We all know what Pokemon Go is. The nice part about fanfic is that you don't really have to worldbuild by virtue of it being a setting everyone who's likely to read your work knows. But I, being me, can't stay away, so here's my information about the world in which my Pokemon Go fanworks take place. These are also, might I add, basically my headcanons for the literal game. Without further ado, let's start with where the hell people are.
The Vayera Region
The Vayera Region is on the same landmass as Unova and Orre and on the west coast thereof. It's a very long, skinny region that takes up a good portion of the landmass' coastline. The combination of environmental factors means that it's unique among regions on the Greater Unova landmass for having access to almost any biome within itself, with forests, ocean, deserts, and more within a reasonable range. This makes it a great place to study Pokemon distributions and habitats, which is precisely what the Professor Willow lab does.
Pokemon from all discovered regions have been sighted in Vayera. Presumably, those from the Greater Kanto landmass (Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh) moved over during the time when there was a land bridge in between the regions. Pokemon from Orre and Unova are pretty self-explanatory, living on the same landmass. Alolan Pokemon were relatively recently imported courtesy of smuggling themselves in on sea shipments and Kalos, Galar, and Paldea are all known to have sent exploration and colonization missions to the Greater Unova landmass historically, which probably explains how their Pokemon got to Vayera.
As well as its wide variety of natural biomes, Vayera's other most interesting trait is the prevalence of XM or Exotic Matter (yes, from Ingress), also known as animum. No one is quite sure where XM originally came from or why it's more prevalent in Vayera, but the leading consensus is that it's something produced by human consciousness. When enough people are conscious and vibing in a given location, they emanate XM. Given enough time, XM pockets can develop, which explains why XM pockets are more likely to appear at culturally relevant locations, such as historic sites, pieces of art, and places of worship. The converse hypothesis is that XM appeared from another dimension before humans settled the region and that those culturally relevant places were built on top of pre-existing XM pockets because people could sense the power present and attributed it to the supernatural.
Regardless, XM is of substantial scientific interest due to its effects on human and Pokemon physiology and behavior. The prevalence of XM in Vayera led the Niantic Project, a scientific organization studying unusual phenomena, to set up shop in Vayera studying XM. This means that Ingress' lore is canon. I don't play Ingress, so this doesn't really matter, but it's a nice little tidbit. The Professor Willow lab is a collaboration between the Niantic Project, based out of Sanctum City in northern Vayera, and the international Pokemon League authority to study how Pokemon respond to XM, investigating why Pokemon appear more often near XM pockets and whether it can be harnessed to increase their power safely.
In case you couldn't tell, Vayera is Literally Just California in the same vein that Gen 1 Kanto is Literally Just The Kanto Region of Japan. In fact, the Pokemon World in general is the same deal as Gen 1 Kanto, in which it is Literally Just Earth save with Pokemon. Names are different and of course, the presence of Pokemon changed some events, but history and pop culture basically proceeded as they did on the version of Earth you presumably live on. This means that the pop culture references characters make are, in fact, to things that exist in-universe.
Diversions from Pokemon Canon
This is not in the same universe as post-Gen 1 and 2 Pokemon games, the main diversion being that Legendary Pokemon, as far as anyone can tell, are substantially less powerful than they are in Gen 3 and onward canon. There may well be a single divine elemental legendary that legitimately controls that part of nature, but no one's encountered them. The Legendary Pokemon trainers can actually encounter are rare and powerful, but don't have control over any natural forces beyond the normal extent that Pokemon do or any kind of divine powers. They're all capable of reproduction, are mortal, and there's more than one individual of each of them. They're each separate beings, not aspects of some Original Entity.
Because the legendaries are substantially more mundane than in Pokemon canon, villainous team plots involving them couldn't and didn't happen. This means that while all canon regions exist, most of the Pokemon games' plots didn't happen. The only villainous teams that exist are Rocket and Cipher, and what they did proceeded as it did in their canon games, with the original versions of R/B/Y and G/S/C treated as canonical. Ultra Wormholes exist, as does the Aether Foundation, but neither version of Pokemon Sun and Moon's plot happened. As far as anyone knows, Aether isn't evil and is just studying Ultra Beasts. Some aspect of the Ultra Recon Squad exists as well, but all we know about that is that Rhi had to come from somewhere. Canon human characters exist.
