowled:
  88. “We know what you did, never forget that.”
  90. —-
  92. I woke up to a sweat-soaked bed, panic clenching my stomach. The nightmare fresh in my mind, I immediately grabbed my Gameboy and turned it on.
  94. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Squirtle showed up at the title screen, my little sprite looked like it should have, and I was safe in Pallet Town. After healing my Pokemon, I flew to Viridian City to check out the Pokemon in my boxes. Nothing changed.
  96. When I was just about ready to exit out of my PC, I noticed a new entry. PKMN LEAGUE. I selected it, eager to see what was in store. Supposedly, it was a record of the Pokemon you used to beat the Elite 4.
  98. “Accessed POKEMON LEAGUE’s site. Accessed the HALL OF FAME List.”
  100. What was in store was nothing I would’ve wanted to show off to my friends.
  102. Instead of seeing my proud Blastoise, there was a creature with no sprite. Named “x 3x” with a glitchy block at the end, at level 223, types Bird and Normal. The bubbly, cheery Pokemon Center music contrasted jarringly with the bizarre graphics.
  104. How did Missingno sneak into my Hall of Fame? Eager to see my Pokemon, I pressed A.
  106. Where “HALL OF FAME No 1” was, the letter “C” popped up. Bleh, I just want to see my Pokemon! A again.
  108. Next up was a Poliwag. One step above the previous, at least. It was a Water type like Mew intended, but it was at level 103, and named a long string of glitchy symbols. Creepy single-tone music played in the background, which I thought sounded like the Lavender Town theme with no melody. I was getting impatient, A?
  110. In response to my pun, the game spit out “O” in a manner similar to the “C”.
  112. Number 3 was a properly typed and sprited Rattata, but at level 102 and with yet another glitchy name-except this one had “TRAINER” in it. Non-glitchy music began playing again, the ditty that played when you went to Lavender from Vermilion City. Another letter popped up, this time a “W”.
  114. The next entry was a mess! Its name was a glitch, at level 102 like the Rattata, but this was Normal and Flying. And this beast didn’t have a proper sprite-it was like someone had taken a few blocky jigsaw puzzles of the Bulbasaur sprite and scattered them so that they were at the height of a trainer. Echoing in the background was something that sounded vaguely like a one-track “Silent Night”. And it was a mockingbird-I pressed A, and it tweeted back “A”.
  116. Entry 5 was a glitchier version of 1. This was apparently also invisible, but it had a period where its name should’ve been and was at level 48. Type 1 was Fighting, but Type 2 was a line of numbers and letters and glitch stretching out almost to the horizontal edge of the screen. Under the HALL OF FAME text, similar glitchy text filled up most of the box. If the background music was to be believed, it was evolving. The “R” was the first letter I could actually make out.
  118. Then I arrived in Fuchsia City. The last “Pokemon” was a plain old Tentacruel, except for the glitchy name. Even at its realistic level of 34, however, it unnerved me more than the others had. Tentacruel’s sprite in Red and Blue is it standing, looking angry, crossing two of its tentacles like arms. The HALL OF FAME danced its final bow, leaving me with a “D”.
  120. Oh! It spelled “COWARD”! Wait…
  122. I had almost forgotten about the dream, and even the music was a little comforting. But the nightmare came back at me full force, and as I shuddered, I smashed the B button in a feeble attempt to escape. The game did not obey, and instead shifted to a white screen, with “COWARD” printed in the middle.
  124. “B B B B B!”
  126. Every time I pressed B, “COWARD” grew bigger. Exasperated and afraid, I tried pressing A instead, but that only made another word appear in the middle of the screen.
  128. “CHEATER”
  130. Whatever buttons I pressed, both words grew bigger, and eventually, they ballooned on their own. Finally, when “COWARD” was too big to be seen, and “CHEATER” was filling the entire screen, it flashed to “MURDERER” as the game shut off, leaving a freaked out little girl in its wake.
  132. I felt my blood run cold. Was I really a murderer? I was certainly a cheater. Was cheating actually wrong, if it could do things like this? Were the Elite 4 as real as I was? Was I going to end up like Sid in Toy Story, a few scary experiences denying him a normal life because nobody told him his toys were conscious?
