As Jim and I leave the Pokémon World Tournament, arguing about its relative merits, we nearly run straight into a Team Plasma grunt, who does a double take as he passes us, visibly panics, and bolts for the Driftveil docks – just as Hugh and Cheren emerge from the tournament building. Hugh sees the villain fleeing and is instantly ready to give chase, but his blood-curdling battle-cry is cut off when Colress appears right behind them and softly but firmly tells him to stop, warning him of the risk of tackling a powerful criminal organisation like Team Plasma and admonishing him for his recklessness. Hugh dismisses his concerns and proclaims that if there’s any chance of finding a lead on his sister’s Purrloin he is damn well going to go for it. Well, jeez, Hugh, that’s fine; go ahead and casually reveal, to a random scientist and a Gym Leader you don’t even like, the deep dark secret that you kept from your two closest friends for years; it’s all good. Cheren, who was a fairly militant opponent of Team Plasma himself back in the day, supports Hugh, and they both leave for the docks. Colress shakes his head with scorn at their overconfidence in their Pokémon. Surely they can’t believe that friendship and trust alone can protect them from hardened criminals with Pokémon of their own? Jim notes that a bunch of Team Plasma ruffians are unlikely to pose much of a problem for a Unova League Gym Leader; the fact that Hugh is a reasonably accomplished trainer in his own right is really just icing on the cake. In fact, you could almost say that they probably don’t need any help. There’s really no need for anyone else to go along at all. Colress gives him a reproachful frown, and I point out, with a sinking sense of foreboding, that as Hugh’s dearest friends we are responsible for both his safety and, to a lesser extent, the safety of those upon whom he chooses to inflict himself. We look at each other, sigh in unison, and reluctantly dash after Hugh and Cheren, leaving Colress quietly tutting to himself behind us.
The Team Plasma grunt seems to have disappeared into a large black sailing ship moored at a wharf near the Pokémon World Tournament – Team Plasma’s new base of operations? Cheren and Hugh are already rushing up the gangplank after him. We ask a nearby local whether she knows anything about the ship, and receive only the cryptic response “a ship’s not really a ship unless it’s crossing the ocean.” We stare at her in disbelief, respond “of course it is, you nitwit,” quietly shove her into the water, and board the ship. Hugh notes that there’s a strange coldness about this boat – and he’s right. It’s a pleasant Spring day in Driftveil City, but there’s a chill in the air that cuts right to the bone, and we can see our breath steaming in front of us. I glance nervously at Jim. Reshiram and Zekrom are gone, and there’s no telling where or for how long, but wasn’t there a third legendary dragon in Unova? One with the power to fill the air around it with a terrible supernatural cold? Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I point insistently at the gangplank. Jim shrugs helplessly and gestures to Hugh and Cheren, who have their backs to us and are looking around the deck. I glare at him, point at our allies, firmly draw a finger across my neck, and then point at the deck beneath me before throwing my hands in the air, miming an explosion. Jim stares incredulously, holds up four fingers, mimes sneaking, and jerks a thumb over his shoulder towards the gangplank. I stare back, roll my eyes and hold up three fingers instead. Jim cocks his head slightly, thinks about it and shrugs. We turn back in the direction of the gangplank.
There’s a Team Plasma grunt standing in the way.
Pokéballs fly non-stop for the next ten minutes. At first, each of us has a single Team Plasma member to take care of, but this arrangement quickly proves far too simple for anyone’s taste; first I pair up with Jim and Hugh with Cheren for a pair of double battles, then we trade partners, and before long all of us become embroiled in a complex set of three intertwined rotation battles, at which point we collectively admit that the whole thing has basically become a free-for all. I’m pretty sure that, at one point, I was partnered with two Team Plasma grunts in a triple battle against Cheren, another grunt, and my own Scolipede. I see a Liepard, and the thought briefly flashes through my head that the Purrloin Hugh is searching for might have evolved, but I can’t get Hugh’s attention any more than I can tell whose Pokémon is whose at this point. Someone makes an unflattering comparison between Hugh’s hair and a Qwilfish, which… actually, yeah, okay; fair call. I am desperately trying to keep track of a quintuple rotating Contest battle when I suddenly realise that one of my opponents is, in fact, myself and frantically call for a time out, causing everyone present to collapse immediately from a combination of relief and exhaustion.