On Pokemon Go's official lore and social media pages, events are treated as happening in real time. That's also the case here. Pokemon Go events referenced happened when the in-game events did. Events from games happened in the release year of those games, so Team Rocket's Kanto unit (at least as far as you know) disbanded in 1997, the Johto unit disbanded in 2000, and Shadow Lugia was taken down and Cipher disbanded in 2005. Characters have dates of birth, and they age a year every year on their birthdays, like humans do on Earth.
In reference to Pokemon Go itself, the applications for choosing the team leaders happened throughout spring of 2016, with applications opening in February of that year. The teams were founded and started recruiting trainers other than their admins and team leaders by July 2016, officially opening on July 6th. The team leaders made their first public appearances to trainers other than their admins on July 24, 2016.
Team GO Rocket was first assigned to Vayera when the Professor Willow lab opened applications to lurk in the shadows and see what was going on. Its leaders were all recruited by July 2016. They spent the next 3 years working on building up a base and establishing the Shadow Pokemon program before revealing themselves to the trainers of the Professor Willow lab after Go Fest 2019.
The Professor Willow Lab
The official building for the Professor Willow lab is a quite spiffy research facility on Niantic's campus in Sanctum City's tech district. In practice, Professor Willow, being himself, prefers to work out of his mobile trailer lab. He's in contact with some professors from other regions, including Professor Oak, who he trained under as in canon, but is otherwise relatively isolated. He and his research assistants have been widely discredited in the Pokemon science community over ethical concerns about their working with Niantic and XM.
The team leaders don't work on-site at the mobile lab save when they're stationed to run events such as Go Fest and the regional tours. Most of the time, the team leaders do independent research or field work at their HQs or around Vayera and report back via digital communications. Each of the teams has their own HQ around Sanctum City and its outlying suburbs, each at Pokemon League-owned buildings which contain research facilities, meeting and conference rooms for the team admins, and a limited number of dorms for trainers who are doing on-site research or are having financial troubles and need somewhere to stay.
The 3 teams collaborate with each other over greater research projects and coordinating events, but otherwise work independently. They manage all of the things that keep Pokemon Go trainers' lives running, including and not limited to breeding Pokemon for events and raids, managing the lab's PR presence and social media pages, and providing mentorship to trainers. Not all of these are handled by the team leaders themselves, though. The team leaders handle overall administration for the teams, PR, and driving the largest research projects, but other duties are handled by admins who work underneath them. Depending on the team, the admins are compensated with some combination of pay and college credit. Appraising Pokemon is fully automated.
As well as getting paid, the team leaders are compensated for these jobs by having their living expenses and research covered by Niantic and the Pokemon League Authority as long as they're living and working at their HQs, making satisfactory progress based on reports sent in by Professor Willow, and abiding by requirements for ethics and organization known simply as the Trainer's Code. The Trainer's Code is what all Pokemon Trainers agree to when they get their licenses and start their journeys and sets limitations on Pokemon training, battle, and research in order to maximize ethics and safety. Trainers who violate the Code enough times or severely enough can have their licenses revoked, and if one of the team leaders violated it, they would be excommunicated and replaced by their highest admin.
The Pokemon League Authority
An international government organization that regulates Pokemon battles. It was first founded in Kanto, but has since gained outposts in every region and serves as the central body to which all Pokemon Trainers answer. It coordinates battle regulations and runs gyms, trials, and the Elite 4 as in Pokemon canon, but it also supports professors by providing starter Pokemon and research funding and decides what locations are safe for Pokemon-related events. This means that the Pokemon League Authority is who decides where and when Go Fest and similar events happen.
Team GO Rocket
An offshoot of the original Team Rocket from Kanto and Johto. Even after the Kanto and Johto units were disbanded, Team Rocket didn't stop. They just became more subtle in their execution. However, they did lose all of their personnel save Giovanni and the most loyal admins, so all of the personnel they have in Vayera are newly recruited from the region. Their Vayera operation is the largest action they've taken against the Pokemon League Authority since the original Kanto unit. Unsurprisingly, the Pokemon League Authority is not fond of them. While trainers who work under the Authority aren't technically required to take action against Rocket members when they see them, it's strongly encouraged due to the League Authority not being officially allowed to have enforcement bodies.