  134. Wait.
  136. It’s not like the Elite 4 warned me that they were alive. They just assumed that I would know. If something is not allowed, there is a law against it. Because laws, I heard in school, were made to protect people. Punishment was used to reform criminals so they didn’t commit crimes again. But as I saw in school, the troublemakers made trouble, and they were punished, but as soon as the punishment was over (or even as it was in progress!), they were up to their old tricks again.
  138. I didn’t understand how scaring me would make me more likely to not cheat. Playing Pokemon without cheating was like coloring with only the primary colors. Gameshark was useful and fun, because I wanted things the game was designed to not cough up without one, and it made the game more pleasant and easy. And this time, because I was scared. They knew that my being scared made me use the code, that’s why they called me a coward. But the other codes didn’t harm them, I used them to get good Pokemon, moves, and items.
  140. They could scare me all they wanted, but that wouldn’t stop me from craving the extra color the Gameshark brought into my games.
  142. I got an idea.
  144. If I was already having visions of supposedly imaginary enemies, wasn’t I entitled to supposedly imaginary friends?
  146. That night, before I went to bed, I started talking to my Pokemon while holding my Gameboy. Quietly, of course - a parent overhearing my one-sided conversation could engage me in some awkward two-sided conversations.
  148. “Hey Squirty, hey Zapper, hey Techno, hey Psycher, hey Mia, hey Spiky?” Respectively, my Blastoise, Jolteon, Porygon, Mewtwo, Mew, and Gengar. All were at level 100, from both natural training and Rare Candies. Not that it made me less scared then, but now…
  150. “I don’t feel safe going to sleep tonight, the Elite 4 say I’ve killed them, did you see? If you guys can understand what I’m saying, join me in my dreams, please. I didn’t mean to harm the Elite 4, I just wanted an easier time, because everyone said they were gonna be really hard! If I had known they would die, I wouldn’t have…”
  152. Right then, I fell asleep.
  154. —-
  156. Sure enough, I dreamed that I wanted some early A.M. Pokemon time. With my usual tenacity, I reached for the Gameboy, only to shout “WHAT!?” in surprise when I saw a familiar shape reflected in the mirror.
  158. “Don’t be afraid, it’s me, your Gengar!”
  160. Spiky was floating in front of my TV, looking a little worried but relieved that I noticed him. He floated closer to me, concern in his eyes.
  162. “Hello there. You should know, the Elite 4 aren’t dead. They’re as alive as we are.”
  164. “I didn’t think it would actually…How did you…What!? But why did they tell me I killed them? What about the glitches?” I inquired frantically.
  166. Spiky sighed and frowned, which in another situation might’ve looked funny. “Each ghost you saw last night was a manifestation of the dark side of a member of the Elite 4. Because they want to be as good as possible, they suppress their negative emotions, and since Agatha has some mishaps when working as a channeler, the emotions become…those things. They bother people who can be scared easily, because it gives them energy. They’re used to having kids your age be scared of them, and in the process, respecting and obeying them. So when someone comes along and treats them like obstacles and not superiors, their doubles become angry. If you don’t do things their way, they think it’s worse than murder. So they try to break you into the same mold.”
  168. “So Spiky…how am I going to stop them from bugging me?”
  170. “You know how you were apologizing because they said you killed them?”
  172. “Yes…” Frantically feeding an apology to some raving offended person to make them stop being scary was standard practice for me, especially if I was honestly sorry.
  174. “Since they were only playing dead, you take that back. Now that you know the truth, you’re not sorry. They should be sorry, for scaring an already-scared kid out of her wits, just for a power trip! They took advantage of your desire to be good and your fear to make you feel guilty. Guilty people are easier to control. But you have an advantage.”
  176. “What could it possibly be? I get scared at the tiniest things!”
  178. “But even if you’re very scared, when you want something, you REALLY want it! Remember that time when you were scared of having to fight all of the trainers east of Pewter City?” Spiky looked up at the ceiling, as if contemplating something.
  180. “Yeah.”
  182. “You also wanted to go farther than Pewter City, to all the other places. So when you heard that you had to defeat the trainers to get to Mt. Moon, you buckled down and beat them, one by one. It wasn’t so hard, you thought, and you were tired of being stuck with just one Gym Badge.”
