Fuschia City – Late Morning 
The photograph was crumpled, torn and water-damaged to leave the individuals it captured fading away into a growing, ugly smear of pale-gray. Much like Elm’s memory, the faces of his loved ones were again slipping away. It wasn’t even a good photo. His wife’s attention was elsewhere while his daughter, goodness she was young in this one, was caught mid-sentence in a particularly unflattering expression. It had been taken by a family friend, and of course Elm himself wasn’t in the shot – no surprises there.
Pangs of regret pierced his chest. He no longer remembered what they were doing that day, or where they had gone. He wouldn't be surprised if it were Olivine. He remembered the beaches there.
It was where he'd met his wife to start with.I should have gone with them.
But even as he thought it, his stomach squirmed. He would have regretted going if he had. He knew that. The honeymoon period in the lives of himself and his then-dear wife was over so quickly. Before his child was even born, he was beginning to avoid Macy.Yes, but you would have enjoyed your daughter's presence.
This was true. Esme had once had a knack for making even him feel at ease, regardless where his wife may be at the time. This grew ineffectional over time as the rift widened ever so slowly between himself and Macy, but Esme couldn't be much older than six or seven in this photo, if he judged it based on height. There were still occasionally pleasant times between all three of them, at that point. And if he had gone, he would have had that much more time to spend with his little girl. Now it was doubtful he would ever even see her again.
He had tried to be a good father despite his work and his terrible marriage. He had, in a sense, been a father to a total of four
children. Esme, Gold, Lyra, Kris...
Where no one had looked after the other three children, he tried to step up. And for Gold, Lyra, and Kris, this had proved easier than with his own daughter. They loved the lab. Gold was easily distracted with shiny things and with his own pokemon, who could keep the boy from trouble, as well as "Would you like to see something really cool?"
followed by something probably a little flammable, maybe colorful, and most definitely cool. And as for the girls, they proved to be unbelievably helpful. Kris, Kris; she could have gone on to be the regional Professor herself, someday...
But Esme... his dear Esme... her interests aligned with his on many, many things, but not science. She adored science fiction, and was fascinated by some real science, but ultimately, she had no desire to pursue it in depth. And that was fine. He had never begrudged the girl that. But whenever his obsessions spiked and the lure of discovery and progression kept him working all hours of the day, and night, and his wife got into her moods, and it was easier to stay out of her way and absorb himself in what he enjoyed rather than potentially endure her presence...
It all kept him from her. He had allowed that.
Elm had abandoned her on an emotional level; it was only inevitable that they’d both abandoned him in turn when evacuations were underway. Only fair.But
, his memory pointed out, Esme hadn't wanted to. She begged you to go with them. You kept telling her that you were so close to a cure. 'Just a little longer.'
Professor Elm visibly flinched at the memory, guilt-stricken. Yes, he had deserved to be abandoned. He had never felt angry or resentful over that fact. But he had still forced upon his daughter a situation where she had to choose which parent to stay with, and that was... inexcusable.
The man, gaunt from the weeks isolated in the wilderness, had hoisted himself into a tree and sat uncomfortably on an outstretched branch. He wasn’t far from the ground. It had taken almost half an hour to reach his current position and by the time he’d gotten there vertigo had started to kick in. For the sake of his already precarious health, the professor had nestled close to the tree trunk and distracted himself with the only surviving memento of a life he’d truly missed out on. On reflection, it wasn’t one of his better ideas.
Sufficiently miserable, Elm hurriedly tucked the photograph into his shirt pocket and rested his head against the coarse trunk. Yet a series of nearby shots was quick to inject a dose of fear into the professor’s veins, rudely plunging him back into reality as he struggled to keep his balance on the branch.
His heart was pounding in his ears; once-dulled eyes now alighted with an intense panic as they desperately scanned the immediate area. It was dead. There was no movement, no further indication of life as the gunfire fell back to that tormenting silence. For a moment, Elm was convinced he had imagined it. “S-surely not…”
He muttered to himself, voice shaky as he persuaded himself that he wasn’t going mad.
It took a further few minutes of internal argument before the professor summoned the courage to investigate, confident of the sound’s direction as he hesitantly, and somewhat reluctantly, slipped from his perch. Stolen boots hit the ground with a light thud, Elm’s slim arms extended in a bid to catch his balance upon landing. Surprisingly, he was successful in the descent.
He searched for one of three pokeballs at his hip, fingers wrapping about his target as he proceeded to release a sharp-eyed Typhlosion. The fire-type, whilst towering over the shaken professor, was perfectly harmless... to Elm. Though she smiled at him gently and nudged her head against his, he knew the power she could weild; she was more than capable of holding her own in battle.
But Elm liked to think that such violence wouldn’t be necessary. Undead couldn’t operate firearms. Only one species were capable of handling such monstrous creations. It was irrational to feel fear when there was opportunity to meet one of his own kind, a human survivor.“Hey, Pele.”
Elm was instantly eased by the presence of the pokémon, raising a hand in which the creature reassuringly butted against in an act of camaraderie. It coaxed out a shy smile. Elm, instilled with a temporary sense of comfort, heaved his satchel onto his shoulder and tentatively felt for the handle of his gun. It was icy to the touch, biting at the man’s palm as he held it before his haggard face. “Come on, th-then.”
With the bulky Typhlosion following his every move, Elm slowly made his way towards the city’s centre, gun in hand. The professor was trembling again, a recurring trait that he’d picked up in the weeks following the shipwreck as the earthy terrain turned to manmade streets. His boots made an unwelcome clack against the pavement, sounding louder in the man’s head as he quickened his pace to match his unsteady breathing. The fire-type gave an uneasy growl behind him, falling to a halt with eyes turned towards the flicker of a flame. Elm followed the creature’s stare, swallowing hard as he forced himself to approach.Charizard.
It immediately triggered alarm bells, Elm stopping dead in his tracks and tightening his grip on the firearm. No one could deny the power of such creatures and he had absolutely no intention of reminding himself of their capabilities. But the dragon showed no telltale signs of infection, instead standing rigid until another figure came into vision.“It can’t be…”
It was a man, young and adorned in military-style clothing. Elm’s fear was stifled at the sight, a sense of relief washing over him in cool waves to quell the fire of internal panic. He acted on impulse, the desperation not to return to a life of isolation dictating his rash actions.“Wait!”
Elm shouted, the alarm returning now that the stranger was perched atop his pokémon, apparently ready to depart. He stumbled forward, tripping over his own feet with arms raised to both seek attention and indicate his submission. Even with the gun hanging limp from his hand, Elm was no threat. On the rare occasion he found the courage to use the damn thing, it took a genuine miracle for him to actually hit something. “Please! Please don’t go!”