The Team GO Rocket leaders are given their instructions and the overall evil plans they carry out by Giovanni. However, most of their interactions with him, unlike in canon, are mediated through middle management. Archer, as the next highest admin and head of multiregional affairs, is the main admin to whom the TGR trio report. He manages their time sheets, status reports, and divvying out the funding Giovanni allocates.
Team GO Rocket has three buildings: the central Team Rocket HQ in Kanto, where most of the Grunts are housed save when they need to be shipped out en masse, the leaders' research building and personal quarters, located in some menacing woods on the outskirts of Sanctum City, and a complex no one's quite sure of the location of somewhere in Vayera which holds the local grunts and non-research admins.
If you want to know the reasoning behind my headcanons, email me. Everything here is sublimated from and supported by evidence from canon. Just be warned that these characters are one of my #1 hyperfixations 6 years running, so if given the opportunity, I'm unlikely to stop.
All dates will be written in the following format MM/DD/YYYY and will be followed by emoji for Western Zodiac and Lunar New Year signs. If your computer doesn't support Unicode, they may not render properly. Also, hi from the future. Things got weird.
He may seem naive courtesy of his impulsive and optimistic personality, and looking like he should be in a Disney Channel boy band doesn't help, but he's got, well, good instincts. He spent most of his childhood hanging out with the local Pokemon around his dad's power plant, and along the way, basically end up babysat by a group of Zapdos. This means that Spark is great with understanding Pokemon communication and body language, especially around Electric types. Their interesting living situation may also help explain their remarkable durability and perpetually staticky hair. After he completed his Pokemon journey, he saw the application for the Team Instinct leadership position and his rocket scientist mother (as in, a scientist who works with space rocketships, not affiliated with Team Rocket) encouraged him to apply for the good research opportunity. Spark did, reluctantly, having never been good with book learning, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the application process consisted of an interview and the lab reps just watching him do his thing among Pokemon. He got the job, and while he often needs to be reminded by Blanche to keep up with his time sheets and administrative duties, he's loved by his team members for his approachable personality and does good fieldwork on eggs and Pokemon development.
Spark also apparently has a thing for scary, androgynously pretty folks, seeing as that describes both of their known love interests. Their first, Elaphe, declared him to be their girlfriend (they were very insistent on not having meant "boyfriend") pretty much the moment Spark made his first public appearance, which he accepted, knowing very little about that sort of thing. Elaphe knew very little about that sort of thing either, so they basically just did cute stuff and were good friends and business partners, with Elaphe working as a Team Instinct admin handling the numbers and paperwork Spark wasn't good at. They broke up in 2018 after Elaphe realized they didn't like men and they're now happily dating Blanche. Elaphe left Team Instinct for 2 years in December 2020 to find themself, but Spark doesn't hold any animosity towards them and is thrilled to have them back. Spark, in turn, got a new emo in his life courtesy of Arlo approaching him around Go Fest 2022 for a convoluted evil plan that somehow ended with them being mutually supportive and frankly adorable boyfriends/bros.
Put shortly, Blanche does not mess around. They get things done. They do not have time for nonsense or frivolity; they are here to do their research, expand our knowledge of Pokemon, and make Team Mystic and the Professor Willow Lab the best they can be. Part of this is a natural tendency on their part. They require structure and order in their life, and the worlds of research and Pokemon are substantially more interesting and more predictable than social interaction. Part of it is that as opposed to the traditional trainer wanting to be the very best (like no one ever was), Blanche did not really have a choice. Even after their mother, Lorelei retired from the Indigo Conference's Elite Four, she never lost her prestige and treated Blanche as an opportunity to maintain her legacy even after age caught up to her and younger, more innovative trainers overtook the Pokemon League. She was going to turn a shameful affair with a man nobody remembers and who left as soon as the deed was done into a demonstration of how she was simply the best and her cool, calculating style could lead her to dominate the game as a Trainer and parent alike.