It is, I am later forced to admit, the most fun I’ve had in years.
An old man in a heavy purple robe emerges from below decks and demands to know what right we have to be snooping around on his ship. Cheren studies his face for a moment, names him as Zinzolin, one of Rood’s former colleagues in the Seven Sages, and tells him that we have every right to investigate the activity of a notorious criminal group. Zinzolin furiously proclaims that Team Plasma’s intent remains unchanged – to use a legendary Dragon Pokémon to rule Unova (well, that confirms it, then) – and summons the Shadow Triad to remove us. The Shadow Triad, Team Plasma’s three magical ninjas, appear before us in a puff of smoke and begin to tell Zinzolin, “by the way, we are not your-” but he cuts them off and insists that they do this for him anyway. Not his- underlings? Of course; the Shadow Triad never worked for Team Plasma, N, or the Seven Sages. They were personally loyal to Ghetsis alone – which means he’s back. Joy of joys. The Shadow Triad blink us off the ship, and when we regain awareness, the ship and everyone on it is gone.
Damnit; how the hell do they do that!?
Well, Hugh and Cheren are both alive, which means we’ve done our bit. Time to continue our journey and forget about Team Plasma completely! I’m sure everything will sort itself out in due course now that Cheren is on the case. Besides, if Unova expects us to be socially responsible then it deserves everything it gets. As Jim and I head back in the direction of Driftveil City proper, our eyes are drawn to a cave entrance near the Pokémon World Tournament grounds. We question a construction worker in the area and learn that this is the north entrance to the Relic Passage, the ancient tunnel network that connects to the Castelia sewers. The Relic Passage, Jim recalls, is inhabited by weirdoes of every conceivable shape and size, but the two of us together should be fine, and anyway it’s our duty as archaeologists to loot- er… I mean… to preserve everything we can find in the site. The worker guarding the entrance listens patiently to our spiel about the value of the past and the importance of knowledge, before waving us through and explaining that no-one really cares about the Relic Passage anyway; he’s just stationed there so it looks like things are under control. As we investigate the Relic Passage, we quickly develop a hypothesis about the place: the popular belief that it was built by ancient people is absolute rubbish. The degree of organisation required to build a tunnel like this would be immense – and no-one going to that sort of effort would waste time building the kind of pointless loops and dead ends that fill the place. Any human group capable of building something like this would be capable of building it according to a halfway sensible design. Besides, it has none of the hallmarks of human construction. It does seem to have been used by humans, though. The tunnel connects the sites of Driftveil City and Castelia City – major cities are almost always built on sites that have been used before, often for millennia. We also find an entrance to the lower levels of the Relic Castle, the site of another ancient city, though we are quickly chased away by the castle’s guardian Volcarona. We conclude, eventually, that the Relic Passage may have started life as a series of unconnected Onix nests which were later taken over by humans and joined together, probably using captured Onix, to create an unbroken path – hence the seemingly random design (construction almost undoubtedly went through several false starts). Resourceful, if nothing else, and seemingly indicative of extensive trade and travel between Driftveil, Castelia and the Desert Resort. We make plans to take a few months later in the year to write an article for an archaeological journal, and move on.
We complete our trip through the Relic Passage and emerge in the Castelia sewers. Refusing to touch the filthy ground, I command my largest Pokémon, Sansa the Ampharos, to carry me out of the sewer. Jim rolls his eyes and follows. When we emerge once more into the light, Jim immediately summons his Ducklett, Lydia, grabs her by the legs and holds her up in the air. I ask him what on earth he’s doing, and he replies that he’s flying back to Driftveil City. I protest that I don’t have a flying Pokémon yet, but he just shrugs and whistles at Lydia. As Jim soars into the sky, dangling from Lydia’s legs like a hang-glider, I pull Daenerys’ Pokéball from my belt and call her out. I lift my Trapinch into the air over my head and say, as imperiously as I can, “now, Fly!” Daenerys twists her head to look down at me, bemused, and makes a clicking sound. I sigh, recall her to her Pokéball, and begin the long walk back to Driftveil City.