  184. “I just wanted to get ahead in the game!”
  186. “Exactly!” He smiled, looking like a normal Gengar again. “You wanted something more than you feared another thing, the thing blocking you from it. When it’s in the way of something you want, the reward of avoiding fear is mere relief at best, and more fear at worst. Even if you believed the Elites to be utterly right, you’d still want to get more TMs to try another moveset on Psycher or me, or make another Mew for your friends. Without your desire, you wouldn’t have contacted us. You’d be too scared of taking advice from anyone but the Elites.”
  188. All of this was making me feel a lot better, like Spiky had used a Full Restore on me. Fear of the doppelganger Elites evolved into…hatred. They were smacking me around for something I couldn’t change, my desire to cheat in games. Even if it was changeable (as it seemed to be for most people, from what Spiky told me), I wasn’t harming anyone, though they would have me believe otherwise. Bullying people over differences in playing a game…how sickening!
  190. “I like the sound of that. But how do I get the Elites to understand?”
  192. “You can’t do that. The Elites themselves understand, but not their dark sides, who probably wouldn’t care even if they understood, as long as they get their meal of fear. What you should focus on is getting them off of your back. Stand up to them, say exactly what you think about what they’re doing. If you show fear, you’re encouraging them. When you apologized to them, you were basically telling them there was a chance of you being bent to their will.”
  194. I put what I thought were 2 and 2 together with a shiver. “So they’re gonna bug me as long as they think I COULD obey them?”
  196. Spiky reached out with his stubby arm and started stroking my hand in a comforting gesture. “Don’t worry. As long as you speak like you believe in what you’re saying and won’t back down, they’ll stop trying to control you with lies. They should know better than to try to take blood from a stone.”
  198. “Good, good. But what should I say to them?”
  200. “Think of how you can’t follow both of their instructions. They called you both a coward and a cheater. If you decide to stop cheating, not only will you constantly want to cheat again, but you will also be giving into fear - if it weren’t for the Elites putting on their little horror show, you wouldn’t do it. You’d still be a coward, and they would remind you of it regularly. But if you don’t act on your fear of them, you’re going to naturally enjoy yourself and ignore their threats, by continuing to use codes! Your own nature determines that you have to be one or the other.”
  202. “I choose cheater!”
  204. By means of his eyes, Spiky smiled wider. “When the Elites bite, bite back. Deny them what they think they deserve, and watch them devolve from Gyarados to Magikarp.”
  206. “Wait! First, hear me out!” I heard a squeaky, but masculine voice from under the bed. A few seconds later, a Pikachu jumped up onto my bed. “It’s me, Pikoo!”
  208. “Oh! Nice to see you!” I reached out to pet him on the head.
  210. Pikoo stood up, trying to look serious, but he just looked cute. “I am sad to say I must disagree with what Spiky is telling you. I’m all for being brave, but you don’t want to do anything too risky!”
  212. “Risky?”
  214. “Don’t you remember reading? If you use too much Gameshark, you’ll risk corrupting your save file! You, as our trainer, have a responsibility to keep us safe!” He gave me the famous “puppy-dog eyes” to accentuate his point.
  216. “The rumors were true?” I scratched my head in confusion.
  218. “Yes they are! That guy in school who you sit next to, he cheated as much as you do, and he had to start all over from Pallet Town.” Pikoo looked half scared, and half angry. “But his dad was smart, and took away his Gameshark.”
  220. “Wait…I remember what happened that day. He cheated, but the save was deleted when the lid of his desk slammed on the game by accident.” About that time, something started to feel off, and not just Pikoo’s fear. “I tried to tell his dad what actually happened, but he didn’t listen…” Remembering that made me feel sick and a little angry. “Look, Pikoo, you may be scared, but I’m still going to cheat, it’s safe, and…”
  222. I stopped. Right then, I remembered something. I thought of Pikoo as a girl, like me. This Pikachu was speaking with a male voice. Also, it was unusually nasally…
  224. “You’re not Pikoo! Who are you?!”