Unsurprisingly, this didn't allow Blanche much room for emotional expression. They weren't especially emotional to begin with, but throughout their early life, their analytical mind and drive to perfection were pushed at the expense of all else. They were sent to the most prestigious schools available before and after their journey and made their way to the top rankings with high scholarships of the Chromatic Conference Pokemon League finals with their Pokemon by their side. Blanche didn't especially...want to do any of that, being more interested in learning about Pokemon than battling with them and preferring to avoid the limelight as much as possible, but they weren't really given a choice in the matter. This means that as soon as they graduated from their prestigious Pokemon high school, they started looking at research job opportunities that would let them finally do what they wanted and get as far away from their mother as possible. No one except Team Mystic, their last choice, called back. They consider where they are now a dead end job and managing the Mystics to be a waste of their talents, but it's where they are, they're getting paid, and they're going to stick with it. Besides, they like the other two more than they care to admit and are deeply attached to Professor Willow as a father figure, even though they end up handling a lot of his paperwork.
After Cipher was finally defeated and the shadow over their region was dispelled, the citizens of Orre rejoiced...and then they realized that since Cipher controlled most of the region's economy and took up a good portion of its population, they were all screwed. To make matters worse, Orre's Pokemon League Authority offshoots and gyms shut down shortly after, seeing as everyone was too traumatized to take up training again after the destruction Cipher wrought. Legislation to ban private ownership of Pokemon was temporarily considered, but was gratefully shut down. Overall, after Cipher's removal, without the main driver of its economy or new residents appearing for Pokemon training and lacking in natural resources, Orre decayed. The region was dying and everyone knew it. Cut to Candela, coming of age as the youngest in a big family and ready to kick some ass. Which she did, lack of Pokemon training outlets be damned. After getting into a few too many run-ins with the law, she was sent to a Pokemon boarding school in Johto so she could be given a Cyndaquil and exercise her passion for starting fires and beating people up in a safer environment with folks who could give her their full attention. She thrived in the new environment, save having no idea what to do with the humidity, and actually intentionally sabotaged her class performance so she wouldn't have to go back to her boring af hometown. After several years, the staff got fed up with her and forcibly graduated her, sending her back home to Orre, where she got a job at the region's last remaining Pokemon Center, which got basically no traffic. Still bored out of her skull but now independent and possessed of income, she continued to do her best against the region's rare wild Pokemon and in lieu of starting fires and fights, spent most of her time driving aimlessly around the desert, listening to metalcore, and getting drunk and/or stoned.
At a boring shift at her boring Pokemon center, she was absentmindedly scrolling through her social media profiles and encountered something actually interesting. In a region she'd never heard of but was supposedly on the same half of the landmass as her, some professor's lab was hosting a battle tournament to determine who'd become the next leader of a research team focusing on powering up Pokemon. If she won, then they'd provide research funding, room and board, and all the opportunities to beat people up she'd ever want. Obviously, she jumped at the chance to apply, which her family was quite supportive of. Her family was less supportive of her shortly afterwards claiming some Kantonian trainer who passed out in the desert and got brought into her Pokemon Center by his Charizard as her boyfriend, in part because she'd kind of already exhausted her hometown's dating pool. But that didn't matter. She and Arlo took 19 hours by bus to get to Vayera and after a thrilling tournament arc, she defeated him and won the Team Valor leadership, and is now free to power up raid bosses and beat up Team GO Rocket members...when she's not attempting to wrangle a team full of hypermasculine genwunner dudebros. Which is most of the time.
All of the Team GO Rocket leaders have other Pokemon, owned by Team GO Rocket, that they periodically trade out. The teams for them show their personal Pokemon.
He's always been a dramatic type, fond of the dark side, good with computers, and not good with people or remembering to bathe. He probably gets the first thing from his mom, a marketing rep for Silph, and the rest from his dad, a Unovan programmer who moved out for an extremely lucrative job opportunity in Alola when Arlo was a toddler. Other than that, his childhood was pretty much what you'd expect for a kid from Kanto. Following in the footsteps of Red, his idol, he took down Kanto's 8 gyms and Elite 4 with Craig, his Charizard and Gil, his Scizor by his side and did well enough in the Pokemon League to get into the Chromatic Conference finals, but wasn't able to go all the way. After his Pokemon League victory, he got a quite sizeable grant and referral which typically goes towards the promising trainers getting jobs or good scholarships. Instead of doing any of that, Arlo put the grant into his bank account, went home, and played video games with Gil in his mom's basement for 6 years. His mom got fed up with this and told him to either get a job or move out. Demonstrating his trademark thought before decisions, Arlo threw darts at a map until they landed as far away from Kanto as possible, packed up his CDs, body spray, and Pokeballs, and got on a flight to Phenacs City, Orre. Then he passed out in the desert because his mild-climate constitution wasn't prepared for the region and he hadn't brought any clothes that weren't some combination of long-sleeved and black. His Pokemon released themselves from their balls and demonstrating more executive functions than their Trainer, looked up the location of the nearest Pokemon Center on his phone, carried him there, and had Gardevoir telepathically explain what was going on and that he wasn't dead, his body spray just smells like that.