  226. The Pikachu went wide-eyed, and disappeared in a pillar of smoke. Soon, Gary was leering down at me with all of his teeth exposed, probably embarrassed that his cover was blown by a kid, and looking hungry to get back at me.
  228. “Then don’t stop cheating because it’ll delete your save file. Stop cheating, because WE’LL delete your save file!” He gestured to the ceiling, and a gray cloud formed in the other side of the room. A thunderbolt leaped out and shattered my lamp as the cloud dissolved, sending the glass flying all across the room. My head reeling, I shifted from side to side to dodge the bits of glass, which bounced off the wall, went through Spiky, and landed on the floor near my dresser.
  230. Spiky readied his own Thunderbolt, only for Gary to mockingly wave goodbye and vanish, leaving an eerie silence in his wake.
  232. “That was scary!” I winced as my stomach finished a back flip.
  234. Spiky frowned. “Just remember, they’re wrong, especially if they’re trying to scare you because you asked for help.”
  236. I may have known Gary was wrong, but that didn’t stop me from twitching. Still, it felt good to be comforted.
  238. “Now you’re gonna wake up, so catch you later…” Spiky sincerely waved goodbye, his wide grin looking gentle and not menacing, in an ironic contrast with my other visitor.
  240. With that, the dream faded out, and I was lying in my real bed, the sun shining through the window, with a sick stomach, but an emboldened heart.
  242. —-
  244. I was ready to show the Elites that I wasn’t going to take it. A coward they wanted, a coward they wouldn’t get!
  246. Quicker than you can say 0115d8cf, I filled Box 6 with Mews, all caught with Master Balls thanks to 01017ccf. Each Mew was given outlandish movesets. One knew Growl, Sing, Screech, and Metronome (a musician in the making?) but had the OT of LINKE and a Trainer ID of 45013. Legendaries decided to clone themselves and challenge me, and the Gym Leaders happily rematched me…at least, until I stole their Pokemon. With 010138CD, I walked through enough walls to make a Tibetan monk jealous. Not even the music was safe, and I pumped up the volume so I could dance to each of the secret tracks. Each code I used made me giggle even more, and pretty soon I had to hold my nose to keep from exploding with laughter.
  248. Not even my other game was safe! Pokemon TCG for GB never coughed up enough of the special Articunos for my taste, so I got enough to have four in all of my decks, and I had enough Mewtwos and Gengars to make an army of them! I also eventually got more Mews than I could shake a fistful of catnip at, by which time it was 10 PM, and the glow of the computer monitor became hypnotizing enough that I forced myself into bed.
  250. —-
  252. Next thing I remember, I was on the road to the Pokemon League, the one with the simple statue maze. I mean, I was actually there, I wasn’t playing the game. The Rhydon statues were much larger than I assumed - they looked to be about 2 meters high, as tall as a Mewtwo.
  254. Staring at the statues, I noticed a weight upon my back. It only took one look downwards to see two red and white straps, revealing that I wore a backpack, which I set down on the ground. Inside the front pocket, there was a PokeDex. I pressed the button, and it said:
  256. “I am Calvin. A PokeDex programed by Professor Samuel Oak for Pokemon Trainer Zack of Pallet Town. My function is to provide information about Pokemon species and their habitats. If lost or stolen I cannot be replaced.”
  258. Zack was the name of my player character in Blue, since I wasn’t a boy and it was in the days before Crystal. Realization dawned upon me - I was in the role of my in-game avatar!
  260. Looking in the main pocket of my backpack, I found a Rare Candy, a Full Restore, a Max Revive, a Full Heal, and a Max Elixir, all with “x99” printed on their various casings.
  262. Oh, oh, I get it. They probably regenerate, because there’s no other way 99 of all of those items would fit, I thought. But I need to test them-
  264. “POM!”
  266. One flash of LED-shaded red later, I was facing my Mewtwo, Psycher, and I realized the statues WERE about 2 meters high. He bowed, his tail stretching out behind him.
  268. <I’ll be happy to help you test. I’ll use Submission on that,> he said via telepathy as he pointed to the statue behind him.
  270. Within seconds, Psycher grabbed the stony Rhydon (as if there’s any other kind) with telekinesis, jumped up in the air a ways away from me, and as he landed, drove the pillar into the ground, reducing it from a 2-meter tall rock monument to a 2-meter wide pile of rocks. He grinned, despite his heavy breathing, and floated back to me.
  272. <Show me your Full Restore!>
  274. I obediently pulled out the medicine and sprayed it on his chest. Within seconds, his breathing became normal, and the 99 on the Full Restore turned into a 98.
  276. “Wait, what? Woah.”
  278. <You’re in the world of a game, silly, of course things will seem weird!> Psycher snickered as he teleported the rocks to a dead end in the maze. <And something else. Check your belt.>
  280. I didn’t even notice I had a belt on, but sure enough, I had one, with three Poke Balls, two Master Balls, one Great Ball, and a strange black device clipped on. Never one to leave an intriguing device unexamined, I pulled it off and took a look at it.
  282. It looked like this:
  283. _____________________
  284. | ON/OFF|
  285. | |—————————————————| |
  286. | | | |
  287. | |_________________| |
  288. | |
  289. | A B C D E F ENTER |
  290. | 0 1 2 3 4 5 /\ |
  291. | 6 7 8 9 < > |
  292. | \/ |
  293. |_____________________|
  295. <That’s your Gameshark! Press ENTER to activate a code.>
  297. Mentioning Gameshark brought me to another subject. “Speaking of codes, where are we gonna find the Elites?”
  299. Psycher’s expression turned grim, making him look like most illustrated Mewtwos. <They’re in the League.>
  301. “Then let’s go!”
  303. It’s harder to solve that maze when you’re not looking at it from a bird’s eye view, but I got through it, and bolted into the Pokemon League building. Only there was no Nurse Joy, no shopkeeper, no one but me and Psycher.
  305. “Huh?”
  307. <I don’t understand it either.> Psycher looked like someone had replaced his Master Ball with a cage.
  309. “Here goes,” I said, quieter than I intended. Psycher walked ahead of me and I followed. He thoughtfully held open the door for me with telekinesis, and we entered Lorelei’s room, which had a long bridge stretching to the next door, a platform near said door, and water everywhere else. Otherwise, there was nothing, much to Psycher’s surprise.
  311. There was no going back, though, and we went through the statue-dotted room of Bruno, the tomb of Agatha, and the grand hallway of Lance before entering the Champion’s simple room and seeing all 5 of my tormentors, their faces locked in cold frowns. Taking a deep breath, I took a stand.
  313. “You hurt me.”
  315. Gary walked away from the group, closer to me.
  317. “Good. But you didn’t learn your lesson, so it was not enough.”
  319. “What lesson?” Mew help me, in a moment of weakness brought on by tension, I thought he actually had something worthwhile to say.
  321. “You didn’t learn to play the game as it was meant to be played!” Gary stamped his foot down. “Instead, you just cheated even more! Now we know that you cannot learn your lesson, and you will always be unworthy of your Pokemon. Even if they are unnatural products of the Gameshark you used, at least they deserve to be put out of their misery…”
  323. Psycher reacted about as pleasantly as one would expect him to react. <I am not miserable because of the Gameshark! I’m feeling miserable all right, miserable because of what you stuck-ups are doing to me and my master, who you convinced was a murderer for not obeying your stupid rules!>
  325. “As to be expected of the conditioned spawn of cheats,” Lorelei hissed. “Come with us, and we will bring you to a sort of sanity, though you will never be as sane as a natural born Pokemon.”
  327. Did she just ask Psycher to leave me? Outrageous! Insulting! All of a sudden, my nervousness gave way to anger and confidence.
  329. “Why didn’t you tell me that codes could kill you? Did you want to die, but changed your mind?” I pulled the hanging thread of their web of lies.
  331. “Because children like you need to be taught the consequences of their actions!” Agatha stepped out closer to me, perfectly looking the part of the grumpy schoolmarm. “You can’t just do those sorts of things and expect to not have to suffer!”
  333. “Not everyone thinks cheating in games is wrong just because you do! You don’t have to be a bad guy to use cheats! And if they harmed you and you knew they could, why didn’t you try to protect yourself and warn me when I got my Gameshark?”