Once he came to, he was faced with Candela, at once exasperated at the sheer audacity of the man before her and contemplating that he was, like, kinda cute. He also found Candela kinda cute, and before asking any of the obvious questions one would ask upon waking up in a hospital, attempted to hit on her. Somehow, this worked, and they became a couple spending the next couple months playing off of each other's strengths and egos, each trying to outdo each other in every aspect, making out, getting stoned, and driving through the desert listening to metalcore while Arlo lived in a cheap motel. He went along with/got dragged to the Team Valor tournament because Candela didn't want to be alone and hey, it's not like there's anything to do in Orre. By the time of the tournament, Arlo had just come out as trans and his efforts to prove his masculinity to the other contenders through douchebro behavior combined with the overall tensions and Arlo knowing he had nowhere else to go if he lost wore on their relationship until the final battle happened. Candela won, and an explosive (thankfully not literally, but it could have been) breakup resulted. Then Team GO Rocket approached him with promises of room, board, healthcare, and revenge and he enthusiastically accepted, listened to Dying Is Your Latest Fashion for 3 weeks, and somehow, Shadow Pokemon happened, getting him to the head of R&D and given assured job security because nobody else knows what the fuck he did. He really doesn't either, but no one needs to know that.
He'd also been nursing a crush on Spark since 2019 when TGR was first assigned to work to destroy the team leaders, but wasn't secure enough in himself to admit it until the 2022 Go Fest kickoff, when Sierra assigned him to get laid. So he did. With Spark. His official reason was so that he could tick off Candela. In practice, he also just liked them. Spark is so cute and chill and confident and fundamentally Nice in a way that Arlo simply does not get, but he is very happy to have the Team Instinct leader for his own.
He's quite the nice guy, really. He's a hugger, he loves cute Pokemon, arts, and crafts, and all of the grunts love him as a big brother figure. He doesn't have much of anything against the team leaders, they're just part of the job and he loves his colleagues as his friends, even though Sierra's not exactly thrilled with that. You may be wondering why such a generally pleasant person joined an evil organization. Well, keep wondering. All he's ever said about his motives for joining was that Team Rocket "saved" him in the past, and as a result, he's thoroughly indebted to Giovanni. Or maybe just has a huge crush on him, which seems more likely. He makes his feelings about everyone quite clear. He enjoys teasing Sierra and sees her as a little sister of sorts, Arlo is his bro and also the most sweet and adorable small bean he's ever seen, and the boss is his everything. Giovanni knows of this. He's fine with it. It's a great opportunity to take advantage of Cliff's big heart, which he otherwise considers a weakness.
If you ask her, she's as she is because she grew up on The Streets in The Hood and had to be sharp in order to survive. Don't mess with her. She knows 15 different ways to kill a man with her elbows alone and can slip into darkness like it's a negligee. Of course, no one's ever seen her do any of this, and she gets very defensive when asked about what region's Hood and Streets she is actually from, leading her colleagues to conclude that given that she tries so terribly hard to be hardcore and evil, she probably is not, in fact, from those circumstances. She's the only truly "evil" member of the TGR trio. She has her position because she likes hurting and dominating people and she's good at it, no backstory or anything. She does what she does and is who she is by choice. This led her to gain Giovanni's notice and get promoted to the head of her unit. Despite the change in authority, the other two haven't changed their behavior around her. She is their little sister and they are going to treat her as siblings do, aka they're going to do their best to tick her off and break her hardcore facade, but all with love. Considers Spark to be the worst excuse for a Pokemon Trainer she's ever seen and can not remotely comprehend why Arlo's dating him, but hey, it gives him someone to be an idiot with other than her.