  335. My face must’ve been broadcasting my emotions, because Agatha blinked in shock for a nanosecond, and I could’ve sworn Gary winced. They must’ve been so convinced that their spooking me would silence all thoughts but those of obedience, I would never wonder if they were suicidal.
  337. “Whether the consequences are natural or not,” Lance huffed, “you have to be pushed onto the straight and narrow path, by whatever means necessary.”
  339. “You hate my Pokemon for being unnatural, but make unnatural consequences for my cheating?”
  341. “Enough, child!” Agatha bellowed. “Submit to your punishment!”
  343. The evil ghostly Elite 4 threw all of their Poke Balls onto the ground in unison, showing me all 27 of their combined Pokemon, and not a Pidgey in sight.
  345. “This is karma, you see.” Lance put away his Poke Balls. “What goes around, comes around! Since you didn’t play fair, we won’t either. See how you like it!”
  347. “PSYCHER! PSYCHER! WHAT DO I DO?” I screamed as I dodged a Gyarados’ Bite, who fell victim to the former’s crackling Thunderbolt.
  349. <Keep as calm as you can!> he shouted back so that only I could hear, but so fast I could barely understand. <I read your mind, and there’s a part that remembers all of the codes you read. Enter the codes I tell you into your Gameshark. Roger?>
  351. “Roger!” I shouted, which must’ve made me look crazy to the Elites, though not as crazy as the expressions of the two Gengars that fell to two Psychics.
  353. <Careful! The first code is 01FFD6CF! Makes my attacks always hit!>
  355. I punched in the string of numbers and letters like it was a combo in a fighting game as I jumped out of the way of a would-be Solar Beam, would-be because a Blizzard hit the Venasaur right before it was shot at me.
  357. <01282DD0! Infinite PP for my first move!>
  359. “ZERO-ONE-TWO-EIGHT-TWO-D-D-ZERO!” I couldn’t help sounding it out loud.
  361. “Have you gone mad with fear, little girl? Screeching your precious cheats won’t save you now. Don’t fret, it will be over soon.” Lorelei sneered a command to her friendly-looking Slowbro, who fired a not-so-friendly Water Gun at my leg, which felt like someone held an open fire hose right up to it. I stumbled to the ground and rubbed my leg in hopes of soothing the pain.
  363. The Slowbro was hit with an even less friendly Thunderbolt, and an enraged Psycher gave me a residual glare as he teleported in front of me.
  365. <Stay there. I can survive now just fine. It WILL be over soon, and we’ll win.>
  367. Several Thunderbolts, many Blizzards, one Submission and a lot of Psychics later, all 27 of the Elite’s Pokemon were lying in the middle of the room in a big pile. I tossed the Full Restore to Psycher, who used it and teleported it back to my backpack.
  369. <As it turns out, she had no reason to fear,> Psycher said, holding his head up high and smirking. <Your Pokemon were weak anyway. Show’s over!>
  371. “You little brat!” Lance reprimanded. In a flash, I was on the ground, with each Elite holding down one of my limbs, and Gary holding down my head. They were shaking me out like a dirty rug, making me feel like I would break apart at the joints or throw up from the physical and emotional stress.
  373. “Maybe you’ll never learn your lesson unless we beat it into you!”
  375. Even knowing these were evil versions of the presumably reasonable Elites, I was still flabbergasted that they would get violent upon being exposed as liars and having their supposed authority disrespected. When guilt failed, they resorted to beating me up for my dastardly deed of disobedience. Just as I was pondering the horror of the revelation that tyrants need no excuse, Psycher tossed the Elites through the air with telekinesis, and they landed with five thuds on the floor against the wall. I, on the other hand, floated gently to the ground, landing on my feet as Psycher squirted my suddenly-floating Full Restore on top of my head, which he returned to my backpack.
  377. <GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF MY MASTER!> he snarled. His eyes glowed red, and he bared his fangs at our enemies.
  379. And to me, privately, as my energy came back to me in a warm rush:
  381. <Time for the big guns. 010C74D1.>
  383. He didn’t need to tell me to type it in so fast my fingers started to hurt. The Elites almost got back to their previous positions, but before they could, they were knocked to the ground, psychic energy immobilizing them so they formed a glowing purple star, their faces twisted in masks of mortal terror.
  385. Gary somehow spoke. “Now…you’re…really…the…vill-“
  387. Maybe I was supposed to take his determination as proof that I was an abomination. But seeing my bogeymen lying helplessly on the ground filled me with heroic resolve and the anticipation of victory, making a poetic - for an 8-year-old - speech tumble out of my mouth.
  389. “NO! Stop! Stop trying to make me feel scared to do what I do. It’s not like it’ll stop me. I’ll cheat again, not just because I want to, but to stop bullies like you! Because I can either stop cheating or stop being scared all the time, and it’s ok to be scared sometimes, but not all the time!” I pointed my finger at Psycher, who was still angry, but smiling a Cheshire Cat grin at my words.
  391. <NOW!> Psycher raised his arms in the air, generating two enormous glowing red blades out of psychic energy. With a movement of his paws, they sliced off the head of Gary, and both the head and its body faded away.
  393. <Your little guilt trip backfired,> Psycher gloated as he decapitated Lance. <If you had left her alone, you would have been free to punish ‘wrongdoers’ another day. But you picked the wrong kid to mess with.>
  395. Honestly, if he wasn’t on my side, Psycher’s display would have scared the shorts off of me. But in light of the actions of his “victims”, I just felt outrageously relieved, happy and safe.
  397. <Call it the law of unintended consequences. You make my master think cheating killed you, but instead of swearing off Gameshark, she finds out the truth, and you actually ARE killed. Ha!> Off went Agatha’s head.
  399. <You punished her for imaginary crimes. I punish you for punishing her.> Bruno looked like he would scream right before he vanished.
  401. Lorelei was the last to be beheaded. <All of you! Never come back! Ever!> he commanded as he sent the ice queen back to where she came from.
  403. With all of the Elites gone, he relaxed, the glow around his eyes changing from red to an almost unnoticeable blue. He floated closer to me, tail wagging slowly.
  405. <Scary, wasn’t I?> Psycher cracked a grin, seeming almost embarrassed.
  407. “Yeah. I wish I could’ve recorded that, so I could show it on Halloween,” I giggled.
  409. <Now when you play Blue, the Elite 4 and your rival should appear and act like they do in all other games. You can even do the Pidgey code again, if you want.>
  411. “Nice.” The Elite 4 weren’t such scarecrows anymore, but it would be fun to beat them like all the other kids did.
  413. <It’s cool how I didn’t need the infinite PP code for Guillotine. 5 PP, 5 Elites, it all worked out beautifully.> He stretched and yawned, the goofy gleam returning to his eyes.
  415. “I thought of that. Do you still want to get Submission back?”
  417. <It’s your choice. I think other moves would be fun. Bubblebeam in particular.> He showed me six tiny red balls of psychic energy at the tips of his fingers, which flew into each other, making a model of a raspberry.
  419. It took a few moments for me to get the visual pun, but I laughed. “Ok. Sounds cool!”
  421. <And just so you know…me and the rest of your Pokemon, we’re here, whenever you need us. Maybe tomorrow night, I can show you the Unknown Dungeon. But now, you got to wake up. It’s a brand new day! See you real soon!> He smiled and gave the best “peace” sign a Mewtwo could give as the dream faded out.
  423. —-
  425. I woke up in my bed, a lazy smile on my face. It felt like I got a full night’s sleep, despite my wild adventure.
  427. Curiosity overwhelming my sleepiness, I grabbed my Gameboy and turned it on. I pushed A repeatedly until I was in the overworld. Even though I last saved in a Pokemon Center, I was in front of my house.
  429. Eager to see how my game had benefited from the exorcism of the crazy Elites, I checked my Hall of Fame. Instead of their vandalism, my team appeared. There was one glitch, though.
  431. Psycher’s sprite looked like the regular Red and Blue Mewtwo sprite, except that he was smiling.
  433. —-
  435. “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.” ~G.K. Chesterton, The Red Angel
  437. (Based very loosely off a true story. The real code turned the Elites into Pidgeys, but the game just acted like I beat them. The Hall of Fame glitches were caused by my encountering but not catching Missingno after I had my cousin beat the Elite 4 for me.)
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